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.