Less Gas, More Ass: Philly Naked Bike Ride

Our intern exposed all (literally) at this weekend's Philly Naked Bike Ride

All decked out, Larissa is ready to ride

My friends thought I was kidding when I told them that on September 4th, I’d be cycling naked around Philadelphia. My mom asked if I even remembered how to ride a bicycle—mine had been sitting idle for years. Sure, I’d be a little rusty. But I imagined my trusty ol’ two-wheeler would probably be thrilled at the chance to be ridden at all. And if my bike didn’t care that I wasn’t going to be wearing pants, why should I?

On Sunday, the day of the Philly Naked Bike Ride finally arrived, and with it, the knowledge that I had to ride at least seven miles in my skivvies. I struggled to recall the last time I’d ridden a mile. Visions of all the things I’d rather do popped into my head: I could spend the day in bed watching reruns of True Blood, rather than riding down West River Drive all the way to the Art Museum and even further to Rittenhouse Square, before heading back down Market, past City Hall, up Fifth, down Spring Garden, up Third, around NoLibs, and  finally ending up at the Piazza at Schmidts. Wow. Could I really do this?

For the friend I’d planned on going with, it was too much. I found myself attending alone at the last minute, as if being naked wasn’t intimidating enough. The ride is billed as “bare as you dare,” and organizers encourage you to wear whatever feels comfortable. For some, that means letting it all hang out. Others, like me, chose to keep it at least somewhat covered.

I stripped down to a matching lingerie set, throwing my clothes (and caution) to the wind. It took courage, but in all honesty it’s difficult to feel self-conscious when you’re surrounded by so many naked people. And I truly supported that the ride was about promoting positive body image; this was the reason I chose to sign up in the first place. Encouraging slogans like “Love your body” and “You are beautiful” were painted on bare torsos, alongside messages like “Pubes not Fumes!,” revealing the ride’s other purpose: to raise awareness about fuel consumption.

When I arrived, I noticed bodies of all shapes and sizes, from college students to the elderly. We gathered next to the Schuylkill and mingled, painting each other’s bodies. I met two Temple students early on who became my ride buddies. Sporting a colorful heart painted on my stomach, I smiled as my new friends wrote “PNBR” across my lower back. Others got much more creative with the body paint; my favorite was Pikachu painted on a girl’s bare chest (her nipples were his rosy red cheeks).

After we started riding, I realized I had nothing to lose and found myself pulling over and stripping down; the people around me cheered. And let me tell you, there’s no feeling in the world quite like coasting topless past City Hall.

The ride itself is exhilarating. I’m sure I had a smile plastered to my face the entire time, particularly as I high-fived an old man who averted his eyes as he held his hand out to the passing cyclists. Thank you to everyone who watched and cheered for us; it was a wonderful feeling to be so supported.

That’s not to say there weren’t some shocked onlookers. One spectator fainted in front of me. There were others who openly protested our ride, including a man who screamed at us, “You’re all freaks!”

Are we? I’ll let you decide. A naked bike ride is certainly not for everyone. But for those who participated on Sunday, it’ll likely be the highlight of the year.

I know I’ll definitely ride next year—maybe you’ll join me.