London and Brighton Naked Bicycle Rides

London and Brighton Naked Bicycle Rides

Every year since 2014, I have cycled in the London part of the World Naked Bike Ride.  This year, like usual, I stripped off and cycled in the capital back on Saturday 8th June 2019 with hundreds and hundreds of other cyclists.  But this year, on the following day I then cycled in the Brighton Naked Bicycle Ride for the very first time and loved it.

I want to document here what I got up to on this fabulous weekend, and then share some photos of the events and also use this space to give the reasons why I take part.

I got the train down to London.  At home in, Wellingborough, the heaven’s had opened and I was imagining a very wet and very cold ride.  However, once I got into London, the sun shone down through the clouds, the wind dropped and it felt warm.  I had some food along The Strand and watched as the red arrows flew over for the Queen’s official Birthday.

Red arrows fly over The Strand

After lunch, I cycled to Tower Hill.  There were 7 start points for the ride.  Usually, I do start at Hyde Park, but this being the biggest starting point, it attracts a lot of photographers.  Personally I don’t mind having my photo taken, but the photographers aren’t too interested in me, but rather some are a strange breed who are obsessed with titties.  Once breasts are exposed, I suppose some of them feel a sexual desire to run over and snap away to the keep those sights for posterity – those sights of the bare skin, and underneath the milk producing tissue and fat. That’s not the point of the ride.  More on this later.  Also a problem occurs when the photographers swarm in and it ends up narrowing the artery route for the beginning of the ride which hinders the smoothness of leaving en masse.

I arrived at Tower Hill and initially saw only a few bicycles.  As we got closer to cycle off though, there numbers suddenly swelled.  After meeting a few people at Tower Hill, we cycled west along the cycle superhighway, soon to be renamed simply as a cycleway, and then met up with the other groups on Westminster Bridge.  We cycled in a big loop, over the Thames a few times, through Covent Garden towards Buckingham Palace, in case the Queen wanted to wave, and then ended under Wellington Arch.  Here are some photos below:

 

 

 

 

It was a wonderful ride.  With London, you get so many people on the ride that within moments, it feels normal to be naked.  In fact, I got talking to some people, and asked them why their feet were dressed.  They subsequently removed removed their shoes and socks.  And of course, spectator-wise, London is unique in terms of its tourist footfall.  Around nearly every street corner you turn, there will be a tourist who is shocked and surprised at seeing the human form cycling past.  I witnessed no hostility whatsoever on the ride.  I heard claps, cheers, and laughter.  After a great ride, I returned my hire bicycle to the London Bicycle Tour Company based near the Imperial War Museum, got a Sadiq Cycle, and went to London Bridge.

I then caught the train to down to Brighton.

I stayed the night in the Ibis hotel.  And out of my window, I could see the sea!

I decided to go out that evening.  Firstly, I walked down the front and then on to St. James Street.  I went for a nice Italian, on to a few cabaret venues, albeit it more like karaoke, and then on to a club.

The next morning I awoke, had breakfast and then walked down through The Lanes, a fascinating area with narrow, twisting alleyways full of pubs, independent shops and restaurants.  Once it had opened, I went along the promenade to Brighton Beach Bikes.  I met Mel, who gave me a lovely touring bicycle.  I cycled along the pier a bit, went to see the Royal Pavilion, back to the hotel, got ready, and then joined the cyclists at Preston Park.  As I cycled along, I was blown away the police presence in the park – a dozen or so police cyclists, two police motorbikes, a police van and officers on foot.  I asked them why they were there.  “We’re here for the naked bike ride,” they said.  I thanked them and cycled on.  I know, from experience, that the World Naked Bike Ride has its roots in a protest – more on this later, but I thought having that many police was a bit heavy handed.

Immediately I felt a different vibe.  With music playing, an enclosure for the cyclists to prepare away from photographers, and designated body painters on hand, it was such an organised event.

I was given a card advertising the event.  Very professionally done!

The enclosure was opened, we were let out, and the cycle began.  I soon discovered why there were police there.  The police motorbikes led the actual event and the police cyclists went along the route ensuring that the side roads were closed to motor vehicles whilst the protest went by.  The police were there helping to ensure the ride went off without a hitch.

