The Enthusiast H.O.G. Rally: A JOURNEY WITHOUT END
For UK-based rider and racer Vanessa Ruck, motorcycles provided a lifeline in the darkest
times. Now, her horizons are widening ever further as she reaches new heights on the Pan America, and rode to the Slovenia H.O.G. Rally.
Motorcycle rider, racer and adventurer Vanessa Ruck is attending her first Harley Owners Group® event – the highly anticipated 29th European H.O.G. Rally in beautiful Portorož, Slovenia. So, what’s her verdict? “It’s so exciting! I knew how much soul and love there is in the world of HarleyDavidson, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so close to it.
The amount of bikes; the energy, the time, the passion, the detail that people put into them – it’s just absolutely incredible.”
For Vanessa, one of the highlights of the H.O.G. Rally has been taking part in the Harley® parade, which was led by H-D legend Karen Davidson (“She’s such a badass. I’ve got a little bit of a girl crush!”) and saw thousands of bikes winding through the stunning surroundings of the Slovenian coastline all there for the H.O.G. Rally.
Vanessa was inspired by the number of female riders taking part. “It’s really powerful – really cool to see. And hopefully next year and the year after there’s going to be an increasing number.”
The idea of progress – of taking steps forward – is close to Vanessa’s heart. Rewind to 2014 and she was riding high, putting in the hours as a PR professional but making the most of every opportunity to pursue high-octane pursuits outside of work. “I was an adrenaline junkie.
Weekends were for kite surfing, or rock climbing, snowboarding, mountain biking…you get the idea.”
That all changed when a car ran a red light while Vanessa was cycling to work. She suffered severe injuries and has undergone multiple surgeries in the years since, including shoulder and hip reconstructions. However, the mental recovery has proven tougher.
“It shook everything I knew. I would describe the following seven years as a rollercoaster – not a fun one.”
It was fairly early on during Vanessa’s recovery that she found herself thinking about motorcycles. She had dabbled with bikes before, having used one to get around during a university term abroad spent in a remote part of the Bahamas. She subsequently got her licence upon returning to the UK, but still didn’t see herself as a biker.
Now, it seemed a practical option and would be suitable for her commute, so without further ado,she went on eBay and found a Suzuki Bandit 600 for sale in her town. It was in good condition, so she went to see it the next day and promptly snapped it up.
So far, so good, but what about actually taking to the road once more, after what had happened? “I can’t deny how scary it was getting back on the bike the first time, or the 10th time, or the 50th,” says Vanessa. “But there was an element of pure stubborn determination.
And I grew up with horses. With horses, when you fall off you get back on.” She also found mindfulness to be really helpful: “I have learned that I am in way more control than I ever thought over what is in my mind. If a bad thought comes in, it’s not about getting angry with yourself; it’s just redirecting it.”
Little by little Vanessa faced her fears. Little by little, Vanessa faced her fears and started to get out on the bike more often. Her husband, Alex, also had his licence, and on their honeymoon they rented Harleys in Texas. It was the memories of this trip that would lead Vanessa to arrange an anniversary surprise for Alex some time later, when he was away serving with the RAF in Afghanistan.
She arranged to rent two Harleys from their local dealership, Oxford Harley-Davidson – a Street Bob for her and a HD Forty-Eight Sportster for Alex. “We had no intention to buy. We were just going to go out for a ride, then take them back and walk away…but Harley has something that just gets you. We went from zero intention to ordering two in a week! It was hands-down the best decision we made in my mental health recovery.”
Vanessa’s 2015 Street Bob – soon christened ‘Thug’ – proved to be revelatory. “The Harley basically made me realise that actually, I could have a bit of adventure without needing to be physically fit and able. It gave me a new focus; it showed me a whole new world.”
Vanessa rode whenever she could, racking up thousands of miles over the next few years both at home and abroad – including a Harley-Davidson tour to Croatia – and when her physical condition made it too painful to ride, she would spend time in the garage customising her beloved Harley Thug: adjusted suspension, new seats, a Stage III engine upgrade and an eyecatching vinyl wrap in matte metallic blue.
Write up following the H.O.G. Rally in Slovenia as seen in The Enthusiast magazine.
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.