Steph Jeavons

Motorcycling legend Steph Jeavons is the first Briton and one of a very small number of motorcyclists to ride solo on every continent on the globe. She talks to Global Women Who Ride about her early years of motorcycling, the epic Round The World ride that she is a year into, what inspires her, and her legacy for future generations of motorcyclists. [Rashmi Tambe, Editor, Global Women Who Ride]

Steph Jeavons - the first Briton to ride a motorcycle in every continent

Steph Jeavons – the first Briton to ride a motorcycle in every continent

Please introduce yourself. My name is Steph Jeavons. I’m a mother of one and a grandmother of one at only forty years of age. I know –  it’s a shock to me too! I live in Colwyn Bay in beautiful North Wales. Or I used to before I sold my house and took off on a motorbike to go ride around the world.

What were your early years of motorcycling like? I first got on the back of my Mum and Dad’s motorbike at the age of eight. I got my own bike when I turned eighteen. It was an MZ50 which I painted purple.  I bought a second hand leather jacket that smelt of patchouli oil and some purple Doc Martens to match the tank. I didn’t get the chance to ride it much before it was stolen.

Most of my friends were bikers and we used to spend our weekends going camping on our bikes, drinking beer and generally enjoying the Welsh countryside. Everyone rode homemade chopped bikes with loud exhausts. Ah, the good old days!  I rode pillion back then. My second bike didn’t come along until I passed my test at the age of twenty-two. It was a Kawasaki GPZ305 which I later sold to my mum.

Tell us about your current mission. I’ve been riding around the world for the past seventeen months on a Honda CRF250L named Rhonda. My aim was to explore back roads and dirt tracks as much as possible and to ride on all seven continents on the tinniest budget. I’ve now covered 40,000 miles and I’m on my sixth continent.

Women Who Ride: Onward we go! Riding in beautiful Turkey.

Onward we go! Riding in beautiful Turkey.

What were your worst fears before the ride and have any of them been realized? I think we all have many fears before we set out. Perhaps my biggest fear was failing to make it out of Europe! I had images of wanting to come home and turning back. I’d never ridden abroad on my own before! What if I didn’t like it? Of course you soon get over that. Each border is a victory and soon you forget all about those early fears. You laugh at yourself and wonder what all the fuss was about.

Did you wish you had a bigger bike for the ride? Occasionally I have wished for a bit more power and a wider seat. You can’t always avoid long straight boring roads. However, most of the time I have been grateful for a small bike that I can drag out of the mud, squeeze through traffic and fit in to someone’s living room! I didn’t want to compromise adventure for comfort, and being a solo rider, my priorities were light and nifty. I don’t regret my choice but I think most people end up happy with what they have, whatever they chose. Like any good relationship, there are compromises that you make in favour of what is most important to you.

How did you manage to ride on Antarctica? I made it to Antarctica on Rhonda on a small expedition yacht. We then hitched a ride home on a Russian Ice Breaker! It took a long time to find someone who would agree to take a motorbike but it was worth the effort. We landed the bike twice. Once on a small beach and the second time on a Ukrainian science base. We radioed ahead and asked for permission. The twelve scientists living there were more than happy to oblige. They got a crane ready to lift her off the small dingy we used to get her to shore and dug channels in the snow for me to ride through. We partied with them that night on home-made Schnapps and 5000 year old ice cubes. They were so pleased to have company and put on a real feast!

Women Who Ride: Steph Jeavons and her motorcycle make it to Antarctica

Steph Jeavons and her motorcycle make it to Antarctica

In your travels, have you come across any place where you wouldn’t mind settling down? Settling down is not really something that appeals to me just yet. I loved Borneo and would like to do some conservation work there. So many places appealed to me but I think wherever I ended up living long term would have to have seasons. I like having four seasons.

