‘The Girl on a Bike’: Completes the Africa Eco Race, in partnership with easySim.global

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Vanessa Ruck becomes the first British female ever to finish one of the world’s toughest endurance races

Vanessa Ruck, also known as ‘The Girl on a Bike’, made history by becoming the first British woman to finish the gruelling 6,000km Africa Eco Race. The challenging 13-day motorcycle endurance race, which follows the original Pari-Dakar route, proved to be a formidable test of skill and resilience.

See Vannessa featured on BBC Breakfast.

Vanessa’s courageous journey

Facing terrain with an attrition rate so high that only 54 percent of the motorcycle category riders successfully completed it, Vanessa tackled sand dunes and blistering temperatures on her KTM 450 Rally Replica motorbike. She not only finished the race, making her the first British woman to do so, but finished 27th overall, an incredible achievement.

“I still can’t quite believe I actually made it the finish,” says Vanessa. “I trained hard and knew I would have to fight with all I have but to finish was my ultimate goal – and I did it! I can now truly understand why finishing the Dakar is such a respected achievement. It was brutal, but epic in so many ways.”

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I can now truly understand why finishing the Dakar is such a respected achievement. It was brutal, but epic in so many ways.

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Battling the odds

Recovering from a severe injury after a dramatic accident in 2014, Vanessa transitioned to off-road motorbike endurance racing. Her progression through tough events resulted in her groundbreaking achievement at the Africa Eco Race.

“Up until now, the toughest thing I’ve ever done was fight on following my accident,” she says. “But now the hardest thing I’ve ever done is something I chose. It makes me feel so alive.”

A triumph over chronic pain

Beyond participating in races, Vanessa now visits schools to inspire children and young people to engage in various sports. As a TEDx and award-winning speaker, she empowers others to realise that anything is possible with determination.

Speaking from Dakar post-race, she shared, “I’m absolutely shattered. I don’t think every single muscle in my body, and my brain, have ever been this tired.” Over 104 hours in the saddle riding, Vanessa emphasises the need for unwavering focus in such races. “You have to be so focused,” she says. “A second of lapse on your focus can mean you get lost, or the rock you don’t see can take you off your bike.”

easySim sponsorship

Navigating challenging terrains across two continents, Vanessa relied on eSIMs from easySim for communication, navigation, and safety. As well as helping Vanessa and her team to provide real-time updates to those following the race, the eSIMs also provided a lifeline in the vast and demanding landscape.

“My focus for the race was racing,” she says. “I didn’t have time to worry about phone connectivity and so easySim was the ideal choice. Effortless set up, plenty of data bundles, and seamless coverage across borders.”

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I didn’t have time to worry about phone connectivity and so easySim was the ideal choice. Effortless set up, plenty of data bundles, and seamless coverage across borders.

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A team effort

Joe Mercer of Desert Rose Racing provided crucial support for Vanessa’s race. Having backed her in previous rallies, Joe brought extensive experience from assisting riders in over 65 rally-raid events.

Vanessa also benefitted from the support of two friends, Anika Bailey and Keri-Anne Thurley, who assisted with nutrition, welfare, and filming for her social channels, as well as providing general psychological support.

Female power prevails

Despite skepticism about a woman’s capability to complete the race, Vanessa showed no intention of surrendering despite the physical strain on her body and the hurdles of the competition. Numerous riders experienced crashes on most days, resulting in injuries. By the end, only 25 riders out of 46 completed all stages of the race.

It’s also worth noting that, unlike many sports, the women’s category in this race lacks any differences compared to the men’s. Vanessa faced the identical distance, rode the same-sized bike, and carried the same amount of gear as the male participants – many of whom were at least double her size.

Racing for a purpose

Vanessa also had personal reasons for choosing the Africa Eco Race. Besides the rally’s reputation as one of the toughest races out there, Vanessa was drawn to its ecological and social initiatives. The race supports local communities with programs like Energy of Hope, which provides solar lamps to rural school children. “Over 2,500 lamps have been handed out so far,” Vanessa says. “The rally has funded the planting of over 2,000 trees in the capital of Mauritania as well.”

Vanessa also has a philanthropic angle to her racing pursuits. She is a brand ambassador for Two Wheels for Life, a charity providing healthcare mobility solutions in Africa. “I feel so fortunate to be able to explore the wonders of many parts of Africa while racing,” she says.

“These countries are incredible places to visit, but sadly the health care and transport infrastructure is far from ideal. By working with Two Wheels for Life I have the opportunity to give something back to the people in a part of the world where motorcycles and their effective use literally saves lives.”

Vanessa’s next chapter

Emerging from this monumental challenge, Vanessa now extends her presence to speaking engagements and aims to empower others through her narrative.

“I’ve broken down in tears on stage, I’ve stuttered and had to process the emotions,” she says. “But in my heart, I know it’s worth it. If I can turn my trauma and fight into powerful advice to assist others in their life battles, then it makes what I went through worthwhile – or at least in my head, it helps me process why it had to happen to me.”

Follow The Girl on a Bike on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. You can also check out her YouTube channel for behind-the-scenes content of the Africa Eco Race.

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