The Girl on a Bike in the Media

Red Bull: The Girl On A Bike: Enduro Rider Vanessa Ruck

As seen in RedBull: Pain, hardship, happiness. The British Vanessa Ruck is one of the best rally riders in the world. In her own way: Under the label “The Girl On A Bike“, she shows how she revamped her life on an enduro bike

Vanessa Ruck flips up her helmet visor, takes a deep breath and looks back at the wide river bed. There is currently little water, no problem for Rucks enduro bike. But Iceland’s rivers are treacherous, they are fed by glaciers that lie above active volcanoes. The meltwater does not flow evenly into the valley, a wave could have knocked her off her bike at any time, and yet Ruck says: “Iceland is phenomenal for enduro riders. You have to constantly improvise because the terrain is so uneven. It challenges you so much that you only perceive the fascinating landscape like a background film.” There is simply everything here: sharp-edged volcanic rock, soft sand and ash. “Something new is always testing you – and I love that”

vanessa ruck fluss island
vanessa ruck bulletin shooting island

Normally, this area would lead to internal frenzy. Vanessa Ruck only to the outside, and she feels completely comfortable in that. Iceland – that is hard training, but still paradisiacal in a very peculiar way.

Vanessa is 37 years old and one of the most famous rally riders in England. On Instagram she takes hundreds of thousands of people along on her travels. She gives lectures and talks about how she developed her career – and the huge setbacks she had to overcome on her bumpy road to wellness. Just three months before her trip to Iceland, she was traveling in Morocco. During the Morocco Desert Challenge she covered 3,000 kilometers under the blazing sun. Not even half of the participants and only a handful of women make it to the finish line in this competition – Ruck was one of them. She talks about 52 degree air temperatures and desert sand that burns your skin. And also from the people who never came back from such rallies. “Mentally, I have already written a farewell letter that I would have dictated into my cell phone if there was a breakdown,” she says. “If I had stayed lying somewhere, no one would have been able to help me in time.” Even if staying lying down is not an option for someone like her. No longer. Not after she had to struggle so hard to learn to stand up.

“The terrain is hard and soft at the same time, you always have to improvise here” – Vanessa Ruck

It happened years before her first race, when motorcycles didn’t really play a special role in her life. Back in early 2014, she was the head of marketing for a large company. She was ambitious, worked long hours and, to compensate, got adrenaline rushes by wakeboarding, kitesurfing, cycling or climbing. Everything was about to change in March 2014. At the time, Ruck was 27 and was going wakeboarding on her bike when a car ran a red light and swerved in front of her. She couldn’t avoid it and hit the vehicle with full force – her shoulder and hip were hit as if by a huge bullet. For years, one surgical procedure followed another..

THE WHITE OF THE CURDLING TIME

“I couldn’t get up and spent endless amounts of time just staring at the same boring piece of white on my bedroom ceiling,” says Ruck. “My husband had to brush my hair and put my socks on. It was so grueling having to go under the knife again and again. Whenever I thought I was finally making progress, I was soon back in the hospital bed or hobbling on crutches.” Ruck slipped into depression, combined with an adjustment disorder. “Basically, it means that I no longer saw myself as myself. I spoke about myself in the third person: This wasn’t Vanessa – Vanessa, this was that strong, fit person before the accident. But I just felt broken and pathetic.” Ruck knew she could no longer play the sports she once loved. But riding a motorcycle seemed possible at some point.

At the time, she had to juggle a full-time job with her rehabilitation, and as a commuter, a motorcycle would give her valuable time: At the end of 2014, she bought a Suzuki Bandit 600 for the road. Too early, because she wasn’t mentally ready for it. “I don’t know if you’ve ever cried under a motorcycle helmet. It’s really uncomfortable,” she says. “You can’t reach your eyes with the gloves on, the visor fogs up, and all of this creates real helplessness.” – Ruck can laugh about it today. At that time, she started having panic attacks just at the thought of getting on a bike. “I was just sitting in my driveway. I had almost died on a different kind of bike – why on earth would I get back on it now?”

vanessa ruck training island

But Ruck was persistent and overcame her fear. „ The driver who hit me had changed my body “, she says, „ but she had no power over my future. I grew up with the attitude that you learn from a fall and continue instead of complaining. I knew that getting on a motorcycle would be a little easier every time. “

„ filled with suffering “ became „ easy “, „ easy “ became „ with pleasure “: After a few months, Ruck noticed how well you were doing this new, motorized mobility. It was a completely different way to get adrenaline kicks. Soon she expanded her fleet with a Harley-Davidson for road traffic. This was followed by a scrambler off-road bike. And finally an enduro for the really difficult terrain. „ Many people ask me why I didn’t start kitesurfing or wakeboarding again “, she says. „ In the beginning it was probably a defense mechanism. I didn’t want to compare myself to the person I used to be. My whole body hurt and no longer worked as before. Motorcycling, on the other hand, was something completely unfamiliar – and then I became almost addicted to this thrill. “

When she was physically unable to ride, she found solace in maintaining her motorcycles in the garage. Gestures that became a symbol of a better life, of a future she could work towards. Vanessa Ruck designed a website called The Girl On A Bike. There she continues to share details about her rehabilitation and her increasingly adventurous motorcycle tours, which have taken her to 29 countries so far.

