The World Naked Bike Ride is a protest event where participants ride bicycles around downtown Vancouver while wearing nothing or just their underwear.
The event has taken place anywhere from late June to August in the last few years. In 2023 it happened on Saturday, July 8th.
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. That’s unfortunate! 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, most years at least, the ride is actually registered with the city as an official protest event. Consequently, the procession gets escorted by police officers on bicycles (and they are 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. The 2020 event occurred on August 8th. In 2021 the event moved back to earlier in the summer, to June 12th. In 2022 the World Naked Bike Ride happened on June 25th. In 2023 it was on Saturday, June 24th.
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Vancouver’s Naked Bike Ride Event
On July 8th, 2023, the World Naked Bike Ride event began at 12:00 pm at Sunset Beach. The actual bike ride was at about 2:00 pm. As always, the event was free to attend.
If you arrive right at the start you likely won’t see much most years, apart from perhaps the occasional naked man walking around, plus the usual beach crowds. The area starts to fill up over the course of the first half hour. In a typical year 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.
The Participants Themselves
By the time the bike ride is set to start, up to as many as 100 people are usually ready with their bikes. A few hundred more have their cameras in hand.
The average cycling participant is middle-aged and male. Adults of all shapes and ages, however, can be seen wandering around in the buff. We guestimate that men outnumber women by as much as 10 to 1. Most participants are completely naked and on bicycles. A small number are in their underwear. Some years there will be one or two people on roller blades instead of bicycles.
The Bike Route (Past and Present)
In 2019 the bike ride went from Sunset Beach to Robson Street and then to Granville Island via Granville Street. From there it headed east, crossed the Cambie Street Bridge, and then headed back to Sunset Beach. In 2020 the route began at Third Beach in Stanley Park.
The 2021 route was likely similar to the 2019 version, but we’re not sure. Participants found out on the day (and we didn’t attend). In 2022 the route was likely similar as well. The total length of the ride was around 8 to 10 km. The event takes place no matter the weather, rain or shine.
The Route in 2020
We’re not sure why the ride started at Third Beach in Stanley Park instead of Sunset Beach, but it did. It could have been because road access to Sunset Beach was restricted due to partial road closures in the area in response to COVID-19. It could also have been due to the roads in Stanley Park becoming extra bicycle-friendly, also due to initiatives undertaken in response to the pandemic.
2019 Route (and Maybe 2023)
The bike riding started at 2 o’clock in 2019. Led by the police escort, the procession began along the seawall cycling path towards English Bay.
The cyclists rode their bikes by English Bay Beach and past Denman Street before turning down a side road on their way to Robson Street. They then cycled down Robson, up Granville Street, across the Granville Street Bridge and over to Granville Island.
From Granville Island the procession headed east, went over the Cambie Street Bridge and then made its way back to Sunset Beach.
In total the route was less than 10 km. Throughout the trip, the riders stay together as a group and go at a fairly leisurely pace.
We’re not sure if the route has been totally the same in the years since. It might have been the same, or maybe slightly different.
Observations About the Event
We attended the event in 2019 (fully clothed) and made the following observations:
- Participants are overwhelmingly male and come in all shapes, adult ages and sizes.
- When we went to cover the event we were concerned we might stick out and feel awkward with our camera. Surprisingly, we didn’t actually stick out at all – 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 photos with the onlookers. We were also surprised at the absence of tan lines on so many of the cycling participants.
- The flock of nudies certainly surprises a lot of unsuspecting tourists and local folk who just happen to be in the area. 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 in Canada? 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 information to help you make the most out of your naked cycling experience.
TIP #1: If you don’t approve of this kind of thing, just avoid the area entirely on the day of the event.
TIP #2: Don’t be surprised to see lots of naked people riding their bikes through the streets if you’re driving by the area during the event. Keep your eyes on the road though and drive extra carefully!
TIP #3: For the cyclists, don’t forget to wear a helmet and sunscreen. You’ll also want a face mask, shoes and 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 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. Before going up to someone and taking your selfie beside them, 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. From the event’s official Facebook page: “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: If the weather is cool or there’s 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)