The World Naked Bike Ride is a protest event where participants ride bicycles around downtown Vancouver while wearing nothing or just their underwear.
The annual event took place on July 27th in 2019. The 2020 date will likely be similar (but to be determined).
World Naked Bike Ride Day
Believe it or not, the World Naked Bike Ride is an international event that takes place in dozens of cities around the world.
According to the Vancouver bike ride’s official Facebook page, it’s a “friendly protest against car culture and oil dependency.” The international event also celebrates “body positivity”, “artistic expression”, individuality and awareness about cycling safety and the benefits of riding a bike.
Participants at the event are encouraged to wear as little as possible. Full nudity is encouraged, but not required. Some people let it all hang out. Others are slightly more modest. Some folk wear costumes, others apply body paint and others go full-out au naturel!
In some countries (including the United States), participants in World Naked Bike Ride events occasionally get arrested for indecent exposure. In Vancouver, meanwhile, on the day of the event, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get in trouble for cycling in the buff. Ride your bike without a helmet, however, and you might get a ticket!
In Vancouver, the ride is actually registered with the city as an official protest event. Consequently, the procession gets escorted by police officers on bicycles (and fully clothed in their uniforms).
The World Naked Bike Ride takes place on various days in different cities. In Vancouver it usually happens in either June or July and it’s free to participate in.
Vancouver’s Naked Bike Ride Event
In 2019 Vancouver’s edition of the World Naked Bike Ride took place on Saturday, July 27th.
Participants at the Vancouver event start to gather on the lawn at Sunset Beach on Beach Avenue (between Bute and Thurlow) at around noon. Police officers and the occasional keener get there early. The rest of the crowds slowly arrive between 12:00 and 2:00 pm.
If you arrive right at noon you likely won’t see much, apart from perhaps the occasional naked man walking around, plus the usual Sunset Beach crowds. By around 1:00 or 1:30 the field is starting to fill up. A band plays live music, participants apply body paint and sunscreen, and hundreds of onlookers gather around with their cameras.
Some onlookers hang out with the naked participants. Others watch from a distance. Some cyclists keep their underwear on until the last minute. Others wear nothing but their socks and shoes.
By 2 o’clock, which is the official starting time for the ride, up to as many as 100 people are ready with their bikes. Hundreds more have their cameras in hand.
The average cycling participant is middle-aged and male, although adults of all shapes and ages can be seen wandering around in the buff. We guestimate that men outnumber women by as much as 10 to 1. Most people are completely naked and on bicycles. A small number are in their underwear. We saw at least one person on roller blades.
The Bike Route
The bike riding starts at 2 o’clock. Led by the police escort, the procession starts along the seawall cycling path towards English Bay.
The cyclists ride their bikes by English Bay Beach and past Denman Street before turning down a side road on their way to Robson Street. They then cycle down Robson, up Granville Street, across the Granville Street Bridge and over to Granville Island.
From Granville Island the procession heads east, goes over the Cambie Street Bridge and then makes its way back to Sunset Beach.
In total the route is less than 10 km. Throughout the trip, the riders stay together as a group and go at a fairly leisurely pace.
Observations About the Event
We attended the event in 2019 and made the following observations:
- As mentioned above, participants are overwhelmingly male (which isn’t actually surprising).
- Participants come in all shapes, adult ages and sizes (which also isn’t surprising).
- One corporation sent a company team. It was LUSH, the soap company, and their members handed out soap samples. The staff members were identifiable by their black aprons with the LUSH logos (and bare butts at the back).
- When we went we were concerned we might stick out and feel awkward with our camera (which we needed to cover the event). Surprisingly to us, we didn’t stick out at all in the end – we were surrounded by hundreds of other people with cameras (and very few of them were media). We were also among the majority of people who attended fully clothed.
- We were surprised at the willingness of so many of the participants to pose for selfies and group photos with the onlookers.
- We were also surprised at the absence of tan lines on so many of the cycling participants. Most of the protesters appeared to be either 100% white or 100% tanned.
- The flock of nudies certainly surprised a lot of unsuspecting tourists and local folk who just happened to be walking or cycling in the Sunset Beach area and other places along the route. At least some bewildered tourists no doubt now assume that this sort of thing is a regular occurrence in Vancouver.
- As one might expect, people wearing nothing but socks, shoes and bike helmets can look pretty funny. The sights put a lot of smiles on onlookers’ faces.
And here’s a piece of trivia: Did you know that it’s not illegal for women to go topless in public? Nobody (or almost nobody) ever does. It’s not a crime to do so though. Not wearing anything on the bottom half of one’s body, however, will get you in trouble with the law (unless you are participating in the World Naked Bike Ride).
Tips and Advice
Below is some extra information to help you make the most out of your World Naked Bike Ride experience.
TIP #1: If you don’t approve of this kind of thing or don’t want to see dozens of naked people on bikes, avoid Sunset Beach between noon and around 2:15 pm on the day of the event.
TIP #2: If driving in downtown Vancouver on the afternoon of the event, don’t be surprised to see lots of naked people riding their bikes through the streets. Especially if you’re behind the wheel, don’t stare, and definitely don’t close your eyes! Keep your eyes on the road and drive extra carefully!
TIP #3: If participating as a cyclist, don’t forget to wear a helmet and sunscreen. Spray-on sunscreen with an extra high SPF rating in particular is recommended. You’ll also want to wear shoes and bring a back pack to carry your things in. Something soft and washable to cover your bicycle seat with is also a good idea.
TIP #4: If participating as a cyclist, be aware that there will be hundreds of people at Sunset Beach with their cameras. If you don’t want to appear buck naked on social media, keep your clothes on or wear a disguise.
TIP #5: If attending the start of the event as an onlooker, respect the privacy of the participants. Yes, everyone is taking photos. Before going up to someone and taking your selfie beside them, however, ask for permission. Also, if standing anywhere near a naked person, don’t be upset if a photo of you also appears somewhere on social media.
TIP #6: In addition to cyclists having to wear helmets, the ride has a few rules. As outlined on the event’s official Facebook page, an important one is the following: “Don’t grope, touch, or ogle other peoples’ parts and please don’t bring yours or theirs up as a topic of conversation with someone you don’t know.”
TIP #7: The event takes place rain or shine. If the weather is cool or there is a chance of precipitation, pack something warm to put on at the end.
For more information about the event see the Vancouver World Naked Bike Ride‘s Facebook page.
If you want to hang out naked in public, but at a venue that’s less public and with fewer cameras, then you might want to check out Wreck Beach. It’s Vancouver’s world-famous nude beach located at the edge of the University of British Columbia.
Other articles you might be interested in include the following:
- Vancouver’s June, July or August Calendars of Events
- Lower Mainland Festivals & Events
- Vancouver’s Top Beaches (where clothing isn’t optional)
- Best Places for a Job, Walk or Cycle
- Vancouver’s Top 100 Places
- Vancouver Cycling Races (of the full-clothing kind)