I did the Portland World Naked Bike Ride.
It was a blast.
It felt so good for me to do this. To be able to shed my clothes in a time and place that isn’t your typical nudist venue, where you will be seen by others who are not nude and who very likely do not share your views of nudity and the human body, and to not care, was a wonderful experience. To able to feel the breeze on my bare skin as I wandered about the park was so liberating, so freeing, so empowering, it was just beautiful.
Then, when the ride actually got going, to be able to ride the city streets, albeit in a controlled route, was beyond imagining. It seemed like one small step in the right direction of universal body acceptance and the understanding that nude is not lewd. Of course, this was offset by the fact the people who lived along the route were out in droves watching the spectacle of thousands of nude cyclists riding through their ‘hood.
Nevertheless, I had a blast. Whatever misgivings I felt beforehand, whatever personal fears and embarrassments I might have felt — the fact that I shave and prefer it that way was a big one for me — slowly faded away the moment I removed my clothes in the middle of a public park!
God, just to be able to do that was worth it for me. To know that, for a small slice of time, I could be nude in a public place without fear of arrest or recrimination, is something that makes me so happy. It was surreal on the one hand and perfectly right on the other. If only it could be this way every day of the year.
Getting there was fun. Just about every person with a bike on the MAX went to the ride. I spent some time talking to the young couple who were on the train when I got on. I could tell they were going because their bikes were decorated with plastic flowers. As we traveled, more and more bikes got on, so that the train was nothing but soon to be nude cyclists.
Riding up 60th, I see a crowd of people walking in the same direction I’m riding and cars are piling in as well. I follow one of the guys who was on the MAX with me since he seems to know where he’s going. I see people stripping out of their clothes next to their cars as I ride towards the park.
People and bikes are everywhere. I ride in and stop at a volunteer asking for donations. I give her a twenty and she gives me a seat cover and three stickers. I ride a little past the baseball back stop and walk my bike into the middle of the grass. At this point, the mixture of naked to clothed is about 1 in 4 so I walk the bike slowly until I get to an open spot between three groups of people.
I don’t see anyone stripping down around me. Either people are already naked or still fully clothed. I park the bike and put the seat cover on the seat. To the left, a nude man is sitting next to a cute blonde wearing a skin tight mini dress. She’s fiddling with a packet of glow bracelets. I wonder if she is going to get naked.
I take a couple of pictures of the crowd and text my wife with them. She asks me if I’m naked yet. I start to take off my shirt, but feeling a little exposed (hey!) not being near anyone, which is an irrational feeling for me but an honest one, I realize, I decide to get closer to a group.
Just past the cute couple with the glow sticks is a nude couple standing by their bikes, the man be-speckled and portly, looking a bit like Saul Rubinek, the woman taller than him, a blonde Mother Goddess in glasses. I introduce myself, park my bike next to them and, since there doesn’t seem to be any time like the present, I take off my shirt, roll it up and stuff it into the backpack. I lean down to take off my shoes and then, with a deep breath, because this is the moment of truth, the moment when all my bravado and confidence in calling myself a nudist and a naturist and someone who is comfortable in his own skin regardless of what others may think or see or say has arrived and I must do or not do now, I slide my underwear down, step out of them and throw them into the backpack as well.
I get a slight rush from realizing I am completely nude in a place that normally does not allow nudity and it is a bit exciting. I look around and enjoy the moment. Then the moment passes and I sit down in the grass to put on my shoes. I stand up and see that the cute blonde has joined her boyfriend in clothes freedom. She takes out what looks like a Dry Erase marker and starts to write on his back.
I have to pee and the couple agrees to watch my bike. I head over to the kybos and see the line stretches the width of the park. By this time it is 8:20 and I realize there is no way I could do it and get back in time. So I head back to the couple. They tell me there is a brick building on the rise behind us where the line wasn’t bad. I can barely see the building behind some trees. It looks to be at the edge of the nude area, but I gotta go, so I walk over there.
