Shortly after I brought my second motorcycle, a 2019 Honda Rebel 300, home, I felt my riding confidence slump. At first, I thought it was just me. Maybe I wasn’t a good rider, or perhaps I was too nervous — too in my head. I’d ride other bikes and feel more comfortable and confident. Maybe it wasn’t me, but the bike. I didn’t want to stop riding, but I also needed something to keep me riding the Rebel until I could find my next bike.
That winter, my husband surprised me with Lone Rider, Elspeth Beard’s account of her travels around the world by motorcycle. It was the one thing that kept me riding, and still keeps me riding today.
My first experience riding a motorcycle was during an unexpectedly frigid late-April weekend. I admit, going into it, my feelings were mixed, and the cold weather rendering my hands stiff and slow to react didn’t help. I dropped the bike that first day, breaking off a piece of the clutch lever. I still carry that chunk of metal around to this day. I think of it as a good luck charm, or a reminder of what not to do. But I was still a nervous rider.
Enter Lone Rider – the wanderlust adventure story I was yearning for. My coworker Elizabeth Blackstock did a wonderful job reviewing the book. What I’ll say here is that I finished reading it quickly, and it certainly left me hungry for more.
Here was this badass woman traveling around the world through war-torn countries, decades before cell phones and GPS were a thing. She, too, started out unsure of her riding skills and her ability to pull this trip off. The harassment she encountered as a solo woman traveler didn’t help.
Thankfully, those negative stories were outweighed by encounters with kindhearted people who helped her out along the way. Like the family that helped Beard fix her bike after a major crash in China when she had accidentally hit a dog. It was a perilously vulnerable moment — Beard’s only means of transportation nearly destroyed in a country where she didn’t speak the language and had no obvious way to find help. Yet, Beard was able to bridge the language and culture gap and come out unscathed, barreling towards her next destination.
Beard’s trials and tribulations far exceed anything I’ve ever encountered while riding. She fixed her bike in deserts. She scrounged and improvised replacement parts, MacGyvering things together to get to her next destination. She survived it all and returned to her home in England to write down the tale.
It’s an extreme comparison, my daily riding versus Beard’s round-the-world adventure. But her story gave me the perspective to turn each of my fears into triumphs. If I dropped my bike, I could pick it up and keep riding. If I broke down, at least I wasn’t halfway around the world when it happened.
Riding a motorcycle is a choice. Whether you’re in an urban, rural, or desolate setting, there are major risks involved in taking two wheels down the road. Motorcycling forces you to be vigilant, careful, and painstakingly aware of your surroundings. But if you focus only on the things that can go wrong, you’ll either lose your enjoyment or be too scared to ride.
I eventually replaced my Rebel 300 with a 2017 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2, a bike that amplified my yearning to ride. While I may not ever attempt to motorcycle around the world, I’m hungry for longer trips and adventures on my bike. I want to challenge myself on the pavement and dirt – wherever the road takes me.
And I owe it all to Elspeth Beard. Thanks for paving the way for the rest of us.