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The World Naked Bike Ride in Cambridge: Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask

The spectacle of naked cyclists riding through the streets of Cambridge is returning once more.

We’ve gathered the information you need to understand, enjoy - or completely avoid - the extraordinary event known as the Cambridge World Naked Bike Ride.

A message from a rider. Picture: Keith Heppell
A message from a rider. Picture: Keith Heppell

Where and when is it taking place in Cambridge in 2021?

Participants in the 2021 Cambridge World Naked Bike Ride will assemble from 2pm on July 31, 2021 and ride off at 3pm, from the park entrance by Victoria Avenue in Cambridge - near the toilets on Midsummer Common. In previous years, the Cambridge route has passed sights including the Round Church, Fitzwilliam Museum and Botanic Garden before returning to Midsummer Common.

And when you say Naked Bike Ride, you mean it?

Clothing is described as optional and the code is “bare as you dare”.The organisers say: “Full or partial nudity is encouraged, but not mandatory.”

Some will wear a helmet or hat. Some will favour shoes and socks. Some will wear an item or two of clothing to preserve their modesty a little - like shorts, a bra or swimwear. And some riders will opt for items of fancy dress. This year, face masks may be the only stitch seen on some.

“Creative expression” is encouraged, so body paint may be in evidence, along with “art bikes”. So yes, expect lots of naked bodies on the streets. You have been warned.

OK, but why? Why naked?

Riders on the World Naked Bike Ride. Picture: Keith Heppell
Riders on the World Naked Bike Ride. Picture: Keith Heppell

The World Naked Bike Ride “celebrates the potential of cycling and the human body”, acts as an environmental protest and emphasises the vulnerability of cyclists on the roads.

On the environmental front, the organisers say the ride draws attention to “the overuse of the planet's vanishing oil reserves” and how oil “causes pollution, global warming and leads to war, inequality and injustice”.

They add: “Many politicians want to subsidise the car industry and build more roads and runways. They call such follies progress but this is progress towards disaster. You don't see cyclists on the roads when they have clothes on but you do if we are naked.

“Riding naked emphasises the vulnerability of cyclists on the road, at the same time as celebrating humanity in the face of mechanisation.”

The aim is to "deliver a vision of a cleaner, safer, body-positive world."

But isn’t it illegal to go around in public sans clothing?

It is not in fact an offence to be naked in public in England and Wales. It becomes an offence if an individual strips off with the intention to cause “harassment, alarm or distress”.

Section 66 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 deals with "exposing your genitals" in a public place, but it is not targeted at naturists.

All right. But it must be a bit, well, painful?

Honestly, we’ve not tried it. But you would think there is a risk of chafing. However, the organisers say: “Surprisingly, for both women and men, riding naked isn't especially less comfortable than riding clothed. When riding with clothes on you're often rubbing against the seams, so in some ways naked riding is comfier! Ride routes will often be chosen with less experienced cyclists in mind, so will avoid hills and be more leisurely in pace, increasing comfort.”

Still, it’s not for the faint-hearted, that’s for sure. Saddle sores are of course a hazard with cycling - particularly if you don’t ride regularly. Riders are told to wear “appropriate seats” in line with The Highway Code. A gel saddle cover may be in order.

And of course helmets are a sensible choice to avoid injury - and don’t forget the suncream or you may find it turns into a very painful affair.

On a hygiene note, it’s probably best to wipe down your saddle afterwards we reckon.

Expect body and face paint. Picture: Keith Heppell
Expect body and face paint. Picture: Keith Heppell

Is there a fee and who can take part?

No - all these rides are free to join. There’s also no age limit, and the rides are described as “family-friendly”, although it’s quite rare for children to take part.

Why Cambridge?

As a cycling city, it was a natural location for the World Naked Bike Ride. But this is in fact an international movement, taking place in about 75 cities across six continents since being launched in 2004.

The Cambridge ride is part of the The Four Seasons rides, covering Cambridgeshire, Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. It is said to be the UK’s biggest collective of World Naked Bike Rides.


What happens before and afterwards?

It varies. But there are pre- and post-ride parties before many World Naked Bike Ride events, with music and body painting, and the odd stand.

The World Naked Bike Ride starts and ends at Midsummer Common. Picture: Keith Heppell
The World Naked Bike Ride starts and ends at Midsummer Common. Picture: Keith Heppell

If it’s an environmental protest, will Extinction Rebellion be there?

XR has been told by the organisers not to join World Naked Bike Rides.

The organisers say: “Although we understand the reasons why Extinction Rebellion (XR) does what it does, we cannot agree with its actions.”

Among the organisers concerns is that XR has promoted “getting arrested to make a statement”.

The World Naked Bike Ride organisers say: “We feel that if they were to be taking part in our World Naked Bike Rides this could put us all at risk of being arrested. We feel that this is a risk we are not prepared to take, so we are distancing ourselves from XR as much as we can.”

In the Four Seasons area that covers Cambridgeshire, the managers of the ride “voted in favor of an all-out ban on all Extinction Rebellion flags and banners from being on the Four Seasons rides”.

Is it just bikes?

Skateboards, inline skates, rollerskates and rollerblades are also welcome on the rides.

And what about photography?

Riders on the World Naked Bike Ride. Picture: Keith Heppell
Riders on the World Naked Bike Ride. Picture: Keith Heppell

The rides take place in public, so the spectacle can be photographed. The organisers tells participants to tell photographers and other riders if they don’t wish to be photographed, and to cover up at the start and end.

Where can I find out more?

Visit http://www.worldnakedbikeride.org/ and see the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/cambridgewnbr/. You can see the Four Seasons website here.

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Gallery: Naked Bike Ride 2019 returns to Cambridge with a message

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