Elspeth Beard - One of the Early Globetrotters

Elspeth Beard is one of a select band of bold women to ride a motorcycle around the world, and she was the first Englishwoman to do so. She achieved this feat a quarter of a century ago, in the days before sat-nav, internet, email and mobile phones, and sh

Elspeth spent some time in Eastern Turkey recovering her strength and repairing her trusty R 60. When she'd left England as a tall, strong and healthy young woman she'd weighed over 65 kg (143 lbs) - by the time she got to Turkey, she weighed barely 41 (90). With her own personal battery metaphorically recharged, the journey back through Greece and across Europe to the UK was relatively simple, apart from the notoriously dangerous `Highway of Death' across Yugoslavia. "It was just a two-lane tarmac road with dirt on either side and you'd constantly have a truck overtaking another truck coming towards you, using all the road so you just had to get off onto the dirt. Sometimes they would be three abreast, using the dirt on both sides and then you'd just have to get right off into the ditch. The road was littered with crosses and flowers in commemoration of dead travellers."

By the time she got back to her native London Elspeth had been away for three years and added 48,000 miles to her R60's odometer, so it now read 88,000. She stripped and completely rebuilt the engine herself and still has the bike in running order today. Tragically, she threw out her unique, home-made aluminium panniers when she moved out of London (long before Touratech, Metal Mule and BMW themselves offered hard alloy luggage) but her own version was much more practical, if a little less pretty!

Elspeth still rides bikes and has owned a succession of BMWs. After a flirtation with an R 1100 GS a few years ago she returned to an `air-head' when she bought a 1998 R 80 GS Basic - the last of the breed - in 2001, which she still uses as her everyday bike. She found the R 1100 GS a bit too heavy for her liking, although she has since been tempted by the new and lighter R 1200 GS. Elspeth also has an immaculate 1973 R75/5 and a lightweight Yamaha Serow for serious trail riding.

Elspeth has been to both Europe and Morocco on her R 80 GS and in 2002 went around the world again as back-up driver for adventurer Nick Sanders when he took 23 riders around the globe in three months. Elspeth often found herself driving a truck for 18 hours and a 930 miles in a single day, and also had to ride a variety of bikes on different occasions when their owners fell off and hurt themselves.

When she returned from her round the world trip in the mid-80s, Elspeth Beard completed her architectural studies and spent seven years transforming a completely derelict Victorian water tower into a unique and beautiful home, while working full time in London and bringing up a son on her own. Initially working from the water tower, she gradually established her own architectural practice and now has many awards to her credit. Her work has been featured on various television programmes and in countless magazines. She has even had two Japanese TV documentaries devoted to her life and work. And no wonder; she's quite a woman.

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