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Brighton Naked Bike Ride 2021 – A Breeze

9 Sep 2021

My fourth and final World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) of 2021 was to be Brighton on Sunday 15 August. After the deluge on Folkestone, showers in Coventry and sunny streets of London, what would fate throw at us back on the south coast? As it turned out, rather than fickle fate it was the fickleness of Network Rail that first intervened.

With just a week’s notice, Network Rail announced emergency engineering work and replacement buses for the London to Brighton line on the day of the ride. Bugger! No way would there be space for scores of bikes on buses, so I bought a ticket to go the long way round: a 3-hour rail trip via Havant. Then… they cancelled the works! D’oh!

Park and ride

Leaving London Waterloo at 09:30, I arrived in Brighton at 12:23; a protracted journey is no problem when there’s keen anticipation. I cycled to our Preston Park start point and entered its fenced enclosure for participants. After much loitering, a spot of lunch and a bit of body painting, we were all set. The fence came down shortly before 2pm.


1:58pm in Preston Park: freedom – © Funk Dooby

We took the usual route from Preston Park. After exiting our grassy compound onto a pathway by the north side, we continued anticlockwise on wide paths around its edge. While waiting at the southern tip I suddenly realised I didn’t have my whistle! I hunted through my panniers in vain. It had gone. Arrgh! I’d left it in Green Park, London! 😦


2:01pm leaving Preston Park: off-road warm-up


2:04pm leaving Preston Park: whistle stop – © wightrider

Northern territory

Our gateway to the streets of Brighton was a left turn onto Stanford Avenue, followed by a hairpin right into Beaconsfield Road that led us downhill under a railway viaduct. Not that I knew at this stage, but compared with the last ride two years ago, the 2021 route had three changes. The first of these was an early left into Viaduct Road.


2:07pm on Stanford Avenue: onto the streets


2:09pm on Beaconsfield Road: via the viaduct…


2:12pm on Beaconsfield Road: …and now left into Viaduct

It seemed the sensible way to go. I guess there must have been roadworks or similar that forced us to stay on Beaconsfield last time and go left at narrower Oxford Street. Either way, we emerged right onto Ditchling Road and continued in glorious sunshine around St Peter’s Place for another right at the Phoenix Art Centre.


2:16pm on Ditchling Road: background boy – © Funk Dooby


2:17pm on St Peter’s Place: swinging right

To the pier

We now proceeded more-or-less directly south towards the Palace Pier. The descent took us from Waterloo Place to Richmond Place – occupied by fellow protestors from Extinction Rebellion – and into Grand Parade. From there we cycled on past Valley Garden and Victoria Gardens to enter Pavilion Parade and Old Steine.


2:19pm on Richmond Place: respect to Extinction Rebellion


2:23pm on Old Steine: big joy – © Funk Dooby


2:24pm on Old Steine: still smiling – © Graham Brown

The southern end of Old Steine, like the southern end of Preston Park, is a traditional place to tarry and regroup. The atmosphere thus far had been mardi gras all the way; music and colour, frippery and flags, whoops and cheers, pure positivity. Stiff breezes were blasting in from the Channel, sure, but conditions were still great for a ride.


2:25pm on Old Steine: the masses behind me

Seafront superstars

Our feelgood factor was about to go one louder. Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions had forced the ride to be postponed from June to August but the delay of two months meant we also benefitted both from warmer summer weather and an absolute throng of holidaymakers along the seafront by the pier. And they loved us!


2:27pm on Old Steine: towards tourist heaven


2:28pm on Grand Junction Road: westward Hove

Ordinary members of the public, people no different to us, roared their support as we swung right into Grand Junction Road then followed the coast – passing that tall ugly shaft-thing with a ring going up and down it – into Kings Road and Kingsway, until we reached Hove Lawns. Exhilarating! Here we would have our first and only rest stop.


2:33pm on Kings Road: passing the thing there


2:36pm on Kings Road: "She ❤ compost"

Out to grass

This year there was to be no rest stop at Old Steine Gardens where social distancing would be impossible along narrow paths. Instead we had 20 minutes at Hove Lawns. There was more mingling than distancing here, but at least we had persistent coastal breezes to disperse every breath. As for me, I just sat and took it easy.


2:40pm on Kingsway: arrival at Hove Lawns


2:47pm on Hove Lawns: nudes with messages


3:01pm leaving Hove Lawns: break time’s over

When moving again, our second route change sent us north on Grand Avenue rather than seven roads down on St Aubyns. It took us around the Queen Victoria Memorial with its statue of the monarch whose era defined English prudishness. Fitting that we should parade our liberated 21st century breasts, buttocks, vulvas and penises here.


