đźš´ Steering through the history of Portland’s very naked bike ride

It’s Wednesday — and that means it’s time to get weird.

You know the drill; each Wednesday we tell you all about weird Portland history, people, and the freaky fixtures that bring our city together.

Bridgeliner’s full backlog of Weird Wednesdays can be found right here.

Today, folks, we’re putting on our helmets and nothing else — except for perhaps some body paint — to hop on our bikes and ride through town in our birthday suits, because nothing promotes the benefits of cycling and protesting reliance on oil and fossil fuels quite like nude biking. We’re telling you all about the history behind the world’s largest naked bike ride and how it started right here in Stumptown.

Buckle up, pop a wheelie, and let’s roll.

It all started in the summer of 2004 with 125 cyclists, a goal of protesting oil dependency, and nary a stitch between them. 

Since then, Portland’s World Naked Bike Ride has flourished into a regular event every June that’s drawn as many as 10,000 naked cyclists to the streets, which isn’t a bad turnout considering the route is regularly kept secret until the start of the race. Although it’s one of many similar events that happen around the world, Portland can take pride in being the largest of them all.

The organizers have nine core values they follow for the event, including saving the planet; highlighting the dangers cyclists can face when sharing the road with cars; self awareness of one’s body; and fostering community networks across the city.

Here’s how it goes down: The clothes come off and the body paint goes on as cyclists decorate their respective birthday suits. Then, thousands of naked bike riders hit the roads, cruising commando through streets closed off to cars by fully-clothed Portland police officers. Medical personnel and bike mechanics are also on hand, clothes and all, in case of emergencies.

Courtesy of Sarah Mirk / Wikimedia Commons

Like everything else, the Portland World Naked Bike Ride has hit a pandemic-sized snag, forcing the cancellation of 2020 and 2021’s planned editions. Organizers have instead encouraged folks to keep the gathering’s spirit alive by riding naked during the full moons over the summer as well as masking up regardless of vaccination status. (Editor’s note: Did you go to one of these moonlit rides? How was it? Hit reply, we’d like to talk to you).

Hopefully as we turn a corner on COVID-19, Portlanders can look forward to the return of this classic local event (and more) next summer.

Thank you to our Bridgeliner Unabridged members. Stories like these are made possible with your membership and support.