Every year in late spring, Portland plays host to a very special event, where thousands of people make their way through the city streets as dusk turns to evening. These people have two things in common. One - they are all on bikes, and Two - they are all butt-naked. Well, maybe not entirely naked. Sometimes there’s body paint, pasties, and or underwear involved, but by and large, they are naked. This is the World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR).
The motto is “As bare as you dare” so if you’re not feeling up to going the full Monty, that’s fine. You’ll be in good company with the throngs of attendees, all in various states of undress. If you’re wondering about the legality of such a thing, fear not. It is 100% legal to saunter down the streets naked in the state of Oregon, as long as you are doing so to exercise your freedom of speech. It’s a bit of a slippery slope, but it sets the table nicely for one of the city’s signature events. As a matter of fact, the police are there to set up road closures and ensure the ride’s safe progression. So if you’re in attendance, give them a smile and a nod.
The event itself is not exclusive to Portland. As the name would indicate, it takes place on a global scale. At last count, over 70 cities strewn across 20 countries were participating in the annual ride. And it’s not just eye candy on bicycles either. Participants run the gamut of sizes, ages, body hair to square inch of flesh ratios, you name it. Over 8,000 Portlanders of every conceivable shape showed up for last year’s ride.
As you might imagine, not everyone is enthused with the idea of thousands of naked neighbors cruising through the city. Some have expressed concern over what children might be exposed to. Though in a recent interview with KATU News, one of the event organizers, Steven Upchurch stated, “This is a family event. We have families with children who come to the event.” And in fact the ride doesn’t kick off until 9pm. Participants will begin gathering in Normandale Park around 8pm.
If you plan on showing up to give moral support or just to take it all in, you might just change your mind and unload your inhibitions and take part. The route is not released to the public ahead of the actual event, so it’s a bit of a mystery, aside from the starting location. You can be assured that it will make it’s way into downtown and that there will be unofficial after parties all over the city.
Organizers encourage attendees to bike or take public transportation to the start of the ride. And although this is a naked bike ride, any sort of human-powered modes of transportation are welcome. Unicycles, scooters, joggers are fine as long as you’re cruising the streets under your own power.
So why then, do so many people strip down to their unmentionables or naughty bits and ride around the streets of Portland; risking chaffing, and road rash of an unthinkable nature? Besides the fact that it’s fun, liberating, and a very memorable story that you can get years of mileage out of, there are causes.
First and foremost, the WNBR originated as a protest against society’s dependence on oil. But it’s developed into far more. Portlanders ride to promote bicycles as a preferred means of transportation. Some ride to raise awareness of self-image or body issues, self-sufficiency, community-building, or just human harmony and love. Whatever the reasons, and whatever interest those that chose to attend the event without participating may have, altruistic or not, the event is a joy. We mock we we do not understand.
This year’s event takes place June 7th, and departs from Normandale Park in Northeast. The event is FREE, but donations are encouraged; this is a big event that requires a lot of effort. If you’d like to volunteer, click here. They would greatly appreciate it. If you want more info on the event, visit the homepage or check out the FAQ page for a rundown of the particulars.