Vanessa Ruck: The Girl On A Bike

Vanessa Ruck: The Girl On A Bike

By Michael Satterfield

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Vanessa Ruck an amazing woman who turned adversity into motivation and now uses her story to help others while exploring the world on two wheels. In 2014 Vanessa was riding her bicycle which a car ran a red light sending her to the hospital and starting a journey of rehabilitation that inspired her to push beyond just recovering from her accident. Today Vanessa is an author, spokesperson, motivational speaker, and competitive motorcycle rider with the goal of inspiring others. 

Vanessa Ruck: The Girl On A Bike

Michael Satterfield:
Your love affair with motorcycles started before your bicycle accident, what got you interested in riding?

Vanessa Ruck: Surprising to many, I didn’t grow up with motorcycles, I wasn’t a small kid braaping around at an early age. I was into the world of four-legged friends, obsessed with horses.

This all changed when I lived in The Bahamas in my early 20s for 1.5 years, here on a remote island transport was difficult. I couldn’t afford a car, so I bought a Chinese Lifan Enduro 250 motorbike and had it shipped in. There wasn’t a single other bike on the island and I’d never ridden a bike before, but that didn’t faze me. Others can ride bikes, how hard can it be?

 I was however rather shocked when it arrived part assembled in a box! Yikes. Thankfully a trade for a bottle of rum saw a local bush mechanic put it together and I was on my way. I never remember ‘learning’ to ride. I just did it as it was the only way I could get around the island. I was very soon found exploring the remote island of Eleuthera, where I lived, with my spear and fins strapped to the side for spearfishing beach adventures.


Vanessa Ruck: The Girl On A Bike

Michael Satterfield: What was your first bike?

Vanessa Ruck: So my first bike was quite an adventure, lots of sand and track riding. A Chinese Lifan Enduro 250 in The Bahamas. I then came back to England and realized that it was about time I actually got my full license…I immediately passed my full access license but years went by without having a bike. I guess early in my career and post-university I couldn’t see the financial commitment of a second vehicle as feasible when a car was vital.

Years on, I was living in the UK working 9 miles from home and so I commuted by bicycle. However, this all changed with my accident taking my strong body away from me [read more].  In the years post my accident I was unable to do my commute cycling and thus was driving in our 3.5 liter V6 Mercedes-Benz Viano....which drinks petrol back and forth to work. Once physically able I decided to get a bike, the Suzuki Bandit, to skip the traffic and save money. This was really the first catalyst for bikes taking over my world following the accident. Then came a Harley-Davidson aka a bike comfortable sofa to cruise. 20k miles of touring around Europe.

The transition to mud was a little random. I was bedridden following my first hip surger, but I woke up one day and turned to my husband “Please can I have a dirt bike?” To this day I’m not sure what sparked it by let’s just say he was more than thrilled by the idea. As soon as I was mobile enough, we started the hunt and found a Yamaha WRF250 4-stroke. That is was!

It was 5 months until I could sit on it but I had it. It was sat there as a goal. Something to strive towards, help motivate me on those days where the pain just made me want to quit. Once I was able, always following medical recommendations, I was buzzing around on her, named Whizz. It was just gentle green lanes near home.

Although I started off-road riding four years ago, my total time on the dirt bike is perhaps 2 years or so as I’ve had to take breaks and go through more surgeries. 7 in total including a reconstructed shoulder and hip.


Vanessa Ruck: The Girl On A Bike

Michael Satterfield: It seems you were always very adventurous, what was it like getting on a motorcycle again for the first time after your accident?

Vanessa Ruck: Terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. Your inner voices, the ones that want you safe, they were on overdrive, freaking out. I remember the thumping of my heart racing through my body as I pulled away. What on earth was I doing. But, no matter how scary, I was never going to get one women’s momentary lack of judgment jumping that red light and hitting me, take away my experiences. I had to beat the fear, life goes on. You can’t sit at home and bubble wrap through life.

