Weather didn’t deter bikers from showing up and showing out at Milwaukee’s second annual World Naked Bike Ride on Saturday.
As clouds rolled in over the city, over 200 riders still congregated to celebrate the city’s nudist event of the summer. The clothing-optional, “bare as you dare” bike ride began at 4 p.m., with the route passing the Milwaukee Art Museum, the War Memorial Center and going around the Lakeshore State Park twice.
“This is a rain or shine event. So unless there is a tornado in the city, we’ll ride!” organizers told participants ahead of the event.
The Milwaukee Naked Bike Ride joins a worldwide movement that has taken place in over 200 cities from London to Madison. First held in 2004 in Canada, the event was created by social activist, filmmaker and writer Conrad Schmidt to protest against oil dependency and to celebrate the human body.
The message has since been simplified. “Love your body, love yourself” and “Less gas, more ass” are the popular slogans for the new generation of nude riders.
“I feel honored to be here,” said Kurt Ide, a Milwaukee resident who participated in the city’s first ride last year. “We’re bringing everybody together for good. There’s so much negative in this world so we get together as a community (against) big oil companies and to promote equality.”
The city’s bike ride attracted more than just locals. Mark Hartman, a 64-year-old Florida resident, has attended naked bike rides in Madison, Austin, Chicago and New Orleans.
“The best part of it is seeing the reactions from the spectators. A lot of them expect us, and this ride is, of course, well promoted,” Hartman said. “With some other rides, you’re catching people by surprise. The funniest thing I’ve ever seen, which was last week in Madison, was a guy covering this kid’s eyes with one hand and videoing us with the other!”
Organizer John Jankowski first attended a World Naked Bike Ride in St. Louis, where the event leaders place a strong importance on body acceptance. After seeing their ride in action, he realized it was just the kind of movement that Milwaukee needed. And sure enough, there was interest from residents.
Jankowski and his team of volunteers worked for over a year to put together a safe route, plan event festivities and find a venue to host bike riders. They’ve already begun preparations for next year.
“We’re very transparent. There’s other bicycle rides around the country that will start in an alley or start in somebody’s backyard. You get that kind of naughty feeling,” Jankowski explained. “We’re not about that. When I started this, you can see the name, the location, the date. We’re inclusive of everyone. There are people from all walks of life that are nudists!”
The pre-ride event held at Enlightened Brewing Company featured yoga, a live band and, notably, over a dozen local vendors.
Rachel Duggan, a Milwaukee-based illustrator and owner of RADillustrates, decided to set up a booth at the event to offer her custom “booty” portraits. Duggan noted that the event seemed like it would have the perfect clientele for her business, although she was more accustomed to receiving photo references than real-life models.
“This is my first nudist event… Typically with the events I do, people will wear their favorite jeans or a dress. For nude portraits, they’ll order online,” Duggan said. “But people are so comfortable here, and I’ve been made to feel comfortable however I dress or undress.”
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: World Naked Bike Ride 2002 comes to Milwaukee