It’s not as if I was worried about getting naked. One of the reasons I love this region so much is its beautiful clothing-optional beaches, which means you can always enjoy a swim without the restriction of clammy board shorts or unflattering budgie smugglers.
A couple of years ago I even took part in a photoshoot by Spencer Tunick, in which a couple of thousand brave souls turned up on a chilly Sydney morning to bare their bodies on the Opera House steps. It was very early morning, so despite the presence of a few clad cameramen, there were few other people to witness our display.
But nudity as a spectator sport, which is the idea of the World Naked Bike Ride, is something else again.
My friend Mij organises the Nimbin event, which took place last Saturday, and it seemed like the perfect place for an out-of-town tryout, to decide if I had it in me to do our local Byron ride next weekend.
Four friends headed off to Nimbin with bikes tied to our trailer (we’re not that fit!) just as the clouds started to roll in.
We arrived at the Peace Park meeting point 10 minutes too late – the contingent had already headed off to a secret location to get painted up. We finally found them at the Buttery, about five minutes’ cycle away, whipped off our gear and got out the paintbrushes.
World Naked Bike Rides [http://www.worldnakedbikeride.org/] (WNBR) began as a popular movement in 2004, after several naked cycle protests in Europe and North America got together around the common themes of oil dependency and the vulnerability of cyclists in car-centric society.
The protests are intended to be noisy, colourful and attention-seeking. Not all cyclists are completely naked and most paint their bodies, either decoratively or with political slogans. It’s a kind of political artwork on wheels.
At the Buttery, last year’s record of 40-plus riders had been somewhat depleted by the rain but nevertheless a healthy number of (mostly male) participants were putting the finishing touches to their ‘outfits’. The very brave posed for a couple of shots for the group’s Facebook page. [http://www.facebook.com/groups/41700852148/]
Needless to say, the minute we mounted our bikes the skies opened up. A quick cycle across the bridge and we were in Nimbin’s main street, with bells ringing and lots of whooping and cheering. For a brief minute I was suddenly nervous. How was the crowd going to react?
I didn’t need to wait long to find out. Locals and tourists alike were ecstatic, cheering and waving, many of them whipping out cameras and phones to take a snap.
After a couple of circuits of the town, we decided to make a few loops in front of the pub. This got even more people out on the streets to cheer us along.
The motorists were the only people upset by our presence. Even most of them were reasonably patient but after about a dozen loops in front of the pub some of the held-up drivers became impatient and started tooting and revving their engines.
In the country, even more than in the city, motorists own the roads and cyclists are an undesirable intrusion – to the extent that many are endangered by the behaviour of drivers. So – nudity aside – it was a great feeling for cyclists to reclaim the road, however briefly.
Our final ‘stand’ involved hopping off our bikes and holding them up to cheers from the crowd (and more toots from the cars).
Back at the Buttery we took it in turns to face the fire hose – the easiest way to remove all the body paint, and donned our clothes once again.
Would I recommend the WNBR? Absolutely. And there’s no need to wait for a year. The Byron WNBR is this Sunday. See you there?
[image] Our motley group head off at last Saturday’s Nimbin leg of the World Naked Bike Ride.