Vanessa Ruck from the Wye Valley has become the first female to complete the gruelling 1,800km 1000 Dunes rally in the desert.
A woman, who suffered a horrific cycling accident a few years ago, has become the first female to complete a gruelling 1,800km motorbike rally in the desert. Vanessa Ruck, aged 36, is from the Wye Valley and recently rode from her home in Wales to Spain.
She then undertook a difficult challenge across the Moroccan desert to complete the 1000 Dunes challenge. Vanessa only started riding motorcycles seven years ago following her recovery from life-changing injuries after being knocked off her bicycle. Vanessa had undergone several surgeries, including five hip operations.
But now, Vanessa, has completed the 1000 Dunes rally making her the first female to ever finish on a standard production adventure bike. The ride itself is spread over seven days with over 70 hours of riding through some of the harshest conditions imaginable.
Vanessa said that when she initially started riding her motorcycle, little did she know that she would eventually become a full-time rider. “I was bed-bound and started @TheGirlOnABike without thinking that much of it,” she said. “I needed something to give me energy, something to focus on as at the time my mental health wasn’t great.
“But if anyone would’ve told me I would eventually become a rider all those years back, I probably would’ve choked on my drink. But the world takes you on some crazy journeys.”
Vanessa was cycling home one day from work, when a car came the other way and knocked her off her bike. She was taken to hospital and was later discharged that evening with bruising. Over the years however, the impact of the accident became evident on her body and health.
She had seven surgeries, including five on the hip and two on the shoulder. “My physical recovery was horrific,” she explained. “But my mental health recovery was harder - I was diagnosed with multiple disorders, it took a lot of time, energy, crying and patience to process and work through that.”
Vanessa said that she would set herself some “crazy goals” during her recovery. After her hip surgery however, she decided to get herself an off-road bike five months before she could even sit on it. “It was there as a goal, as a reminder when I was hurting too much to even try and get out of bed,” she added.
Her daily motivation eventually became her passion and now she is a full-time professional rider. Since then, Vanessa has taken part in countless races such as the world renowned rallies of Red Bull Romaniacs and Dinaric Rally, but none were as challenging as the Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro she embarked with her teammate, Aled Price.
Vanessa took on the challenge of riding a Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro motorcycle between Granada, Spain and Morocco, only seven years after taking up riding motorcycles. During the challenge, she would encounter unpredictable terrain, including loose rocks, ruts, riverbeds and sand dunes.
She said: “I had done some desert races previously. It is some kind of sadistic adventure - they are brutally hard, both mentally and physically. You’ve got the heat, the navigation, you’re sleeping in a tent that you have to pack it in the morning, you are working on your own bike - it’s just brutal.
“But the sense of achievement and the satisfaction of when you keep pushing beyond your last minute of strength and when you find more strength, is the most empowering feeling ever. I realised that this was the hardest thing I’d gone through but I was in control, it was no longer the accident.”
When talking about the most challenging part of the journey, she said: “So day three, there was a section of about 60k of about one-storey high sand dunes. They were short, uneven and just horrible. There was no rhythm and no straight lines. But Aled and I were in survival mode, we had to stop sometimes as we were getting stuck.
“We were about 12k at the end of these dunes when Aled’s clutch had been burnt out. That was his bike done. I had to make the decision of either sit here and admit defeat, or do I keep going on. When I pulled away from him, the fear in my head of going into those dunes solo was huge. My heart was racing and I knew I was riding for my life.
“But I made it out and that feeling when I made it out was just absolutely incredible. It was such a huge buzz of excitement. To actually finish the challenge, I was so tiring but I was so proud of myself. The biggest thing for me was showing the world and other people that females can get up and do stuff like this. I just want to inspire young kids and especially young girls that if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything.”