Are You Ready for World Naked Bike Ride on Saturday, July 30?
Around dusk this Saturday, July 30, thousands of cyclists will gather in various states of undress at North Portland's Peninsula Park, some with messages painted on their body calling out modern civilization's love affair with burning fossil fuels, some bearing messages of body positivity and inclusivity, some veering into the realm of performance art. Around dusk, they'll set off on an undisclosed 11-mile route. The annual Portland edition of the World Naked Bike Ride is a beautiful thing, and a Portland tradition, and it's all organized by a small group of volunteers who plan the route, get the permits, send out the communiqués, and aim to be ready for anything that might happen. We talked to a longtime "lead wrangler" who this year is acting as more of a consultant for a new group of rising ride leaders.
"We were doing it for the absurdity and to draw attention to an issue we cared about," the organizer, who is fine biking in the buff but asked that their identity be kept "under wraps," says about the early days of the Portland ride that aims "to bring awareness to our dependency on oil, and hopefully find a solution." The ride was part of 2002's Bikesummer festival, a precursor to Pedalpalooza, the three-month-long summer event for which anyone can organize a themed ride.
"There's a World Naked Bike Ride in Thessaloniki, there's one in Philadelphia, there's one in Melbourne," they say, though Portland's ride is traditionally one of the biggest. "There's no official headquarters, no rules, no central organization."
While the Portland team has gotten inquiries about setting up rides in other places, they usually throw the questions back to the locals. "How would you have a birthday party in Portland vs. a birthday party in Brazil?" asks the longtime wrangler. "How would your community react to an event like this? How can you engage the stakeholders that matter? How can it be local and not cookie-cutter?"
Local tips for Portlanders headed to the World Naked Bike Ride this weekend include charging your phone and bringing a friend, lights, a helmet, a lock, and whatever you need to get home, which might include (gasp) clothes and bus fare.
"This isn't the BridgePedal," the organizer says, referring to the registration-required, helmets-required, Providence-sponsored annual event taking over the city's bridges this year on August 14. "This isn't a highly supported event. There's nobody waiting around the corner with a table of bananas."
While the WNBR has often been the biggest Pedalpalooza ride of the year, size isn't everything. In fact, the organizer said efforts have been made to "spread the love" to other naked rides on the Pedalpalooza calendar, like the Fig Leaf Ride, regular full moon rides, and the Terri Sue Webb Daytime Naked Ride. "I didn't think any of us ever thought it would get so big," says the organizer. "It turns out if you just keep building community, the community keeps growing."