David Pumo joined the Philly Naked Bike Ride because of something his father-in-law said.
“He said ‘I think the reason why people are uptight about gay marriage is because they’re uptight about nudity,’” Pumo explained while standing naked in a Fairmount Park field surrounded by hundreds of other naked people. “I thought about what he meant and I realized, it all starts with this basic discomfort people have about their bodies. And that comes from all this crazy religious conservatism in this country – that we can’t show anything, that there are certain parts of our bodies that are sinful.”
Pumo was decked out in body paint, a small rainbow on his shoulder and a slogan on his toned chest. “My body paint says ‘less gas,’” he said as he turned around to reveal the rest, “more ass.”
Pumo was one of hundreds, if not thousands, of participants in the tenth annual Philly Naked Bike Ride on Saturday.
The ride has two goals, said lead organizer Maria: promoting body positivity and safe cycling.
“I started cycling in Philly a few years ago and the first time that I rode I was absolutely terrified of the cars, of just the traffic in general, and through the different cycling groups that I was apart of, I got more and more comfortable,” said Maria, who declined to provide her last name. “Philly Naked Bike Ride is supported by all the monthly rides that aim to get people more comfortable riding in the city and that’s the goal: lessen car traffic, cleaner air, reduced congestion and getting people riding in the city. And this is fun. It’s about making people feel welcome and part of the community.”
Organized mostly by the same folks at Cycle Scene PHL who gather for monthly group rides like the Philly Full Moon Ride or the Taco Rides (which are exactly what they sound like), the Philly Naked Bike Ride also aims at “also encouraging people to be themselves,” Maria said. “We live in a photo-shopped world and in our promotion and everything we put out we present people as they are.”
Maria said they promote a world without filters, which is exactly what has drawn Kameka to the annual event six times now.
“There’s so many other times in the year you can be close to nake,d but here it is just pure,” said Kameka, who also declined to provide her last name. “You can just literally be you and your socks.”
Not all participants decided to bare it all. Some came simply topless, others donned a shirt but no bottom – almost like an homage to the Phillie Phanatic. One man wearing a Donald Trump mask had “I don’t pay my taxes” on his back; his bike had a Russian flag on the back and a sign that said, “Trump’s military parade.” The crowd loved him.
Many participants gathered early to adorn themselves with body paint and simply hang out while letting it all hang out. Body glitter was a big trend this year. Participants ran the gamut in terms of ages and ethnicities.
The ride would leave the Glenndinning Rock Garden in Fairmount Park and travel down the Schuylkill River Trail to the Art Museum. From there, a jaunt into West Philly, then over the river again for a ride around Center City, and then ultimately ending at Love Park.
Riders said they came for all sorts of reasons – to protest federal policies, to promote safe cycling, to celebrate the human form. But most came for the same reason Pumo came.
“First of all, not for nothing, but I just love being naked in public,” he said.