I have also been on a roller coaster of emotions, it’s not just physical; my body has changed, my daily activities, my ability to do sports, my views on the world, views on life, recovery, and even pain have changed. When people say ‘recovery’, you typically think of returning to how you were before the accident, before the illness or the life-changing event. But there is no going back. You do not merely recover, you reinvent yourself. You learn so much as you fight through, you find the strength you never knew existed, you learn things about your body unbeknown before; it’s an irreversible journey. I am now a stronger and more determined person than ever before. I’m more grateful than ever for what I do have, more thankful for the wonderful things around me. I have a fire in my soul only this type of recovery could light. Even now 6.5 years on, I can’t walk far but who needs to walk when you can bike!?

Vanessa Ruck: The Girl On A Bike

Michael Satterfield: When did you start adventure riding?

Vanessa Ruck: May 2019 was my first adventure experience. Two weeks riding Tiger 800s in Bolivia with Novo Adventures. I did a day experience with Triumph Experience Wales to prepare and then jumped on the plane. It was actually a pretty intense trip to go into as it was really the first riding I’d done following my fourth hip surgery and I was only signed off to ride again two weeks before! Bike fitness was a worry, but I managed. I remember one day, which I like to think of as the marathon day…we have 11 hours of riding. I felt broken. There is actually a photo of me sitting on the verge at one point, hip screaming at me and every part of me wanting to give up. But I didn’t, I kept riding and gosh the beer at the end of that day felt better than ever! Those days, where you think you can’t make it. That was the day I really feel I earned my badge as an adv rider!

Pre accident life was all extreme sports, kitesurfing being the main one. With my body ‘broken’ I had to adapt but as my recovery continued I sought more adventure. The road riding on my Harley-Davidson had me loving bikes, however, I wanted more - the fun and adrenaline-filled. It was this that made me look to adventure riding. I could combine more adrenaline, the physical, and the adventure together. It seemed perfect. I didn’t know in my mind hard enduro was going to be my end goal… let’s just say it’s escalated! Hard enduro is the ultimate in pushing the bike and body to its limits but the adv riding gives me culture, scenery, and distance that I’ve just fallen in love with.

There is not a day that goes by where I’m not aware of the physical implications of the accident. From simple things like getting stuck in a tight jumper because my shoulder doesn’t function like it used to, to pushing on through pain picking up a 100kg motorcycle in the mud. In many cases, pain is the body’s way of telling you to stop and rest, however, once you’ve had significant injuries it’s possible that the pain just never really goes away. If I always listened to the pain and rested, I certainly wouldn’t be racing and competing.

Riding, especially in the harder terrain or longer endurance requires me to push through in a way those without a physical history don’t have to. It doesn’t make me want to stop and give up, but it does mean I need more energy, more drive, and a bigger smile to make it through. If I gave up, I’d be letting one lady’s momentary lapse of judgment jumping a red light take my world away from me. That’s not an option. Plus I’m incredibly lucky to have a body able to push on again, it could have been so much worse.

The big bikes offer a level of adventure and ability to cover the mileage that the small enduro bikes just can’t handle and I love it. Riding in Bolivia, Iceland, Sardinia, it was incredible. We were able to explore so much of the country on two wheels. That’s what adv riding is all about!


Vanessa Ruck: The Girl On A Bike

Michael Satterfield: You have ridden all over the world, what trip would you say stands out as your all-time favorite?

Vanessa Ruck: Iceland 100%. That trip was mind-blowing and was organized by RideWithLocals, who I highly recommend. Over 2.5 million tourists visit Iceland each year to see the big sights. Hot spas, waterfalls, glaciers, geysers, tectonic plates, and lava fields. They pack into coaches or hire cars. But riding here on off-road bikes changes your perspective. We can discover the must-see spots from the less trodden tracks, skipping the crowds, and seeing things most tourists might only glimpse from the plane window. We rode up close to Hekla, slept below the Myrdalsjokull Glacier, recharged in an abandoned spa, explored huge craters without a soul in sight, picked across lava fields, crossed valley basins and crested mountains, riding volcanic ash berms. It was riding heaven combined with cultural and geological discovery: A trip only motorcycles can make possible.


Vanessa Ruck: The Girl On A Bike

Michael Satterfield: Where are you planning for your next adventure?

