Off the Beat: Pedalpalooza, baby! It’s not a spectator sport
Written by Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer   
June 11, 2013 08:20 pm

I want to ride my bicycle! I want to ride my bike!

That Queen rock song was stuck in my head as we cruised the streets of Portland last Saturday. Ah, the freedom of riding a bike — remember when you were a kid? It hasn’t changed.

We started the day riding our bikes to the Rose Festival Parade (Yea! Flowers! Horses! Loud drums and tubas!) Four miles — uphill, downhill, dodging cars — from my brother’s house to the parade, another couple miles toodling around all the parties (bagels, lox, caviar and champagne at my brother’s bank!) and 4 miles back, uphill, to nap in preparation for another bike ride.

A very special bike ride.

That very special, 7-mile ride is held to bring awareness of the increasing number of bicyclists sharing the roadways but, for us, it was about being together, strangers united to participate in something a little different. There were 5,000 of us, there to be strange and different.

But first, we headed to the Art Museum, to gawk at the history of bicycles: Cyclopedia. The museum had a hitch that night. Admission? A dollar per each item of clothing you wore. Shoes were required.

Really.

Most people were in the raw, but there was the occasional tutu and leather and sparkly and boa! Masked faces and painted bodies. This is Portland, after all.

The clothed people — “That’ll be $7, please!” — were the ones who looked out of place. They felt out of place. Body language is easy to read, and their big eyes, stiff smiles, necks craned — ONLY LOOK AT THEIR EYES! — arms crossed tightly across their chests — said it all.

The museum was incredible. It took us an hour to figure out how the bikes, suspended at eye level, correlated to the key of their histories on the wall. The numbers, it ended up, were on the floor, and with everyone running around nekked, you didn’t want to look, well … down.

And how many people will ever be able to say they’ve shopped in a museum gift shop au natural? I bought a book.

Then, we took to the streets. All 5,000 of us. And all in the clothes our God of Choice gave us!

Yes, it was the annual World Naked Bike Ride. And we were (shhh!) NEKKED! We were pedal-philes! Get it!? Pedal? Never mind.

This is nothing new for me and my merry band of friends; we have, of course, been to Burning Man. We do this kind of stuff because we like to shock the family, although it’s getting more difficult as they become more jaded in their old age.

So we’re biking and biking, hooting and hollering at people cheering us on, gaping in disbelief. Overheard: “OMG! They don’t even CARE!”

I sang the Bicycle song and yelled, “Tonight, we ride NEKKED! Wait’ll you see us tomorrow!”

We saw all kinds of bikes — road bikes, mountain bikes, unicycles, tricycles, tall bikes, pedicabs. We saw all kinds of bodies, too. Big bodies, thin bodies, girl bodies, boy bodies — and bodies we couldn’t figure. No matter. It’s not about the bodies — except, perhaps for those lining the supposedly unannounced bike route (“This is NOT a spectator sport!” the website read) where throngs of people lined the streets to cheer us on.

There were two rules: Wear shoes, and no high-fiving the cops. (They’re working.)

We were one big ol’ pile of humanity rolling through the streets of a major U.S. city! How many people can say they’ve done that! Mom?

We rode over the Willamette River and over Interstate 84, where drivers below honked their horns at the sheer number of bikes passing overhead. We were tortured by the magnificent odors emanating from a bakery and Voodoo donuts. We flew down miles of hills, ripped around corners, toured the Hollywood and Hawthorne districts, made cars wait for us at downtown intersections, grabbed a nosh at a Nepalese drive-through! The ride ended in a park where people dressed (or not) and headed off to after-ride parties.

We headed home, exhausted after a day of nothing but bicycles, bicycles. Bikes.

We were happy. We’d been sassy — gutsy, even. We were nekked! 

But today? Exhausted and sore?

I want to sell my bicycle! I want to sell it now!