Ever wondered what it’s like to mountain bike without clothes? We joined a naked mountain biking group to find out.
Perusing the local paper over a morning coffee, I nearly choked when I saw the first entry in the “weekend happenings” section: a naked mountain biking group ride. Upon further reading, I discovered it was the next day, and on a section of beautiful singletrack trail that I’ve ridden over 100 times.
I’ve ridden it in the heat, pounding hail, rain, snow, gale-force winds. I’ve raced it alone and ridden slowly along with burdensome groups of over 20. “But you’ve never ridden it naked,” the voice inside my head chided.
The idea just seemed so uncomfortable. Later that day, a quick internet search turned up a testimonial from the previous iteration of the ride. The most often heard comment of the day was, “This is awesome!”
So, as a journalist, mountain biker, and father of a toddler who likes to do everything naked, I figured I needed to investigate. And I was even able to rope in a friend. I told him we were gonna go ride an awesome trail in a way that he’d never experienced before.
All told, we rode 12 miles of singletrack with a few pretty technical lava rock sections. The ride was on classic intermediate XC singletrack with a combination of tight turns, flow sections, and switchbacking ascents and descents. The group was very small (not surprising), but everyone seemed to have a great time.
12 Lessons Learned From Riding Bikes Naked
Below is one thing we learned for each mile we rode.
1. This is awesome. As soon as we started, the fears about how uncomfortable it would be went away. Things aren’t any more squished than usual down there on the seat.
2. Beware the dropper-post rebound speed. I found this out the hard way when I started a quick punch climb after our initial descent. My seat sprang back into position with enough force to slap me to attention. After a few more of these, I adjusted my tactics to keep contact with the seat as it lifted.
3. Sunscreen. This goes without saying, but unless you’re naked outside a lot, there are parts of you that will burn quickly during a naked ride. And with the breeze you create riding, you might not feel like you’re turning crispy. It felt a bit awkward asking someone to reapply sunscreen to my back as I stood there naked, but no one else seemed to think so.
4. Getting air feels so good. This was the biggest surprise compared to wearing traditional cycling shorts. Constant airflow between the legs feels so good. We pushed hard as we got more comfortable, and it was so amazing to have the sweat constantly cooling us in the breeze. And in the end, we were bold enough to start getting air in other ways too!
5. Don’t crash. This is a bit of a no-brainer, as any impact you have will be with your skin. And that skin is pretty delicate in many areas. We rode a pretty tight trail, with lots of brush in sections, and often made contact with vegetation on areas of our body that are normally covered. So we learned to adjust our riding style to avoid what we normally wouldn’t have noticed.
6. When you’re wearing only a smile — smile a lot. We met lots of other users on the trail, and, overwhelmingly, they were surprised at our nakedness. But none of the ones we met were overly offended, and almost all of them thought it was hilarious. Most interesting was when we were overtaking other riders that were slower than us. We could hear the audible surprise when they first realized we were naked.
7. Enjoy the view. Somehow, being naked made us feel more directly a part of the nature around us. And this was a wonderful feeling. I found myself taking more of the view in. And even when I was following, the landscape of the riders in front of me eventually moved from awkward to stunning. Let’s just say that it’s easy to tell if the rider ahead is using their glutes.
8. Legality. Before you strip in a public place, it’s always good to ask yourself, “Is this legal?” The initial event posting claimed it was legal in Oregon, and we confirmed. State law allows nudity in all public places and public land as a form of self-expression as long as there is no lewd and lascivious behavior. Other states have different rules. But remote riding would likely be safe from official eyes in most states.
9. To lube or not to lube, that is the question. I’m a strong believer in a good chamois lube. But what about when there’s no chamois? I did the first hour of riding with nothing and found it fine, except that on longer seated stretches my butt started to stick uncomfortably. It was reminiscent of wearing shorts on the vinyl back seats of my family car on a sweltering pre-AC car ride.
But the lube made things really slippery. Like really, really, really slippery. No friction, but also a bit less control than I’m used to. Jury’s still out on this one.
10. No pockets: Think about how you’re going to carry your stuff. With no bike shorts or pocketed jersey, even a short ride takes a bit more planning. We had a small top-tube bag that was perfect for the snacks, extra sunscreen, and a cellphone. I also had two water bottle holders, perfect for the short-ish ride on a hot day.
11. Almost naked, really. We actually weren’t completely nude, as we wore shoes (we both rode clipless pedals), helmet, and gloves. While we heard about the “purists” who ride totally nude, we had plenty of fun keeping most of our connection points (hands and feet) the same as what we’re used to. And seriously, crashing naked and without a helmet sounds like one of the most embarrassing and potentially damaging things I can imagine.
12. Sanitize. If it makes you feel better, clean your seat with a wet wipe post-ride. I’m not sure it’s necessary, but it will make me feel a little better next time I end up asking an unsuspecting buddy to load my bike onto his rack for me.
So if you’re looking for a new way to experience your local trails, I’d certainly recommend this as a weird but wonderful option. I, for one, am looking forward to taking my son Max next time. I can already hear him saying, “See, Daddy? Naked is better.” Maybe I’ll even agree with him this time.