It’s that time of the month again, and April’s feature is Elspeth Beard! Over the decades, Elspeth has grown to become one of the most iconic inspirations for female adventurers. Back in the early eighties, she set off on a solo adventure around the world on her motorbike.
If you caught our previous ‘biker of the month’ features, you’ve probably noticed that there is an ongoing theme with racers. Today, we thought we’d switch things up a bit. Today, We Buy Any Bike are going to be looking at her fantastic trip and just how she is one of the greatest female influencers today.
Elspeth Beard and her Journey to Motorcycles
Born on April 28th 1959, unlike most of us, Elspeth’s parents had absolutely no interest in bikes, so she wasn’t introduced to 2 wheels for quite some time. The first time Elspeth sat on a bike was when she was 16. This was when she met up with a male friend on Salisbury Plain who invited her to try out his Husqvarna. At first, Elspeth says she wasn’t instantly taken by the bike, she simply bought her first bike a few months later as a convenient way to travel.
Speaking of her first bike; if you’re curious, it was a Yamaha YB100. Following this she later upgraded to a Honda CB250N ignited her love for riding.
THE Bike & Trial Runs
At some point in 1979, when Elspeth was just 20 years old, a 1974 BMW R60/6 caught her eye. Little did she know at the time that this £900 purchase was about to change her life. Prior to setting off around the world, Beard took her bike from Scotland to Ireland, and on a 2-month trip around Europe.
In 1981, Elspeth and her brother took a trip to LA. Here they purchased a 750cc BMW R75/5 and rode over to Detroit. This was when Elspeth had an epiphany that she would like to ride around the world on her own.
The Big Trip
Picture this: It’s the summer of 1982, a 23-year-old Elspeth is prepping her bike for a big trip around the planet. To complete her touring collection she adds soft panniers, a tank bag, and an extra bag on the pillion seat. It’s also worth mentioning that Elspeth took her entire bike apart in order to learn about the bike in its entirety. Following this she sends her bike off to meet her in New York City. After completing her trip around America, Canada and Mexico, Elspeth sets her sights on Australia.
During her 11 month stay in Sydney, Elspeth made some extra travel money by maintaining 3 jobs. She worked in 2 pubs as well as an architect’s office; this was to support what would later be her career. Whilst in Sydney, she stayed in a small garage with her bike. During her stay in Queensland, she sustained an injury that left her hospitalised for 2 weeks. Her next plans were to cover Asia; to prepare for this she prepared some extra security to the storage on her bike. It is also said that Elspeth fell in love with a Dutchman whilst she was in Kathmandu. She continued her journey to Asia with him.
Next Stop: Asia
During her travels in Asia, Elspeth felt most comfortable with her helmet on, when she would often be mistaken for a man. At this time, motorcycles were not as popular in Asia, so the communities often found it fascinating to see Elspeth riding around their countries.
The assassination of Punjabi Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi coincided with Elspeth and her partner’s stay in Pakistan. After attempting to leave on various occasions, Elspeth managed to conjure up a believable permit that would allow her to move onto her next stop; Turkey.
Turkey was the last stop on her trip. Upon her arrival she contracted a few illnesses so recuperation was needed. She also took this time to prepare the bike for the last leg of the journey.
After this, Elspeth went on her way through Greece and Yugoslavia before continuing on home to London. The last part of the journey must have gone really quick! She certainly defied the odds after her family and friends told her she would only last a couple of months.
What troubles did Elspeth Beard face on the road?
It’s important to hold your head up high when travelling, regardless of where you are. Regardless of this, bad things do happen. When travelling around Asia, Elspeth experienced some backlash for being a female biker. Not only was it strange to see someone travelling by motorcycle at that time in Asia, but it was twice as uncommon to see a female rider.
Along with this, whilst Elspeth was travelling in Singapore shortly after Australia, she had various documents stolen. These stolen documents delayed her travelling quite significantly, it took over 6 weeks to replace them!
Life After Travelling
35,000 Miles, and 2 and a half years later, Elspeth Beard parked her BMW wheels back in the UK. When she returned, her family and friends and significantly the media, weren’t really as impressed as she had hoped. Unfortunately to start off with, the only person she had to praise was herself.
A few years went by and in 1989 Elspeth purchased an 1898 Victorian Water Tower. Little did she know at the time that this 7-year renovation project would be another highlight of her life and career. Today, the project, and her home has been on various TV programs and won significant awards.
Prior to the trip, in an attempt to get some sponsorships on board, Elspeth contacted popular Bike Magazine. To her surprise, she received a very sarcastic reply and would only receive an apology 30 years later.
Another thing that happened 30 years later was a very different change of heart from the media. Today, Elspeth has become one of the most well-known female motorcyclists of all time. She has teamed up with Robert Uhling to produce her own book. On top of this, she has had various documentaries made about her.
Since hanging up her leathers from the ‘big’ trip, Elspeth has done some other travelling too. One trip she took flying around planes. Elspeth also took another stint as a tour manager for Nick Sanders!
Does Elspeth Beard Still Ride Motorcycles?
Of course she does! In her current garage she has a BMW R80GS along with a couple of trials bikes for a bit of fun. She also still owns her R60/6, but that doesn’t surprise us at all.