Vanessa Ruck: Sadly this is a really tough one to answer with covid-19. I have ambitions to ride Mongolia, New Zealand, Ural sidecars in Portugal, and even closer to home with Scotlands NZ500. However, at the moment I’m taking life a few weeks at a time and trying to make the most of what’s possible while keeping safe with covid and helping prevent the spread.


Vanessa Ruck: The Girl On A Bike

Michael Satterfield: Have you considered entering an event like the BMW GSTrophy?

Vanessa Ruck: Oh gosh. It’s definitely on my radar, however being honest, even a year ago I would absolutely not have had the skill - I’d probably have embarrassed myself. I’m training hard and seeking as many opportunities as possible to progress, for example, I’ve just done a week of training on the Expedition Masters with Dainese learning on and off-road skills on the Tenere 700. I’m doing more trails riding for the foundations of clutch, balance, and throttle control. I’ve really not been riding as long as many think so I’m like a sponge trying to learn.

 Would I consider the GS Trophy in the future? 100% but let’s see how my riding skills progress!


Vanessa Ruck: The Girl On A Bike

Michael Satterfield: How long have you been riding trials bikes?

Vanessa Ruck: Roughly one year, however, I have had hip surgery and covid lock-down in that period so it’s not quite a year in reality. I try and get out as often as I can as I know that trials is the best training source for other bikes. You only have to look to   MKOthe top hard enduro riders, they’re all trails riders first. It’s the foundation for all bikes and something I really do recommend. The precision and control you learn is directly transferable to the bigger bikes.


Vanessa Ruck: The Girl On A Bike

Michael Satterfield: When you aren’t on two wheels what do you drive?

Vanessa Ruck: Oh, good question. It’s a very practical answer – a Mercedes-Benz Viano camper van. 3.5 liter V6 with 263 bhp and a bed, cookers, fridge, and sink. It’s incredible for the lifestyle with the bikes. We have the bikes in the trailer, the ‘garage on wheels’, and then stay in the ‘hotel on wheels’. My favorite evening is one in the van, some yummy food, G&T and the calm van life brings.

Our other car is definitely less exciting. Pure practical money saving… 2002 Rover 75 estate. Yes, the one that looks like a grandad car! But it’s like a magic rabbit hat for fitting stuff in and doing comfortable long trips.


Michael Satterfield: Is riding bikes your full-time gig or do you have a day job?

Vanessa Ruck: I have a ten-year career in marketing, however, I decided to kick the ‘normal’ job to the side a year ago and go full time with the bikes. It’s not all riding, I also do writing, marketing support, motivational speaking, modeling, consultancy… and of course riding bikes.

I feel so lucky to be able to share my story and adventure. If I can help just one person each day with my story, it makes everything I’ve been through so worth it. I guess I’m on a mission to help motivate others to do more with every day, life as we know it can change in an instant – sadly I know that only too well. Let’s have gratitude for what we do have around us, let’s get up and get out, give new things ago.

I hope that with my adventures I’m helping show that even slightly reconstructed people can do it – so can you!


Vanessa Ruck: The Girl On A Bike

Michael Satterfield: What other projects are you working on?

Vanessa Ruck: The world is so uncertain at the moment that I’m just taking things as they come BUT I am training for Red Bull Romanics and Hellas Rally in 2021.

I think what I’m most intrigued about when it comes to Hellas, is the endurance. It’s the classic Iron Man thing, it’s my version of doing a marathon. The physical and mental endurance component will be a huge achievement for me considering my health and everything. It’s a completely different ballgame, and I’m so excited! I’m just going for it. I mean, the worst thing that can happen is that I won’t cross the finish line. So what?

Romaniacs, on the other hand, is absolutely terrifying for me, it’s crazy, but at the same time, I can’t wait to do it. And I’m not there to win any of these races, I just want to show that normal people, even slightly reconstructed normal people like myself, can do these things. I hope that by pushing myself hard and sharing my journey, perhaps I’ll be able to inspire people to realize they can get out and ride, too


Vanessa Ruck: The Girl On A Bike

Michael Satterfield: Where can people best follow your adventures?

Vanessa Ruck: Yes absolutely, I’d love for people to find my pages: