5 Things to Know about Portland’s World Naked Bike Ride
It's that time of year again, when the naked masses take to the Portland streets. On wheels. The World Naked Bike Ride is back, and a classic item to check off on your own bucket list and a way to rate how Portland you actually are. Timed to a Saturday during the annual bike festival Pedalpalooza, the Portland event tends to attract between 5,000 and 10,000 bicyclists in the buff, or near buff, their bodies often canvases for body-paint messages in support of non-fossil-fuel-based modes of transportation and calling out modern society's reliance on oil.
While it is oh-so-Portland, we're not alone. The World Naked Bike Ride happens in cities all over the world—luckily, London's 2022 ride happened in mid-June, well before the current heat wave. The Portland ride on July 30 will set off from Peninsula Park, in North Portland's Piedmont neighborhood, around 9 p.m. Only the starting location is disclosed beforehand. The rest of the route is a mystery, but organizers confirm the ride will end near public transit. In the past, it's ended in a large outdoor dance party in a park. But on the WNBR, anything can happen. Here are five things to know if you're thinking about participating.
1. It's OK to be naked. Yes, there's a law against being naked in a public place in Portland, but in practice there are exceptions for nudity as political speech, and the World Naked Bike Ride technically is a political protest. And there's safety in numbers, both from the law and from feeling self-conscious. That said, though, you will run afoul of public indecency laws if you engage in a sex act, so keep it together, please. Technically, you also break the law if you are naked in public with "the intent of arousing the sexual desire" of someone, so if you're hoping to catch someone's eye maybe keep that to yourself.
2. It's OK to not be totally naked. You'll find many riders like a bit of fabric between their nethers and the bike seat, be it a cloth seat cover, underpants, hot pants, a bikini bottom, or padded bike shorts. A lot of people also opt for pasties (Spartacus often has a good selection), bras, bikini tops, crop tops, actual shirts, or costumes. We don't recommend a long grass skirt, which might get caught in your spokes, but, really, whatever you want to wear or not wear is just fine. Unless you have some good calluses from your pedals on the soles of your feet already, footwear is a good bet. Helmets are a solid idea, of course, and a good ol' KN95 is nice to have with you in case you find yourself in tight crowds.
3. Bring snacks and drinks. The ride might go past shops or cafés you could pop into for a snack in theory, but you'd be wading through the looky-loos, if the line is long the ride might be long gone by the time you're done, and you could encounter some super-square "no shirt, no service" policy. If you're carrying items in a fanny pack/bum bag, backpack, or messenger bag, experiment before the day of to make sure it will feel all right against any bare skin. Or make yourself a strap cozy.
4. The temperature will drop. With human-accelerated global warming (one of the things this ride is trying to bring attention to, by the way) and the extended duration of a three-month Pedalpalooza, we're more likely to suffer a heat dome during this annual event than the sub-50-degree June-uary conditions of 2008's ride, but that doesn't mean you won't get cold. When the sun goes down, you might want to be a little less naked. Take along a sweatshirt, or stay more exposed with a bolero jacket or those arm warmers you made when you picked up knitting in the pandemic. (Knee socks with the toes cut out work, too.)
5. Be careful! Put all that pandemic social distancing practice to use and keep a healthy gap between you and the other riders to avoid collisions. Road scrapes and burns are way less fun when you aren't protected by any clothing. The ride stretches into the night, so you'll want lights, and to be prepared if you get a flat tire. The World Naked Bike Ride FAQ reminds participants not to ride drunk, and that doing so can get you arrested. Also, know that you are being watched, and not just be law enforcement: the WNBR can bring out almost as many spectators as riders, from hippie families excited for their kids to see this Portland tradition to leering pervs engaging in street harassment to professional and highly unprofessional photographers. You might see yourself next year in a stock photo like the one at the top of this story.