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Naked cyclists reveal concerns over safety and pollution on ride through city

If you noticed the bobbing nudists cycling through Buffalo on Saturday night, that was kind of the point.

"Out on the road, we might as well be this naked because that's how protected we are," said Marcüs Rebmann, standing in Day's Park in just his flip-flops as he and a few hundred others prepped for Buffalo's third-annual World Naked Bike Ride.

The 12-mile ride sought to educate people about how vulnerable cyclists can be, to celebrate the natural human body and to protest oil dependence and the pollution it causes. The catch — clothing was optional.

"More (backsides), less gas," said one organizing volunteer, summing up part of the philosophy.

Saturday's ride was a local offshoot of the international movement, which began in 2004. The buildup to the event drew ire from many on social media who were concerned — or disgusted — by the thought of seeing nude cyclists coast by. But the riders dismissed any outrage.

"We're all born naked," Rebmann said. "It's not that big a deal."

As Jennifer Spafford, who like Rebmann participated last year, explained: "It's not crude. It's not sexual by any means."

Spafford said drivers often don't pay attention to cyclists and that stripping down can force them to see them.

"Feels no different from riding with any group," she said. "You just get more people cheering you on."

[Gallery: World Naked Bike Ride 2017]

Ralph, a 58-year-old from Buffalo who didn't give his last name because he was fully nude, said that if spectators didn't like the sight, they could just look away. But if they didn't, maybe they could see why so many had gone natural.

"There's something with the sun and the breeze," he said, describing how it feels to be nude in public. "There's nothing wrong in nakedness. There's beauty in it."

The cyclists' only worries were the comfortableness of their bike seats and how bad the road rash might be if they crashed.

Rob and Julia Barlow watched from their porch on Cottage Street, their 6-year-old son Robbie on the steps, as the bikers — many of them with messages like "Live Lean" and "Go Green" painted on their bodies — headed out. They weren't bothered.

"It's part of the reason we live in the neighborhood," Julia Barlow said.

Her husband added: "Some (drivers) were like, 'What the hell's going on here?' But it's Allentown — anything goes."

Despite some commenters on social media worrying that children could see the nudists, the Barlows chose to bring Robbie out to watch, as they did last year. The reasoning was to take away the stigma of nudity and to promote positivity about all body types.

"That's how we want to raise him," Julia said. "You're beautiful how you are."

Robbie, for his part, found it all funny.

Posted with friends at Bidwell Park to watch the cyclists flash by, Nancy Kally praised how comfortable the participants were with themselves.

"That's a great place to be in your head," she said.

She might even consider joining them next year.

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