“Do you wanna go to the Naked Bike Ride?”
That question caught me by surprise initially. It was only my third day at Temple so far and the Naked Bike Ride was as unfamiliar as it was surprising.
I answered yes impulsively, hoping to get a better idea of what it was before my friends and I got there.
Scavenging through boxes of clothes, I suddenly felt uneasy about the one dress I had left behind. Fitted and with the tags still on, I never wore it before, and for good reason.
Every time I tried it on, I saw each crevice of my body: instead of feeling beautiful, I felt insecure. In a dress meant to make me feel good, I felt awful.
And if I hadn’t worn it once before, then I certainly wasn’t going to bring it to Temple with me.
The dress had entirely escaped my mind until that moment that I was getting ready, and even then I hid it in the back of my head as we left for the race.
The Naked Bike Ride is a 10-mile ride throughout the city where the bicyclists wear little-to-no clothing while riding in public, save for some glitter or body paint.
The display of nudity aims to challenge beauty standards and demonstrate that all bodies are beautiful, as well as promoting the use of environmentally clean transportation.
The activity felt honest, exciting and above all else, important: to our planet, our community and even me—someone who still had that dress looming in the back of her head.
In a matter of moments, my confusion about the Naked Bike Ride turned into excitement.
As we came closer to the location of the race, my friends and I were startled by a blurry, flesh-colored figure rode quickly toward us. Originally expecting a few crazy bicyclists, we were bombarded by hundreds of naked people riding bikes and rollerblading through the streets of Philadelphia.
One thing I’ve noticed, and can’t let go of, is that this group was clearly a community.
They uplifted each other and watched out for everyone’s safety. The first three participants halted the group at the intersection we were waiting at and blocked traffic to make sure the coast was clear. Car horns honked in support of the riders, and they were noticeably uplifted.
With messages such as “I am enough” and “More ass, less gas” painted across the chest of these activists, my friends and I were paralyzed with applause and cheers for the people with enough confidence to show their body to an entire city.
That energy was so powerful and infectious. I felt inspired all the way from the sidewalk, and all of my anxieties melted away in the warm August air.
I understood the point of the Naked Bike Ride: to not be ashamed of the body you came in, to embrace it and be comfortable with yourself. That’s something that I desperately needed to learn.
Thinking about that dress I chose not to bring, I wish I could go back with the insight I have now.
At the time it made me feel uncomfortable, even constricted, but this experience at the Naked Bike Ride has shown me that there’s power in the perception of my own body.
Maybe I need someone to support me and be there for me next time I try on that dress, just like the encouragement the bikers gave each other.
But in the meantime, I might buy another dress until I get to try that other one on again.
Thanks to an impromptu trip to a naked bike race, I haven’t been able to shake this wave of body positivity that crashed over me.
Everytime my mind goes back to that day, I think about this new rush of confidence within me, and I smile.