This weekend, thousands of bikers will take to the streets sans clothing as part of the annual World Naked Bike Ride event.
The rides take place in more than 75 U.S. cities and more than 20 countries around the world. Good fun! But considering biking is a sport that often comes with specialized gear like padded shorts, sun-protective tops, and helmets, are there health risks that come with biking in the buff?
“Ouch,” says sports physician and avid biker Jordan D. Metzl. “There’s a nerve called the pudendal nerve, which basically runs right in the area where you put pressure on a bike seat. That’s why people who ride bikes all the time sometimes get numbness,” he says. “A little bit of padding can help that, but if you have no padding at all and don’t have clothes there, and are riding for a while, that can cause a lot of issues.”
Metzl also said that sunburn could be something to watch out for, particularly on areas of the body that don’t normally get a lot of exposure.
While the official 2014 ride date is June 14, some cities hold rides on different dates—New York City’s ride is this Friday, June 13, for example. With the slogan “bare as you dare” the rides are technically clothing-optional, and many cities use the rides to protest or support various causes such as free assembly, free expression, and positive body image.
On that note, Joschi Schwarz, who is the co-owner of Bold & Naked Yoga, a studio that offers naked yoga classes in New York City, says the naked bike ride sounds healthy to him. “One of the big benefits, when you talk about bike riding, when you do things like this naked, you load yourself, your skin and body with vitamin D,” Schwarz says. (It’s important to note that public health officials do not recommend sun exposure of any kind without SPF; D is best gotten through diet and supplements.) He adds that riding a bike without clothing can provide similar benefits to doing yoga nude: increased circulation, relaxation and body positivity.
As for Metzl, he has three pieces of advice for participants hoping to ride naked this weekend. “If you’re gong to do this, don’t fall, use a lot of sunscreen, and pay attention to the aches and pains. If they’re getting really worrisome, maybe spend some time out of the saddle.”