Kev Quirk

Lone Rider

07 Jan 2024 | ~1 minute read

✍️ Written by: Elspeth Beard
🏷 Genre: Non-fiction
🗓 Published: 6 July 2017
📄 Pages: 407
🧐 My rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)

In 1982, at the age of just twenty-three and halfway through her architecture studies, Elspeth Beard left her family and friends in London and set off on a 35,000-mile solo adventure around the world on her 1974 BMW R60/6.

Reeling from a recent breakup and with only limited savings from her pub job, a tent, a few clothes and some tools, all packed on the back of her bike, she was determined to prove herself. She had ridden bikes since her teens and was well travelled. But nothing could prepare her for what lay ahead.

When she returned to London nearly two and a half years later she was stones lighter and decades wiser. She'd ridden through unforgiving landscapes and countries ravaged by war, witnessed civil uprisings that forced her to fake documents, and fended off sexual attacks, biker gangs and corrupt police convinced she was trafficking drugs. She'd survived life-threatening illnesses, personal loss and brutal accidents that had left permanent scars and a black hole in her memory. And she'd fallen in love with two very different men.

In an age before email, the internet, mobile phones, satnavs and, in some parts of the world, readily available and reliable maps, Elspeth achieved something that would still seem remarkable today. Told with honesty and wit, this is the extraordinary and moving story of a unique and life-changing adventure.

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Blimey. What a fantastic book Lone Rider is. As many people who read this blog will know, I'm a keen motorcyclist, so this book appealed to me as soon as I saw it recommended on Mastodon.

But the book isn't about motorbikes. Sure, Elspeth's trusty BMW plays a central role in the book, but it's not about the bike. I don't even think the book is about the trip. For me, it's about the people she met along the way and the connections she made.

I also think that traveling alone, in some of the most dangerous places on earth in the early 80s, as a woman, gives a unique insight to the challenges many women face, even today. I was particularly shocked at how Elspeth described being teated effectively like a piece of meat a number of times. The frequency at which it occurred and her nonchalant reaction to the behaviour blew me away. "It's just another leery man, doing what they do" was the impression I came away with.

Lone Rider is chock-full of the highs and lows Elspeth went though, there's a love story, tragedy, and everything in between. Maybe it's the fact that I've been reading a lot of sci-fi lately, but this was the best book I've read in a long time.

Read it.

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