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Coventry Naked Bike Ride 2021 – Inauguration

25 Aug 2021

Coventry was due to host its first World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) on 5 June 2020, until coronavirus (COVID-19) arrived. The pandemic put all plans on hold, and meant Coventry would instead get its inaugural ride on 7 August 2021, during its year as UK City of Culture. For me personally, it would be a first-time riding on a first-time ride.

Watching the sky

Seven days before, I had been utterly drenched by heavy rain during the Folkestone Naked Bike Ride. Whilst this made for an extraordinary experience, I hadn’t relished it much at the time. Now, arriving at Canley rail station on the west side of Coventry, I was already soaked just from cycling across London to get the train. I glanced up…


1:23pm on Hearsall Common: another wet one?

…leaden skies hung heavily over our gathering point on Hearsall Common. With the start scheduled for 2pm, I was forty minutes early. About a dozen riders were present though none seemed in any hurry to undress. A forecast of rain looked accurate. This time, however, it might only be a couple of light showers. And I’d come prepared.

Common origin

With about 10 minutes left until departure, it was the familiar committed naturists who were first to go naked. My mind was still submerged in the floodwaters of Folkestone, so with a fine precipitation now upon us, I waited till the last moment before removing all except my sandals, cap and… an anorak. That stayed. Purists be damned.


1:54pm on Hearsall Common: riders undress

By 2pm, I reckon our number had roughly doubled. Reports later claimed we were 50 strong, though I would have estimated nearer the 30 mark. A mere 5 minutes late, we rolled off the common and onto Beechwood Avenue. Inclement conditions did nothing to dampen the merry cheers of participants and well-wishers alike.


2:06pm on Beechwood Avenue: we begin!


2:07pm on Beechwood Avenue: me on the right, anorak’d

Suburbia

From our low-key start point well outside the city centre, we would sweep unhurriedly down and around through suburbs before hitting the heart of town. Full credit goes to the organisers for this intelligent piece of planning; don’t cause a stir at the beginning or end, don’t peak too early, make time to get a feel for the ride, riders and public.


2:08pm on Beechwood Avenue: round the houses


2:11pm on Beechwood Avenue: left into Rochester Road

Our first suburb was Earlsdon. We went left from Beechwood Avenue into residential Rochester Road, then to Radcliffe Road, then Earlsdon Street. We cycled past shops and houses, but our protest went largely unobserved as the damp weather kept most locals indoors. Passing motorists couldn’t help but see, however, and tooted support.


2:13pm on Earlsdon Street: our first few shops


2:14pm on Earlsdon Street: the watchmakers’ clock

Southern loop

At the north end of Earlsdon Street, where a four-faced clock stands on a roundabout to honour the local watchmaking trade, we headed right. This took us down Earlsdon Avenue South to begin what would be a mile-and-a-half loop: south, then east and all the way north into central Coventry.


2:19pm on Earlsdon Avenue South: our southernmost point


2:24pm on Warwick Road: heading back north

We turned left at the leafy junction with Kenilworth Road, then left again into Warwick Road. Here the rain fleetingly intensified from spits to a light shower before easing off again and seeming to peter out. Perhaps the anorak would soon be gone. Meanwhile our route was now leading us alongside dystopian glass-clad office blocks.


2:27pm on Warwick Road: first sight of cathedral spires


2:28pm on Warwick Road: crossing the rainbow

Church and state

Where Warwick Road becomes New Union Street, we traversed Coventry’s first (and perhaps only) LGBTQ+ rainbow crossing. We passed The Wave water park, went left into Little Park Street, swung by the central police station and advanced on the grand old façade of Coventry City Council offices, lurking beneath wronged cathedral spires.


2:29pm on New Union Street: passing The Wave


2:30pm on New Union Street: at Coventry Central police station


2:32pm on Little Park Street: Coventry Cathedral spire glares down


2:32pm on Earl Street: quite fancy, as council buildings go

Eastern loop

After one last fleeting flurry, the spitting rain abated. I was now waiting only for a brief halt that would give me the few seconds I needed to get properly naked. Of course, it took an age to come. First, at the council building we headed right into Earl Street, on to Jordan Well, left into Cox Street then under the Elephant Building to Fairfax Street.


2:33pm on Jordan Well: our eastern loop


2:36pm on Fairfax Street: under Britannia Hotel


2:37pm on Fairfax Street: towards the Whittle Arch

Passing under the Whittle Arch – an aesthetic pleasantry amid urban grimness – we turned south down Trinity Street and pierced the city’s heart. With no rain falling, I felt even more self-conscious about not being naked on a naked bike ride. Still there was no pause for me to do anything about it. C’mon, c’mon…


2:38pm on Trinity Street: still in that blasted anorak

Heart of the city

As much of the city centre is pedestrianised, we only dabbled our tyres on its surface. After Trinity Street we turned right onto Ironmonger Row, then took another swift right to swing back north along Cross Cheaping and The Burges. A left turn at the top took us arcing back down around Corporation Street.


