Back in 1982, 23-year-old architecture student Elspeth Beard put life on hold to to travel 35,000 miles on a BMW by herself
The history of motorcycling includes an array of pioneering female riders who broke down boundaries for future generations, from the Van Buren sisters who a century ago road across the US from New York to San Francisco—getting blasted by the media for abandoning their roles as housewives, and being arrested for dressing like men along the way, determined to demonstrate that women can too serve as military dispatch riders—to Valerie Thompson’s world speed record attempt last week. As many a comment sections will attest, being the first to do something is very important, and back in 1982 Elspeth Beard became the first woman to travel tens-of-thousands of miles across the globe by herself on two-wheels.
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Beard got her first scoot at the age of 17, a little tenth-liter runner, but it wasn’t long before she graduated to larger bikes. Half-a-decade later Beard was enrolled in university, studying architecture. In 1980 she flew across the pond to Los Angeles, California to meet up with her brother and together the siblings purchased a three-quarter-liter BMW which they rode to the east coast in what Beard describes as a “trial run” of sorts. Beard also got some decent touring experience under her belt via completing several long solo trips around the UK.
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Along the way she developed an idea to take on a seriously ambitious 35,000 mile solo trip—a concept that became a reality in October of 1982 when at the age of 23, Beard left London aboard a 1974 BMW R60/6 and set out to become the first (British) female to travel the world on a motorcycle in a trip that is a comparable distance to riding from Los Angeles to New York more than a dozen times.
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Since completing the trip Beard has written a full-length book about her travels entitled Lone Rider: The First British Women To Motorcycle Around the World. Beard also regularly speaks at events and seminars about her historical journey, and more recently the now 59-year-old sat down with MCN to talk about the ups and downs of long-haul solo riding and the unique challenges being a solo female rider presented in the early 1980’s. The meeting and interview has since been turned into a two-part mini-documentary.