Look Mum, no pants! The rise of naked bike ride protests

Naked cyclists are protesting worldwide. Why? Simon Usborne catches up with the rear of the peloton

No Lycra could be revealing enough for the thousands of cyclists who grinned and bared it for the World Naked Bike Ride. Bells rang out in cities from Brighton to Guadalajara during a ballsy exercise in nude cycling. But as saddles and delicate-minded observers recovered, a question lingered: why?

Jesse Schust is the American-born organiser of the London ride, which drew almost 1,000 participants to the finish at Hyde Park Corner on Saturday, where camera-wielding spectators caused traffic jams. He insists naked cyclists are not naturists. “Given the opportunity to have a skinny dip, I’ll go for it,” he says. “But that’s the limit of my interest in nudity.”

Schust, 41, exposes himself not in protest against clothing but car culture, climate change and our dependency on oil. “I’ve been involved in environmental protests before,” he explains. “Increasingly I found myself burned out by the negative reception. People are sympathetic about climate change but often look on at protests with an expression of pain or sadness.” During naked bike rides, he says, “People look on with a sense of joy and amazement. Using humour and celebration as an approach in protest was a whole new thing for me.”

To make sure they offer more than an  amusing spectacle, riders bring slogans, sometimes painted on to their bodies. “I’ve had signs saying ‘curb car culture’, ‘no oil’, and  – last weekend – ‘one less car’,” Schust says.

The movement started when various naked rides united under the World Naked Bike Ride banner. The first event, in Spain in 2004, has multiplied since to take in 50 cities. Schust helped organise the first London ride in the same year, attracting 60 trailblazers. He estimates about three-quarters of riders at least finish fully nude. “Aside from it being potentially embarrassing, it’s actually a relatively discreet way to be naked in public,” he says, offering tips to anyone tempted to join in (smaller rides take place this weekend in Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff and  Canterbury). “Carry everything with you. Bring a bike that works – you don’t want a puncture – and clothes in case you need to stop to go into a shop. On a hot day you may also want some sort of towelling because you could get sweaty and create friction.”

Around 100 participants in London rode on Boris Bikes. Does the use of public bikes require special etiquette? Schust: “The advice with any borrowed bike is to cover the seat or at the end of the ride use a handwipe to clean it – just as a courtesy.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test