By the time I had discovered The World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR), Denver had cracked down on it’s nudity laws. That year, a small group would still attempt to pull it off. Somehow I did get invited to participate, but I couldn’t risk getting arrested and turned down the offer.
Since I wouldn’t ride, I at least wanted to cheer them on. So, Luke and I went to the route and played with slingshots (because we are adults) until they arrived. Only about eight people participated which slightly broke my heart. I don’t think they got arrested though, which made my heart happy. My heart is all over the board.
The World Naked Bike Ride is a mass, clothing-optional bike (and any “human powered transport”) ride that now takes place in over 74 cities across 17 countries. The purpose is to raise awareness about the vulnerability of bikers (etc.) on the road, protest the excessive usage of oil, and promote body-positivity. Portland has one of the largest events ranging anywhere from 8k-10k participants in recent years.
Let’s have a small recap of my last essay: Luke and I went to Portland during the WNBR. We stayed with an awesome couple who had bikes for us. Luke is not a naked guy, nor does he like large crowds, but he decided to join anyway knowing that he could stay dressed. And even though I have been doing nude recreation for years, I still didn’t know what to expect. Got it? Awesome.
The ride kicks off with participants meeting up at an undisclosed-disclosed location where they pre-rally (with or without clothes) before the event begins. Our hosts apparently couldn’t wait for the pre-rallying. Like dedicated nudists, they got naked before even leaving the driveway.
Biking our way to the location bare-assed made me slightly nervous. It’s one thing to ride a bike naked with thousands of others surrounding you doing the same thing but It’s another to just ride randomly down streets filled with restaurants, bars, and even people’s houses, where their unsuspecting puppies would see us. Seeing as how I try to do things that scare me, I went ahead and stripped down with them.
It had been a good while since I’ve ridden a bike. I am not the most coordinated person and I have a tendency to trip over my own two feet (or anybody else’s feet for that matter). Therefore, when I hopped on the bike, I immediately started flipping the wheel back and forth - trying not to fall down like a five year-old. That would be embarrassing enough with my clothes on. Once I stabilized, I caught up with Luke and our nude comrades.
Riding a bike in the buff is an incredibly strange sensation. You become incredibly aware of your own crotch and also that you are the center of attention. Some onlookers seemed shocked and confused while others cheered us on. Even the puppies showed their excitement per their excessive barking.
As you’d think, you really do feel that airy breeze right on your balls. It made me wonder what this might feel like for a woman. I imagined how much more awesome this would be if vaginas made whistling sounds when hit with a gust of air. That would make the WNBR a bit more of a musical experience.
Portland is not necessarily the warmest city. This fact has made me realize why most cities that have allowed public nudity sit in cooler climates - they don’t think much of anyone is willing to take advantage of it. As a consequence, by the time we arrived to the meet-up locations, my nether-regions had turned into never-regions (worst joke ever). I kept blowing hot air into my cold hands and cupping myself hoping to loosen things up.
The pre-rally was already in full swing and about a third of the folks had already gone full-monty. I no longer felt out-of-place as I did on the ride over. Rather, things started to feel communal - like I was now a part of something bigger than myself.
Naturally, there was a small subsection where the gays would pre-rally on their own. Even though it seems like I’m a pro at this naked thing, I always feel a little anxious about adventures like this. Being exposed in front of new peers feels vulnerable. Initially, you worry whether or not you’ll be good enough.
Our hosts introduced us to a few of their friends and I even ran into some folks I knew on my own. Everyone’s kindness quickly reminded me that no one is there to judge. Naked people just want to be free and have a good time. Like all nude events I have attended, the energy is collaborative rather than competitive. Luke even felt inspired to take his shirt off (that’s HUGE)!
But our pre-rallying time got cut short as our hosts wanted to get towards the front of the starting line sooner rather than later. Eventually, I would understand the need for this. Even being on the front lines, the ride, at times, would get congested. Hence, I could see how extremely stop-n-go it would get for the middle and back end.
As I mentioned in the previous essay, while waiting for the ride to begin, Luke tapped me on the shoulder and handed me his shorts to put in my bike’s basket. I was so busy taking it all in that it took me a good moment to notice my partner, who won’t even get naked to sleep, had now bared it all for the bike ride.
Seeing Luke get THAT much out of his comfort zone made me aware of something else: we had entered a “love-bubble.” This is when people are so happy, excited, supportive, enthusiastic, and all the other wonderful things that make up rainbows and unicorns. The positivity is just spews from one person to the next (which sounds dirty but it’s not).
