Portland’s World Naked Bike Ride will take the year off

The pre-ride gathering at Peninsula Park on July 31st, 2022. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

There will be no World Naked Bike Ride in Portland this year. Think of it as a well-deserved year off for a ride that’s been working overtime for two decades.

Organizers announced today they plan to take a one-year hiatus to “retrench” and work on the ride’s vast, behind-the-scenes foundation and make it even stronger in the future.

First held in 2004, the Portland version of the global protest against Big Oil quickly became one of the largest in the world. It put Portland on the map as a naked cycling epicenter and by 2013, the ride set a record with an estimated crowd of over 8,000 people who flooded streets with smiles for miles. It peaked at an estimated 10,000 riders in 2014. The ride got so large that in 2022 we reported that organizers publicly hoped fewer people would show up.

As we shared in 2015, the nonprofit Portland World Naked Bike Ride (PDXWNBR) takes an army of volunteers and dedicated do-gooders to pull off. Imagine several thousand naked people on bikes — many of them novice riders who haven’t dusted off their bikes since last year’s WNBR — rolling through public streets open to other traffic, with or without a police escort, and being led by volunteers. And they expect a big, fun, safe gathering before the ride and a party afterward.

That’s a huge undertaking for a grassroots nonprofit without any paid leadership or staff and that features new ride leaders each year.

In a statement today, organizers said they simply don’t feel like they’ve got the leadership and help in place to do justice to such an important, iconic ride. “The planning for 2024 didn’t start in September as expected, and by springtime we realized we were behind on our leadership recruiting goals,” the statement reads.

Here’s more from the statement:

“Making the protest safe and accessible is a huge undertaking, months in the making. For many Portlanders, the PDXWNBR may be their only ride of the year, so we hold the event to a high standard, with comprehensive volunteer organization, neighborhood outreach, and coordination with agencies like TriMet and Portland Parks & Recreation. Our history has also shown us how a little more planning can make the protest even more welcoming, with local artists, musicians, medics, bike mechanics, and other community partners all on hand…

Portland deserves the World Naked Bike Ride to be done right, so we are retrenching and focusing on growing our diverse, all-volunteer team this year.”

Meghan Sinnott, a former lead organizer and dedicated volunteer of the ride over the past 10+ years who I spoke to for this story said the ride — and all the people it means so much to — deserve a year off. “As this ride continues to grow in popularity, there are persistent struggles that are real,” she said.

I got a feeling from Sinnott that she was crushed the ride wouldn’t happen this year, but that it would be a disservice to everyone if it went forward. “There’s such a deep, deep reverence and love and joy around this event,” she shared. “This ride is bigger than Bike Summer. It’s bigger than Portland bike culture. It’s iconic. There’s a lot of emotional investment in this.”

Now Sinnott and other organizers want to focus on volunteer recruitment and finding great leaders for next year’s ride. They’re especially looking for people with varied perspectives beyond the bike community. If you’re curious and want to be on next year’s Leadership Committee, use this form to apply. The deadline is 11:59 pm on September 6th.

If riding nude is your thing and you’re bummed to miss WNBR, there are several other opportunities to ride naked this summer. Browse the official Bike Summer Pedalpalooza calendar on the Shift website.

PDXWNBR.org

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago

Working as an unpaid volunteer at a community bike shop here in NC, I feel for the organizers, I really do. Even paid staff get burned out. Finding the right sort of leadership is really hard, and keeping them going year after year is harder still, given collective volunteer meltdowns, constant budget woes, sudden and arbitrary non-cooperation by other staff and agencies, the weather, and personal issues that come up. Locally we had to cancel our 11th annual Ride of Silence, not from bad weather, but because our police escort thought there might be bad weather – the weather itself was fine it turned out.

OregonRainstorm87
OregonRainstorm87
1 month ago

use me as your “i’m so sad” button

Amit Zinman
1 month ago

It seems like since I had been documenting the cycling culture in Portland, every year a major endeavor has died 🙁

John V
John V
29 days ago
Reply to  Amit Zinman

I don’t think this is an indication that this endeavor has died. I find it hard to believe this, a world wide event, won’t be back.

Naked Rider since 2005
Naked Rider since 2005
29 days ago

Would be curious to get a more in depth piece on the issues these folks think warranted a year off besides lack of volunteers.

Sure there are anecdotal instances of people having issues, but having done it so long and knowing so many people who become regulars after each one (hence the crowd swells that have tried to be contained) the event generally seems to go off without a hitch and I’ve witnessed the community being largely good police for anything unsavory.

In any comment section on the topic I don’t see people saying they wouldn’t do it again for “x” reason or because it lacked “y” for example. This just makes me wonder what was behind the scenes discussed that couldn’t be handled, and more importantly why there wasn’t any real community discussion that I’m aware of.

