In life, sometimes, you need to go so far outside of your comfort zone you may not be able to go back.
Last summer, on a hot mid June afternoon, I went that far.
The day had started innocently enough. My wake up run followed by boxing chased with a bagel and large coffee before sitting down to get some writing done. I found it hard to focus that day so instead of flogging a dead horse I decided to find something else to do.
The World Naked Bike Ride was something else.
And it was starting in a few hours. And there was already a Couchsurfing event dedicated to it. I clicked attend, threw my phone number online and hopped on a bus to Silverlake.
Now I had never really done this sort of thing before. My English reserve made sure of that. But I figured I had nothing else to do and I would always wonder about it were I not to go.
When I got to Silverlake my first job was to get a bike from somewhere. I wandered around for a bit trying to find a bike rental place. Before learning that none were close by. As I was walking back up the main street a second time a small mechanics caught my eye. He had four or five bikes sitting in the garage. So I asked if they were for sale.
He said they were all for sale. And just choose the one I wanted. In the end the bike chose me. A deep red, Raleigh six speed bike. Complete with pannier mounts, a completely worn front tire, brakes that didn’t really brake and a seat that was unadjustable and locked in its lowest position. The bike seemed to call out to me. Saying “I want you to take your clothes of and ride me through this damn city.”
“How much for the red one?”
I walked the bike to the starting address. It did not feel right to ride her yet.
Arriving at around noon. Half an hour before the start time. I don’t know how many people I was expecting to be there but there were only twelve. I looked round and a wave of panic swept me off my feet. Was this it. You can’t have a naked bike ride with twelve people.
I walked up to a guy who was topless and asked if this was it. He said they were expecting around three hundred people. I then figured out that in my rush to get to Silverlake I had misread the start time. The wave of panic subsided.
Sure enough more people began to show up and pretty soon the garden we met in was packed. I stripped down to my shorts and got some body paint.
“One more bike”. I got talking to a guy called David (he did this for the rush kind of an adrenaline junkie) and another guy called Mau (the guy to girl ratio was a cool 60:1). The three of us were stood topless chatting.
Right before we left we were given a safety talk. Don’t do anything offensive. And there is a possibility you can get arrested but we are banking on the fact that there are 300 of us and no-one wants to deal with 300 naked people so we should be golden.
There was a five minute countdown. We stripped off. I think that was the hardest part that leap from shorts to full frontal.
We were off.
A pack of naked people whooping and hollering as we cruised around LA. People would take photos of us at stop lights. People would cheer us on as we burnt past them. When you ride a bike naked the line between man and machine blurs. Your thighs begin to chafe against the seat. The body paint begins to sweat off, dripping onto the crossbars.
By the twelfth mile I realized why this was a once a year thing my legs felt like they were on fire. My hands and chest were slick with sweat and my bike was locked into the fifth gear making going uphills a nightmare!
We finally made it back to the garden in Silverlake. Dan, Mau and I brought some Coronas and sat and drank and talked. Reveling in the sudden rush that can only be had when flying naked through this great city.
As for the bike?
Our relationship was brief but intense. I began to ride her to boxing every morning. That was to be short-lived though. The quirks of her character that had so attracted me at the start of our relationship were now starting to wear thin. The non-adjustable seat, the finicky brakes and the way the gears would randomly shift. It just wasn’t to be.
We broke up, but I am happy that for the briefest moment in LA she was there for me and I for her.