Streakers and greenies unite at the World Naked Bike Ride

seattle world naked bike ride

Do you hate society’s dependence on oil?

Do you hate it 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. 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 WBR official site.

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!

Isn’t being naked in public illegal?

In most places it is, but in almost every city, the police look the other way, because 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 last year nine riders were issued citations.

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 camoflage their private parts and make their nudity seem less obvious.

Portland world naked bike ride

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 (perhaps half, or less) 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.

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 2009 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 Portland World Naked Bike Ride

My favorite was the Portland event. Because it started super late (11 pm or midnight, 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.

portland world naked bike ride

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 may join in at next month’s Chicago event.

The Chicago World Naked Bike Ride

The 2011 Chicago World Naked Bike Ride takes place on June 11.

I didn’t go to last year’s Chicago ride because I was turned off by the description of the event on the website. It stated that the ride is long (up to 20 miles) and not for beginners. I specifically remember being horrified when I read the sentence, “This ride is not for everyone.”

I couldn’t believe the organizers were being so exclusionary. The World Naked Bike Ride should be for everyone. If it’s not, there’s a problem, and you need to change the route length so that everyone can participate.

Thankfully, no such language exists on this year’s site. I’m sure the ride will be just as long, but hopefully, they’ll make an effort to welcome newcomers and beginners into the fold. They’re moving up the start time from 9 pm to 8 pm, which, as noted above, could reduce participation – the darker it is, the more riders (and exposed body parts) you’ll bring out.

Photos of the World Naked Bike Ride

Okay, we know that’s why you’re really here (pervs!), so browse some photo galleries if you like (photos not mine and NSFW.)

Have you ever participated in a World Naked Bike Ride? Would you?


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About Scott Shetler

Scott is a Seattle-based journalist and blogger who puts a quirky spin on travel adventures around the world. He has been featured in Travel + Leisure, Connect Magazine, Matador Travel, and the Washington Post.

32 comments on “Streakers and greenies unite at the World Naked Bike Ride

    • Yes, cold weather would probably depress turnout… although Chicago has a New Year’s Day plunge into the lake, so maybe not.

  1. OMG i love this scott!!! this is an anthropologists/doc filmmakers dream ha ha (or at least this perv’s 😉 ) i agree about the prohibitive distance thing. seems like they’d want to have as many folks be able to participate as would want to! good that they eliminated it. great post and fab photos! 😉
    Lorna – the roamantics recently posted..Life and Travel Lessons from Mom

    • Thanks! My photos of these events weren’t all that great, but even if I got any good ones, I probably couldn’t publish them here anyway! So it all works out in the end.

  2. We were downtown not too long ago and came across a naked bicyclist. The thing I love about Seattle / Portland / San Francisco is that you barely notice (“oh, I think that guy is naked.”).

    I think that would really hurt. You know what I’m talkin’ ’bout.
    The NVR Guys recently posted..A Welcome Surprise From Zambia

  3. Hi!

    I’m one of the folks involved with Chicago’s Naked Ride!
    Juuust a couple things:

    *We don’t coincide with the monthly Critical Mass. That’s always the last friday of the month.
    *It’s not “for everyone” just because… well, not EVERYone wants to be scantily clad/naked on a bicycle 🙂
    *Maybe one year it was 20mi (maybe one I didn’t go to?), but it’s not going to be this year, and it wasn’t last year. It’s under 15, even. And it’s not a race, it’s not fast at all!
    *The time change is in response to the call to do the ride when it’s warmer. Few of the riders want it to be in the daytime, but EVERYONE wants it to be at a warmer-time. The compromise was to do it at 8pm instead of 9pm.

    The riders in Chicago really love a good, long ride. Every month, more often than not, the Critical Mass goes over ten or twelve miles. I’d recommend to anyone who wants to come on the ride but isn’t sure whether they can do the entire distance… and really, this goes for everyone doing the ride at all… make sure that everything you have with you can fit into one bag. All your clothes, wallet, keys, everything. Put that bag on your (bike)rack. Or, in a bag and then ace-bandage it to your seat post. Have everything with you, at all times. Not with a friend, not back at the start, WITH YOU! Goddess forbid you get a flat tire without your clothes!

    See you there! Less than a week away! Yay!


  4. Pingback: Pictures and a recap from the Chicago 2011 World Naked Bike Ride | Quirky Travel Guy

  5. Your opening pic is not from the World Naked Bike Ride. Its from the Fremont Solstice Parade in Seattle. The Fremont Parade has no affiliation with the WNBR at all.

    Thats OK. A lot of people get those two rides confused…

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