Wearing a helmet is a great way to stay safe while bicycling — no one would argue with that. But what about the rest of a rider’s attire? For the undressed masses who streak through Portland each year during the World Naked Bike Ride, accoutrements are largely unnecessary. And besides, it’s much more fun to bike buck naked.
As a part of a worldwide protest against oil dependency, this annual event has seen Portlanders pedaling au natural every June since 2005. (Fun fact: Portland’s Naked Bike Ride is the world’s largest, drawing more than 10,000 people in 2015.) The route is kept secret, with only the starting point revealed in advance. Wherever the ride begins, the clothes come off and the body paint goes on, adding all sorts of flourishes to bicyclists’ birthday suits. Then, thousands of riders hit the roads, cruising commando through streets closed off to cars by (fully-clothed) Portland police officers. Never-nude medical personnel and bike mechanics are also on-hand, in case of emergencies.
Over the years, the ride has turned into a festive tradition, with after-parties giving bare bikers places to see and be seen. But don’t expect to find a scene full of looky-loos. Sure, there are threadbare tandems, unclad unicyclists and even recumbent bikers in the buff — but the event also has a no-nonsense approach and forbids alcohol use and inappropriate behavior, so everyone can feel safe and comfortable streaking through Portland with the wind at their, um, backs.
And with the unofficial motto of “as bare as you dare,” all manner of clothing and costume is allowed. Frankly, socks and shoes are smart, helmets and pads never hurt anyone, masks are popular for shy riders, and fanny packs aren’t all that embarrassing (for once). Just don’t roll in with your bike attached to a car — ride to the park or load your wheels onto a city bus — because burning fossil fuel en route to this event would be offensive.