The Girl on a Bike in the Media

ADV Moto: Spotlight on Vanessa Ruck a.k.a. The Girl on a Bike

Article as seen in print magazine ADV Moto by J.M. Staelens

“If you had told me six or seven years ago that in a few years’ time and so many surgeries later, that I’d be racing motorbikes, I probably would have choked on my drink.” In 2014, Vanessa Ruck had a horrific life-changing bicycle accident when she got hit by a car running a red light, turning her world upside down.

A long, arduous journey on the road to recovery ensued, with lots of reconstructive shoulders and hip surgery and years of intensive rehab therapy. Although Vanessa realized that physically she would never be the same again, she never stopped believing in her ability to overcome the catastrophic setback and pursue an active lifestyle again.

Fast forward and today Vanessa is a professional adventure rider and enduro/rally raid racer with growing fame after racing in the Red Bull Romaniacs Hard Enduro and the Tunisia Desert Challenge, two of the world’s most grueling offroad races.

The girl on a bike vanessa ruck
The girl on a bike vanessa ruck 1
The girl on a bike vanessa ruck 2

While living in the Bahamas in her early twenties, Vanessa bought her first motorcycle, a Chinese Lifan 250 trail bike, the only affordable means of transport available to her. She had never ridden a motorcycle before, but that didn’t deter her in the slightest, because “Others can ride bikes, how hard can it be?”. After returning to the UK, motorcycles disappeared from her radar with kite surfing, snow/wakeboarding, mountain biking, and climbing taking up all of her free time.

It was only in the aftermath of the accident that she decided to get a road bike, a Suzuki 600 Bandit, for her daily commute to work, as she wasn’t ready yet to resume cycling. For her honeymoon, she and her husband Alex toured Texas on two rental Harley-Davidson’s, which led to buying a couple of Harley’s in the UK to travel in Europe with.

While being bedridden after another operation, Vanessa woke up one day to the idea of getting a dirt bike. The Yamaha WR250F sat in her garage for five months before she could even sit on it: “It was sitting there as a goal. Something to strive towards, help motivate me on those days where the pain just made me want to quit. Once I was able, I was buzzing around on it. It was just gentle green lanes near home.” Alas, more surgery was required, and she realized she needed a lighter bike: a KTM 200 EXC 2-stroke followed by her current 2020 Husqvarna TE 250i.

Q: You cover the spectrum of road, dirt and ADV riding, and you progressed quickly to enduro’s and rally raid racing. You must be a competitive person. Was racing a deliberate decision early on?
VR: No, not at all. Things just evolved. However, I always strive to be the best in what I do, and so I’m competitive at trying to beat myself at how I was yesterday.

And when it came to motorbikes, that’s what happened. At the beginning, I had no idea there was so much out there in the world of motorbikes, I didn’t even know there were all these different types of racing. I just saw a motorbike as a motorbike. Only when I started riding, I gradually discovered these different areas. For example, after I had started green laning, I realized that a 250 was a bit big and heavy and risky for my hip during rehabilitation.

I wanted to find a way to be on a motorbike a bit sooner after surgery, something lighter to hone my riding skills, and that’s when I discovered trials riding. After my fourth hip surgery, a full reconstruction, I got a Beta Evo 125 trials bike. For two months I practiced static balancing in my garage, as I couldn’t ride yet. In the end I managed to balance for fifteen minutes.

Trials riding improved my riding skills hugely and this translates to hard enduro. All the different styles of riding complement each other. My ability to push a big adventure bike offroad, I wouldn’t be able to do that if I hadn’t had time on a trials bike. It really enabled me to focus on clutch and throttle control and balancing so that I can keep a big bike upright.

Q: The subtitle of the Tunisia Desert Challenge is Extreme Rally Raid, and your experiences during the race were indeed extreme (see videos in TDC link below). What lessons have you learned that are useful for adventure riding?

VR: An extreme challenge like the TDC puts everything in perspective. It really shifts your perspective. What you once thought was hard, is not really hard. When you think you’re tired, you’re not really tired. It makes you realize that the only way to grow is to push yourself beyond imagined limits, to put yourself out of your comfort zone. And ADV riding does that too, as it is always a challenge.
Another lesson I learned is the importance of preparation. Spending the night alone in the Sahara after being stranded brought the message home.

I learned why in a rally carrying a comprehensive safety kit is compulsory and that it’s important to know how to use every item. Going on an adventure, there are always things that’ll go wrong, and guaranteed there’s going to be something that you wished you carried but didn’t. Or you’re going to have to adapt what you’re carrying to whatever it is that you’re facing as that is the nature of what happens on the road. The most important thing is to not quit, to keep going, even if it’s only baby steps, you’re still making progress. And by having the right preparation and tools, you’re increasing your capability of just keeping on going. Having the right food with you, the emergency electrolyte or protein bar, all those sort of things that give you energy to keep you moving.

Q: You’re also a motivational speaker and mental health advocate. What inspirational message can you share with us?

RV: Not allowing your past to define your future. There are a lot of people who are anxious, weighed down, and restricted by stuff that happened in their past. They fall back on excuses not to do things. If you take my situation, I live in managed pain, I’ve got two reconstructed body parts, and I’m very aware of it as I live with the pain on a daily basis, but I refuse to let that be an excuse. I do everything I can to not let it stop me trying things, trying to grow, trying to find a way around excuses. Ask yourself what’s in your control, what can you do to improve your situation and get rid of those excuses. Don’t let your past define your future.

The comments on her popular social media channels are testimony to the fact that Vanessa’s touching story leaves few unmoved. How her courage, perseverance, and indomitable spirit enabled her to overcome adversity is a source of inspiration for many. Vanessa’s tale exemplifies how motorcycles can be instrumental in giving someone a new lease on life, which we all know to be true. We hope Vanessa’s future adventures will keep us entertained and inspired for many years to come.

If you’re new to my page – it’s more than just dirt bike riding, Harleys and racing, I’m on a mission to prove that nothing is impossible if you want it bad enough. See more about my story plus read about my life changing accident, which started it all.

You can find me Vanessa, The Girl On A Bike over on InstagramFacebook and YouTube, and

Latest Content

the girl on a bike morocco desert challenge KTM rally replica vanessa ruck

Morocco Desert Challenge a 3000km extreme desert race

Morocco Desert Challenge a 3000km extreme desert race This is a 3 part series showing you the real behind the ...
Introducing Bowler Defender

Introducing The Bowler Defender Rally Car

Introducing The Bowler Defender Rally Car In the rally world the Bowler Wildcat has been a car to reckon with ...
the girl on a bike accident

Living with chronic pain

Living with chronic pain Bodies can be incredible but also a huge burden, especially if living with chronic pain. As ...