When your favourite tool company, Teng Tools, ask if they can feature you in their quarterly magazine…you say yes!
ACHIEVING THINGS I DIDN’T REALISE WERE WITHIN MY REACHES
FROM TRAGEDY TO POSITIVITY. VANESSA RUCK HAS OVERCOME SO MUCH AND IS NOW EMPOWERING PEOPLE TO GET THEIR HANDS DIRTY AND HIT THE ROAD!
Born and raised in England. I’m a go-getter, a
chase-your-dreams kind of girl. I grew
up in the great outdoors, getting muddy and messing around keeping fit with
horses and quad-bikes and always up to mischief.
But things took a life-changing turn on the 25th of March 2014. I was on my bicycle with the fresh feeling of spring in my stride and hit the road pedalling hard! Out of nowhere an oncoming car pulled across in front of me. I had a microsecond. Time seemed to go into slow motion. But there was nothing I could do. There was no route for avoidance. No hope to avoid impact. I felt my body crumple as I shattered into the rear passenger panel. My right shoulder took the full impact. My body screamed internally before collapsing to the ground on my right side.
I was feeling incredibly shaken up, as one would expect but
my get-up-and-go attitude had me staying positive about the short-term
Today, years since the accident; my body has been through so
much. Over 13 months off work, 6 operations, full shoulder reconstruction [yes,
I am now partly bionic], 4 hip surgeries, countless steroid injections,
hydrotherapy, osteopath, shock wave treatment, acupuncture, red light therapy, spiritual
healing, ice treatment, months and months of physiotherapy, and continued hip
My escapism has always been through sports, whether that’s
kite surfing, snowboarding or mountain biking, it’s always been about getting
physical, but the accident changed that, but then motorbikes came into my
world. They’ve swiftly become my favourite form of adventure; the open road,
the power, the ability to simply disappear into the unknown and travel the
world. Some may wonder how I’ve been able to ride motorcycles during my
recovery, given the injuries. But most of the people who ask are those who
I started @TheGirlOnABike when bed bound after my 3rd surgery following the accident, I needed something positive to channel my energy into. Since this day I have continued to share the ups and downs of my journey. Now as I discover new DIY techniques for my bike, I’m planning to help empower others to give it a go too, showing them that if someone like me can do it, they can do it too! I want to give people the confidence to get some tools, get their hands dirty and get working on their motorcycles. For me, DIY completely opens up new areas of knowledge, helping me learn and achieve things I didn’t realise were within my reaches.
I am passionate about so many things, but motorbikes are now so central to everything. There are few things as satisfying as a hard day’s graft working on your bike and seeing the results on the road. When I think of hand tools, I think Teng Tools! The tools are awesome, and I know I can rely on them to help me get the job done. Working on my motorcycle, my pride and joy, I only want to use the best. For me that is Teng Tools.
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
I was super honoured to be asked my HOG to write about my journey to becoming a Harley-Davidson rider. This was published in HOG Magazine – Harley Owners Group – Published in EMEA region (English, Dutch, French, German, Italian and Spanish), as well as in Canada (English and French), Latin America (Spanish) and Brazil (Portuguese).
See below for the full story
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].
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.
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.
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.
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.
Following at epic adventure covering 2,700 miles, 9 countries and over 25 mountain passes I was honoured to write about my Alps trip for HOG magazine. The adventure was with Tour1, an official Harley-Davidson tour operator and completed on the gorgeous 2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide [see my review here]
The article will be printed in the EMEA region (English, Dutch, French, German, Italian and Spanish), as well as in Canada (English and French), Latin America (Spanish) and Brazil (Portuguese).
I’m so unbelievably excited as I write this. I’ve had my first proper full article published in the form of a bucked list piece in the worlds largest weekly motorcycle publication, MCN aka Motorcycle News. The article is a review of my 2,700 mile adventure through some of the best Alpine roads with Tour1 on their Altitude with attitude tour in 2018.
I recently had the pleasure of riding the 2018 Softail Sport Glide on a mega 2,700 road trip, and Harley-Davidson have posted my Harley-Davidson Sport Glide review. While I have my Dyna Street Bob® I knew that on a tour around the best mountain roads in the Alps with Tour1, it was time to try a bigger motorcycle – the 2018 Softail Sport Glide™ – and boy did it win my heart. It’s a big bike in a small package offering power on tap and plentiful torque for passing on hairpins or blasting past Sunday drivers. I always felt like she had so much to give!
Harley really have done a superb job of distributing the load, improving the comfort and making a sick looking machine. The bike feels light and agile, and the ride comfort is like no Harley I’ve ridden, smooth and refined. The bike sucked up the tarmac giving a super smooth ride but with just the right amount of energy to keep its Harley soul. Character and comfort perfectly refined, even for the distance. You then add the wow factor with elegant lines combined with a stocky road presence, and I could see myself happily living this this beach; commuting with its practical luggage, while being a head turner for cruising and yet also offering great comfort for the longer tours. With 2,714 miles together, I can vouch first hand.
