Beard learned to ride a motorcycle on Salisbury Plain at the age of 16. She began her global journey in 1982, after the third year of her architect training course, using a BMW R60/6 motorcycle. She added soft panniers, a tank bag and an extra bag lashed to the pillion seat before she embarked on the trip. She began her journey in New York City, United States, having shipped the bike from the United Kingdom. From there, she motorcycled to Canada and Mexico and back to the US before shipping her bike to Sydney, Australia.
In Sydney, she spent eleven months working as an architect before motorcycling across Australia. In Townsville, Queensland, she had an accident which left her hospitalised for two weeks. Afterwards, she travelled to Singapore, where she spent 6 weeks replacing important documents and gear after they were all stolen; then she travelled into Asia. In Thailand, she collided with a dog and recuperated with a local family who fed her the remains of the dog she had crashed into. At the time of the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the entire Punjab state was closed. Beard forged the necessary permit to get out of the Punjab region and travelled into Pakistan before riding back into Europe via Turkey. She arrived in the United Kingdom in 1984, having travelled 35,000 miles (56,000 km). In doing so, she became the first Englishwoman to motorcycle around the world.
When Beard returned from the trip, there was a lack of interest for what she had accomplished, as she stated in an interview: "After I got back and nobody was interested in what I'd done, I just shoved everything into the back of the garage. I just kind of moved on with my life."
Her 2017 autobiography Lone Rider chronicles the circumnavigation.