My friend Emma and I were in Palace Street outside the Bell and Crown when last year’s naked bike ride squelched past us.
Some 30 to 40 clothesless men on bikes is not the sort of thing either Emma or I are inclined to seek out, but when it’s right there in front of you it’s hard not to look.
So I made a conscious decision to study the faces of those of those taking part.
What struck me most was how awfully pleased with themselves they looked. They gave off a boastful, very childish “look at me, look at me” mentality.
Organisers blame its cancellation this year on failing to nail a date down.
In the past they have claimed that the event is about are making a point about protecting the environment and bike safety.
But the logic of the way they promote their message is questionable. No one is going to be persuaded to ditch their cars just because a load of people have ridden past naked.
If you really want to get into people’s minds, then talk to them through the medium of advertising or public relations: leaflets, mailshots, ads.
This means there must be another reason as to why people want to ride around naked? And the answer has to be the obvious one: pure exhibitionism.
It’s rooted in the same psychology as the flasher in the dirty mac who earns his thrills terrifying people. This explains why in the past naked men have turned up without bikes while at least one cyclist was prevented from taking part because he was “visibly aroused”.
The organisers claim that by being naked, they are making the point that humans are frail and vulnerable, composed of soft flesh and breakable bones.
But there are clearly other factors at work.
In order to properly understand such occasions, we must reverse the psychology: that is to say that if you’re the sort of person who wants to parade around naked, who wants others to look at you or who gains enjoyment from the shock value of nudity, then you’ll find ways of doing so and camouflage it as something else.
So the Naked Bike Ride isn’t coming to Canterbury this year. Good. It’s a profoundly unattractive spectacle.