Motorsports Media The Girl on a Bike in the Media

DirtFish: How Vanessa Ruck Became The Girl On A Bike

As seen in DirtFish: Few people have a motorsport story to tell quite like Vanessa Ruck. The motorcycle racer turned rally driver, known as ‘the girl on a bike’, has taken on some of the world’s toughest motorsport tests, but it isn’t just on the rally stages where she’s made her mark.

Her perseverance in the face of huge challenges, and self-declared mission to prove that nothing is impossible if you want it bad enough, has inspired countless people all around the world.

As a panelist at last weekend’s DirtFish Women in Motorsport Summit, Ruck shared the story of her route from life-changing injuries to conquering the desert on her bike.

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I had nothing to do with wheels for a really long time in my life,” said Ruck. “I had a normal job, I spent something like 60 hours a week in an office. Then one day I got hit by a car while cycling home from work, and my life changed very dramatically in a moment.

The 2014 accident took an extreme mental and physical toll on Ruck, something she is still recovering from even now. But through all the pain, the discovery of motorbikes set her life on a new course.

“Through my recovery,” Ruck explained, “which has led me to having to live with and manage chronic pain – I’ve got a reconstructed right shoulder and right hip, I had seven surgeries over seven years – I discovered motorbikes.

“The short story from there is, when you discover something like motorsports, no one warns you that when you get your first motorbike, or your first car, then suddenly you need two and so on!

“So my journey into motorbikes had started, first there was a Harley Davidson cruiser, that was easy for me to ride with my injuries. But over the years, and through the rollercoaster of my recovery, it escalated.”

Motorbikes are one thing; many people discover the thrills and freedoms that come with being a biker during their lives. However, few decide they want to turn that love into a competition, let alone a competition that takes riders into some of the most inhospitable places on earth.

So how did the girl on a bike turn a love of bikes into a motorsport career?

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“For anyone who’s taken a car off-road, they’ll appreciate how dynamic it is,” said Ruck. “Sometimes it’s not just about going in a straight line while in total control, it’s about constantly correcting and fighting the stones and the rubble and the ruts – you’re constantly reading the surface.

“So I tried off-road, and sure enough, I got addicted to that. And then over the last two years, naturally I started racing.”

“I’ve now done some of the toughest off-road endurance rallies out there. I just did the Africa Eco Race in January, which is the original route of the Dakar Rally. It’s 6000 kilometers in 13 days, and I made it to the finish!”

With over 13 hours a day on the bike across the rough gravel, sand and 400m high dunes that have beaten so many drivers and riders before her, finishing the rally was a huge achievement for Ruck, who also became the first British female ever to do so.

That success came following the announcement last year that Ruck would make her first foray into rallying on four wheels, as a factory driver for British all-terrain racing car manufacturer Bowler. Becoming ‘the girl in a Bowler’ wasn’t something Ruck had ever planned; it was more simply a case of right place, right time.

“I was in the bivouac [at an event], just wandering around dribbling at all the vehicles,” she explained. “I got chatting to this guy, he was there as a privateer supporting a car, it was a great chat but suddenly a Bowler Wildcat drove past – that was my dream car as a child, and I totally just checked out of what this guy was saying.”

“About a year later I got a call from him, and I had to apologize for being so rude to him, but it turns out he was the head of motorsports at Bowler! He’d started following my journey, and he asked if I wanted to come and do an event in one of their new Bowler Defender rally cars. And the rest has kind of escalated from there.”

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In 2023, Ruck competed in the UK Bowler Defender Rally Series, ending the year with multiple podium finishes. This year, she’ll be back in a Defender and stepping up to European-level competition as she continues her development behind the wheel.

Adapting to driving off-road, rather than riding, is a challenge Ruck is clearly relishing, although the sensation of having a roof over her head is something that’s still taking some getting used to.

“When I got into a car,” she says, “the biggest thing that blew my mind coming from riding was that on a motorbike, your body is free, you’re fluid, you’re using your body weight to control the bike, to lean into the corner. And then you get in a car, and you get strapped into a seat with a five-point harness, your neck’s strapped to your shoulders, you’ve got a helmet on – you can basically only move your ankle and your arms.”

For the rest of The DirtFish 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, Tiktok and YouTube, and www.thegirlonabike.com.

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