As I’m getting closer to the ridge, I see a few naked brethren and a line of muggles on the top of the ridge watching the spectacle. I’m nervous about moving through that crowd of muggles but as I get under the trees I see another line for the bathrooms. This line is at the edge of nude zone, but there are more nude riders coming from that direction. It takes about 15 minutes to work through the line so I have some time to relax and really get into the fact that I’m standing in a public park nude right next to a group of clothed kids doing what I can now not recall. I have the impression that the kids were planted there because I can see a playground in the distance off to the left of the line and a bit behind. I look around and see a couple of elderly women standing a ways off. One of them looks like the the woman who’s been making a stink in the news about children seeing naked people. The two of them give the impression of just hovering there and bemoaning their inability to do anything about all the bare dicks and breasts being shoved in their faces. The kids didn’t seem to notice or care that they were slowly being surrounded by the unclothed.
By the time I get out of the loo, the crowd has increased significantly and I can no longer spot the couple and my bike. Swallowing fears of losing the bike and glad I was carrying my backpack, I head in the general direction where I saw them last. After a few moments of walking a crooked line, I finally see my bike and the couple. As I am walking up, another couple is posing in front of the large woman, who is taking their picture with a phone. The woman posing for her picture has had the Batman bat signal painted in black across her chest.
I thank them profusely and decide to do a walkabout through the crowd. As I’m doing so, I snap a few more pictures with my phone. I see a lot of body painting going on and there are quite a few interesting head dresses. A lot of the women are topless with colorful and outlandish bottoms.
I realize as I am walking around that the crowd is slowly moving to the north side of the park. There is a marching band playing there so it seems like a logical focal point. I look at my watch and see that it is five to nine. So I deliberately work my way north, moving into the gaps left by people in front of me as they do the same. Right at nine a woman with a bull horn is hoisted onto to something and she says things I cannot hear that get the crowd woo hooing and yelling. A volunteer walks past telling us that we will be heading north on 57th. By this time, I’ve worked my way close enough to see the sidewalk that is the northern border of the park and through the line of trees towards the cross street now filling up with riders.
I keep getting closer. At one point I pause next to a clothed couple with big grins. I ask them if they live around here. “No, Gresham,” says the woman.
I finally get on the street. The north side is lined with clothed spectators. To the right, I can hear the band playing and there seems to be a white banner or barrier above the crowd about where the intersection is. I assume we are slowly being released, but we’re really just being staged to go. The crowd keeps moving slowly towards the banner getting tighter and tighter as we move.
It is forty minutes past nine by this time and I’ve got the bike light on. I see the band walking down the north side sidewalk and just then a big cheer comes out of the crowd ahead of me and suddenly I can sit up and pedal the bike.
We are off!
I turn the corner onto 57th and find myself in a slowly moving crowd of bikes. I am going just fast enough to almost have to stop pedaling when suddenly the crowd around me spreads out and I can get some steam going. The road is lined with spectators and everyone is cheering everyone else.
The group of riders I’m in is pretty crowded but loose enough for me to feel safe about riding along. Through the course of the ride tonight, I only have two small incidents where I have to react quickly to another rider doing something unexpected. Luckily, I never lost my focus on what I was doing and saw the incidents with plenty of time to react.
We ride up 57th and eventually cross Sandy onto Alameda. Crossing Sandy was bizarre for me since it was a major thoroughfare and there were cars and lights and people. It was the first time along the route where we were all exposed in such a public way. Of course all of the cars honk as we ride past onto Alameda.
We ride into a pretty fancy neighborhood, with wide streets and big lots. It reminded me of Laurelhurst but we are too north. Less crowds here, but they are just as loud. I start to see clothed women with their tops pulled up and small groups of nude spectators.
Throughout the ride people are sticking their hands out for high fives. I avoid them like the plague. I don’t want to have some asshole grab onto me as I ride past at 15 miles an hour and have a sudden meeting with the asphalt. That would be bad for me in my present unclothed state.
After about a half hour, I notice we are coming up to a left turn in the route and the riders ahead of me are bunching up into tighter groups. Getting closer, I see the riders who have already turned left are now walking their bikes. When I get to that point, I find the route has turned onto a narrow street that forces the crowd to slow down and walk. The slowness brings the crowds close together. I hear some grumbling about having to walk but I think it’s kind of nice.
"I like your helmet," a tall girl to my left says to me. She and I are both wearing the same style helmet from Giro. We banter back and forth for a few minutes and then I mention that this ride is the first time I’ve been on a bike in PDX. She get’s all excited and announces it to the crowd. This elicits a few half-assed whoops of approval from a few of our fellow riders. I have no memory of what she looked like. It was dark and what light there was came from behind her so I never saw her face clearly. I remember her being taller than me because I had to look up at her.
