PORTLAND, Oregon — I attended my third World Naked Bike Ride last weekend, although it was my first in Portland. The others were in Austin.
This blog is about adventure, and WNBR is no different. To add to the adventure, I rode my ancient fixed gear track bike (no brakes, naturally) instead of the more practical Troll I planned to ride. A tire problem decided that for me. It doesn’t matter, I can ride that damn thing all day, which I have done many times since 2004 when it was actually new.
That includes my time as an NYC bike messenger, riding off-road “mountain biking,” and riding naked at Burning Man.
The WNBR was actually the last naked ride of the day in Portland. As part of Pedalpalooza, the monthlong celebration of bikes in Portland, there was a whole day of naked riding all over the city, including Forest Park and as far north as St. Johns. If one adds the afterparty following the WNBR (which I left at nearly 4 a.m. — the party was still going) and the full day of riding, you could be naked on a bike from 9:30 a.m. to dawn the following morning.
The ride organizers ask for no cameras, but that didn’t stop Instagramers (yea, that includes me) and tourists, who seemed to be in two camps: sketchy, old white dudes with shitty cameras (fully clothed) taking pictures of women; and enthusiastic Asian women (fully dressed) with professional cameras taking pictures seemingly of everyone.
Maybe it was different elsewhere in the park, but that’s how it seemed in my little corner.
The reality is the ride attracts spectators along the route, some of whom cheer and ring bells (like a proper cycling race), which is the point. Many take smartphone videos or still pictures. Some scowl, some high-five riders. In the park, the spectators sit in chairs as if they’re awaiting a NASCAR or monster truck appearance. Some of them meander through the gathering WNBR attendees, some don’t seem to notice.
A mass of 100,00 naked and nearly-naked people of all stripes and reasons attracts attention, which is beneficial, I think, to one of the ride’s ethos of body positivity and welcoming everyone: old, young, thin, fat, ripped, lanky, super dude-bro to super gender-fluid, and every other variation were present. Given Portland’s demographic, white dudes were more represented than others, but the mix was still there.
I generally followed the camera rules, but I did take a few iPhone and film Leica photos, I’ll add the latter to this blog when I have them ready. In the spirit of experimentation and rule breaking, I made a few iPhone videos.
I have to say, the ride was a blast. I believe the Portland ride is either the world’s biggest, or pretty close, with 10,000 participants or more.
I’m probably the most self-concious guy on the planet, but I was totally at ease and did’t get dressed again until after the dance party that followed the WNBR.
I’m not sure how many naked riders gathered at Tom McCall Waterfront Park after the ride–or how many started the ride with some manner of clothing, but dispatched it either en route or at the park (or later at the dance party)–but the park was packed. Under one of the overpasses (for the Burnside Bridge, I think) a marching band’s drums echoed under the concrete, mixed with cheers, applause and the sounds of a big party.
Elsewhere, music from the various bicycle sound systems–some oddly large–filled the orange-hued darkness with DJ sets and arrays of danceable beats and rhythms.
I was waiting for “the tiki bike,” to guide us to the after-pary at a predetermined place on the Springwater Corridor [which can be an adventure in itself]. Having no idea what in the hell the tiki bike was, I didn’t know what to look for.
Any questions I had were dashed when the damn thing arrived. It was a small tiki bar, sort of, that was actually a DJ booth with a thatched roof and propane puffer, all on a three-wheeled pedicab chassis. Even with the electric assist, the crazy bastard pedaling that wonderful thing needed some help, which he found pretty easily from the riders.
Yes, they flamed the underside of the bridge; and yes, the police simultaneously looked the other way and seemed to be impressed.
We slowly rolled to the Springwater Corridor where a setup with overhead lighting and power for the tiki were waiting.