NOTICE: This post includes photos that may be NSFW. But why would you be reading this at work? Shame on you! But be sure to read this the minute you get home.
I WUZ DARED.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Which is why I was at Cathedral Park at 9:00 p.m. last Saturday, geared up and appropriately dressed for WNBR Portland. Which stands for:
Officially, the WNBR is a protest against excessive use of fossil fuels and the far too many car-bicycle accidents. Lately it’s added body positivity as a theme, and indeed I saw all ages and all body types there, naked and not ashamed.
While it contains the word, “Naked,” WNBR is actually a “Bare As You Dare” event. Riders ranged from fully clothed to underwear down to birthday suits. I saw colorful hats and costumes, and lots of decorative patterns and slogans in body paint applied by on-site volunteers.
So how bare did I dare? Well, let me put it this way. I didn’t fly all the way from Michigan to Oregon to ride in skivvies.
A quick recap of how I got here: back in 2014, I was heading to Portland to visit friends, and mentioned this to a co-worker who lives there. “Oh, are you going to do the naked bike ride?” he asked. The what? Had to go look that up!
The 2014 ride had already taken place, but I told him I was open to the idea. He seemed skeptical – a bit too much. So it was on. For the next three years I would have other commitments that weekend. But this year, all the stars lined up.
So what was it like?
NOTICE #2: I did not take a lot of photos of the event. It took all my attention just to keep my bike on the road and stay in the experience. But there are plenty of event photos from this year and previous years on the Internet. So I’ve heard.
In sum, it blew my mind from start to finish. There is no way I can fully describe everything I saw and heard. So here are a few things that stood out to me:
- Walking past a bike shop near the park, its sign reading, “Open until 10:00 – Naked or Not” with several people inside already naked.
- Feeling alone and awkward in a park full of 10,000 people. I was envious of everyone who’d come in a group. (I got over it when the ride started.)
- On the bike, surrounded by a visual riot of colors, motion, and bare flesh, which intensified as it got dark. Trying to take in everything around me but not focus too long on any one thing – or two 😉 – and dodging other riders doing the same.
- Naked dancers on a bridge over the I-5 expressway, a long line of slow-moving cars passing beneath them. Both sexes participated, but frankly I think the men danced better. (One of those photo ops I wished I’d taken now.)
- A bike towing speakers playing rock music with an odd twist. For example, a Bee Gees vocal track mixed onto AC/DC’s “Back in Black.”
- Finishing with no idea where we were. No one knew! Finally, someone handing out after-party flyers told me. She asked how I liked the ride, and I quipped it was, ‘good training for Burning Man.” And she’d been there! I was naked, chatting casually with an equally naked woman about another event dedicated to self-expression. Surreal!
And here are a few other questions people have asked me.
- Weren’t you uncomfortable riding like that?
A: Not at all. If you sit properly then other bits don’t get in the way.
- What was the route?
A: It changes every year, and they keep it a secret for obvious reasons (except to the police, of course). This year we went through North Portland, mostly through residential neighborhoods, with some bars or retail here and there. We ended up at Woodlawn Park, and from there people hung out (sorry) or dispersed to the after-parties.
- What about traffic? Were there a lot of cars?
A: The police covered the route and directed traffic, so most of the time we had the roads to ourselves and right of way at intersections. A few cars did make it onto our route (probably leaving their neighborhoods) but we just went around them. I don’t think they particularly minded.
- And spectators?
A: Yep, people turned out for much of the way, but the riders far outnumbered the spectators. I felt completely safe and even a touch superior! I’m out riding in the buff and you’re cowering in clothes on the sidewalk. Most of them just watched, but some waved and cheered (and we waved and cheered back). A couple women even returned the favor by flashing us!
Curiously, I saw entire families at the sides of the road, including kids of all ages. I guess if you want to teach them body positivity, that’s one way. It was Portland, after all.
I’d like to sign off this post with a request to all my readers: When you’re driving, please, please, please, be alert for cyclists, and SLOW DOWN and give them space when passing. I’ve ridden naked just once, but I feel naked (as in vulnerable) any time I’m on a busy road.
So please – be awake, be alert, and be sober. Or these clothes stay off.
NOTICE #3: If you were expecting any “nothing to hide” photos of me, sorry. Not that I had any taken (or would post them if I had), but they’re not yet back from the studio. I understand they’re still repairing their cameras.