Elspeth Beard is much-admired among many adventurers. At a time when few women travelled or rode motorbikes, Elspeth achieved an impressive feat- when she was just 23 years old she embarked on a solo motorbike journey around the world and became the first ever British woman to do so.
Let’s have a look at this formidable traveller and her two-year journey that took her from New York City back to the United Kingdom, with 35,000 miles (56,000km) in between!
The Beginnings of A Life-Long Love
The first time Elspeth rode a bike was when she was sixteen, a short journey on the back of her friend’s Husqvarna. This was enough to catch the motorcycling bug. Her first bike was a Yamaha YB100, a run-around just to help her to get from A to B around London. Around a year later, she upgraded to a 250cc Honda and then a second-hand 600cc BMW R60/6 …
Elspeth talks about the immense sense of freedom she felt with her BMW and began to travel further and further afield as her confidence grew. She started with trips to Scotland and Ireland, and then went onto bigger adventures like a two-month trip around Europe and a road trip from LA to Detroit. Elspeth had an incredible appetite for exploration.
Around the World in 915 Days (Roughly!)
Sure enough, as soon as she finished her degree in architecture in 1982, Elspeth began preparing to embark on her historic two-year solo journey around the world.
Starting in New York, she travelled across the USA to Canada. Her next stops were New Zealand and Australia, where she encountered a road block – she’d ran out of money. After working in Sydney for seven months, she shipped her bike to Singapore and rode through Malaysia and Thailand. She had to turn back to Malaysia after failing to gain entry in what is now Myanmar, and instead she caught a boat to India. From Chennai she travelled to Nepal, then around India to Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia, Europe and back to London.
That’s an incredible 23 countries and 35,000 miles over the course of two-and-a-half years!
However, her achievements went unnoticed – very few women travelled at that time and rather bafflingly, it was almost seen as a blip in her life rather than an achievement.
Immortalising the Elspeth story
Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then and Elspeth’s remarkable achievements are now celebrated. She enjoys the accolade of the first British woman to ride solo around the world on a motorbike, not to mention the fact she’s an award-winning architect!
It’s no wonder her story has now been immortalised in her memoirs, Lone Rider: The First British Woman to Motorcycle Around the World, and she has joined the ranks of the likes of Che Guevara and Steve McQueen to become an ambassador for iconic British brands like Belstaff, who are famed for their motorcycle jackets.
We’re sure this isn’t the last time we’ll hear about this incredibly inspirational woman and we look forward to hearing about the feats that Elspeth will no doubt continue to amaze us with!