Naked Bike Ride draws Portland activists

Illustration by Cayden Bullock

By Celeste Kurnik

The first moment when you get naked, it is awkward,” Kelly A. ’10 said. “And then once everyone’s naked it is weird to have clothes on.”  With a single glance around Portland one thing is made clear, defying social norms is a social norm. When June comes around, a popular way to embrace Portland’s quirky spirit is to ride completely naked on a bicycle. Since Oregon state law declares nudity a form of free speech, people can do this alone anytime they please. On the other hand, they can choose to join thousands of others naked riders by participating in Portland’s World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR).

Portland’s WNBR is part of a city-wide event called Pedalpalooza, spanning all of June. The event hosts a variety of free bike rides and workshops for the community every day. Among a Beatles ride, a “Pets in Baskets” ride, a tofu ride, and many more eccentric rides, WNBR continues to be one of the most popular. Having only 125 Portland participants when it began in 2004, its popularity has exponentially grown, seeing over 10,000 riders in 2017.

Participant and Lewis & Clark College alumnus, Kelly A., recalls her memories of participating in the ride and witnessing Portland come together, as naked riders high-fived police officers who were blocking off the biking routes.

“People are really open and maybe more respectful when you’re naked because everyone is so vulnerable,” Kelly said.

Despite this, she did recall having once seen a man walking around with a crotch level camera.

“That was the year I decided I was going to wear underpants,” she said.

If you are not comfortable riding completely naked, there is nothing to fear.   According to WNBR, the official dress code for the event is, “As bare as you dare.” Many people add additional coverage by painting themselves and each other before the ride commences.  

Before considering participating in the ride, there are several things that should be kept in mind. Firstly, do not drive to the event, as the WNBR protests the excessive use of cars. It is a party on two wheels, not four. Secondly, know that the event does not end once the bikes have been dismounted. There are after parties for riders stationed all over the city. According to Kelly, some of these parties can be found by the Willamette river where among music and dancing, you may spot some riders going for a swim.

She also suggests riding with friends, though she does advise caution for unexpected possibilities.

“Do be prepared to lose your friends,” Kelly A. said. “Make sure you have a meet up spot or a phone because it gets crazy at the end when everyone is dispersing.”

Among these the most important part of the WNBR is to embrace the nakedness and have fun. “Totally a Portland experience,” Kelly said. “Ten out of ten stars.”

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