Riding and roadkill in Thailand with Elspeth Beard

Elspeth enjoys everything the Thai roads have to offer in this excerpt from 'Lone Rider'

Check out this excerpt from Elspeth Beards’ award-winning book 'Lone Rider' about her 35,000 mile solo adventure around the world on her 1974 BMW R60/6. In this section we join Elspeth on a 1,200 mile dash across South East Asia in order to board a ship to Mardas!

To read the full story grab a copy of Lone Rider here and to meet Elspeth in person join us at The Armchair Adventure Festival this September where she will be talking about her around the world trip!


Southern Thailand, 10 April 1984

For five long, hot, tiring days I’d ridden towards the equator, skimming the Burmese border on the skinny section of the Thai peninsula, somewhere between the lazy beaches of the south and bustling Bangkok and the plains to the north. I had to be in Penang in three days to catch a cargo ship across the Bay of Bengal to Madras.

I had ridden up to the Thai–Burma border in search of a route through to India and on to Nepal. Until now, I’d travelled rich in time, but poor in money. Now, for the first time, I had a deadline and a direct overland route that promised considerable savings of both when they were running out fast. Largely ignorant of what might lie ahead, I’d arrived at the border having heard conflicting reports about a possible route through Burma, as Myanmar was then known. But as I stood gazing at Burma, hazy in the distance that sweaty, overcast afternoon, I didn’t need my makeshift map to tell me that the roadblock in front of me marked more than the end of this particular road. I’d run out of road and options, so I began the long journey to Penang in Malaysia, more than 1,200 sticky miles ahead.

It was for times like this that I loved riding my bike. Those moments when all thoughts of the past and future slipped away and I existed entirely in the present, the morning light clear and golden, throwing shadow bands across the road as I carved my way around the world. I was twenty-four years old, a young architecture graduate with little experience of the world and hardly any money in my pocket at a time long before the advent of mobile phones, GPS, internet and email.

As I rode and the days and miles ticked past, I spoke to my bike, cajoling her with promises of an oil change and a clean air filter if she got me to Penang in time. It was the kind of bargain I’d struck many times since leaving London nearly eighteen months earlier. With a couple of bags over my shoulder, the takings of a summer’s pub work in my pocket and yearnings for my ex-boyfriend in my heart. I’d departed carrying a widely ridiculed dream of riding a motorcycle right around the globe, something which, to my knowledge, no woman and few men had ever done.

I treated my nine-year-old BMW R60/6 well, cared for my darling as I would any old lady with too many miles on the clock. More than 18,000 miles together; another 15,000 to go.

Amazing riding through the sticky Thai jungle.

On that golden southern Thai morning, I was riding on a small dusty country road a few miles from the main highway that carried all the traffic up the peninsula from Malaysia, Singapore to Bangkok. My speed was creeping towards 60 mph; too fast and I knew it.

That’s when I hit the dog.

A dark green truck, stacked high with baled goods, had been approaching on the opposite carriageway, blocking my view of the far side of the road. As it passed, the dog shot out from behind it into my path. It never stood a chance. Within seconds I was sliding up the road, watching my bike as it disappeared out of sight into a ditch.

When everything had stopped moving, I staggered to my feet. I looked around, but the dog was gone. I limped over to my BMW, which had hit a tree, its front wheel and exhaust wedged against its trunk. My metal pannier boxes had been ripped off the back of my bike and the mirrors, indicators and other parts were scattered all over the road. I was alone, a thousand miles from anyone I knew, in a country whose language I didn’t speak and couldn’t read, on a road I didn’t know.

While I’d been contemplating my predicament, five men had appeared from a small farm on the side of the road. I got them to help me pull the bike off the tree, out of the ditch and up onto the side of the road.