Last weekend I took part in the World Naked Bike Ride in Cardiff. I had hoped to be able to participate in the big London ride the week earlier, but unfortunately was unable to attend. The morning was pretty changeable and I arrived in Cardiff to pouring rain. The meeting point was behind the museum and I was the first to arrive. By 2.00 there were only four of us there, but at least the rain had stopped.
Over the course of the next hour a fair number of participants arrived, as did a crowd of spectators. Most of the spectators seemed to be Chinese students, who i think had come to support the one Chinese person who had joined us.
The Cardiff ride is nowhere near as big as the London WNBR. Whilst London had about 1400 participants this year, the largest we have had in Cardiff was about 150 last year. This year, perhaps because of the cold, wet, windy weather, we only had about 80 people taking part.
There were of course quite a few familiar faces from previous years and the regular members immediately started catching up with each other. Andy and Becky from the Cardiff Life Model Collective offered to help with body painting for anyone who wanted any. There was less body painting this year than before. Again, I think the weather had a hand in this. However, there were a few who did stand out.
This young lady went for a message which was simple, but striking and immediately spoke to the road safety message which is central to the rides. Road safety was a motivating factor behind the participation of many of the riders. One of the first people to arrive was a man who had only heard about the ride the previous day, but after having been in a serious accident, where a car had knocked him off his bike, he was keen to promote that message. pictured below, with a very simple message “Think bike” on his back. Being a first time participant he had chosen not to be completely naked for the ride.
My own body painting tried to fit to both the ecological message supported by many participants as well as fitting in with the safety message.
For me though, the thing which I like most about the bike ride is the way that people can grow in confidence through participating. Grace, wearing sunglasses and sunflowers, posted a comment about how participating had helped her with her lack of body confidence. I am surprised that such an attractive girl would have such a poor self image, but people these days place such unrealistic expectations on themselves. Before the ride she had a poor self image. Afterwards she was so delighted to find her picture in the local paper that she bought 4 copies and posted a photo of the article on facebook.
Although there were a lot of participants who did not want to bare all during the ride, some of them gained the confidence to strip off during the ride and most of them afterwards enjoyed the experience so much that they were making plans afterwards for baring all in the next ride. Such a person was Shrouk, who had worn a paintball helmet last year, to completely cover her face. This year she was happy to bare all and even pose with me for photos afterwards.
For me, this is the highlight of the WNBR. It does serve a serious purpose, in raising awareness of cyclists and the need for better awareness of safety concerns surrounding cyclists, but it is a fun event which provides a great opportunity to meet and befriend open minded people, and also to help people grow in confidence, becoming more comfortable in their bodies and more comfortable with nudity.