3:03pm on Kingsway: a new way north


3:07pm on Grand Avenue: short cut to Church Road

Return to centre

Grand Avenue or St Aubyns, both were a means to the same end; specifically, a right turn onto Church Road. This started us in a long procession east from Hove, through Brunswick Town towards the city centre. Police escort cyclists, who had been with us from the outset, continued to keep us safe and supported on this usually-busy road.


3:11pm on Church Road: mini zigzag


3:13pm on Western Road: can you see me? – © Funk Dooby

Church Road led into Western Road where every now and then we stopped for traffic ahead. One such stop was outside The Temple Bar, whose customers welcomed us with uproarious cheers. All, that is, except one table where three young lads brooded in stony-faced silence. Everywhere was glee yet they clearly felt only disgust. Why?


3:21pm on Western Road: backsides and clean air

Many people still presume it’s illegal to be naked in public, yet the Crown Prosecution Service recommends ‘In the absence of any sexual context […] where the person has no intention to cause alarm or distress it will normally be appropriate to take no action unless members of the public were actually caused harassment, alarm or distress…


3:23pm on Western Road: passing Jubilee Clock Tower


3:25pm on North Street: “It’s getting hot in here!”

So we continued in joyous spirits on Western Road, passing Jubilee Clock Tower into North Street. Our third and final change of route from 2019 was that instead of a right turn at Ship Street for a loop around to Old Steine Gardens, we just carried on ahead. Here, in my Spirited Bodies body paint, I heard a fellow life model call my name…


3:27pm on North Street: glitter boy – © lupuskool

Laine loop

The voice belonged to outstanding veteran London model and artist, Ed. Unexpected encounters are a bonus on these rides, and it was good to learn he’d been doing well with his art in particular. Meanwhile we continued to Castle Square, left at Old Steine, passed the Royal Pavilion, and turned left again at Marlborough Place.


3:28pm on Old Steine: me, Ed and a pavilion – © Louise Yates


3:29pm on Marlborough Place: passing North Gate


3:31pm on Gloucester Place: a wave to the drummers


3:34pm on Sydney Street: in North Laine

Our next trajectory was a loop through the characterful narrow streets of North Laine. Marlborough Place took us to Gloucester Place, where drummers set a tempo for our left into Gloucester Street. Another left put us southbound again, down quirky Sydney Street, Gloucester Road, Robert Street, North Road, Jubilee Street and New Road.


3:37pm on New Road: completing the loop

Look East

Emerging on North Street again, I found myself riding alongside another friendly face. This time it was Pawel, one of the London ride marshals. He was still fully dressed as he’d only just left work but, all credit to him, with 15-minutes of the ride remaining and no more scheduled stops, he nonetheless somehow managed to strip before the end.


3:38pm on St James’s Street: towards Kemptown

From North Street, Castle Square and St James’s Street, we crossed Old Steine and began our eastward pilgrimage through Kemptown. I tend to think this part of the ride is merely a means to an end; our goal being Brighton’s naturist beach. But in fairness to the people here, although fewer in number, they always give us plenty of support.


3:41pm on St James’s Street: “Proud bike-sexual” 🙂


3:44pm on Bristol Road: “Be naked, be free”

St James’s Street led us to Upper St James’s Street, which became Bristol Road and then St George’s Road. Towards the end of St George’s Road, before we turned right at Eaton Place, I spotted an older couple ahead whom I’d seen at every ride this year, always fabulously decorated, always topical. Marvellous to find them here too.


3:47pm on St George’s Road: decorated regulars

Down the mound

Not far to go now. A left turn out of Eaton Place put us on Marine Parade, from where we took a sharp right down the steep gradient of Duke’s Mound. During the course of this year’s rides I’d noticed my back brakes were starting to get rather spongy, so this was a good test for them. They just about passed. Just about.


3:48pm on Marine Parade: to a final decline


3:50pm on Duke’s Mound: steepness


3:51pm on Duke’s Mound: jubilation – © Funk Dooby

On the descent I offered thanks to a random police officer for their positive support all afternoon. Then, having arrived safely in one piece at the bottom, I swung sharply left around the hairpin into Madeira Drive – our home straight. I savoured each of the last few yards before easing up to our final destination: Black Rock Car Park.


3:53pm on Madeira Drive: end of the road


3:54pm by Black Rock Car Park: end of the ride

Beached

Hardier people than myself went straight across the naturist beach and into the sea. I simply got dressed, locked my bike and walked over to where my partner Esther and our friend Rodger were sheltering from the by-now strong winds. There’s a time to be naked and a time share a celebratory bottle of wine. Cheers to Brighton WNBR!


4:22pm at Brighton Naturist Beach: blown out

Our route from Preston Park to the nudist beach

More on WNBR Brighton 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

Bygone blogs

From → Causes

One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on Naturalian's Blog and commented:
    Great account of the 2021 WNBR Brighton!

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