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When an accident turned my life inside out, I found salvation in Harley-Davidson, and then came the start of The Girl On A Bike

My addiction to Harley-Davidson emerged following a few challenging twists in the road of life. It all started on our honeymoon, when we hired two Harley-Davidson motorcycles in Texas, exploring 1,000 miles around Route 66, Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo and the breathtaking scenery of the Palo Duro Canyon. It was an amazing adventure [read more on how we did Route 66 in 5 days here].

The Girl On A Bike and my Harley-Davidson addiction

Back home, our lives were full of excitement; we lived for sport and the great outdoors. There was this constant underlying thirst for adrenaline. With a full-time job, I found my ways to shape life around these needs. Weekdays entailed a 16-mile daily cycling commute, lunchtime gym sessions and summer evening wakeboard sessions. Weekends were filled with road trips, kite surfing, mountain biking and climbing.

Life-changed

Pre and post surgery accident photos of Vanessa The Girl On A Bike
Read more about the accident here

But things took a life-changing turn in March 2014 when, while cycling, I was hit by a car that jumped a red light. In that moment, life as I knew it was gone [more on the accident here]. As I write this nearly five years on, it’s three weeks since my sixth surgery, but I’m confident it’ll be the last operation. We’ve had to make a lot of changes in our lives following the injuries, and there have been ups and downs between surgeries. No sports, no adrenaline, my social life vanished, and I was unable to do my cycling commute. I decided to get a motorcycle to skip the traffic and save money, and this was the first catalyst to Harley ownership.

Later, my husband Alex was posted by the Royal Air Force to Afghanistan, which devastatingly was just one week prior to my full shoulder reconstruction surgery. On his return, for a belated wedding anniversary, I organised two Harleys for the afternoon – and that was it. It was immediately apparent that this thumping V-Twin was the key to a world of enjoyment that required minimal physical demand, something that would bring adventure to our worlds with my injuries.

Within weeks we were Harley owners and the adventures unfolded. In the three and a half years since, around my surgeries and rehabilitation, we’ve done 15,000 miles, countless weekend trips, wild camping, explored six National Parks, enjoyed sunrise rides over London’s Tower Bridge, and undertaken a 2,700-mile Alpine adventure [see more]. We have had a blast on two wheels.

Thug

I genuinely can’t begin to imagine how I would have made it through the last few years without ‘Thug’, my 2015 Dyna Street Bob. She’s given me a sense of adventure that went missing after the accident. I’ve also started The Girl On A Bike an Instagram blog, @TheGirlOnABike. While bed-bound following one of my surgeries, I decided that there must be other people out there facing similar struggles; maybe I could reach them through social media? I never imagined that so many people would find hope and encouragement in my story. There have been days when I didn’t want to get out of bed, but my followers helped me find strength, and there have been many days where my followers were struggling and my story has helped them.Vanessa Ruck and her Harley-Davidson

Recovery

When people say ‘recovery’, you typically think of returning to how you were before the accident. But there is no going back. You do not merely recover, you reinvent yourself. You learn so much as you fight through; it’s an irreversible journey. While my journey over the past five years has been brutal, I feel somehow lucky. I have friends now I would never have met, I have a Harley-Davidson I would never have bought, I have realised the importance of a work-life balance, I’ve become even closer to my husband and soulmate, and I have a fire in my soul only this type of recovery could light.

Make sure you’re following me The Girl On A Bike on Instagram and Facebook to hear more about my ongoing journey. 

As published in HOG