The legacy of naked bike riding at UVM

The Naked Bike Ride has been a long-standing tradition in the UVM community, but many students are unaware of its foundations.

“Most people don’t know about the history of the Naked Bike Ride, [but] it’s an important story to tell,” John Abbott, assistant director for outdoor programs, said. Abbott worked closely with Erica Kutcher, the women who pioneered this celebrated occasion.

A student from Long Island who graduated from UVM in 2000, Kutcher was a very active leader in the UVM community. She was a rock climber, biker, Outing Club leader and member of the Mountain Lions Program, a curriculum for students interested in outdoor education and leadership, Abbott said.

“One of the remarkable things about Erica was that, although she could have just independently followed her passions, she wanted to get other people involved in the outdoors,” he said.

Kutcher was killed by an avalanche in July of 2005 while climbing Shipton Spire in Pakistan – a 19,700-foot scale, Abbott said.

Before this tragedy, though, Kutcher was the one to spearhead the legendary Naked Bike Ride at UVM through the Mountain Lions Program and the Outing Club in 1996.

The first ride was on the last day of classes in the fall of that year, with only Kutcher and one other friend riding, Carrie Roy, one of Kutcher’s friends from UVM, said.

“Each ride, we pushed the limits a bit more,” Roy said. “By senior year, we were riding down Church Street.”

At the time that Kutcher and her friends were doing the ride, it came as a surprise to people on campus, Abbott said. Today, most students anticipate the event with eagerness.

“Doing the Naked Bike Ride was like a dream come true,” first year Gary Magill, who participated in his first Naked Bike Ride this past fall semester, said.

“The Naked Bike Ride is an end of the semester celebration, an opportunity for students to blow off steam,” Director of Student Life Pat Brown said.

In the fall of 2008, though, the SGA and IRA questioned whether the Naked Bike Ride should continue because of problems brought to their attention, Brown said.

“When the event started it was managed by the Mountain Lions Program,” he said. “It was an owned event and problems didn’t really exist. When the program ended, there were issues with women being harassed and assaulted.”

Student involvement has helped make the event safe again and allowed it to continue.

Now that University students volunteer with the event, it has become much more secure, Brown said.

The Naked Bike Ride continues to be a tradition that brings students together, while honoring the life and achievements of the woman who started it all.