Eric
Eric
29 days ago

Right. There’s definitely more to this story. I follow the PDX WNBR social media accounts and have asked for updates throughout the year. No response. Also, not once has any of them said they need more volunteers; they have never asked for any until now.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
29 days ago
Reply to  Eric

Quite likely they have too many volunteers already – in an unpaid organization, the more volunteers you have, the harder it is to do anything useful or fulfilling.

For one thing, there’s no real hierarchy, everyone takes charge, too many cooks in the kitchen, and anarchy ensues. “Leadership” becomes an elusive thing. As one survivor of a WW2 Japanese internship camp in Oregon once explained to me, when you are involved in an all-volunteer organization, those who actually do stuff are those who ultimately control the operation (as opposed those who vote, complain and say what needs to be said in BP). Those who do the most onerous tasks that few others want to do are given a lot more leeway within the organization and thus ultimately have disproportionate influence no matter what their job title is.

For another thing, volunteer burnout is a huge issue – volunteers need to pace themselves and take periodic breaks – or else they’ll break down and have tantrums and meltdowns. A meltdown is when your volunteer stops doing the stuff they promised to do, but without telling the organizer, just everyone else within earshot, thus sapping their morale too, into a chain reaction. Or the volunteer goes ballistic, accusing everyone of betrayal, threatening harm and/or lawsuits, bullying everyone to no useful end. My organization of 30 volunteers has had at least 5 meltdowns in the past 12 months that I know about; I can’t imagine what it’s like to have so many meltdowns with so many volunteers as the PDX WNBR has – IMO, it’s astonishing they still operate.

Eric
Eric
29 days ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

As someone who has been a volunteer coordinator and who has volunteered for other similar events, I completely disagree.

You cannot have too many volunteers. They also haven’t posted anything asking for help and haven’t posted any indication that they were having difficulties until posting that it’s been cancelled. They are being completely irresponsible and if they couldn’t get it together they should have stepped aside months ago.

It’s also a 501 (c) (3) tax exempt organization which continues to fundraise. Where is the money going? Who is in charge? How were the board members chosen?

They appear to not being transparent as is required by law.

Lillian
Lillian
27 days ago
Reply to  Eric

You can view the 990 for Umbrella, their fiscal sponsor 501(c)3, up-to-date as of last filing date. And their annual report. That is the requirement as far as transparency, and both are complied.

The board members for Umbrella are visible on their website. They support far more bike events in Portland than just WNBR.

Having a lot of volunteers on the day of the event is extremely dissimilar to having enough volunteers willing to do the high-level administrative and logistic work needed, including things like port-a-potties and permitting.

(I am not a current organizer, it’s been over a decade since I helped with WNBR but it required nearly a year of coordination and meetings even back then, when it was only a few thousand people. I stopped after many years because I wanted my June back from endless volunteer work.)

Eric
Eric
27 days ago
Reply to  Lillian

Do you have a link for their 990? Thank you.

Also, I’ve been a lead coordinator for other similar non-profits. I understand that they take a lot of year round work and that that is different than getting a lot of volunteers for just the day of the event.

Still, there has been no information forthcoming that the event was in trouble or that the persons working the event needed a break. There has been no request for help and no advance warning that the event was going to be cancelled. The last public communication from them was last August. That’s irresponsible and no amount of excuses is going to change that.

Jose V
Jose V
1 month ago

Why does it seem some days that everything that made Portland cool is disappearing?

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 month ago
Reply to  Jose V

Because our fellow citizens voted in people such as our current mayor, DA, and county chair that have ruined and are still ruining our city (and region) with their apathy, incompetence, and can’t do attitudes.

Naked Rider since 2005
Naked Rider since 2005
1 month ago

People who would not have been born until after the first PDX WNBR would have graduated high school by now. Insane this is the first miss in 20 years. There’s no PR spin in the world that doesn’t make this a failure.

Chris I
Chris I
29 days ago

Are you stepping up to lead the ride next year?

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
1 month ago

First our wonderful Pedalpalooza get renamed to “bike summer”, and then WNBR gets canceled. Damn these are dark days indeed

John Russell
1 month ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

More like “Sike, Bummer!”

It sounds to me like someone making unilateral changes to beloved community cycling events may not be very well received.

Alex P
Alex P
20 days ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

bike summer was a summer bike fest that changed cities each year. after hosting bike summer in ?2002?, the portland peeps wanted to do it again in 2003, so called it pedalpalooza instead – to differentiate it from bike summer. so renaming pedalpalooza to bike summer (which has long since gone the way of the dodo) is a return to it’s roots.

Diablo
Diablo
1 month ago

Such BS!

🙁

John Russell
1 month ago
Reply to  Diablo

Can’t spell “Bike Summer” without BS.

