Living Courageously Beyond Adversity


Vanessa Ruck is on a mission- To courageously squeeze every drop out of life, and to help others overcome their adversities and step into courageous living as well. To quote her directly, “I’m on a mission to prove nothing is impossible if you want it bad enough.” Gauging from the many adventures in her young life, and the inspiration she is to so many who know her and follow her travels, Vanessa is realizing her dream. She is the one and only, “The Girl On A Bike.”

Vanessa at home on two wheels.

There are endless scores of youthful “influencers” across social media and the wider web today, probably too many. Most are silly, self-absorbed superstar wannabes, posting selfies and videos to promote only themselves. Vanessa doesn’t like to counted among that ilk. Her vision is much larger than herself, or any social media notoriety. She’s an “influencer” no doubt, although she dislikes the term. But she influences in the right way, by encouraging others to look deeply into their own lives and find the courage to get outside and really live beyond their confining circumstances.

The type of outdoor sports Vanessa grew up loving.

Born and raised in merry old England, Vanessa attributes her love for the great outdoors to her parents and upbringing. She states, “I was very lucky to have an incredibly outdoorsy childhood, with my parents always telling me, ‘Boredom is a lack of imagination. To entertain yourself, go outside and climb some trees or play with some sticks.’ I was incredibly active growing up, doing all kinds of sports my parents could get me into, from rock climbing to boogie boarding and horse riding.”

Vanessa before her life-altering crash.

Vanessa’s thirst for adventure and physical activity only grew in her early twenties, discovering sky diving, wake boarding, kite surfing, snow boarding, etc. “I’d become quite addicted to the mental and physical pleasure of extreme sports, and the hard work of getting into top condition and staying fit.” Adrenaline junkie doesn’t really define Vanessa. Mental and physical fitness junkie might be a more apt description.

One of many hospital stays Vanessa has endured.

Everything suddenly and shockingly changed on March 25th, 2014, when she was struck by an automobile while bicycling her way home from work. Pedaling through a green light, a driver jumped out in front of her from her right, running their red light and impacting Vanessa on her right side, bicycle and rider flying. She never lost consciousness, she remembered- “It seemed to happen almost in slow motion. I hit the ground on my right side, could feel my heartbeat, my pulse thumping through my veins, my surroundings almost a blur.” Still tangled up with her bike, passersby immediately came to Vanessa’s aid, and an ambulance arrived in short order to transport her to a local hospital.

“While my initial injuries were not life-threatening, they were definitely life-changing.”

Inexplicably, she was sent home with orders to rest and let all the inflammation go down in her right shoulder, knee and hip. Turns out, she had major injuries deep in each, that would soon require multiple surgeries. As Vanessa states, “While my initial injuries were not life-threatening, they were definitely life-changing, and it was going to be a long road back to full fitness.” In the years since, Vanessa has undergone seven operations to her shoulder and hip, with full reconstructions of each, and the possibility of more in her future. She has worked hard to rehab, following doctors and PT directives in her recovery, and despite living with and managing chronic pain, Vanessa has gradually returned to an active life, albeit with some care and modifications.

Which brings us to her recently discovered passion for motorcycles.

The mental recovery from her trauma was more difficult. Diagnosed with several mental health disorders such as overwhelming fear and anxiety and bouts of depression, exacerbated by the chronic pain she manages, meant Vanessa had to find a way to not only cope, but press through, to get her life back. She married, and for their honeymoon, her husband booked something truly epic- a motorcycle road trip through the heart of America on a pair of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

They rode over 1000 miles, rolling on the fabled Route 66, visiting Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo’s Palo Duro Canyon, and traversing panhandle Texas as far as the famed Mid-Point Café in Adrian, before making their way back to Wichita Falls, where their journey began. Vanessa found a motorcycle gave her confidence again, an inner peace that she would be okay, that she can overcome her fears and physical conditions. She reflects, “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.” And her husband Alex has been a huge encouragement as well, walking and riding alongside her every step and mile.

They both are now Harley owners, with Vanessa riding a 2015 Dyna Street Bob. They have ridden tens of thousands of miles on multiple continents, loving life on two wheels. In the years since, Vanessa has also crossed over into the dirt, acquiring the bikes and the skills to ride scrambles, enduros, trials and now grueling endurance races like the recent 8-day Morocco Desert Challenge, in which she placed 25th out of 77 motorcycle riders who finished, 2nd among women riders. No small feat, for those of you familiar with events like the Dakar Rally, Baja 1000, and others. And considering all that Vanessa has endured over the past 7+ years, completing events like these borders on Herculean.

Vanessa now competes in some of the world’s toughest motorcycle endurance races.

It all started for her with a honeymoon road trip in Texas, then buying the beloved bike she still owns, her Dyna Street Bob, whom she affectionately has named “Thug”. Vanessa muses, “I genuinely can’t begin to imagine how I would have made it through the last few years without ‘Thug’. She’s given me a sense of adventure that went missing after the accident.” She has since launched “The Girl On A Bike” to chronicle her travels, adventures, and her recuperation, with the greater purpose of creating a place and a community that provides challenge and encouragement to those struggling through adversity.

Vanessa is another level of fierce.

“When people say ‘recovery’, you typically think of returning to how you were before the accident,” says Vanessa. “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 several 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 realized 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.” Well-said, Vanessa.

For more on Vanessa Ruck, you can check her out here:

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*All photos provided by Vanessa Ruck.

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  1. Mike

    Ride on, M.L H.R.

    • RANDY

      I truly hope she’s riding with other people, it seems like a new American girl always end up missing and later on deceased…I truly wish you a safe journey….and I miss the old America 5 yrs ago

      • Rob Brooks

        She’s from England, and lives there, but has ridden here in the States on a number of occasions, and I’m sure she’ll return. Definitely well wishes for her safe travels.


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