Are you angered by society’s dependence on oil?
Are you angered enough to ride around in public with your naked backside on a hard bike seat in protest?
The World Naked Bike Ride is an annual event that takes place in dozens of cities around the world. If you’re near a big city or college town that holds such an event, you may want to consider participating. It’s a good time! Here’s the lowdown.
What is the World Naked Bike Ride?
If it’s not obvious from the title, this is a worldwide event. There isn’t one “World Naked Bike Ride Day” – the events are held on various dates throughout the summer, depending on the city. To find out if there’s a World Naked Bike Ride near you, go to the WNBR official site.
As of this writing, there are about 70 WNBR events in 20 countries around the world!
In my experience, probably roughly half of the participants get involved because they legitimately want to protest oil dependency, while the others just want the thrill of being naked in public with hundreds of other people. I certainly won’t cast judgment on either group – to each his/her own!
Where does the WNBR take place?
Various cities around the world hold their own naked bike rides. Chicago and Portland have two of the largest, but it’s also held in Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston, and dozens more cities.
The most recent list of WNBR rides shows rides all over the globe, including such unexpected places as Bend, Oregon and Montpelier, Vermont. And there are even worldwide events in London, England, Finland, South Africa, Taiwan, Belgium, and Greece.
As the event continues to grow in popularity and people realize that it’s a harmless, fun activity, you can bet that the number of ride locations will continue to increase.
Isn’t baring it all in public illegal?
In most places it is, but in almost every city, the police look the other way. The event is short-lived and there are dozens, if not hundreds (or in the case of Portland – thousands) of riders, so singling out one or two for arrest would be wrong.
Arrests do happen on occasion, like in the college town of Madison, Wisconsin, where one year nine riders were issued citations. But those are extremely rare, and police in many cities actually coordinate with the naked bike riders to establish a route and block off traffic.
Organizers encourage riders to paint their bodies with anti-oil slogans. That way, if police do get involved, you can argue you are making a political statement and not just being naked for the fun of it. Also, many people wear body paint to camouflage their private parts and make their nudity seem less obvious.
The level of nudity varies by city. In Portland, a solid majority of riders are all about the birthday suit, while in cities like Chicago, a smaller percentage (a little less than half) are willing to bare it all.
The gender mix is more male than female, though the ratio is not as lopsided as you might expect.
The Seattle World Naked Bike Ride
In Seattle, the event I attended took place on a weekend afternoon. A couple hundred folks showed up, most of whom had painted their bodies. They rode through the streets, just before the Fremont Fair and Solstice Parade, which celebrates the start of summer.
It was a small group compares to WNBR in most cities. The ride was brief, and was mostly forgotten once the big parade started. In Seattle, it was viewed more as a silly, harmless thing that lasts for 10 minutes before the main event.
The Seattle WNBR takes place in broad daylight, which no doubt limits participation. Riders here are also much more likely to paint their bodies than folks in other cities.
The event I attended was in June, but the Seattle World Naked Bike Ride site seems to indicate there will be multiple rides in the city this year. The main ride typically coincides with the Fremont Fair.
The Portland World Naked Bike Ride
My favorite was the event in the awesomely weird city of Portland. Because it started super late (after 11 pm, if I recall), people were far less inhibited. It was already dark, and many presumably had already had a chance to hit the bars and become even more carefree.
Portland’s World Naked Bike Ride is considered one of the largest in the world. Thousands (some estimate as many as 13,000) people show up and pedal through the streets of the City of Roses in June during the Pedalpalooza event. This year’s ride is Saturday, June 18.
I really believe that every city should hold its World Naked Bike Ride late at night, to maximize participation.
Since you’re wondering, no, I didn’t participate in either event myself. I was sans bicycle and went to each as a spectator. But I did join in at Chicago’s event on a couple of occasions.
The Mexico City World Naked Bike Ride
I had a chance to attend Mexico City’s WNBR a few years back. It was held in May. I would’ve liked to join in, but I was recovering from a bad case of food poisoning, so I just watched from outside my apartment.
This event also took place in the daytime and had a few hundred participants. Most were on bikes, while some were on rollerblades or skateboards.
They rode past Angel de la Independencia, with many people stopping there for photo opportunities. In Mexico City, only a small percentage of the riders were fully without clothes.
Photos From the Chicago World Naked Bike Ride
The Chicago World Naked Bike Ride takes place each June, on a weekend evening. More than 1000 riders take part in the craziness each year.
The description of the event on the website states that the ride is up to 20 miles long and stresses that participants must be in good physical condition. It says, “This ride is not for everyone.”
However, after attending this ride a couple times, I can state with certainty that all of that is not true. The rides moves extremely slow, so anybody in any physical condition can participate. And the 15+ miles go by really fast.
Usually, the ride begins in the West Loop area, where people gather for an hour or two ahead of the ride to socialize, paint their bodies, and have a few drinks. Then, the ride begins just as the sun is going down, starting through downtown.
Next, the path proceeds north through River North and Lakeview, before winding southwest into Wicker Park and eventually back to the starting location. There’s usually a firepit and dance party at that spot for a couple hours after the ride.
The 2023 Chicago World Naked Bike Ride will be the 20th annual event in the Windy City. That’s a lot of exposed booties over the years!
We know the photos are the main reason you’re here, so browse some photo galleries of the Naked Bike Ride pics if you like.
How does the Chicago World Naked Bike Ride work? Participants met up between 6 and 8 behind an abandoned building in the West Loop to get prepped for the ride. Many decorated themselves with body paint. Some danced to the music. There was even an honest to goodness wedding!
Before the ride, we happened to chat with one of the lawyers riding along (he wore a nice suit while riding, if you’re wondering.) The ride has lawyers who help out in case police would decide to make any arrests. But he said there haven’t been any arrests at the Chicago event in years, not since the lawyers got involved.
Around 8:30, riders hit the streets. I was joined by a dozen or so friends from the Chicago couchsurfing community. We were among the hundreds of folks – many creatively painted or costumed – that sped through downtown, Lincoln Park, Lakeview and Wicker Park. Actually, sped is the wrong word, because the ride was slow, with numerous stops along the way.
I was disappointed at the percentage of folks who decided to totally bare it all. Only about one in five chose to go nude, a surprisingly low number since the ride was in the dark and since the police are cooperative – they even helped block off streets to keep things running smoothly.
It was very cold – around 50 degrees and sprinkling at the start – but once the ride got going, it wasn’t so cold and adrenaline took over. As we set out, for some bizarre reason, riders began singing the chorus of the Backstreet Boys hit “I Want it That Way.” It was ridiculous and awesome.
In fact, the entire ride was awesome. If anyone is on the fence about participating in such an event, I cannot recommend it enough. There’s such a feeling of community and respect among the riders.
People couldn’t stop smiling, and folks in every neighborhood came out onto the sidewalks to cheer as we passed through. It was like being in the Tour de France. Only without a uniform.
If you’re worried about ending up on the internet – and you will – you can always wear a mask or other headgear to disguise yourself.
As for those photos I promised, I actually don’t have many. It was difficult to shoot while riding. Here’s a few I managed to capture that are safe for posting here. First, folks hanging out waiting for the ride to start:
And a couple blurry shots from the ride itself:
YouTube has a handful of (not safe for work) video clips. So far, I’ve found myself in a couple of the videos, but I’m far away from the camera and unrecognizable – which is kind of what I was going for. We’re not quite ready for Nude Quirky Travel Guy just yet – that would be a whole different site.
Have you ever participated in a World Naked Bike Ride? Would you?