“This driver injured my body, but she has no power over my life” – Vanessa Ruck

When she was physically unable to drive, she found comfort in taking care of her motorcycles in the garage. Gestures that became a symbol of a better life, a future that she could work on. Vanessa Ruck designed a website called „ The Girl On A Bike “. There she still shares details about her rehabilitation and her increasingly adventurous motorcycle tours, which have so far taken her to 29 countries.

vanessa ruck red bull romaniacs 2021

“Social media can be toxic, negative and unfair,” says Vanessa. “That’s why people tend to hide the low points of their lives. But I wanted to reveal everything.” On Instagram you can find pictures of her lying in bed after an operation and not being able to get up. But right next to it is a post in which she is smiling, on the motorcycle, in a victorious pose. There are photos of races and biker meetings that gave and still give her support in life. And Ruck’s openness was well received, her number of followers grew steadily. In 2019, she decided to quit her job and make money as “The Girl On A Bike”

„ Finally I had to commute to work and go to rehab three times a week. Hydro, physio and shock wave therapy, osteopathy and acupuncture – that really challenged me “, she says. „ My husband Alex and I calculated that if I quit my job, we would do well for 13 months. That was exactly the time I needed for the rehab. I also wanted to see what I can achieve with ‚ The Girl On A Bike ‘. But I would never have imagined how many people would draw energy from my fight – almost as much as myself. “

A dance under the volcano

Now, while training in Iceland, Rucks motorcycle thunders over the coarse black sand, a mixture of volcanic ash and crushed lava rock. After more than seven hours of driving, a river indicates that the stage is slowly coming to an end. Ruck has hip pain, but she feels fit. She is tired but satisfied. She has only been racing for a little over two years. Her path to hard enduro sports began in 2021 with the Red Bull Romaniacs.

Unbelievable how many people draw strength from my fight.

Vanessa Ruck

The race in the Romanian Carpathians is considered the most demanding event ever. 150 racers started, only 91 got through, one of them was jerky, at least in 57th place. The respect success motivated her to take part in her very first rally, the Qatar International Baja. In the spring of 2022, Ruck started at the Tunisia Desert Challenge, an eight-day event that put more strain on them than all previous challenges.

„ It was a technically demanding area and the navigation was incredibly difficult “, she describes. „ I spent a night in the dunes after my motorcycle’s electronics failed. I had to kindle a campfire. That may sound romantic – but sitting somewhere in the desert on the pitch black night, eternally away from any civilization, is terrifying. The next day the clutch of my motorcycle also gave up the ghost and I was stuck in the burning midday heat for seven and a half hours. “ Only then was she flown out by a helicopter. „ I really reached my limits, received three infusions and a lot of pain relievers. “ The night after, she woke up from a nightmare in which she was stuck a third time in the desert and thought: „ That’s it,I’m finished. I expected too much. “ But when she startled out of bed, she had only one thought: „ Where’s my bike? “ Ruck was able to continue the rally and finally crossed as the first woman (on the 35th. Place) the finish line. „ Ending the race was the biggest confirmation for me. For the first time, it was my own decision how much I had to endure. That gave me back a lot of the strength I lost after my accident. It was an incredible feeling “For the first time, it was my own decision how much I had to endure. That gave me back a lot of the strength I lost after my accident. It was an incredible feeling “For the first time, it was my own decision how much I had to endure. That gave me back a lot of the strength I lost after my accident. It was an incredible feeling “

So lost, so safe

Back’s decision to face all of these dangerous and painful challenges seems difficult for outsiders to understand. „ Yes, these races are brutal “, she admits. „ I think the desert has something sadistic – and yet: I love the adrenaline and the endorphins when I’m sitting on my motorcycle. I think the secret is that I’m getting lost at the moment. “ Borrowed in loss. In such phases, she was unable to feel something like pain. „ But when I get off my bike in the evening, reality ramps me like a freight train again. Many don’t understand that. But they don’t live in my body either. “

The group’s night camp, a tin hut, appears on the horizon. A little later, Vanessa sits on a rock, watching the sun sink as red. She will get up at six in the morning to jog a bit before the next stage. But now she can relax, really relax. „ It’s not the Hilton “, she says with a view of the tin cover, „ but tonight I’m going to sleep well. “ Vanessa Ruck knows that if you rest completely, you don’t need a hotel.

For the rest of The Red Bull 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 Threads, WhatsApp, InstagramFacebook, Tiktok and YouTube, and www.thegirlonabike.com.

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