Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bare Naked Bike Rides

The first time I rode my bike topless was when I was six. I remember it being warm, and it being around dinnertime, since everyone's parents were out in their driveways, calling their kids home to eat. My best childhood friend, a cute and quiet boy named Eric, was sporting just a swimsuit to make trips through the neighbor's sprinklers more convenient, and when he jumped on his bike to escape his mother's demands that he come to dinner, I took my shirt off and followed him. The wind on my bare chest felt amazing as I stood on my purple pedals, sailing around the block towards my house. Though exhausted after an entire day spent in the sun, I felt like I could ride like that forever, free and naked as a bird. While I was busy grinning up at the trees, I heard our famously grouchy neighbor yell at my mother, "Hey Beth, why don't you get a shirt on that girl?" I slammed on my coaster brakes, stopping suddenly in the middle of the street as Eric zoomed out of sight. Why did Captain Killjoy say that? Did I do something wrong? He made me feel like I had, and I headed inside as fast as I could to put on my Robin (a la Batman) pajamas. I never rode bare-chested again. That is, until last Saturday.

Our friend Chris had mentioned a naked bike ride the week prior, but since the forecast called for uncomfortable temperatures in the mid 50's with a side of rain, I just assumed it was going to be one of things we talked about doing but didn't, like shopping at Trader Joe's instead of Whole Foods, or cutting back on our drinking. But thanks to Lucy the cat and her ability to rouse me from sleep by trying to suffocate me with her saggy, bald stomach, Mike and I woke up early enough to pump ourselves up for it. After filling our bellies with donuts, choosing "outfits" for the ride, and shaving the necessary body parts, we slipped on some vintage track suits from Mike's Catholic high school and headed out to the Map Room to meet our friends and down a bravery beer before biking to the secret start location (it's funny, I was much more embarrassed biking in matching red and yellow track suits than I was the entire naked ride). On the way over, I wondered how hundreds of people were going to get together, get naked, and embark on a massive group ride without being seen by the rest of Chicago. When we got there, I saw the solution was simple. What do you do with 1,000 unclothed cyclists? Like money, you put them in a hole in the ground. Voila! No spectators (except for the non-participants taking pictures. Do you take pictures of your mother with that camera?)!

Once among the crowd, I couldn't help but catch their excitement. And joy. They were the happiest group of people I had ever encountered, and they were naked in a pit in weather so miserable I thought I heard Frank McCourt narrating the scene. A couple got married. Kids started dancing. A girl fell over Mike's bike then exclaimed, genuinely, "I fucking love this day!" I stopped being nervous about freezing to death, figuring that since so many people showed up despite the chill, the ride was going to be worth it.

And, oh, it was! The adrenaline rush from biking up the first street instantly soothed my shivers and lifted my spirits. Even when we had to stop and wait for the (awesome and efficient) ride coordinators to block off the streets, I wasn't so much concerned with the cold as I was enthralled with the surrounding riders, like the guy next to me, who, after helicoptering his man parts around for a while, sighed and said, "Yeah, my mom was going to come, but she got sick." Soon after the penis helicopter landed, we made our way down the Magnificent Mile, and then cruised into Streeterville, down one of a handful of Chicago's very slight descents. Though hardly going ten miles an hour, I felt as fast and free as I did that summer day when I was six, when I ripped off my shirt and pedaled after a boy. That's when, right as we entered Lincoln Park, I pulled off my bikini top and grinned up at the trees, loving the way the wind felt on my chest.


  1. Weeeeeee!!! This time of year always makes me long for childhood and all the carefree days of summer. Whenever I think about what age I would go back to, I always say 7 - the time when our imaginations run wild, we love everyone and the world is full of magic and wonder. Love your blog Lora.

  2. Thanks for the great laugh Lora! Couldn't help but think back to our high school days and how much you've changed since then. Keep up the great work!

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