Naked Bike Ride: Going Au Natural

Madison’s 2013 World Naked Bike Ride is more of an amuse-bouche compared to the thousand person buffets in Portland and Chicago.

I was born in late August, 1974 to a hippy mom and a bike obsessed dad.  My mom tells me it was one of the hottest summers on record. I came out naked, like we all enter this world.  Although I don’t remember my first few years, I do remember loving running around the house and playing in the pool without a stitch of clothing on. I have pictures of myself riding my bigwheel in only diapers. Hey, isn’t that what summer is meant for?  For seven to eight months out of the year, my face is the only skin showing…I can’t help but shed some layers when mother nature allows.

Video from this year’s WNBR in Madison. By today’s rating standards, I give this a solid R rating for nudity, so watch at your own risk!

For the past four years, Madison has been one of the many sites for the World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR). I’ve always been out of town and had to miss it–but not this year. I was determined to take part and see what it was like.  I would never consider myself an exhibitionist or a nudist.  At the same time, being raised in  YM and YWCA’s, as well as at camps, I’m not shy or uncomfortable with nudity.  My body has served me well and I’m proud of it.  This, however, was not why I chose to ride the WNBR.  My draw was more than “skin deep”.  I wanted to be a part of a protest against fossil fuels.  I wanted ride with others who supported human powered transportation, and with the enormous budget cuts to the bike/ped funding, I saw this as the perfect way to make a fun, playful statement.

Most of the WNBR’s occurred a week before Madison’s.  Portland pulled in almost 8,000 riders and Chicago almost 1,000.  We, on the other hand, were still small with 60-65 riders.  We were like a large, two-wheeled family of all ages and shapes, riding throughout the city.  Our ride started by meeting at a secret spot before being led by one of the event organizers to the staging area.  Once there, we could undress–to whatever we felt comfortable wearing–and decorate our bodies with paint and markers.  Some chose to write messages on their bodies, I wrote “Mend your fuelish ways” on my arm and leg, and others decorated themselves with flowers or wigs.  Some were there primarily for environmental reasons, while others were there to promote body acceptance.  All were there for positive reasons and at no point did I feel uncomfortable or threatened.  This ride had NOTHING to do with sex as some might assume.  Honestly, as I spoke to other riders, I forgot they were naked.

As we rolled slowly around the East side, down State Street, and around the capitol a few times, we were greeted by cheers, clapping, and smiles.  I would say 99% of the feedback was positive and I thought it was wonderful parents were not shielding their kids from looking.  Most kids didn’t seem to even care.  I’m sure they were thinking “Hey, cool, I just did that at home this morning.”  All in all I would say it was a beautiful day, a beautiful ride and a very uplifting experience.  I’ll definitely do it again!

Below is 2011 Madision WNBR video from Brazen Dropouts rider Michael Kienitz. Mickey is a professional photographer and cinematographer and a “light monkey” from back in the day when Dave Schlabowske earned a living with a Nikon F3. Mickey’s footage is more artfully crafted, and includes on-bike filming, but still gets an R rating.

About Kierstin Kloeckner, Bike Fed Board Member

Kierstin is a personal trainer who lives and bikes in Madison and a board member for the Bike Fed. She writes guest posts for us here, but you can read more of her thoughts on how cycling fits into her life at her personal blog Two Wheels From Home

5 thoughts on “Naked Bike Ride: Going Au Natural

  1. This is SICK! How many pedifiles got aroused by this one? How many sex offenders went looking for more after the race? What is wrong with Governor Walkers thinking? Walker is the son of a minister–what church backs things like this?

    • Hi Jane, thanks for commenting. I just wanted you to know that NO children were on this ride. The children I was talking about were just on the square with their parents attending the farmer’s market. The wonderful thing about this ride is it is bi-partisan and has been going on for over a decade around the nation. I consider it a peaceful way to protest or share a passion.

  2. For the record, Scott Walker had no connection, input, or authority over this event.

    Although you’ve still got a good question there, Jane — “What is wrong with Governor Walker’s thinking?”  But that question applies to anything that has happened in this state since Scotty-boy turned the governorship into the Office of the Reichsführer, not to fewer than 100 people riding their bikes in their skivvies (or less).


  3. I happened to be downtown Saturday, and took some pictures as the riders passed by. It happened so fast I didn’t have time to take the experience in. Later, when I uploaded the pictures, I was awed at the courage and committment of the riders.

    I’m still puzzling over the meaning of this ride, and why riding naked is such a powerful statement. I think it is one of those things that you have to do to understand it, and that it is different for everyone. The crowd reaction on the Square is a pretty good indicator – rousing cheers for the most part, a lot of picture-taking and smiling faces.

    If the naked bike ride is any indication, people are at a point where extreme but nonviolent actions are seen as increasingly necessary as we head into an era of drastic climate change, economic collapse, a glut of humans on the planet, and an established hierarchy that is desperately rigging the system for itself. In this context, riding a bicycle naked might not seem like much of an effort to change the realities we face, but you never can tell. Gandhi understood that seemingly small actions can lead to bigger ones, and have power far beyond their original intention.

    • Thank you John for your thoughtful and kind response. I can’t speak for everyone involved, but for me, the ride was a way to protest in a peaceful and joyful way. Sometimes I tire of all the negativity surrounding issues so this was a great way to make a personal statement with a smile on my face. I very well understand that a ride like this is just a drop in the bucket…but a drop it still is. Enjoy your summer!

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