The globetrotter pioneer.

Elspeth Beard and the motorcycle adventure.

In an age before email, the internet, smartphones and satnavs – and in an age when women hardly ever travelled alone to adventurous countries – Elspeth achieved something that is still remarkable today. Thirty-five years after she set off on her 35,000 miles (56,000 km) adventure on her 1974 BMW R 60/6, the first British woman to motorcycle around the world has finally published ‘Lone Rider’, a book about her travels — a global journey that has inspired countless adventure riders to attempt their own long-distance trips.

“When I set off to ride my motorcycle around the world in 1982 I never imagined that my story would ever be published,” says Elspeth. On her return in 1984 she put all her journals, tapes and photos in a cardboard box in the back of a cupboard where they remained for over 30 years. In 2008 freelance journalist Paul Blezard was commissioned by Andy Dukes to write an article about her round-the-world trip for BMW Motorrad, and over the next seven years her story gradually spread.

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Elspeth Beard does not just surprise motorcylists with her book “Lone Rider”.

In 2014 Elspeth was contacted by an agent in Hollywood, who had found the article on the internet and expressed an interest in buying the rights to her story, with a view to making a film about it. “After a series of meetings with various script writers and producers it became clear to me that writing a book was the first logical step to ensure there was an accurate record of my journey.” Her 320-page book, published at Michael O´Mara Books is a bit shorter at this point. A review.

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Working and saving money.

Beard chose a R 60/6 Boxer from 1974 for her journey. She paid 900 pounds (1,300 euros) for a motorcycle with 48,000 km on the odometer - a princely sum in 1980.
At the time, Beard was 23 years old and had completed the first three years of her studies in architecture. Working i a pub in Central London, she earned 2,000 pounds and saved the money for her adventure.
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Her journey around the world has impacted her life.

Go west, young woman!

Elspeth Beard on her BMW R 60 in 1982.

Go west, young woman!

The first leg of her journey began in New York: "The air cargo for the motorcycle cost 175 pounds at the time and my own flight 99 pounds", she remembers. Starting in the Big Apple, she travelled to Canada, then down to Mexico, before heading for Los Angeles. In LA she boarded a ship with her bike bound for Sydney. After arriving in New Zealand, she interrupted her journey in order to explore the country on foot while her bike travelled on.

Beard remained in Sydney for 7 months. She worked there in an architecture firm to gain professional experience and fill her empty purse. She spent weeks building herself a lockable top-case and side cases from bent and riveted aluminium sheets before continuing on her journey. On her journey straight through Australia, she had her first major accident on a dirt road near the city of Townsville in Queensland. Her R 60 overturned and Beard received a serious concussion. But luckily no broken bones.

Shaken, but not discouraged, she had to remain in hospital for two weeks before she then drove north along the East coast of Australia, then across the outback to return to Ayers Rock and finally across the Nullabor Plain to Perth on the west coast. There she had the BMW loaded on a ship bound for Singapore and explored Indonesia while the motorcycle was at sea.

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Drama in Asia.

Drama in Asia.

In Singapore disaster struck yet again: All of her valuables, as well as her passport, visa and the registration and shipping documents for the bike were stolen. She was thus forced to remain in the island nation six more weeks in order to get replacements for all the stolen papers. Then she travelled around Malaysia and Thailand all the way to Bangkok and from there on to Chiang Mai and the Golden Triangle.

As the roads to India (via Burma) were not passable, she headed back down south to have the bike shipped from Penang to Madras. Her second major accident happened along the way. A dog ran out from behind a truck and right in front of the wheels. Her motorcycle crashed into a tree and Beard received bruises and abrasions - however, as if by a miracle, she did not break any bones. Then she spent several days in the care of the impoverished Thai family into whose garden she had driven when she had the accident. "They spoke not a word of English and I not a word of Thai." But we got our points across using sign language", she recalls.

Her Thai hosts were quite fascinated by the rivet gun which she used to repair her battered side cases. In the kitchen, Beard discovered half of the dog she'd run over and was forced to acknowledge that the family had already eaten the other half. ' I immediately understood why they so gladly took care of me: ' I had supplied them with two weeks' worth of food."

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I used my helmet as a burka. ”

Elspeth Beard

Beard repaired the damaged engine of her R 60 before quickly scooting off to Penang. There she boarded a ship with her bike bound for Madras. Upon arriving in India, she sailed to Calcutta and on to Kathmandu. There she met with her parents who flew over from England to see her again for the first time in nearly two years.
They were shocked at how thin she looked. But bouts of hepatitis and dysentery would leave her weighing even less. In Kathmandu, Beard met a Dutchman driving another BMW Boxer and rode with him back to Europe.
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Elspeth on the streets of Kathmandu.

Politics, permits and passports.

The departure from India proved to be a real nightmare. The Golden Temple of the Sikhs in Amritsar had been stormed. The Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by her own Sikh bodyguards. As a result, the entire Punjab region was sealed off completely and you needed a special pass in order to enter. The only open road leading west over Pakistan ran through the Punjab. But the Indian authorities in New Delhi had not yet managed to organise the necessary permits.
More and more frustrated travellers from the West found themselves in this Kafkaesque situation and spent weeks attempting to get a pass that did not even exist. Beard's patience finally ran out and she drove to the border. She didn't stop at any roadblocks. Since there was no official pass, the border guards had no idea what such a piece of paper was supposed to look like. That's how Elspeth finally made it across the border to Pakistan - with a sigh of relief.
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Veiled up in Iran.

After they had safely crossed through Pakistan, Beard and her Dutch companion arrived in post-revolutionary Iran. They had 7 days to cross the country. Beard was so weakened by hepatitis that she could barely stand, much less ride a motorcycle. Due to a leak in the oil seal, her rear drum brake was malfunctioning and the transmission no longer worked since a spring was missing, which - if you were able to get one there - would have cost just a few cents.

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At the Iranian border.

Most of the time she had on her battered up Bell helmet as an unofficial burka, even if she wasn't on her motorcycle so that most people thought she was a man. Finally, the two reached the Turkish border - just hours before their visa for Iran expired.

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Heading home.

Beard spent some time in the eastern part of Turkey in order to regain her strength and to repair her trusty R 60. She had left England as a strong and healthy young woman weighing 65 kg. In Turkey, she now weighed only 41 kg. After becoming fit once again, the return journey passed through Greece and Central Europe back to the United Kingdom quite easily, excluding the notoriously dangerous "death route" through Yugoslavia.
"It was a two-lane asphalt road without guardrails on either side. We constantly encountered lorries that were trying to overtake another one and took up the entire width of the road. In such cases, we had to drive on the loose roadside. Sometimes, there were even three trucks side by side and the unpaved shoulder also wasn't available and you had to swerve into the ditch.
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Hollywood has already called me about a filming opportunity. ”

Elspeth Beard

When she arrived back in her home city of London, she had been on the road for three years and had 56,000 km on the odometer. She took apart the engine and put it completely back together.
Beard finished her studies in architecture and spent 7 years transforming a Victorian era water tower into a unique residential building while working full-time and raising her son alone.
After initially working out of the water tower, she established her own architecture firm which has already won several awards.
Her work has already been presented on numerous TV shows and in countless magazines. A book about her journey and perhaps a film are soon to appear - Hollywood has already been calling. It's no wonder with such a woman.
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