Three weeks ago I did something that I had been wanting to do for years; I took part in a World Naked Bike Ride.
Previous years had fallen on family occasions or work commitments and I had been unable to attend the nearest ride, in Manchester, which is around 20 miles from my countryside home. This year, I was working in London on the Friday and spent an additional day in the capital city so I could attend my first WNBR on Saturday 11th June.
My journey started at my parents’ house at the end of the Underground network, and a mere mile ride down to the local station. There are strict rules on London trains where cyclists can take bicycles, and my journey ended an hour later at Baker Street which is where I had to depart.
The London WNBR has six different start points; those starting at Regents Park, Hyde Park and Kings Cross ride through London to Piccadilly Circus where all three groups converge. A bit further on, the cyclists from Tower Hill, Clapham Junction and Norwood join the pack and the route snakes back through London before ending at Wellington Arch.
From my arrival at Baker Street station, I had a short 10 minute ride to my chosen starting point – Marble Arch at Hyde Park. This was an experience in itself; the recent use of my bicycle had been on quiet Cheshire roads, or countryside trails through spectacular countryside. The hustle and bustle of cycling alongside large motorised vehicles on major roads of Baker Street and then Oxford Street was something I had never experienced before!
The convergence point was half-way along North Carriage Drive; between a few trees a cordon had been created, about the size of half-a-football pitch. Several people were already naked when I arrived; many were having bodypaint applied to their skin as the heavens opened. It is a British summer, after all: rain was expected!
The amount of people who had cameras, eagerly snapping away at the people contained within the cordon, was incredible. I felt like I was in a zoo, and a number of the photos on the London WNBR Flickr group come from that start point. I recognise myself and several people I spoke to.
The rain cleared shortly before we were due to start, and a couple of us were asked into helping the marshals try and clear a path for the riders. It was the worst aspect of the ride by a country mile – the aggressive photographers at the start and end of the ride. The female riders had it a hundred times worse than I did; they blocked the path and jostled to get better shots. It was almost as though they’d never seen a bare bottom before!
The marshals were fantastic; Lady Godiva had a loud-haler mounted on the front of her bike, and after the last rider had left the compound, we quickly took down the cordon, fastened between trees, and joined the ride on the busy Marble Arch, riding through a red light to remain with the peleton.
As I have said before, when naked outside, it becomes easy to forget that you are nude and become comfortable with your nudity. It becomes incidental to the activity in hand, and that was true when riding through some of the busiest streets in London wearing nothing. It felt natural.
Fellow riders stopped to have their photograph taken with a hen party and a wedding; others were stopped by spectators. Cameras and smartphones captured the moment as thousands of naked cyclists – many with slogans daubed onto their naked skin – rode past the shops, restaurants and business of Britain’s iconic capital city.
A naked musician played his trumpet on the steps of an imposing hotel (and then caught us up a few times on the route). We ensnared many clothed cyclists along the route, encouraging them to join in with the protest and event. Not everyone was naked; some merely stripped to their underwear or shorts, but it was all partaken in a good spirit. Many of the photographs show the British eccentricity in full swing!
We even had a drunk partygoer who stripped off for the last mile, leaving most of his clothes by the side of the road to come running with hundreds of cyclists. Quite how he expected to remember where he had left his clothes, was incidental to his thought process, I’m sure!
One lady called us “ridiculous” and we upset several taxi drivers; one of whom started ranting at the ride near the finish line. But that was the exception not the rule, and message of pro-cycling and pro-body freedom was accepted.
I would love to do it again. It was easily one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had – even with a buckled wheel and dodgy brakes on my bike.
And of course, thanks must go to the organisers. It could not have happened without them, and their time to organise the event meant that I was able to join thousands in having a wonderful Saturday afternoon riding through the centre of London without a stitch on my body to make London a safer place for cyclists.
There is some talk about a night ride in London; I would love to be able to join in (and hopefully without a dodgy wheel!). I would certainly advise people to try it, as the feeling of the rushing air on the skin in Central London is a wonderful experience. An item for the bucket list, if nothing else.
There are UK naked bike rides at over ten cities and over seventy cities around the world. And I am exploring the possibility of a naked bike ride and picnic in the Cheshire countryside later this year or early next year!
The World Naked Bike Ride is at http://www.worldnakedbikeride.org/
Lady Godiva is at https://ladygod1va.wordpress.com/
Flickr WNBR London 2016 group is at https://www.flickr.com/groups/2995385@N21/
I am raising money for Tigers again so if anyone wants to sponsor me I would be very grateful at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/john-harding13
In addition, I have finished writing and editing Bare Necessities II. It is with my alpha readers If anyone wants a pre-release copy to read before I publish it then please drop me a line on Twitter.