In London, without an authority presence, sometimes it feels that the groups gets a bit fragmented when drivers end up pulling out of junctions, despite their being absolutely no room for them to do and blocking the space for the hundreds and hundreds of cyclists all trying to squeeze past them.  Also at the front sometimes tries to squeeze past stationary buses and cars ahead of them.  Very strange behaviour on both sides.  It creates bottlenecks and extends delays.

During the ride, I met a few more people and were asking whether they had taken part in the ride in Brighton before.  For some, it was their first time, but others were seasoned riders.  They told me about the different feel in Brighton and they told me the fact that it is fully supported by the police each year.  Side note:  I read the other day on a newspaper comment section, how outraged someone was that the police were encouraging this illegal act but punish everything else.  It is not illegal to be naked in the United Kingdom.  What could lead to someone’s arrest is if an individual decides to ditch all of their clothes and behaves in a manner deemed to offend someone – and this is likely to come from a sexual behaviour.  If this someone reports the offence, the police can get involved and make an arrest..  Our relationship with nudity is strange.  Why would it be illegal?

I really had a good time in Brighton; both enjoyment in terms of the cycle and the city.  I liked the vibe and feel of the place.  The cycle was a wonderful opportunity to explore different areas that otherwise I would not have seen.

The ride ended at a nudist beach.  It was really relaxing looking out to sea but eventually it got a bit nippy.  I returned my bicycle to Mel.  I recommend Brighton Beach Bikes.  It is conveniently located and the process was quick and simple.  I hired it online a few days before.  The bicycles were all prepared and within minutes I was away.  It was a city bike as well so it meant I sat up in a nice upright position.

Here are some photos of the ride:

 

Why do I take part?

I decided to write this because I faced some hostility before I took part in the ride.  I see comments on newspaper websites and Facebook group posts, before, and after the event too.  I look intently at this articles after, I hope I would see myself – I did not this time.  For those comments below, I do let slide, because, well, commenters like this, are, generally, quite strange.  Many are keyboard warriors.  A few days ago, a photo was picked up in the media, of a driver of a petrol tanker who stopped of the lane, blocking it, alighting his vehicle to help a frail pedestrian cross the road.  It was wonderful.  And I think it was great.  Here, someone inevitably would have SCREAMED in the minds and expressing themselves through aggressive pigeon typing, that it was an outrage that the driver would do this.  “It would have cost the economy a fortune by slowing down everyone’s journeys”.  Or say if someone gave some money to the poor?  They shouldn’t be rich in the first place.  Or, they shouldn’t be poor in the first place.  That’s the kind of logic that they have and they moan because they can and are not charged per word typed.  Imagine if I were charged word typed?  Ahh.

I remember verbally telling an old friend in the gym about my first ride back in 2014.  I was really excited.  Having looked into the protest points for the ride, I wholeheartedly supported this, and didn’t even consider the fact anyone would be against it.  He didn’t even want to explore the reasons, but expressed his disgust in the naked body.  It’s unnatural.  Before I had time to jump in, he, and his friend started talking about it being an abomination because children could see it.  At the time, I was rather dumbfounded but now I know that there are people out there that are scared of nudity, I have prepared an arsenal to defend the action.

Also just last week, I sent an acquaintance a message asking if he would like to join me.  He could have politely said, “no thanks, not for me” but instead in response, he sent me a block of text saying that for nakedness there’s a “time and place for it”, stating it is “voyeuristic”, branding it a “sex crime” and saying that it would “infringe on other people’s freedoms’.

Wow.  I say to these people now, what is your problem with the human body?  It is natural. Why get so aggressive and passionate about an act that does not hurt, or hinder anyone else.  It is normal.  We are not born fully dressed. We are naked.  For the guy in the gym, I have a little add on.  He is a turned religious man.  From no religion when he was a teenager, he now follows God’s every word (though through someone else, obviously).  Abiding by his logic, it was God who would have designed the very body that you are now demanding needs to be hidden away, and that it is unnatural and disgusting to expose.