Yeah, it’s not going to be the bike for everyone, but I can’t stress enough how well Harley have done with the new 2018 models, they really are a new breed of machines. This guy is a beast and I’d recommend getting a test drive, but I warned you….you’ll want one!
Manuela Saragosa from BBC Services asked me whether it matters where Harley’s are made and what Harley fans like me make of the company’s decision to move some motorcycle manufacturing from the US to Thailand in order to dodge new EU retaliatory tariffs. Being honest, it doesn’t matter to me as long as the brand heritage and quality doesn’t change. Harley needs to do what they have to do to get bikes to customers at a price we can pay. Have a listen to the BBC podcast to hear my full thoughts on whether it matters where Harley’s are made
I’m absolutely buzzing to be a monthly columnist for the worlds biggest motorcycle publication, MCN, I’m let free to ‘blog-off’ and get revved-up about motorcycling. Make sure you buy the weekly publication to read it. And drop me a comment or message on Instagram if you have a topic you’d like to see me cover.
With nearly half a billion papers sold and more than 1.5 billion readers entertained and informed over its 59-year history, MCN can lay claim to being the world’s leading source of biking news. Motorcyclenews.com reinforces that claim with the same dedication and expertise which has made MCN’s voice the one the industry listens to, because we speak on behalf of you.
Penned from a one-room office on London’s Fleet Street, the first issue of MCN led with the exclusive story of multiple GP world champion Geoff Duke’s ban from the sport for supporting a riders’ strike, while inside editor and founder Cyril Quantrill’s first ever leader column impugned the sport’s highest councils for their cavalier treatment of privateer riders. A legend had been born.
The spirit of MCN then was as it is now: to bring you the stories and information you care most about, first.
It’s absolute honour for me to be working with MCN and I look forward to writing column after column for them, and maybe even more in time! Stay tuned.
Born and raised in England. I’m a go-getter, a chase-your-dreams kind of girl. I grew up in the great outdoors, getting muddy and messing around keeping fit with horses and quad-bikes and always up to mischief.
At 18 I flew the nest to find my place in the world, university, first job. Life took a turn in 2014 when I was hit by a red light jumping car, and since that day I’ve made it my goal to make the most out of life, and to also help others do the same.
My escapism has always been through sports, whether that’s kite surfing, snowboarding or mountain biking, it’s always been about getting physical, but the accident changed that and motorbikes came into my world. They’ve swiftly become my favourite form of adventure; the open road, the power, the ability to simply disappear into the unknown and travel the world.
I started @TheGirlOnABike when bed bound after my 3rd surgery following the accident, the first on my hip, and decided that I needed something positive to channel my energy into. Since this day I have continued to share my journey with you, but not just the happy days you expect on social media. I’ve also tried hard to be real, showing the down days, the days you have to find all your inner strength to even just get out of bed.
Ultimately, life is short, so it’s so important we don’t waste time or let life just slip through our fingers. Even with injuries and full-time jobs, we have so much to be grateful for and can do so much with our precious existence.
What’s my mission? To make the most of each day and help others do the same.
If you’re new to my page – it’s more than just dirt bike riding 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.
I spoke to Women Adventure Riders about my life, how the accident changed, how I’ve learned to live with pain and also discovered that motorcycles breed! Check out the full article here
“My goal is to make the most of life, because in a moment, it can change.” Vanessa, The Girl On a Bike
Vanessa speaks the truth of her experience when she states this fact. Throughout her life, she was active, riding a bicycle to work, kite surfing on the weekend, mountain biking whenever she could until one fateful evening in March 2014 when everything changed. In one thoughtless moment, a car ran a red light. One moment Vanessa was riding her bicycle through the intersection, the next she was on the ground [read more here].
Her injuries were not life threatening, at least from a medical perspective. But they have been slow to heal and without a doubt, life changing. Shoulder surgeries, hip surgeries, every therapy imaginable. She literally last week faced another painful surgery, number 5, yet if you talked to her, you wouldn’t know it. There’s something about Vanessa with her positive outlook and hopefulness.
Vanessa grew up with horses. With horses, when you fall off, you just get back on. She’s been frustrated by the fact that she physically hasn’t been able to just hop back onto a bicycle, but during her recovery, she did discover she could ride a motorcycle. “I realized I can use that to commute to avoid traffic.” Vanessa started riding as much as she could. She loved the freedom, the acceleration, the wind in her hair. She admits that at times, she feels vulnerable on a motorcycle. “Seeing cars coming from my right still freaks me out, three and a half years later.” But that does not stop her from riding, whenever her medical procedures allow.
On Breeding Motorcycles
When asked about how she got into riding dirt, Vanessa laughs. “No one told me that motorbikes breed!” One night, Vanessa had spare time. She was poking around on the internet, probably watching some YouTube when she said aloud “We need a dirtbike!”