Women Who Ride: Steph Jeavons looking over tea fields in Malaysia

Steph Jeavons looking over tea fields in Malaysia

Steph Jeavons rides across the Himalayas

Steph Jeavons rides across the Himalayas

Women Who Ride: Steph Jeavons in the Northern Territory of Australia

Steph Jeavons in the Northern Territory of Australia

Women Who Ride: Steph Jeavons on the salt flats in Iran

Steph Jeavons on the salt flats in Iran

What’s the worst mechanical difficulty you had to handle on your RTW ride? I have had no major mechanical issues.  I’ve had flat tyres and a leaking fork. I’ve ridden with dodgy worn out chains and been unable to find replacements, but that’s about it. I guess my biggest problem was structural. My subframe snapped in Sumatra. I didn’t actually notice until I stopped and saw that my indicator had melted off because it had dropped in front of the exhaust. That’s when I realised that the whole back end had dropped! Things like this aren’t a problem for long in Asia though. The mechanics there are very resourceful people and it was fixed up and stronger than ever in no time.

Did you see or experience anything that surprised you? Many things have surprised me. There was the landslide in the Himalayas, a truck that hit me in Colombia, and a rather large spider riding along on my bike in Australia. The Hindu pilgrimage that nearly crushed me in India, a mouse in my bed in Nepal, and the gusting winds of Patagonia which literally took me off my bike. The incredible hospitality that people have shown me all over the world and the lengths to which people will go to in your time of need. The world is full of amazing and surprising things! Long may it continue.

Women Who Ride: Steph Jeavons with a rescued elephant in Malaysia

Steph Jeavons with a rescued elephant in Malaysia

Women Who Ride: Camping in Australia. A swamp wallaby pays a visit.

Camping in Australia. A swamp wallaby pays a visit.

If you could go on a ride with any of your motorcycling heroes, whom would you pick? Well, Steve McQueen would be high on my list. Does he count? Live ones? Well, my latest hero is Jenny Tinmouth. We met recently at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and we got on really well. We are on very different journeys but I have much respect for her and what she is doing. She is a very talented rider.  We talked about riding together on part of this trip but it would have to fit around her racing commitments. I would love to see that happen.

If you could travel in time and go ride your motorcycle, what time on Earth would you pick and why? Oh, good question! I think I’d like to go back to the early sixties so I could be a rocker, back when it was still cool to wear leather and smoke cigarettes. Steve McQueen was still young then too of course and bikes were shorter. It was the Rebel era for sure!

What do you do when you’re at home and not riding? I’ve almost forgotten! I used to ride a lot at home too. I ran an off road school before I left so that was my business as well as my pleasure. However, aside from that I love to spend time with my dog. She is a Blue Merle Border Collie called Chui and is currently with my parents who adore her too. I am happiest when I am either up a mountain or in the forest, walking with my dog on a sunny day!

What was the last great book you read? I have a Kindle and it’s a great gadget to have on the road. It means I never run out of reading material. I can’t really name a great book I’ve read recently though. I like murder mystery type stuff and occasionally I pick up an adventure book.

Any good music you have discovered of late? I went to a back street salsa club in Cali, Colombia, recently. A local biker I had met took me along. It was out of the way and I never would have found it alone. The place was amazing and I loved the music. The energy and rhythm was something that I wish I could have a dose of every day!

Your favorite food? I loved Thai food and I adore the steak in Argentina. My favourite has to be alpaca in Peru.  I’m looking forward to Mexican cuisine.

If you could change anything about the world of motorcycling today, what would it be? Can I have two things? I’d make most bikes shorter and I’d like to see more people take up off roading. It’s a great way to learn bike skills and the most fun you can have with your clothes on. I’m still rubbish at it but as long as you’re having fun, that’s all that matters. It builds confidence, and without it I probably wouldn’t have left the UK to take up the ride of my dreams.

What kind of legacy do you hope to leave? I became a grandmother while I was travelling through India and it made me think about this question. I don’t have much to offer by way of material things but if I could make my granddaughter stop and think – that’s all. If I just give her a spark of inspiration, I would be happy. She doesn’t have to be a biker. I just want her to realise that it is possible to follow your dreams.

Thoughts about the Global Women Who Ride Project? It’s a great project. Anything that brings the sisterhood together gets a thumbs up in my view. There are more of us out there than people might think and we are growing all the time. If it inspires one person to take up riding then it has done its job. favicon

Women Who Ride: Steph Jeavons on her Honda CRF250L on a beach in Wales

Steph Jeavons on her Honda CRF250L on a beach in Wales


Follow Steph Jeavon’s travels at One Steph Beyond.