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Your First Naked Ride
If you’re contemplating making this your first naked ride, you aren’t alone! Portland's World Naked Bike Ride has been growing almost every year and there are hundreds of new participants annually. Last year we had around 4,200 riders, which was likely the biggest naked bike ride in the world. We're still hoping to eclipse the largest bike ride in Portland, the annual BridgePedal (at 19,000 riders in 2012, we have some work to do!). That means we want a lot of first-timers!
If you want to hear other people describing their experiences on their first naked ride, read the comments on BikePortland.org:
- 2004, no report or comments (125 riders)
In 2010, volunteers with clickers tried to count the crowd, and came up with counts varying from 8,000 to 13,000. From 2005 through 2009, the event had grown by 150% each year leading us to expect 12,500, so the counts seemed consistent. However, it was discovered later that the clickers weren't reliable when clicked quickly – sometimes you click once and “11” gets added to the total. Our guess is that there were about 8,000 of us - still respectable growth, and clearly the largest naked ride in the world. But we probably haven't broken the 10,000 rider mark.
In 2011, the weather during the day leading up to the ride was cold and wet. By the time the ride actually took place, the rain and stopped and the temperature was holding steady at about 58 degrees. Most years, the temperature during the ride is about 60 degrees, so the weather during the ride wasn't bad but a lot of would-be riders skipped the ride anyway. Weather was perfect in 2012 and we ended up with 4,200 riders–but we can do even better in 2013!
Mark your calendars: June 8th, 2013 is the next ride. Location, TBD.
What to Expect
First, an important point of etiquette: Ride your bike to the starting location. Arriving by car with bikes stowed as cargo is a big faux pas. It violates the idea of oil-free sustainability that the ride is all about. If you live in the 'burbs, consider riding MAX part of the way. (The last MAX leaves Pioneer Courthouse Square at around 1:00am, and you'll probably want to have clothes on when you board, so plan ahead.) Or park at an urban friend's house and ride from there in a group.
You should bring a little food, a little non-alcoholic drink, and something to carry your clothes in. Alcohol is not allowed at or around the meetup spot! Riding drunk is never a good idea anyway, especially among 10,000 other rowdy naked cyclists (some of whom probably aren't used to riding in groups).
When you arrive at the starting point, it will be a scene of happy disarray. Scattered music, general friendliness. Most folks will be wearing clothes at first, until they get a handle on what the scene is like. You’ll gradually see more skin as people loose their shirts for bodypaint. (There is no formal bodypainting area, but its likely that somebody will show up with some to share. Whomever does bring bodypaint is likely to be swamped, so don’t wait until 9:45pm to get painted.)
Around 9:55pm the announcement is made that it’s almost time to ride. We strip down and stuff our clothes into a backpack/fannypack/pannier/saddlebag to take with us. There will also be a “tie down” area to help you secure clothes to your bike, but again remember they'll be overwhelmed in those final minutes. (By the way, backpacks and bodypaint are natural enemies – don't mix them!) Then we get on our bikes, and wait for the rest of the crowd. There will be a countdown so we can all start en masse.
It’s often cold at night, but you won’t feel it for long; adrenaline is a wonderful drug.
Crowds will roar their approval. High-fives will spring forth. We may gain a few extra naked riders along the way. It's absolutely amazing.
Adrenaline can also make you want to ride fast. Resist that urge. Not everybody has a fast bike, or fast legs. And even some who do will want to savor the experience slowly. This isn't a race, folks! We want to stay together as best we can.
Historically, we buzz the bars downtown and the inner east side as far as 39th Ave/Chavez.
The Portland Police will be corking traffic for us. If you see a traffic cop extending his palm out, he is not inviting you to give him a high-five. He's trying to encourage you to ride a little closer to the center of the road, so he has room to work safely.
Eventually we return to the starting point. What happens then is… undecided. In the past, the ride coincided with the Pedalpalooza Kickoff Dance Party, but there will be no on-site afterparty this year. Most likely a lot of people will hang out naked for a while, congratulating each other and telling stories. There will likely be dancing by portable sound systems.
There will be afterparties! Maybe some official after parties will be located near the starting/ending point of the ride & unofficial parties are scattered around town. There will be flyers distributed at the starting point listing all of the afterparties.
Do not ride drunk. The police can arrest you for that too, and even if they don't its just a stupid thing to do.
Ride at your own risk and watch where you're going. Many riders won't be used to riding in a large group. If you then add onlookers jumping into the street to high-five us, and railroad tracks, and (let's face it) some drunk cyclists, this can be a dangerous ride. There are vast opportunities for doing stupid things. Be careful. Be sober.
