Naked enthusiasm: body-painted cyclists and a pedal-powered cinema


THEY don’t call it the Rebel County for nothing. A day after the Dublin World Naked Bike Ride was blocked by the Garda, the Cork event went ahead. Ninety-three naked heroes pedalled through the city streets on Saturday night, a naked snaking convoy on wheels.

Resplendent in a rainbow of body paint, the cyclists set off down Leitrim Street, on to MacCurtain Street and crossed over Michael Collins Bridge to the south side before setting off for Blackrock. The start time, originally set for 6pm, was pushed back to 8pm for safety reasons. The route was heavily restricted, echoing concerns of the Garda in Dublin, which feared the spectacle might upset members of the public.

“We got a great reaction. People were chatting, whooping, whistling, laughing, blowing horns and cheering us on. The only thing we would reconsider for next year is to include more of the city centre itself, because the reaction to the ride was wonderful,” a spokesman said.

The naked bike ride is the kick-off point for the Cork Cycling Festival, organised and run by volunteers with a passion for two wheels. This year’s programme includes five new scenic bike tours, the chance to beautify your wheels at the Bikeodecoratorama and everything from maintenance workshops to poetry in motion in between.

The schedule ends with a novel cinematic experience, in the form of a movie drive-in for cyclists – who also supply the electricity for the cinema’s projector, sound system and movie player via a pedal-driven dynamo. The bike-powered cinema, devised and built by Gavin Harte – a carbon coach and sustainable development consultant from Schull, Co Cork – requires six pedallers on stationary bikes on stands to keep a comfortable pace. Members of the audience can take turns to contribute.

“I made it in a moment of madness, really. I work in education and climate change, and I was struck by how we take energy for granted. I built it as an interactive way to demonstrate how much energy we use in ordinary routine activities,” says Harte.

The six-person pedal engine, when pumping at a steady pace, creates 300 watts of power, the same as that required to power three 100-watt incandescent lightbulbs. Boiling an electric kettle would require three kilowatts of energy, and would take 30 people pedalling. An electric shower would require 100 cyclists. Lance Armstrong on a sprint would create 500 watts of electricity.

“That’s surprising to people. We have become so divorced from the energy we use. The average person requires 50 people pedalling at any given time to power our daily lifestyle.”

Projected images hit a two-by-one-metre screen. The sound system and video player have been made as lean and efficient as possible. The device has a value of €3,500.

In creating an environment in which people power their own entertainment, Harte says he taps into an audience experience that is essentially democratic. If the show isn’t good enough, the people powering the projector can simply get off and walk away. “It’s ultimate audience democracy. Be it a band, bingo or a comedy, whatever the entertainment the audience produces the power, which gives the people the power.”

The pedal-powered cinema screening takes place on the Grand Parade boardwalk at 10pm on Saturday, along with the open-air Cycle Chic fashion show, as part of the closing series of festivities.

On yer bike: Cork Cycling Festival highlights

TodayPoetry-in-motion cycle. Join poet Tina Pisco and harpist Anja Bakker on a music-and- poetry bike tour of Cork. Departs 7pm from Princes Street Church.

TomorrowCommunity Gardens Cycle. Cyclists visit some of Cork’s community gardens and sample fresh produce. Departs Princes Street Church at 7pm.

WednesdayDay-long scenic cycle to Mullinhassig. Some cycling experience and moderate fitness required. The route takes in riverside cycling, castle views and a forest trail to a hidden waterfall. Bring swimming gear as an option. Departs Princes Street Church at 10am and returns 5pm.

ThursdayHistory Cycle in Simple English. Two-hour historic tour of Cork for visitors or those learning English. Departs Princes Street Church at 2pm.

FridayMy Lovely Bike and Night-Light Cycle. A bike beauty contest combined with a workshop to light up your bike for the Cycle of Light tour, a glittering after-dark parade. Civic Trust House, 6.30pm.

SaturdayThe Sound Out Bike Parade. Bring your bike and bells, whistles, or an instrument and cycle the city while making music. Workshop at Princes Street Church, 12-4pm; parade sets off at 4pm.

SundayTwentieth-century Architecture Tour. Tom Spalding guides a two-hour tour of building styles of the last century, from late Victorian to minimalist. Departs Princes Street Church at 3pm. A €12 bike rental price is available from the Bike Shed on Barrack Street on presentation of a festival programme.