Photo: Adrenaline Images
Her husband looked up from his book “ok.” They bought a WR250 to share, to see if this was something they’d even like. She was actually recovering from a surgery at that time, so she wasn’t even able to find out. She spent her time watching over it, cleaning it and daydreaming about riding dirt. When she finally could ride, two things quickly became obvious. She loved riding off road, and the WR was not the right bike for her. She upgraded to a two-stroke KTM and spent as much time “green laning” as she could. “This was the new thing!”
On Self Confidence and Being a Gal
Adventure truly is attitude. All of her life, Vanessa has enjoyed male dominated activities. “What has given me the self confidence to do what I do?” she reflected. “My parents never said ‘you can’t do that’. I grew up with an older brother and two older male cousins. I had to keep up and defend myself and stand my ground.”
Vanessa’s first bicycle
These days, Vanessa finds it satisfying to be in front of a “group of blokes, and able to roll up on a bike as big as theirs or talk engines with them.” She has run into her fair share of skepticism. At shops, sometimes she gets the question “Oh, which bike would you have if you could have a bike?” She realizes that she doesn’t look like a typical motorbiker with the blond hair and long eyelashes. So, she’s just honest, and shows up as a rider, a snowboarder, a surfer. Her husband chimes in “you’re quite credible in the knowledge you have, that helps you stand your ground.”
“I’m not a girl rider. I’m just a rider.” The enduro scene seems to have created its own challenge around gender. “At a practice racing event, I am one of 2 or 3 women out of 300 bikes. I am a novice, and honestly, this is the most vile group of guys I have run into. They see a girl, and the most important thing is that they get in front of you.” She just carries on, doing her best, knowing that she is going to progress and someday, they won’t be getting around her.
She also noted that “Sometimes girls don’t help themselves.” She encourages women to ask questions and to do research so they can talk intelligently about the sport. “Just trying to be pretty and sexy, you may generate the wrong sort of attention. Go into it like a real biker.”
On Learning to Ride
Vanessa obviously knows her way around a motorcycle. We wondered if she grew up around them. Vanessa told us that her dad had a motorbike when she was a kid. She knows it’s true because there are photos, but she doesn’t remember it at all! Her dad was into cars “so I was always a petrolhead. I learned how to drive at 13, and I bought my first car when I was 16. I woke up the day of my 17th birthday to tremendous fog, but that didn’t stop me from driving my car. My parents hopped in with me, and I drove up the highway. Why wait until the morning!”
She later got her first motorcycle when she was working in the Bahamas. “I ordered a bike from China, and it came in a box in pieces. I traded a box of rum to someone to build my motorbike. It didn’t bother me that I didn’t know how to ride, I just figured other people can ride, I can do it.”
She and her husband rode Harley-Davidson’s on their honeymoon. When her husband returned from active duty, she planned an anniversary ride for them, and she realized “We need Harley’s.”
photo: Vicky Bowers
So, what is The Girl On a Bike?
The Girl on a Bike is Vanessa’s Instagram account. Vanessa shares that “this has been a huge emotional roller coaster and I’ve had to learn to deal with pain.” In the process, she has learned mindfulness and how to choose to be positive. When she was at home recovering from major hip surgery in 2016 and wanting to connect with people, “The Girl on a Bike” was born. “It’s pretty much just following my life. I just post shots of me doing my life, getting out and trying to make the most of things. I don’t do anything special for it.”
Through this, she has found that there are other people struggling, and her own struggle, attitude, and sharing have inspired them. “I love helping inspire other people to do more with their lives.” She has had the opportunity to work with brands that she connects with. “If it’s on my site, it’s because I use it.”
Vanessa is also starting a “The Girl on a Bike” YouTube channel. It is going to focus on her working on her bikes. “There’s so much out there that the normal average person can do on their motorcycle.” She wants people to see that you don’t have to be special to work on a bike, and “there’s a lot of satisfaction in doing what you can at home.” She’s an account director in business to business marketing – it’s fast paced, challenging and pays for her fun, but has nothing to do with motorcycles. “If I can work on my bike, anyone can!”
There’s something about Vanessa. We asked her about her spiritual path. “I’m spiritual in a way that I don’t even know what it is. There is so much more to life than we actually know. I don’t have the vocabulary or understanding to describe it.” She told us that her mom works as a spiritual healer, and is an excellent example of how much more there is to life than meets the eye.
photo: Vicky Bowers
“Our mind has so much power; there is so much that is unconscious, but we can consciously change so much. When we go out in a bad mood, we are actually making a choice to be in a bad mood. Kick that out and put a smile on your face. You are going to get back what you put out.” This has been true with pain. “I try to focus on the fact that I’m not in pain.” She is also an incredibly grateful person, who notices the smallest joys and beauties.
The moment Vanessa is cleared to ride from her next surgery, don’t be surprised if you see her on a plane to Morocco to ride off road. She’s launching a website to continue to share her story, to help her stay motivated in her recovery, and to continue to inspire and encourage others who are struggling.
Vanessa leaves us with one important thought
“More girls should ride bikes!” Vanessa, we agree. And, we think you exemplify #adventureisattitude !