“Nudity – it isn't just for sex anymore.”
If you think you're going to an orgy, then you're going to be very very disappointed.
We're using nudity as a way to draw attention to cycling, and the folly of oil dependency. We hope motorists will begin to suspect cyclists have more fun, and hence maybe they don't need their cars as much as they thought. See the http://www.worldnakedbikeride.org/ web site for more socio-political propaganda.
It's also good, goofy fun.
There are rules at the starting/ending location. The organizers' mantra is “Safe, Comfortable, and Fun,” so anybody at the starting/ending location who makes other participants feel unsafe or uncomfortable will be asked to leave. The use of cameras is not allowed at the starting/ending location, with the exception of sanctioned film crews who'll be following strict rules.
The ride itself has no rules since it takes place on public streets, outside of our control. That's why it's important for riders to take care of each other.
About Your Bike
Ride the bike you have. Don't obsess over the hardware; any bike will work.
If you have multiple bikes (and aren't loaning out the extras to friends) then I'd recommend a fat-tire mountain bike or cruiser over a superskinny-tire road bike. This is because fat tires are less likely to get a flat, or slip on railroad tracks or a steel grate bridge. But really any bike will probably work just fine.
You should bring a spare tube. If your bike doesn't have quick-release skewers, then you should also bring wrenches that fit your bike's lug nuts. If convenient, you should also bring a pump and tire levers, though you could probably borrow those from another rider in an emergency.
Legally, your bike must have a white headlight in front, and a red reflector or red light in the rear. This is important! The police won't hassle thousands of riders, but if you're the only one who fails to obey this simple law then maybe they'll focus all their attention on you. Besides, it'll probably still be dark out when you ride home afterward, and you'll want to be visible then for safety's sake.
Many people decorate their bikes. There won't be any decoration supplies at the starting point, but the (scheduled for thursday June 6) usually has that sort of thing. Think of this as another reason to do more bike fun than just this naked ride.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much should I strip down? The dress code is officially “As bare as you dare.” Guys typically wear shoes and maybe a helmet. For women there is no consensus – shoes and a helmet make some happy, while others add some combination of a bra, panties, and/or stockings. Strip down to whatever level will maximize your fun. We wouldn't presume to tell you what that level is.
What if I fall behind or get lost? This isn't a race, so nobody wants to leave you behind. We may stretch into smaller groups, but even if you end up in a group of 20 instead of a group of 3000, you'll feel safe. Really, you'll be okay. We take care of each other. Besides, the police are blocking traffic for us. Even if you end up alone, you won't get arrested. If you are alone, stick to well-lit streets and obey traffic laws.
What if I get a flat tire? There will be some bike mechanics along the ride. You can also expect other cyclists to help. But self-sufficiency is the only thing you can actually plan on, so I suggest that you bring a pump and a spare tube. We’ll never be more than a couple of miles from the start/end location, so first just re-inflate the tire and continue on in the hope that your leak is a slow one. If you must change your tube, change it with the expectation that the naked horde will continue cycling past you for a long, long time. Even if we try to stay in a tight group, a peloton of 10000 riders would be about three miles long.
What if I fall? Injuries are rare. We'll try to have medics riding along to patch you up, or call 911 if something really bad happens but you might want to bring your own cell phone just in case. By the way, the most common reasons for falling are hitting potholes, getting caught in the train/MAX/streetcar tracks, and collisions with other cyclists. Watch where you’re going!
Won't I get cold? Yes. You'll start off cold because at the start of the ride we stand around waiting for the stragglers to get ready, so we can all leave together. But we'll warm up once we start. After that, I promise you won't feel cold, you'll just feel a rush. Typically we get a temperature around 60 degrees with light wind.
What can I do to stay warm? Wearing shoes and a helmet help. Big socks. Arm warmers (old socks with the toes snipped off). Maybe a Superman cape. Sadly, I haven't figured out a way to use those chemical hand warmers while naked, though they sound like they'd be great.
Isn't this illegal? The city of Portland wishes it was. See The Law. Since this is a protest, it's protected by Oregon's constitution.
What if I see a cop? Say “Thank you!” They're corking the streets for us. If you see a cop holding out his palm, he is not inviting you to give him a high-five; he's just trying to encourage cyclists to leave him a little more room to work. Running into helpful policemen is not nice!
Can I participate without a bike? We've had skateboarders, rollerbladers, guys on scooters, and joggers join us before. Anything human-powered is welcome.