Ana Fajardo, an employee with The Freewheel Project, trails the pack of bike riders for “Critical Ass,” an annual event to raise awareness about cyclist safety.

Romy Ellebogen / Alligator Staff

Equipped with not much more than courage and a helmet, about 100 cyclists took to the streets in their underwear on Friday.

A tall, burly man with a long beard wore only a black lace thong and joined other participants with seat-reddened butt cheeks. A topless woman put pasties on her nipples, which were only slightly covered by her Girl Scouts vest. As the nearly-nude participants walked into the event, a man in black boxer briefs stood at the entrance singing “booty cheeks everywhere.”

Cyclists stripped down for the fourth annual “Critical Ass” on Friday at 7 p.m. The Freewheel Project, a bike collective, hosted the event to raise awareness about cyclists on the road. Riders started at The Freewheel Project’s office, located at 618 S. Main St., and biked the perimeter of campus.

Ryan Aulton, the executive director of The Freewheel Project, said the event is a play on Critical Mass, a nationwide cycling program where hundreds of cyclists ride on the road together to show their presence. The Facebook event, when it was under the original title, was flagged.

Aulton said making the ride naked shows the fragility of the cyclists on the road, and it’s a fun way to interact with drivers. For the event, he wore a white wife beater and speedo-style underwear.

“It’s a hoot for the drivers, but at the same time it’s like a statement about cycling and our legal right to use the roadway,” he said.

Though Aulton said Gainesville is better for cyclists than other cities, he said there isn’t enough driver education.

“I think we all know people who have been hit,” he said.

Ana Fajardo, a 24-year-old employee of The Freewheel Project, was the sweep, or caboose, of the ride, meaning she trailed the pack to make sure everyone was safe. Over her black underwear, Fajardo wore a bold red sign that read, “Hundreds of riders in protest. Please use caution.”

Fajardo, who has participated in the ride each of the four years it has run, said she wanted people to have fun but be safe.

“You know how it’s stupid to do something by yourself, but if you’re with a bunch of people it seems less silly?” Fajardo said. “I think that’s how it is here.”

Chris DiScenza, a 40-year-old UF coastal engineering graduate student, wore a baby blue floral silk robe, embroidered with his last name, that ended at his upper thigh. The robe was a gift for being in his friend’s bridal party, he said.

DiScenza said he commutes on his bike everywhere and often gets honked at. He sees the ride as a way to show drivers that cyclists are on the road.

“We’re fragile,” he said. “It makes them recognize that we’re here, because they might be shocked to see that we’re wearing hardly any clothes. Or a flowery robe.”

Romy Ellenbogen is a junior journalism major and the University Editor. She religiously checks her email inbox ([email protected]) and makes a great to-do list.