We had been in a bike love-bubble before when we did the AIDS/Lifecycle back in 2012. Concerts, or sportsball games, or even peace rallies can’t possess this energy. All tension is gone and the air is so thick with glee, you could cut it with a knife (though you wouldn’t want to). Love-bubbles happen so rarely that some people don’t ever get to experience them.
As the ride began, things started off wobbly. Naked bikers tried getting their bearings as several came close to running into each other (myself included). But nobody argued or yelled about it. No one tried shoving each other or told folks to hurry up. Instead, riders offered up quick apologies, most often accompanied by laughter.
This bubble was turning out to be the bubbliest bubble of any bubble I had ever bubbled in. I was certain this had to do with the fact that 85% of the participants had no clothes on. It sounds like a weird connection, but think about it... have you ever seen an enraged nudist?
This is why I encourage so many people to experiment with social nudity. Though no scientific study has ever been done, I can say firsthand that something chemically changes a person’s mood when they strip down. Whether it’s serotonin, adrenaline, or whatever it may be, people just feel better. And when we feel better, we tend to act kinder.
Getting all of these good naked vibes while riding down public streets made the experience feel purely electric. Not a single bystanders or onlooker had a horrified look on their face. Rather, they cheered us on - pumping more camaraderie into the air.
Though, I was correct in that vaginas did not whistle in the wind, the experience was still fairly musical. Every-so-often, a rider would have booming speakers attached to their bike. Even if they blasted music that I hated, I still loved the way it delighted those around me.
The people who chose to remain clothed didn’t drag down the energy. More often than not, they helped to enhance it by sporting fun outfits - making the experience quite colorful too. At one point, a guy pulled up next to me wearing a pineapple costume.
Think about this for second. I got to ride on a bike… completely naked… in public… next to a pineapple! How fucking awesome is that? How many people can even say something like that? This is the benefit of getting to do things that scare you: bragging rights.
Then we witnessed the one thing that should legitimately scare us when undertaking such an adventure: a woman crashed her bike. I am not sure exactly what happened, but as her bike went down, she flew over the handlebars. I thought how awful it must have felt for her big boobs to smash against the pavement. I’m guessing lady boobs are pretty sensitive.
When I looked back to see if I should help, I began swaying into other riders and cars. In order to not crash myself, I had to pay to attention to what was ahead of me rather than what was behind me (kind of like life). I did at least catch a glimpse of a horde of riders stopping to help her.
Next, the riders slowed down and pulled into a public park - finding spots to set their bikes down and mosey around.
“Are we taking a small break?” I asked our hosts.
They informed me that the WNBR had reached the end of its route. BUT THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE! WE HAVE ONLY BEEN RIDING FOR LIKE 30 MINUTES! We had, in fact, been riding for over three hours. The time didn’t just fly, it completely disappeared.
Fortunately, the bubble didn’t entirely burst. In the park, a DJ booth had been set up where a DJ pumped out some loud electronic dance music (EDM). Flames would burst out of a pipe attached to the the booth and people would cheer as they danced around naked - many with lights attached to themselves. I imagine this to be like a little mini-version of burning man (which is what I desperately need to do next).
That being said, the four of us were hungry and cold and even the occasional fire-burst from the DJ booth could not keep us warm. We needed to exit and find shelter in some trendy Portland restaurant. Sadly, this also meant I had to put on my clothes.
We found a chic safe-haven along the route of the WNBR which was jam-packed with other riders who wrapped up their night. As we stood in line to order our food, naked people would dart in to use the joint’s bathrooms.
This helped me realize that my night wasn’t entirely over. The restaurant had clearly become nude friendly for that evening. Thus, when we sat down to eat, I immediately took my clothes off again. Now, I could check another “first” off my list: eating dinner completely naked in a public restaurant.
It’s funny. As I am writing this essay, I am on an airplane and completely wiped out after having to wake up at 5 a.m. and drive four hours to get to the airport. This combo had made me fairly cranky (just like those screamy airplane babies). But getting to sit here and describe the WNBR has brought a sense of calm and joy back to my heart.
When it came to the WNBR, there was no disjuncture to occur or lesson to be had. I went in there knowing it’d be great and it exceeded my expectations. It just further solidified my theory that life is better when we bare it all. Sure, it may feel awkward and weird at first, but in the end, we wind up relating to one another and encouraging each other.
What I did learn was that as sad as I am about my home city of Denver not allowing this, I was also grateful. The more we have access to something, the less we tend to appreciate it. And a love-bubble like this is certainly not worth bursting.
Edited by Glen Trupp
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