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Brighton Naked Bike Ride 2017 – Freshness

25 Nov 2017

Since the earliest World Naked Bike Ride events in the UK, US and Netherlands on 12 June 2004, the phenomenon has spread to six continents and dozens of countries. The UK itself now has rides in more than twenty towns and cities yet, up to the end of last year, I had personally only participated in London. It was time to go further, so the day after London Naked Bike Ride 2017, Esther and I caught a train to Brighton.


Welcome to the Brighton Naked Bike Ride

On the Level

The ride was due to leave The Level at 1:30pm so we aimed to get there half an hour before. A discreet enclosure for bike ride participants was at the north end of the park but we found naked people roaming about freely elsewhere – not least our good friend Rodger, ready with his sketchpad for impromptu life drawing opportunities – whilst live skiffle-metal-reggae-punk was being rocked out by the semi-clad Phantom Limbs.


Phantom Limbs… and roaming Rodger – © Darren Smith

A small team of volunteer organisers stood at the enclosure’s entrance to welcome us as participants and deter any voyeurs. We found the area already pretty crowded, with few clear places to drop the bikes. Nonetheless, we made ourselves at home, starting to undress and decorate; in contrast to London, I went entirely without paints but gave Esther a pro-Jeremy Corbyn ‘Jez’ on her front and a Spirited Bodies on her back.


Gathering in the bike compound


Preparations underway – © ecalpemos


Model and artist, always on duty

The weather in London had been idyllic, yet here by the seaside, just 24-hours later, it was patchy at best and not getting any warmer. Our only hope was that cycling would keep us fired-up. It wasn’t until around quarter to two that a noisier hubbub indicated it was time for us to move out. The enclosure’s mesh walls were taken down and slowly 600 nude bikers started syphoning off towards the south-east corner of the park.


Leaving The Level


Leaving the sunshine – © Reeeef

Down to the pier

Sheer weight of numbers meant it took almost ten minutes just to clear the footpaths around the east and north edges of The Level. Our speeds increased when at last we emerged onto open highway at Ditching Road and set a course south to the seafront, following St Peter’s Place, Waterloo Place, Richmond Place, Grand Parade, Pavilion Parade and Old Steine.


Accompanying the sound system down Ditching Road


Turn right at the Phoenix


We can see the sea!

Our friends Chas and Cy – and many other familiar folk from the London rides – were among our number. The mood was buoyant, but personally I was more subdued than had been the case in London. No waving, whooping or whistle-blowing in Brighton for me. Feeling more of a guest in this town, I was satisfied simply to observe and enjoy the occasion as played out by the locals.


Ah, a first taste of that fresh coastal wind


Chas sporting proper English gentleman’s beachwear – © Graham Brown

Chilling on Hove Lawns

After we’d turned onto King’s Road in front of Brighton Pier, the sun took one last look at us then disappeared for a long rest behind murky white clouds. In place of its warm attention, we were buffeted raw by bitter winds. Maybe the joy of being beside the sea distracted us from these conditions at first, but the further west we went – from King’s Road to Kingsway – the more we cringed against the relentless chill.


Towards the charred skeleton of Brighton’s old West Pier


Passing the ghastly ‘British Airways i360’

Upon arriving at the area of Hove Lawns nearest The Lawns Cafe, it was time for us to take the first of two planned rest breaks. We lay down our bikes and huddled together on the grass for warmth. A shower of blessings upon the young guy who saw we were cold and offered a blanket to put around our shoulders. We would be lingering here for almost 20 minutes, so its woollen sheltering embrace felt like heaven.


Chilly times on Hove Lawns


Pre-blanket, cuddling for warmth (any excuse!) – © Chris

From Hove to Brighton

Towards the end of our time on Hove Lawns, Esther nipped to the loos and must have been inside only a matter of seconds when the whole ride began moving off again. By the time she emerged, I was a solitary naked figure holding two bikes in the middle of a field. Having tired of the cold, she sensibly pulled on her cardigan and leggings, and together we hared off in pursuit of the vanishing pack.


Covered up on cold Kingsway


Leaving the coast for now


A pause on St Aubyns

The next leg of our route started along the seafront at Hove, turned right at St Aubyns, and right again into Church Road. So began a long return via busy retail streets to the centre of Brighton. Church Road led into Western Road, which in turn took us through a bus lane to North Street, then a right down Ship Street, a left fork onto Prince Albert Street, continuing along Bartholemews, around and down Little East Street.


