Elspeth Beard

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Elspeth Beard
Black and white photo of woman crouched down next to a motorbike
Born (1959-04-28) 28 April 1959 (age 63)[1]
NationalityUnited Kingdom
AwardsRoyal Institute of British Architects Award
PracticeElspeth Beard Architects
ProjectsOne of the first English women to ride a motorcycle around the world
DesignMunstead Tower

Elspeth Beard (born 28 April 1959) is an architect and motorcyclist, who is noted for being one of the first English women to ride a motorcycle around the world.[2][a] Later on, she redesigned Munstead Tower in Godalming, winning the 1994 Royal Institute of British Architects award for South East England. Beard now owns an architectural firm based in a converted stable in Godalming.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Beard currently runs the Elspeth Beard Architects practice in Godalming. She received her pilot's licence in 1991. She has never married, but she has a son.[5]


Beard learned to ride a motorcycle on Salisbury Plain at the age of 16.[6] She began her global journey in 1982, after the third year of her architect training course, using a BMW R60/6 motorcycle.[3][2][4][7] Beard added soft panniers, a tank bag and an extra bag lashed to the pillion seat before she embarked on the trip.[8] She began her journey in New York City, United States, having shipped the bike from the United Kingdom. From there, she motorcycled to Canada and Mexico and back to the US before shipping her bike to Sydney, Australia.[6][9]

In Sydney, she spent eleven months working as an architect before motorcycling across Australia. In Townsville, Queensland, she had an accident which left her hospitalised for two weeks.[2][6] Afterwards, she travelled to Singapore, where she spent 6 weeks replacing important documents and gear after they were all stolen;[10] then she travelled into Asia. In Thailand, she collided with a dog and recuperated with a local family who fed her the remains of the dog she had crashed into.[2][11] At the time of the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the entire Punjab state was closed. Beard forged the necessary permit to get out of the Punjab region and travelled into Pakistan before riding back into Europe via Turkey.[2][4] She arrived in the United Kingdom in 1984, having travelled 35,000 miles (56,000 km).[5] In doing so, she became the first Englishwoman to motorcycle around the world.[2][9][4][a]

When Beard returned from the trip, there was a lack of interest for what she had accomplished, as she stated in an interview: "After I got back and nobody was interested in what I'd done, I just shoved everything into the back of the garage. I just kind of moved on with my life."[10]

Her 2017 autobiography Lone Rider chronicles the circumnavigation.[12][13][14][15]

Munstead Tower[edit]

After her motorcycling feat, Beard bought the derelict Munstead Tower in Godalming, a 130-foot (40 m) former water-tower built in 1898. Over the course of five years, she renovated and converted it into a habitable house. The renovated tower was featured on a 1995 episode of Home Front, and in 1994, the tower won the Royal Institute of British Architects award for South East England.[16][9] In 2019 Beard and the tower were featured in the Season 3 episode 1 of Ride with Norman Reedus.[citation needed]


  • Lone Rider: The First British Woman to Motorcycle Around the World, Autobiography, 2017, ISBN 9781782438045


  1. ^ a b Some sources say she was the first British women to ride a motorcycle around the world.[3]


  1. ^ Orbulescu, Denisa (8 March 2019). "Motorcycle Hero: Elspeth Beard". Wemoto News. Retrieved 12 January 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Elspeth Beard – One of the Early Globetrotters". Motorcyclist. 24 February 2009. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  3. ^ a b Slade, Rob (2015). "10 of the greatest moments in adventure motorcycling from the past 85 years". Archived from the original on 19 April 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d "Famous Firsts For Women". Trivia South Africa. 21 August 2014. Archived from the original on 5 April 2016. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  5. ^ a b Yip, Ann (18 August 2018). "Meet the first British woman to ride a motorcycle around the world". getsurrey. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  6. ^ a b c Hickson, Kenric (20 February 2001). "Typical biker: Elspeth Beard". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  7. ^ Welsh, Jonathan (13 January 2016). "Sizing up 'Adventure Bikes,' the SUVs of Motorcycles". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  8. ^ S., Lemmy (13 September 2016). "Half a dozen questions with Elspeth Beard, world traveler". RevZilla Motorsports. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  9. ^ a b c "Encounter Extract: Elspeth Beard". Overland Magazine. Archived from the original on 5 May 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  10. ^ a b Davies, Bryn (29 March 2017). "Elspeth Beard bares all about her remarkable round the world ride". Adventure Bike Rider. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  11. ^ Long, David (May 2015). Bizarre England: Discover the Country's Secrets and Surprises. Michael O'Mara Books. ISBN 978-1782433767. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  12. ^ Smith, Paul H. "Book Review: Lone Rider". Adventure Motorcycle Magazine. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  13. ^ Backus, Richard. ""Lone Rider" by Elspeth Beard". Motorcycle Classics. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  14. ^ Marsden, Liam (11 July 2017). "Elspeth Beard Lone Rider book launch at Vines of Guildford". Motor Cycle News. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  15. ^ Foxe, Ken (25 July 2017). "First woman to travel the world on a motorbike". Lonely Planet News. Lonely Planet. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  16. ^ Gillian, Lesley (17 June 1995). "Towering over all their neighbours". The Independent. Retrieved 18 April 2016.