The Girl on a Bike in the Media

Tailwind Nutrition: Surviving the Morocco Desert Challenge

As seen in The Tailwind Nutrition: Vanessa Ruck, aka The Girl on a Bike, conquers the Morocco Desert Challenge, enduring extreme conditions, crashes, and health challenges.

British female finishes one of the world’s toughest endurance races…

The girl on a bike vanessa ruck thankful
  • Facing 2,500km of brutal African terrain with peak riding with an attrition rate so high that only 40% of the motorcycle category riders successfully completed
  • The gruelling Morocco Desert Challenge is an extreme 8-day motorcycle race over sand dunes in blistering temperatures hitting 52°C / 125°F
  • Tragically two lives lost to the desert during the race
  • Vanessa Ruck fought to the end finishing 25th in category, showing the male dominated industry that women can too
  • It was not smooth sailing for her with huge challenges from upset stomach, hydration, allergic reactions and two big crashes

Here’s the story…

Vanessa Ruck, also known as The Girl on a Bike, has successfully battled for her life to complete the gruelling Morocco Desert Challenge, an extreme rally-raid over sand dunes in blistering temperatures. As one of the world’s toughest endurance events, the 36-year-old Ryancompleted the 8-day event, covering up to 420km each day and became one of the few who finished. With an attrition rate so high that only 40% of the motorcycle category riders successfully completed, it’s a serious achievement for the British athlete. But it wasn’t all sunshine!

She endured the heat wave hitting North Africa with temperatures peaking at 52°C. She tackled an upset stomach and hydration challenges from the extreme heat, faced two huge crashes that deployed her life-saving air vest, and confronted an allergic reaction that led to her barely able to open her eyes just half an hour before taking to the start line. Many would have quit.

Unforgiving extremes in the desert

But with pure grit and determination Vanessa fought on, “I knew I was racing others, but it felt more like I was fighting for my life. Fighting the terrain, battling the heat, the mental and physical fatigue, I was riding for my life. In the vast dunes, I knew that if I had an issue that was me done. I even started wording a message in my head to record on my phone for my family if the worst happened. It was scary.”

The girl on a bike vanessa ruck Mental and physical extremes
The girl on a bike vanessa ruck Unforgiving extremes in the desert

The heat in the dunes is exceptional and unforgiving, and the human body is incredibly vulnerable on bikes when the temperature peaks at 52°C / 125°F in a heat wave. “I recall cresting a huge dune peak higher than a multi-storey house and scanning the horizon…there was nothing but sand and dunes in every direction and not a soul. It was me and my bike. My body was exhausted, I wanted to rest but the heat meant I had to keep pushing. The only way out, was onwards. I had to dig deep mentally to fight to the finish.”

Mental and physical extremes

Competitors are navigating but also tackling the rugged and rocky terrain of Morocco. The tricky navigation means following a series of symbols, compass bearings, and distance on a scrolling piece of paper mounted to the handlebars, called a road book. Road book navigation events, such as the infamous Paris-Dakar, are far more than just riding. Riders have to navigate accurately, retaining mental and physical focus for upwards of 6-8 hours of racing, and do this off-road day after day. Could you stay calm on your own in the middle of nowhere, digging deep into your energy reserves with only the supplies you can carry?

The girl on a bike vanessa ruck Morocco Desert Challenge

It would be easy to question Vanessa’s sanity and decision to enter such an event but when a cycling accident in 2014 threatened to derail the adventurous life Vanessa loved, she refused to take it lying down. Instead, she handled things the only way she knows how. Brushing herself off, she put herself back together. And then she upped the ante.

With a reconstructed shoulder and hip following a 7-year recovery with 7 surgeries, Vanessa discovered the thrill of motorcycles. Fast forward 7 years since she mounted her first off-road bike and she’s taking on some of the toughest races going and is amongst very few females braving the brutalities they put you though. Vanessa’s journey has not been smooth with pain now a daily feature in her life, but what she has learned is that it’s vital to never let your past control your future. It’s likely the resilience her recovery forced her to gain, helped her through many of the brutal Morocco Desert Challenge obstacles.

For the rest of the Tailwind Nutrition 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

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