The Girl on a Bike in the Media

Good Housekeeping: Triumphing Over Adversity with Rally Biking After a Life-Changing Accident

As seen in The Good Housekeeping: Discover the inspiring journey of Vanessa Ruck, who triumphed over adversity with rally biking after a life-changing accident.

Vanessa Ruck explains how motorbike racing helped her find purpose after a life-altering event, and how she’s using her experience to inspire others.

When you’re racing, you’re unbelievably alive. It’s you, the wilderness, your navigation and your motorbike. It’s terrifying, but soul-igniting,” competitive motorcycle rider, Vanessa Ruck tells me, over a black americano in a London coffee shop.

“I remember a moment on the peak of a dune where I just stopped for a moment. There was nothing but dunes in every direction and, with that heat, it was also terrifying. But I was like, ‘I’m doing this, it’s me and the terrain.’ I had this overwhelming fear, but also aliveness.”

Vanessa Ruck is one of the best-known female motorcycle racers in the sport, even being the first woman to enter and finish some of the world’s most gruelling races. She shares her journey through social media as The Girl on a Bike, and now gives motivational talks to schools and businesses.

The first time I meet Vanessa is in a busy square in central London. She’s easy to spot, standing out against the grey crowds of tourists in a sunny yellow beanie, which she’s pulled over a blanket of beachy blonde hair.

The next time we chat is via video call from her home in South Wales and, in both settings, Vanessa is almost radioactively positive. She is animated and genuinely excited when she discusses the rallies she’s competed in, and particularly her work with school children, but serious yet open when she shares some of the darker moments of her journey.

You’d be forgiven for presuming Vanessa had been a life-long motorbike fanatic but, in fact, she only began riding after a road collision on her pushbike in 2014. The accident left her with life-changing injuries and years of ongoing physical and mental challenges.

“It was a very normal Tuesday,” Vanessa says, explaining that she was cycling back from the office where she worked in marketing, just as she did every day. “I got about a mile down the road and a car coming the other way didn’t stop.”

Vanessa collided with the car and was knocked into the road. She was picked up in an ambulance and discharged later that evening with bruising, but she had actually sustained significant damage to her shoulder and hip. Over the next seven years, Vanessa would undergo two shoulder and five hip surgeries, plus significant physiotherapy and rehabilitation. Vanessa described the mental toll of her recovery as a “rollercoaster”.

the girl on a bike rally moto uk cannonbal challenge 1 min 1

“It’s like being in a black tunnel. I didn’t realise the world could go so dark,” she says. “When you’ve been through some horrific surgery and you’ve been told that on the other side, you’re going to improve, maybe you’ll be able to walk, and then you realise you have to have more surgery – that tunnel is suddenly two miles longer, and it goes round a corner.”

Vanessa now uses a combination of physio, mindfulness and painkillers to live with her pain, and said she’s been told she has “about 95% certainty of more hip surgery.”

Having had an adventurous childhood and spending most of her twenties enjoying adrenaline-fuelled sports, Vanessa missed the active side of her lifestyle following her accident.

The idea for a motorbike first came about because constantly moving her feet to operate the pedals in her car was hurting her hip. On a motorbike, however, riders lean their weight to steer, meaning their arms and legs remain relatively stable.

“It made me realise I could have a bit of adrenaline, a bit of adventure without needing to be physically fit and able,” she tells me.

So, after an anniversary test ride in 2015, Vanessa and her husband, Alex, invested in a pair of Harley-Davidsons; a motorbike she describes as “essentially a sofa with an engine.”

“The first proper adventure we went on was six miles from the house. That’s all I could handle, riding-wise. We went to this little campsite and had a steak on a barbecue.

The Girl On A Bike vanessa ruck Vanessa Accident 1

“For pre-accident Vanessa it would have been the lamest Friday night, but for where I was in my recovery, it was the most uplifting and incredible experience possible,” she says, smiling. “I was alive, I was outside of my room, I wasn’t looking at that same annoying bit of paint on the bedroom ceiling. That night was an awakening of a new sense of gratitude.”

I venture that transitioning into motorbiking still seems an usual choice considering her accident took place on a pushbike. Vanessa nods.

“The first time, fiftieth time, two hundredth time I got on that motorbike, it scared the life out of me. But I knew every time it was going to get easier,” she says, “It’s nine years on, and when a car comes from that same peripheral direction, it takes me back [to the accident], but I grew up with horses – when you fall off a horse, you have to get back on.”

It was in 2016, during recovery from her third hip surgery, that Vanessa decided she wanted to try off-road biking. She bought herself a dirt bike, even though it would be five months before she was even well enough to sit on it.

the girl on A bike 1

Off-road biking, as Vanessa quickly discovered, was nothing like the comparatively comfortable experience of a Harley-Davidson – but it seemed she had a knack for it and Vanessa worked hard to build up her skill. It was during a day course in Spain that she impressed the instructor so much he convinced her to sign up for the Valleys Xtreme race in South Wales. After passing a practice session, she found herself in the competition.

“20 metres in front of me on the start line is a thigh-high plastic drainage pipe that you’ve got to get over on a motorbike. There’re hundreds of people watching in the audience. I cried in my helmet,” she says. However, Vanessa needn’t have worried. “I absolutely nailed it, got to the rock garden

, bossed it, and started overtaking people. Off the back of that I was like, ‘Ah, I like racing!’”

For the rest of the Good Housekeeping article see here.

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 www.thegirlonabike.com.

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