Picture Burning Man meets Critical Mass and that just might boil it down to the essence where activists, eco-forward thinkers, nudists, bike lovers, and exhibitionists come together for the annual World Naked Bike Ride, 500 + wheeler strong, this year in my old hometown of St. Louis, MO.
The event started in 2004 and has been held in cities all over the world with an intent on underlining a message of freedom – from oil dependency, the stresses and encumbrances of the modern world, and media’s false advertisement of flawless body image. I wasn’t there for the event, personally I really dig my uber-padded bike shorts, but old high school friend “Planet AL” and his friend Amy attended, and reported back to Momma Wheelie about their experience!
The pair found out about this event through The St. Louis Adventure Group, an organization whose motto is “We’re Ready for Anything: hiking, bicycling, camping, kayaking, geocaching, backpacking, climbing or anything else that might make us laugh.” Well, there ya go. Can’t go wrong with that group, right? And if you’ve ever been in St. Louis in the summertime, you know they can throw a helluva street party!
It was Amy and Planet AL’s first go at the ride, both being avid cyclists, activists, and all around fun-seekers and both said emphatically they would do it again. They were ready to find solidarity with like-minded folks, meeting among others, members of the FBC (the “Fucking Bike Club”) who arrange full-moon night rides through the city. Mostly, Amy was surprised and elated to see how many people were so in love with their bikes and eager to prove that two-wheels are better than four – anytime, anywhere! She adds, “No clothes goes along well with minimal consumption. Then add on the fun of being on a bike and being naked/mostly naked with a group of others and it’s exciting!”
So, you’re wondering about the Naked part of this ride, no doubt, and well, isn’t public nudity illegal after all? According to the two A’s, there was no police presence or protest from Buddhists Against Nudists (ok, I made that one up) or any vibe of prudish, Victorian sentiment whatsoever. In fact, AL said the police helped block traffic and keep cyclists on route!
Naked interpretations were of a varied sort, from partially clad, to body-makeup enhanced nudity, to full-on birthday suit! And on a hot, humid St. Louis summer night, it was easy to peel down to skin. This event gave new meaning to Missouri’s emblematic moniker “The Show Me State”, one could say!
The group created a moving circus feel wending through downtown neighborhoods for 10.8 miles with colorful displays, political messages painted on their bare backs, and custom designed bikes of all kinds, along with other-wheel transports like The Mad Hatter on rollerblades, and some skateboarders.
They both loved a collection of “Tall Bikes” that stood out above the rest. There, too, a reveler with a 3-wheeled bike with a 25-foot pole attached for pole dancing attracted attention! AL described the overall vibe of the event as happy; participants as well as high-fivin’ side-liners, smiling from ear-to-ear.
Post-ride events included a gathering at The Handlebar, a local watering hole near Forest Park that caters to the urban cyclist, including hosting an art gallery of unique home-made bikes. No doubt, Planet AL loves this place as he enjoys finding old bikes and restoring them. He also came upon other side-street festivities with tents and live music.
Gee, all of this fun and camaraderie just might inspire this home girl to make a trip back to ol’ St. Lou to connect with this wonderfully expressive community of cyclists. In the meantime, I keep rolling on two. And fully-clad – well, it’s that Bay Area fog, ya know!
Image 1: the Arch at night – WikiCommons
Image 2: street riders – Steve Truesdell / The Riverfront Times
Image 3: Naked Dave: Planet AL
Image 4: street riders – Steve Truesdell / The Riverfront Times
Image 5: Pole dancer – Planet AL
Image 6: Super tall – Steve Truesdell / The Riverfront Times
Image 7: Street Band – Jon Gitchoff