JEZ WE CAN! Another Corbynite on Western Road


A bit freezing, a bit sun-pinked, but still smiling

It says something for the people of Brighton that whereas Londoners – or, more likely, London tourists – cheered us all around the capital, the south coast’s stout residents remained coolly impassive. Several hundred naked people cycling in the town centre? Meh… whatever. There were pockets of approval but I suspect our protest against car culture and oil dependency was largely preaching to the converted here.


Turning south-east on North Street


Back towards the seafront on Ship Street

Old Steine Gardens

With scant enthusiasm, we turned left from Little East Street to the cold-blown King’s Road again. Not for too long, however, as a left turn onto Old Steine led us toward the second of our planned stops, at Old Steine Gardens. We found the Phantom Limbs had relocated to serenade us beside the fountain here, and we found Rodger too, with yet more opportunist art in mind…


Back into the biting breeze


Choose your wheels


Phantom Limbs – electric bass and flip-flips

Arty interlude

A few years ago Rodger, toyed with the idea of staging an inversion of clothing and nudity between genders in Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe by Édouard Manet. Now finding he and I were naked, with Esther dressed, he smartly realised his chance. Wine was already poured, Cy would kindly take the photo, we shifted into position, and duly improvised: Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe revisited.


Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe – Édouard Manet


Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe revisited – © Cy Wol / Rodger

The Lanes

After about half an hour amid capers at the gardens, we got back on our bikes and set off from St James’s Street, north along Old Steine, taking an age to cross the junction with Marlborough Place before continuing north on Gloucester Place and sweeping left into Gloucester Street. Another left into Sydney Street began our descent through The Lanes on Kensington Street, North Road, Jubilee Street at 4pm, and New Road.


Upstaging the Royal Pavilion on Old Steine


Musical accompaniment


Ye Olde King and Queen on Marlborough Place


Into the Lanes on Sydney Street


Brand new buildings, same old backsides on Jubilee Street

East through Kemptown

Emerging from The Lanes at North Street, we veered left and continued on into Castle Square, then back along St James’s Street, crossing Old Steine twice. From here we started a long ride east through the Kemptown area, heading down Upper St James’s Street, Bristol Road and St George’s Road. Whether we were now more sheltered, or perhaps encouraged by the impending finish, somehow we felt warmer and cheerier.


Eastbound on St James’s Street – © Graham Brown


More smiles on St James’s Street


Sunshine returns as we hasten to the beach

Naturism

Eaton Place was our right turn off St George’s Road, down towards the sea again and back into sunshine – at last! We travelled a short way east on Marine Parade before a hairpin turn sent us freewheeling down Duke’s Mound, and one final switchback at the bottom put us on Madeira Drive. Half a mile later, we reached Blackrock Car Park and Volk’s Electric Railway station – the end! Hooray!!


Going down on Duke’s Mound


Madeira Drive – the last leg


Made it! Blackrock car park, by the beach


Outside Volk’s Electric Railway station – absolutely bloody freezing

It was about twenty past four – a bit over two and half hours and 13.7km since we had left the The Level. Now at our journey’s end, we found ourselves on Brighton Naturist Beach. With great glee, many of our fellow riders hobbled off across the pebbles for a celebratory dip in the waves, but Esther and me… well, all we wanted now was to get back into our clothes, warm up with a hot meal, and share a nice bottle of wine.


Going for a dip? No, thank you!

The organisers reckoned that of the 600 people who started this ride, just 500 made it to the finish. Perhaps the cold got too much for those who dropped out. We all craved more sunshine, yet even with cloud cover I managed to get horribly burned – it’s likely I’d lost all the natural protective oils from my skin when soaping off body paint the day before. This whole weekend had been a learning experience. Brighton – I’ll be back!

From → Causes

2 Comments
  1. ournaturistblog permalink

    Reblogged this on OUR NATURIST BLOG and commented:
    A great article about this years ride by some very nice guys we happened to be standing next to in the enclosure.

  2. Reblogged this on Naturalian’s Blog and commented:
    A real story of the ride!

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