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I want to ride my bicycle.
A WNBR Experience.
I had never been a participant in any WNBR (World Naked Bike Ride) events and they have been a bucket list thing for a while. I am not so vehemently opposed to cars as many that take part seem to be. I feel mildly disingenuous as although I don’t own a car, I do drive a company vehicle great distances as part of my job. The issue I do identify with is the idea that cyclists are often the victims of collisions with cars, and car drivers often claim to have not seen the cyclist. As someone who has cycled for many years, I have had my fair share of near misses with vehicles seemingly oblivious to my presence, or aware of my presence, but making no allowance for it.
I had made an attempt to join a WNBR event in 2021, but I had other commitments on the day and couldn’t make it. As it happened, COVID cancelled the event anyway, but there was an unofficial naked bike ride along a river trail in its place which would have been great had I been able to make it.
As the notifications for the 2022 event came out, I made a serious attempt to attend this one. My partner was less keen than I was, she correctly assumed that there would be press coverage of the event and declined my invitation to join. I registered online indicating my intention to attend and kept the day free from other commitments.
As an extra step in the preparation, I took my e-bike to the local shop to get it serviced, so there would be no maintenance issues on the day. The day after dropping it off, I got a call from the repair shop saying that the front forks were out of alignment and it was considered unsafe to ride. The forks would be replaced under warranty but they didn’t have the parts and it would take 4-6 weeks to get the replacement bits.
So there I was, 4 days out from the cycling event and my bike was out of order. I did have my old manual bike, but it had an uncomfortable seat on it, something to think about when riding naked. It had been serviced not long before I got my e-bike as I had considered selling it, but thankfully decided to hang onto it as a backup.
I quickly fashioned a seat protector out of some sponge, a small towel and a handful of cable ties. I was good to go.
On the morning of the event, I made my way to the assembly point, a carpark on the edge of Bowentown. The route would take us along the spit, through the small town of Waihi Beach and back again, a distance of some 12km (7-1/2 miles).
As we milled around the carpark, in various states of dress and undress, some applied body paint to themselves, some checked tyre pressure on their bikes, while others struck up conversations in groups. The organisers ran through the course we would follow, set out the expectations on road safety, first aid (should it be needed), and we all listened attentively to the advice about the rules of engagement from possible hecklers.
We set off at a leisurely pace and cycled in single file towards the town. There were toots and cheers from passing vehicles, a lot of people recording the event on their phones and I only saw a few disapproving looks. We made our way through the centre of the small town, then headed back towards the starting point.
I may have been imagining it but I am sure that we were passed by the same cars several times, perhaps so they could just be sure of what they were witnessing.
There was an official press photographer present and at the end of the event, she took some group photos. Full frontal nudity was not going to appear in the paper, so we had to stand with our bike helmets, bikes or other accessories in such a way as to preserve modesty. A small concession I guess in the greater scheme of things.
During the whole ride, I only encountered one angry spectator. A gentleman yelled from his balcony for us to “put on some gear”. As is often the way, I think of a response well after the moment appropriate to use it, which is just as well given our briefing about not engaging with hecklers.
Apparently, there were two complaints laid with the police about the event, and the complainants were politely enlightened about the legality of the event. Simply being naked in public is not an offence in New Zealand, and simple nudity is not considered offensive by our courts.
Hats off to the people behind organising the event. As well as ticking off something from my bucket list, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and the company. I am looking forward to getting involved in other naked events in the future and would recommend it to others if they get the chance.
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.