Thousands of scantily clad and birthday-suit-wearing cyclists will take to the streets this Saturday, Sept. 8, for the annual Philadelphia Naked Bike Ride (PNBR). Kicking off at 5 p.m., the event will stretch across 9.4 miles of the city, serving as a way to promote body positivity, cycling advocacy, and fuel-conservation consciousness.
Now in its 10th year, PNBR is a tradition that Matt Deifer, who's been participating for seven years and organizes the body-painting portion of the event, enjoys so much he now flies across the country to participate. Deifer moved to Los Angeles in the spring of 2017, making this the second year that he'll travel back to Philadelphia to enjoy the festivities. While his enthusiasm is contagious, Deifer understands that stripping down in public doesn't come easy to everyone.
"It's bare as you dare," explains Deifer. "There's no pressure to show up naked. You can wear as little or as much as you want — whatever you feel comfortable with."
Want to join in? The clothing-optional bike ride — which also welcomes skateboarders, Rollerbladers, and even joggers — is free to attend, and welcomes anyone with an upbeat attitude, whether buck naked or fully clothed. The route is released 24 hours before the start time, and the festivities always begin with the option to get body painted beginning at 2:30 p.m.
"If you're nervous, just a little paint can totally change your mentality," says Deifer. "It accents the body, and makes you feel spirited and celebrated."
This year's event is set two include two body-painting areas at the start that will open at 2:30 p.m. A large DIY body-paint station will invite participants to color themselves, while another area will host a dozen or so professional body painters who are ready to bring your visions to life or suggest art of their own.
Often, riders will sport painted messages symbolizing the meaning behind PNBR. In the past, phrases have included "We are all one color," "All I want for xmas are safer streets," "Every body is beautiful," and "Watch for bikes please."
"You can even wear a face mask if you're concerned about your identity getting out there," says Ron Ashworth, a PNBR street team captain who helps to facilitate a smooth ride and make sure riders get through intersections safely. "It's always an eclectic group — people decked out in paint, people wearing unicorn heads, people in all states of undress — who are brought together through one single commonality, the joy of bike riding."
Ashworth, a PNBRer of four years, estimates that last year around 30 percent of participants rode full-on naked while 30 to 40 percent kept on a pair of underwear, and the remainder showed up partially or fully outfitted. If you're considering the first option but are concerned about the comfort of your privates, Ashworth assures that you needn't be concerned.
"If you're riding a bike properly, you're sitting on an area where your bone structure all comes together, not directly on your genitals," notes Ashworth. "Whether you're riding naked or whether you're riding clothed, it shouldn't be something that's going to hurt."
But what about the legality of the event? Is it legal to bear it all during the ride?
While laws do exist against indecent exposure and lewdness, fortunately for participants, there are no legalities specifically against nudity itself.
"As a group, PNBR is basically an artistic protest statement that isn't going to fall into the realm of indecent exposure," says Ashworth, who notes that organizers get city officials and the police involved in the planning process every year. "A large group, versus one guy running around, makes it more of a movement and a statement."
The past nine rides have gone without incident, and this year, a police car will ride at both the front and the back of the group for added safety.
"Anyone that rides knows that it's one of the greatest feelings when you can bike and don't have to worry about cars," says Anthony Pasceri, who will join PNBR for his third time this year. "There's a ton of camaraderie, people often bring music, and we get to own the street that day."
Those who participate are invited to join fellow cyclists at an official after-party — another clothing-optional event — at Warehouse On Watts. The party kicks off at 7:30 p.m. and will include food trucks, a cash bar, and DJ-spun tunes. Tickets are $12 (plus fees), and are available online.
"It's just a ridiculously fun, weird thing to do, with a message that celebrates both the beauty of cycling and the human body," says seven-time participant Cyn Why. "There's something to be said that if you do it once, it kind of influences your ability to do other things — like, if I stumble on the street, I'm not as embarrassed because all of Philadelphia has already seen my boobs."