In 1976 a small group of 20 - 25 women motorcyclists gathered at the head of the San Francisco Pride Parade and, unbeknownst to them, a tradition began. One of these women coined the phrase “Dykes on Bikes®” and the San Francisco Chronicle picked it up and ran with it. For the next several years, riders just showed up and rode—no formal organization or registration. It was this way for several years until the middle to late 1980s. However, as SF Pride became more structured and our numbers kept growing, the need to organize Dykes on Bikes® became necessary; thus, the Women’s Motorcycle Contingent (WMC) was born.. However, in the press and LGBT culture, we continued to be known as Dykes on Bikes®.
The WMC was started by LB Gunn, Kalin Elliot-Arns, Christine Elliot, Sabine Balden and Mel. This name was used to make the group appeal to all women motorcyclists. The first meetings were held at a private home and then moved to an upstairs room at Amelia’s, a dyke/lesbian bar. When Amelia’s closed, the meetings were moved to The Eagle Tavern, at 12th St. and Harrison St., where meetings continue to be held. In 2003, the organizers voted to recognize our long history by changing the name To the San Francisco Dykes on Bikes® Women’s Motorcycle Contingent (SFDOBWMC).. Today we register and organize over 400 bikes for the San Francisco Pride Parade.
Since 2003 we have been trying to trademark the name Dykes on Bikes®, a name by which we have been known since 1976. The need to trademark our name became evident when a woman in Wisconsin tried to trademark “Dykes on Bikes®” for personal gain. With the help of Oliver Crain PC, we succeeded in getting her to drop her trademark petition. The organizers wanted to keep the name for non-profit use by any group of women riders that wish to use it for non-profit endeavors; therefore, we submitted a trademark petition of our own. After rejecting our petition three times one the grounds that the word “dyke” is derogatory and offensive, the Trademark Board reversed their decision and approved the application for trademark! We celebrated! As part of the trademark process, the Trademark Board must publish a notice at which time anyone can file an objection to the issuance of a trademark. One letter of opposition was submitted in 2006 and, one again, we found ourselves in a fight to trademark our name. To read more about our efforts, go to
Dyke Drama: A not-so-excellent
adventure through U.S. trademark law
for an excellent article by Barbara Raab.
In September 2006, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board granted our motion to dismiss the opposition to our Dykes on Bikes® trademark application. However, the story does not end on a ‘Happily Ever After’ note (yet). The opposer filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in November 2006. Thus, the Dykes on Bikes® are going to federal court. Stay tuned as we continue to write our history.