Lone Rider: The First British Woman to Motorcycle Around the World (review)

Elspeth Beard | Michael O’Mara (2018)

In 1982, at the age of just 23, Elspeth Beard set off on a 35,000-mile solo adventure around the world on her 1974 BMW motorbike. Reeling from a recent breakup, and with only limited savings, a tent, a few clothes and some tools, packed on the back of her bike, she was determined to prove herself. Nothing could prepare her for what lay ahead.

I thought a travel biography would provide a bit of welcome escapism during lockdown and Google recommended Lone Rider. I don’t know what I did to anger Google… but I’m sorry. I’m very, very sorry.

This book should be re-named “Lone Rider: one woman’s whinge around the world”. I persevered with it until about halfway through, under the mistaken belief that she couldn’t possibly hate, be bored by, or find things to nitpick about with every country she visited. About halfway, and 4 or 5 countries in, it became apparent that she could. It must be some sort of special skill…

You think I’m kidding… she said the entire US was boring and the people rude and anti-biker. New Zealand reminded her of the 1930s, and not in a good way. She liked Australia except for the roads (awful), the cost of things (it was too expensive), the immigration rules (ridiculous), and the rural people (boorish, alcoholics, sexist, and faintly ridiculous). She felt broken by it, personally, by the country as a whole. Then she went to a tropical island, in the dry season, and complained that, while floating on a lilo with a glass of champagne, the river wasn’t full enough…

I just… what does this woman even want?!

Oh and the relentless relationship whinging… the “bad luck” she seems to suffer wherever she goes (which I would personally call poor choices but she clearly felt victimised)… To begin with, she misses her ex boyfriend. She doesn’t understand why he broke up with her. Then she has bad sex with a complete stranger, lends him a piddling small amount of money, and is horrified to discover *gasp of surprise* that he had given her a fake address. She has a bike accident on roads she’s warned are bad. She gets her money stolen by leaving it in an insecure hotel room, in a place she’s been warned is not safe. I just think, if you’re going to travel, an ounce of common sense might be a useful thing to have. And while yes, break ups are hard, there is really no need to whinge on about it for 200 pages.

And don’t even get me started on how utterly unlikeable she is…

Let’s just leave it there, before this becomes a whinge fest all of its own, shall we?

Suffice it to say, this was a hard pass from me! It was a great concept, a fantastic and admirable adventure to have undertaken, and she’s clearly very gutsy, but her constant grinding negativity ruined this for me. Can anyone recommend a travel biography where the author actually enjoys travel? I’m open to suggestions!

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