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Inspiration in Affliction: How @TheGirlonaBike Handled Adversity

Today we´ll be highlighting Vanessa Ruck—@thegirlonabike. Her story is known by thousands, and it deserves be shared with many more. Weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with Vanessa and discuss how she came into the dirt bike and motorcycle world. It’s a story of strength and determination, a story of pain and perseverance, a story that can teach each and every one of us a valuable lesson—and, yes, there’s motorcycles.

Vanessa’s life had no lack of adventure. She herself states, “I was an adrenaline junkie. Extreme sports—kite surfing was my big one. I would rock climb, mountain bike, wakeboard (when there was no wind). Holidays were snowboarding…my whole life was about sports.” There was no such thing as what we might see as a “normal” day. No day lacked adventure.

Things changed in March of 2014. Daily, Vanessa would ride her bike to work, a 16-mile

commute. On one particular day in 2014, Vanessa was biking her way to after work wakeboarding when she was struck by a vehicle that jumped a red light. “That moment of impact on the car when my right shoulder hit it and I fell on the ground was quite a game changer for me,” Vanessa recalls, “I, at the time, didn’t realize how horrific my injuries were…now, seven years later, I’ve had seven surgeries—which includes a full reconstruction of my right hip and my right shoulder.”

Seven years.

Seven Surgeries.

For anyone, these last seven years wouldn’t have been easy. Vanessa, though, keeps a very positive and healthy mindset in the midst of the whole situation: “I’m not going to stop pushing my body just because it might wear out. It’s the only body I’m going to have, but I live and cope with pain because of my hips.” Even with this pain, and this entire life change, Vanessa was able to find something to maintain her adventure: “In the higher points of that journey I was able to ride a motorbike.”

Now, this wasn’t Vanessa’s first rodeo with motorcycles. At 20 years old, Vanessa had purchased her first motorbike while she was working on a remote island in the Bahamas. According to Vanessa, “There wasn’t a motorbike on the island, so I went online and ordered a Lifan 250 Enduro.”

After ordering the bike online, she was alarmed to find that the bike showed up in a box…in pieces. “It needed assembly,” she says, “I was like…what?” Lucky enough, Vanessa was able to make friends with the local mechanic and got the bike all put together. Once finished, she took her fins and bike and disappeared off around the island. This, for the most part, was where the motorcycles ended.

Until the accident.

After the accident, Vanessa and her husband went riding for an afternoon on two Harley’s. This

was a late anniversary celebration to remember the time they rode Harley-Davidsons in Texas for their honeymoon. “On that day,” Vanessa states, “I went from zero intention to buy to ‘I need that bike in my life.’” Vanessa recalls that decision to buy the best decision made in her recovery journey because it “gave [her] the realization that [she] could have some adventures and some fun while being broken.”

That first bike didn’t stay alone for very long. Not too long after that purchase, there was a WR250 sitting in their garage. It sat in the garage for five months before Vanessa was able to sit on it. She says “it sat there as a reminder every time I didn’t want to get out of bed, or I didn’t have the energy to get up and do my physio, saying ‘Come on! We’re gonna go riding!’” It was in those moments that Vanessa became determined to improve and develop more skills.

After her fourth hip surgery, Vanessa had very much fallen in love with enduro and was working

to get back into riding. Right after her surgery, unfortunately, riding wasn’t an option. Once able post-surgery, Vanessa practiced balancing on her newly purchased trials bike, at first just in the garage engine off for practice with no risk. “I’m not going to try and pretend that my body doesn’t struggle with it. It really does,” Vanessa says, “and it hurts, but I love riding so much that it’s worth it.”

As much as being on a bike aided in Vanessa’s recovery, her days were not all perfect, and it took much more than a motorcycle, or even a multitude of motorcycles, to get her through. Throughout the entire recovery, Vanessa’s desire has been to set goals that are going to drive her forward and to find gratitude and energy in everything that she can. Whether that gratitude and energy comes from a smile, a “yummy piece of mango,” or tearing it up on a dirt bike, Vanessa knows that all progress—even small progress—is worth celebrating.

Vanessa left me with a few pieces of advice:

1. Be kind to yourself. Your body is going to take time. You’ve just got to accept it and love it anyway.

2. It’s okay to not be okay.

3. Recognize the power of the conscious mind. You have the ability to say “No, I’m not going to feel sad. What can I focus my energy on to not feel sad today?” There’s going to be something you can find to put even a small smile on your face.

4. Take control of your recovery. You have things in your power to help heal yourself. Eat well. Get enough rest. Do your part to recover.

5. Remember the difference between short-term gains and long-term gains. Don’t try to push too hard too soon.

It’s all in the mindset.

What started as a life-changing event lead Vanessa Ruck to new places. Vanessa acknowledges that it has not been an easy journey, but she took it one day at a time, one adventure at a time, to be where she is today. With an moving story heard by thousands—Vanessa continues to inspire new people every single day. Ride Beyond Moto is blessed to have had the chance to speak with her and to share her story with you. Please take a moment to share her story and follow Vanessa on her journey as she continues to grow, continues to inspire, and continues to ride.

Facebook – The Girl on a Bike

Instagram - @thegirlonabike

YouTube – The Girl on a Bike

LinkedIn – The Girl on a Bike

Thank you, Vanessa, for continuing to share your story and for telling us how you #ridebeyondmoto.

All photos on this blog are courtesy of Vanessa Ruck.

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