It is not voyeuristic and it is not a sex crime.  This is not a giant orgy.  There is no sexual gratification from riding around. The cyclists, at the numerous pause breaks don’t get down on their knees. Sometimes photographers may take photos for personal pleasures, as explained above.  Did I look a few penises?  Yes, but not so I could wank off.  I looked at them in the same way as I would look at someone’s face in a pub.  “Damn he’s nice”.  Should he wear a full-face veil to stop me from doing this?  And I suppose there is a sense of comparison too.  It is always interesting to size up.  I did wonder if some were real or injected with silicone.

The ride is intended to shock. It’s a protest.  You don’t expect to see a naked body and it makes people pay attention.  The reason it shocks is because social norms and capitalism have made covering up essential.  Why is it that we have wardrobes bursting with different colours, shapes and materials?  The shops want you to continue buying and covering up.  This is fashion.

I’ve alluded to it through this blog-post – the World Naked Bike Ride is a protest.  It is a very visual reminder of the vulnerability cyclists face.  It calls on other road users to give cyclists more room when overtaking.  Remember, cyclists, like pedestrians, are on the road by right, drivers are there only on licence.  Usually I have painted on my back the message “Now can you see me?”. When I am dressed, I have had drivers say “sorry mate, I didn’t see you” when they nearly hit me.  I have actually been hit because someone didn’t use their eyes when propelling two tonnes of metal on the roads.  Ridiculous.  Talking about propelling all of this metal begs the question – is there any need to?  The protest also calls for the end to obsessive car culture and car dependency.  And on an even wider level, it calls for an end the oil dependency.  It is often the case that there is no need to drive only a few miles – propelling all that weight, taking up all that space, adding to the congestion polluting the environment and being a danger.

There was talk about how the naked cyclists by being free would infringe on other people’s freedoms.  The idea, I suppose, is that if someone did not want to see a buttock or a penis they cannot do anything but look. Considering, I don’t believe the human body to be ugly or grotesque, I don’t think this is a problem. What I think infringes more so on people’s freedoms is that there should be the right and freedom to breath clean air. The pollution from exhausts really makes a difference to air quality. Children’s lung growth is being shunted because of pollution.  On some days in London, people are advised not to have the freedom to exercise, simply because some people are making needless journeys by motor car. Air pollution does not just affect people just in the capital. Schools up and down the country are a particular hot spot for increased levels of pollution because some parents choose to drive right up to the school gates, and some even leave their engines idling. Finally, the protest calls for a celebration of body freedom.  It shouldn’t be outrageous to simply show one’s body.  It is natural and normal.

Personally, I like taking part because it feels good.  The wind on my dick, makes me feel free.  But seriously, it feels so good because of the cheerful reactions from the crowds and the camaraderie of my fellow cyclists.   Perhaps, it is my nature, but I talk to anyone and everyone and I see and chat to some familiar faces year on year.

Importantly, I think it is a really useful event for body positivity.  It makes me feel so comfortable in my skin and realise that everyone is made up of different shapes, sizes and colours.  I sometimes convince myself that I am fat and I need to lose some weight.  I try to cut down, or more effective for me, I exercise more.  Seeing bodies which are free from being hidden and shackled by clothes, makes one realise that everyone is vastly different and I am normal.  I do believe that some clothes shield and hide away shape, and difference.  Clothes cover rolls of fat and hide abs, they make the penis and breasts, incredibly hidden away body parts.  Why, in our society are these body parts so very sexualised? Is part of the reason that they hidden, and then sexualised in the media, and made to feel like a taboo.  I recently read a study that some people don’t like getting fully undressed in front of sexual partners because they are not comfortable with their bodies. As a gay man, it makes me realise that dick sizes vary enormously.  Many people have their minds shaped by unrealistic bulges, six-packs, stick-thin, big breasted woman on advertisements and of course in the whole world of porn.  Not everyone is hung and the question of how hung hung actually is hangs in the balance.

The year, both rides, more so the Brighton ride, had an Extinction Rebellion focus.  The protests aims, as explained above, tie in nicely to the demands of Extinction Rebellion.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading or listening.

 

Speak soon,

Samuel x

Leave a Reply