Arriving in the park, it’s impossible to deny: that sure is a lot of cock.
I know, I know, it should technically be ‘a lot of cocks‘. But damn – the overwhelming impression from so many raw bodies is of an amount.
I soon realise there are quite a few women too. In fact, there are all sorts of bodies: slender, wobbly, pale, muscular, hairy, tattooed, tanned, sagging.
I’m on the scene at the Melbourne 2015 World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR), surrounded by about 200 bikes and people in various stages of undress.
While Germans have been into “active nudity” since the early 1900s, the global naked cycling movement is relatively young, dating back to 2004 when events were organised concurrently in ten countries. Since then, the movement has grown to encompass over 70 cities across 20 countries and 6 continents.
So why naked cycling? And more importantly, isn’t it damn uncomfortable?
The comfortableness or lack thereof, I’m about to experience first hand. As for the reason, the WNBR website lists three core objectives:
- To celebrate cycling and the human body
- To demonstrate the vulnerability of cyclists on the road
- To protest against oil dependency
So the people standing idly around me, with their pasty nether regions shining in the sun, are basically a pack of pro-sustainability cyclists, as well as a few hippies. A smattering of nudists have also snuck into the mix – people more or less supportive of the cause, but mostly just looking for an excuse to get naked in public.
It feels bizarre undressing in front of all these strangers. I came for the full experience though, so off everything comes.
I’m crouched down painting swirls on my arm when a French guy wanders over and introduces himself, his shaved penis dangling precariously close to my face. His name is Nicholas and he also came alone. It becomes clear that this isn’t his first rodeo. He’s telling me all about a bunch of nudist festivals he attends when he recognises Richard, a friend from his all-male naked hiking group. Richard, painted in rainbow stripes, waves hi.
The thing the strikes me is just how funny the human body actually is, especially with a little paint. A redheaded woman has her boobs painted to look like daisies. An older man has ringed his tackle with multi-coloured halos. Nipples everywhere are adorned with love hearts and stars and paw prints. A Peruvian guy has drawn eyes on his hairy butt cheeks to watch you while you ride behind him. It’s… different. Backs have become billboards for all sorts of slogans:
A rotund naked man in a fluro vest and hardhat pulls out a bullhorn and calls the group to attention. It’s finally time to hit the streets.
We mount up and roll out. I can’t speak for people with lady parts, but what I discover is that it’s surprisingly comfortable! As WNBR explains in their FAQ:
Surprisingly, for both women and men, riding naked isn’t especially less comfortable than riding clothed. When riding with clothes on you’re often rubbing against the seams, so in some ways naked riding is comfier!
We come to a busy intersection and drivers go wild, honking and cheering. One of the cyclists has rigged a speaker to the back of their bike, and ’90s music breaks forth. People dance in their seats. The lights change and we continue past an elderly couple on a walk. They grin with scandalised delight, and the woman covers the man’s eyes.
We experience a quirk of modern human psychology: as we come upon unsuspecting pedestrians, time after time, their immediate response (after a moment’s gleeful shock) is to pull out their phone and start filming. We must have been filmed by hundreds, thousands of people throughout the day.
Word of our coming spreads rapidly over the airwaves, and pre-informed spectators start appearing en masse to watch and grin and film. At the Carlton gardens, they spill onto the street in swarms, waving and chittering and filming. Richard the nudist calls out to them repeatedly, “Get naked! Join us! Being naked is awesome!” I feel distinctly uneasy.
We turn onto Sydney Road, one of Melbourne’s most notorious sites for bike accidents. Alberto Paulon was recently killed here when a motorist opened their door without looking, knocking him into the path of an oncoming truck. This is the exact kind of accident that the WNBR hopes to eliminate.
We fall quiet and stop to bow our heads as we reach his memorial – a white bicycle surrounded by flowers and handwritten messages of grievance and solidarity. Compassionate words are spoken by one of the organisers, and we leave shortly after with a strange mingling of emotions.
World Naked Bike Ride is an annual event that happens all over the world – probably in your own city. It attracts people of all ages, nationalities and body shapes. I found it to be an overwhelmingly positive event: a day of spreading smiles, spicing up the days of innocent strangers, and showcasing the true diversity of the human form.
If the cause resonates, but you’re a bit shy about your jiggly bits, remember you don’t have to get naked. The tagline is “As Bare as You Dare”, and there were plenty of people who only dared shorts or underwear. It’s also a good idea to bring a friend for moral support. Despite how welcoming and respectful everyone was, it can be draining to spend hours naked amongst strangers.
And even if the cause doesn’t move you, still consider checking out the ride route on the day. After all, how often do you get to see a flock of naked humans?