Hotrodder
Hotrodder
29 days ago
Reply to  John Russell

B’ummer

Vickie
Vickie
1 month ago

Facebook just removed my link to this notice.

Eric
Eric
1 month ago

Well…I guess I have to volunteer. Before reading this I was already looking at this Sunday’s Parkways and thinking how sad it was in its current state. These were two big things that I loved about summer here. But I guess I can either throw a pity party (which I’d honestly rather do) or fight to make them better. So it’s time I finally volunteer, lobby the city and show up to make these things happen.

Shawn - helped host 2005 wnbr
Shawn - helped host 2005 wnbr
1 month ago

Good for the organizers for listening to their needs and honoring their boundaries. This will only make the event better next year.

Pedalpalooza/Bike Summer has evolved so much in the 20+ years it’s existed and I hope it never stops changing.

Serenity
Serenity
1 month ago

This makes me sad.

Hunnybee
Hunnybee
1 month ago

It’s okay. A year off for this ride will hopefully help it be even better next year. It’s an all-volunteer run event, so it’s understandable that new volunteers are needed to help keep it going after twenty years.

Jonas Simley
Jonas Simley
1 month ago

Sorry, but there’s more to the story that the organizers aren’t talking about. This feels like gaslighting but that’s nothing new for them, sadly.

(former volunteer that quit in disgust…)

Watts
Watts
29 days ago

Great… First time in a BikePortland photo and I’m naked.

Enjoy!

Plain Old Tavis
Plain Old Tavis
29 days ago

What I’ve heard from friends is that a faction of leadership wanted to make it a “Free Palestine” ride and others did not. So not sure if I believe what the leaders are saying here.

Eric
Eric
29 days ago

Are you fricken’ kidding?

Didn’t new leadership come in last year?

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
29 days ago

Oy vay.

Chris I
Chris I
29 days ago

That sounds* about right.

Watts
Watts
29 days ago
Reply to  Chris I

Ouch!

Watts
Watts
28 days ago
Reply to  Watts

[Note to future readers: my comment no longer makes any sense since Chris I fixed the typo in the comment I was playing on. This is not a comment on the substance of the discussion.]

Dave W
Dave W
29 days ago

I plan to show up for the June 22 Evening Naked Ride listed on the shift2bikes calendar. I hope that many other cyclists do, too. Sure, it may be much smaller than an official, more broadly publicized Pdx WNBR; but it can still be plenty large to make a statement and remind others that they share the road with many cyclists. Perhaps it will comprise more frequent cyclists and fewer “dust of the bicycle once a year” riders as the article references.

I’ve been to a few other rides this year, including wonderful ones hosted by people already on this comment thread. I anticipate that the June 22 ride will be amazing as well.

Eric
Eric
29 days ago

There has got to be more to this story. This cannot be accurate and the organizers are not being completely honest with us.

I follow WNBR PDX on social media and not once have the organizers asked for new volunteers. Over the course of the last few months many of us have asked for a date for this year’s ride — no response, and no request for help.

The last post on their Facebook page was August 13, 2023, the last post on their Instagram account was August 23, 2023 and the last post on their Twitter account was June 22, 2023.

Please look into this further and find out what really happened. I believe they had new leadership last year and that may have mismanaged things.

Thank you

Chris
Chris
28 days ago

They missed their support quota this year and had to fall back. Sh*t happens with an event of this magnitude. I am grateful to the committed core group of diverse humans that has been active in Portland bike events. Meghan, Lillian and all the rest are treasures.

Eric
Eric
28 days ago
Reply to  Chris

What do you mean by support quota?

They never asked for any help nor did they ever tell anyone they were having issues. They have ignored multiple requests for information, while at the same time continuing to fundraise, which is not good practice for a 501 (c) (3) non-profit.

Chris
Chris
27 days ago
Reply to  Eric

Dude… it’s a small group of mostly-volunteers trying to be faithful to a keystone Bikey Portland event that got way too big for them. I’ve known these folks long enough to know they are trying their best, but can’t satisfy everyone right now. Nobody says the event is fuked for good. Breathe.

Eric
Eric
27 days ago
Reply to  Chris

Wasn’t last year the first year that Naked Hearts PDX took the reins of the event?

It seems that they have completely mismanaged the event and they should step aside if they are not able to do it. To blow off the 20 year anniversary at the last minute and to not even ask for help first is completely irresponsible.

I’ve been lead coordinator for other non-profits and we were much more transparent with the public than these folks. I also volunteered for the Seattle WNBR years ago.

There’s no reason to accept what they are saying at face value and there is no excuse for what they are doing, especially when they are still asking for money.

Alex P
Alex P
20 days ago

I led the first WNBR in Portland (which was kind of like throwing a match on a pile of oily rags), and it’s great to see how big it got! Peace out to all you freaky uppity cycling kids!