2:39pm on Ironmonger Row: heartland – © gerikdr


2:39pm on Cross Cheaping: northbound again

About halfway along Corporation Street, we slowed just enough that I could stop for a few seconds, hastily strip off my anorak and stuff it unceremoniously under the spring clamp at the rear of my bike, then rejoin the ride before the tail passed me by. Oh, the joy to be naked at last! Finally I had become a credible participant.


2:40pm on Corporation Street: a non-participating police cyclist


2:45pm on Greyfriars Road: a 360° turn

Corporation Street led into Queen Victoria Road, which led into Greyfriars Road. Our route had already carried us once across the mini roundabout where Greyfriars Road meets Warwick Road. This time we completed a full circuit to backtrack up Greyfriars Road… Queen Victoria Road… Corporation Street, as far as Belgrade square.


2:45pm on Greyfriars Road: nakedness now achieved


2:46pm on Greyfriars Road: our CWNBR marshal, Ken

Belgrade break

At Belgrade Square, outside the Belgrade Theatre, we dismounted for a short break from our saddles. By now it was about ten to three. A young employee emerged from the theatre and told me she reckoned it was brilliant, what we were doing, but asked: “Will you be here long? Only we’ve got families about to arrive for a children’s party.


2:52pm on Belgrade Square: all bare with ‘Princess Running Bare’ – © gerikdr

Every naked bike ride is clear about the law and the rights of individuals to be naked. Equally, none I’ve attended has ever sought to cause specific offence or controversy. It’s enough to be seen to convey our messages of protest and celebration. I assured her we would be leaving in a few minutes. Duly, in under five minutes we were gone.


2:55pm on Belgrade Square: no offence intended


2:57pm on Upper Well Street: back in the saddle

Northern loop

When we left Belgrade Square, we also said farewell to the city centre. We were now headed back to the suburbs, northwest on Upper Well Street and Radford Road, into the Daimler Green area as far as its junction with Engleton Road. Here, we went left and carried on deep down into Moseley Avenue.


3:03pm on Radford Road: law-abiding


3:09pm on Engleton Road: Stan flies the flag


3:11pm on Moseley Avenue: waving to our public – © gerikdr

The public response to our spectacle had been a curious mix. Overwhelmingly we got encouragement, cheers and applause; much rarer were the unenlightened sour-faced stares or loutish jeers. Most endearing were looks of open-jawed astonishment, whilst at Hoochie on Moseley Avenue, they were crazy for us! I think we made their day.


3:12pm on Moseley Avenue: a Hoochie selfie reflection


3:22pm on Queensland Avenue: ‘Laddie Godiva’

Back to the common

Moseley Road became Four Pounds Avenue, which led into Queensland Avenue and thence to Earlsdon Avenue North. After meandering its full length we found ourselves back at the roundabout with the watchmakers’ four-faced clock. All the way round we went, and immediately retraced our tracks along Earlsdon Avenue North.


3:25pm on Earlsdon Avenue North: southbound first


3:26pm on Earlsdon Avenue North: O’Toole’s, we’ve got lots


3:28pm on Earlsdon Avenue North: in the Govida spirit

Hooking left at the top of Earlsdon Avenue North, we cycled along Hearsall Common; not the grassy area but a road of the same name on its northern edge. Here a jogger at the opposite side of the road cheered us on and kept pace with us for a time, even chatting with a lead riders. She was our last great supporter before the finishing line.


3:33pm on Hearsall Common: with our supportive jogger


3:35pm on Canley Road: the end’s in view

History made

We veered off to Canley Road and down onto Beechwood Avenue where, at 3:36pm, we were finally back where we started, 90 minutes before. In completing the circuit at Hearsall Common, each rider had contributed to a little piece of history. Coventry had witnessed its first ever official World Naked Bike Ride. You’re welcome.


3:36pm on Beechwood Avenue: finished

Congratulations to the organisers on devising an excellent route and managing to get everyone around safetly without incident. If I could offer one suggestion it would be to allow a 60-second pause every 10 or 15 minutes, just so riders can sort out problems without being left behind. But this is no complaint – I hope to see you all next year!

Our route from Hearsall Common and back

More on WNBR Coventry 2021

WNBR is a worldwide campaign that demonstrates the vulnerability of cyclists and protests against car culture. Its linked objectives are to:

  1. protest against the global dependency on oil
  2. curb car culture
  3. obtain real rights for cyclists
  4. demonstrate the vulnerability of cyclists on city streets
  5. celebrate body freedom

From → Causes

One Comment
  1. Ironic that Coventry, Lady Godiva’s town, has taken till now to have a Naked Bike Ride.

    Thanks for sharing these posts on rides.

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