Sunday, March 4 was D-day, and I arrived early in the afternoon with my bike buddy to find only a small crowd of bare bums. I immediately got cold feet.
We were tempted to leave but we were on a mission, so we decided to stay back and wait for more riders to arrive before we started to strip.
Thank goodness we waited. An hour later, the Edinburgh Gardens were bustling with about 260 naked bodies ready to get painted and hit the streets.
From tiny toddlers to retirees, there was an electrifying mish-mash of backgrounds and cultures.
Bikers sported slogans on their bodies like “No emissions but my own”, “Burn fat, not oil”, “Now you see me” and “Bare for clean air”.
Before long, a colourful army of nude cyclists was streaming through Melbourne’s hotspots.
Stunned city-dwellers enjoying a sunny afternoon in areas like Brunswick St, Lygon St and Swanston St cheered us on while motorists honked in support.
Riders laughed, hollered and sang along to tunes like “Walking On Sunshine” that were being blasted on a travelling boom box.
While I admittedly kept the undies on, many riders gradually slipped out of whatever garments they had left.
One traveller we befriended, nicknamed Strawberry, arrived donning a bra and shorts.
By the end she was fully nude if not for the flowers painted on her breasts, gushing about the great sense of freedom.
What struck me most was the innocence of the event.
Aside from the occasional remark from men joking about the pain in their gonads, I didn’t hear a single lewd or sleazy comment.
We instead radiated a great sense of inclusion and togetherness.
Organiser Heidi Hill said the Melbourne leg of the worldwide event was particularly popular because the city was “very alternative”.
“Melbourne is more of a bike town... They love it here,’’ she said.
Ms Hill said it was not unusual for unsuspecting cyclists to rip their clothes off and join the ride.
She described riding bare as hysterically fun and free, “just like you’re five-years-old again.”
“There is an amazing feeling of liberation. Once your clothes are off, everyone is equal. In the end, all bodies are beautiful.”
In an effort to illustrate the event, Ms Hill drew on a memorable comment from a past participant: “your face ends up hurting because of all the smiling you’ve done.”
My bike buddy, who never saw herself ever stripping in public, said it was an incredible experience and she couldn’t wait to bare all again next year.
I couldn’t agree more.