Somehow I end up talking to her friend, who is about my height. She is passionate about this being a protest and not just an excuse to ride the streets of Portland starkers. I tell her that’s what this is about for me and she starts to get offended, insisting this was a protest against cars and oil. I tell her I’m right there with her. I live downtown and work downtown. This mollifies her a bit and declares me one of the sane ones, someone who lives close to where he works.
After that, the crowd starts to stretch out a bit and I move forward. The narrow street is coming to an end and everyone is getting ready to ride again.
We end up on Alberta for a good stretch. We ride past Thai Noon, where Paul and I ate six or so years ago and Salt and Straw, which has a line around the corner. The crowds are thick tonight. There are so many shops, bars, and restaurants along this stretch, the crowds of people are thick and the cheering is loud, louder than along 57th. We are a spectacle and everyone is loving it. I’m loving it too.
We are on Alberta for a good portion of the ride, I would saw a good third of it and I’m looking around at all the places I want to visit later with my family. Maybe in a couple of weeks, we can drive up and park the car by Thai Noon and work our way west for a couple of miles.
By this time, I notice a certain type of spectator. It is always a man and at first I though he just wanted to do power high fives, but then I notice he’s got a phone in his hand so I see he want the immersive effect. Maybe he’s taking a series of photos. More likely he’s taking a video. The first couple of guys I saw doing it were spectators, but the last was a participant. A real tall thin guy covered in tiger stripe body paint. I figure, “Why the fuck not.” This happens three times along Alberta.
After a long while, we turn left onto Albina, which strikes me as a bit more subdued in terms of the number of bars and restaurants but there are a fair number of crowds here too. At one point I hear some pretty decent hard rock and I come up on a naked punk band, which was cool.
Later, not sure how we end up on Mississippi and the road heading downhill to the Willamette, I’m not really tuned into my surrounding at this point, so I can’t tell if we are in a light industrial area or just a somewhat run down residential area full of cheap apartment complexes.
Regardless, I see this guy come up on my left and he’s about a bike length ahead of me when his bike suddenly wobbles and he face plants right onto the asphalt. He wasn’t wearing a helmet. Now, we’re going at a good clip, about 15 miles an hour, so this guy hit hard. I come to a sudden stop just next to the guy. He moans and tries to get up but barely moves before he settles back down again. By this time, his friend is there with me and we both pull him up to a kneeling position. I never see his face, but I look down and see a steady drip of blood hitting the pavement. More riders are stopping to help and the crows on the street moves forward. One guys asks if he should call an ambulance. I move back from the riders forming around this guy and a crowd of riders streaming past at a fast clip are yelling to get out of the way. I move forward and push the guy’s friend’s bike out of the way. I look back and see the fallen guy surrounded by people so I get back to riding.
Now I can see the support structure for the Freemont Bridge and the 5 freeway so I know we’re close to the end. All of the riders are slowing down and crowds are getting thicker. I see a lot of people standing in groups or walking around and I eventually stop riding the bike and walk it. Even though there are naked people stopped everywhere, there is enough of a flow of people walking that I just keep going with them. There is a little park area on the right and I consider stopping there and just hanging out, but I know I would have to keep going to get to a place where my wife can pick me up. I hear dance music blaring behind some bushes. Later, I notice this is the back of the Widmer Brewing building.
I eventually end up at Interstate where it looks like they’ve set up the after party in a vacant, fenced in, lot. I come around the corner and see a line of people getting food, hear more dance music and see a half dozen naked girls dancing at the bus stop. Bikes are everywhere. There is no place to stop and take it all in, no place close by to lock up my bike, so I just stop in the middle of the side walk and call home to say I’m done. I put on my clothes right there on the side walk across the street from the crowded Albina Interstate MAX stop.
It was the best Saturday night I’ve had in years. I am going to do it again every year. Next time, I am going to have friends to do it with me. I really enjoyed myself and had no problem talking with people, but I felt it would have been that much more enjoyable with people I knew and were friends with. I want to cultivate some naturist friendly acquaintances / friends and get a regular group for this. I’m also going to plan to stay a while for the after party. Just hang around naked as long as I can after the ride. The whole thing was a fucking blast for me and confirmed that nudity in any and all forms is something that is right and good and holy for me, a major factor in my life, and that I should embrace every opportunity for social nudity.