On the road with Dykes on Bikes in a pre-Pride run

For 42 consecutive years, the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade and March has started with Dykes on Bikes revving their engines and roaring up Market Street.

That’s the power of a motorcycle club making a parade run. But they also make memorial runs, when one of their members has fallen. In this case, it was founding member Soni Wolf, who died April 25 at age 69.


Wolf will be represented by her painted gas tank from the ’70s in the parade. But
Dykes on Bikes

needed a more private remembrance, so on Memorial Day they formed up in the Castro to make a morning run down to Woodside, where they could open it up on the curving suburban roads.

The women wore their leathers and their colors and rode in from as far as Los Angeles. They parked those big bikes and mustered a trip to Spike’s coffee house on 19th Street. Then, all at once those engines turned over and roared. Though it was just a small sample of what you will hear during the Pride Parade, it was loud enough to wake anybody sleeping late on a holiday morning.

More Information

Parade: The San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade and March is at 10:30 Sunday, June 24, on Market Street from the Embarcadero to the Civic Center. www.sfpride.org

Kate Brown of Dykes on Bikes starts her engine at: http://bit.ly/dykesonbikes.

They started off by riding in tight formation, two by two, down Castro Street. Dykes too old to ride, along with a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence in a nun’s habit and powdered face, followed in a hearse-like sport utility vehicle.

Before they left Spike’s, there were hugs and tears for Soni. A few agreed to pose for photos and answer some questions in the name of Pride.

Name: Kate Brown

Occupation: Scientific director, research and development, at a newborn stem cell bank.

Why I ride: It gives me freedom. When you are riding, you are connected to what is happening around you. You can feel it. You can smell it. All of your senses are engaged, and that doesn’t happen in a car.

What I ride: 1995 Honda Magna. It’s loud.

What I wear: My vest has on the right side the pins of the years I’ve ridden in the Pride Parade. On the left side is my ladder — this has all the positions I’ve held. I’ve been president two times, vice president. I’m a member of the board of directors, and what is not on here is that I am currently the treasurer. I earned my patch in 2003.

How I earned my patch: There are a set number of meetings you have to attend. You have to help with some fundraisers and go on enough runs with us for us to get to know you, and you to get to know the club and make sure it is a good fit. The patch is the Dykes on Bikes logo. We registered it with the United States trademark office. That took us all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

How the parade starts: We get the signal from the Pride coordinator and tell everybody to start their motorcycles. Then you can hear the roar of motorcycles starting from the front and going all the way to the back, several blocks. Hundreds of motorcycles starting their engines and coming down. Then it starts to reverberate off all the buildings. All the windows are shaking. It’s fantastic.

Name: Mindie Dodson

Occupation: Advanced Rolfer (bodyworker) in Berkeley.

What I ride: A 2014 Harley Ultra Limited. It’s what the big Dykes ride.

Why I ride with Dykes on Bikes: I like to be visible in the community as someone who is a strong, proud woman, who is capable of doing the same thing that a lot of guys do.

Why I ride in Pride: Years ago, I used to ride in the New York City parade. I rode with the Sirens. A couple of decades later, I found someone I went to high school with and fell in love with her. We reconnected when Facebook came out. We were girlfriends when we first rode in San Francisco Pride on my 1984 Honda CBR. We were two big girls on a crotch rocket. Now we’re married.

Why I wear a necktie: Today is an important day. It’s the memorial service for Soni Wolf, one of the founders of Dykes on Bikes.

What Soni Wolf meant to Dykes on Bikes: Soni spearheaded the team to organize the argument for the Supreme Court case to register the name Dykes on Bikes, and to register the trademark for the Dykes on Bikes patch.

What riding in Pride means to Dykes on Bikes: It shows the world that we are proud independent women who embrace the word “dyke” year after year, for future generations. When we rev the bikes, it is electricity. You can look out in the crowd and see everybody change. They go from standing around to roaring back in excitement at the thundering rumble of our engines igniting.

Name: Jen F. That’s what’s on my business card.

Occupation: Security.

What I ride: 1995 Honda Shadow. She was purple, and I fell in love. I’m still on the same bike. I can’t get another one.

Why I ride with Dykes on Bikes: I wanted to ride with Dykes on Bikes as soon as I saw them in my first Pride Parade. … I was probably 10 years old.

How I joined: I asked if I could volunteer in 2012, then came back as a prospect in 2013. I announced my intention to join as a patch holder. I worked my way up and currently I am the president of the club. I’m also the youngest member. I’m 28.

How I recruit: I’m currently the social media chair. I got the club onto Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and I’m trying to attract younger people in. The meetings are held at the Eagle every Wednesday night.

My recruiting pitch: We have 16 active chapters worldwide, and it all started in San Francisco. That means that you can be a part of something big that helps solidify your identity as a proud dyke.

Name: Vick Germany

Occupation: Senior land planner with PG&E.

Why I ride: Because it’s hella fun. It’s sexy. It’s great transportation and I just love it.

What I ride: A 2005 Suzuki Boulevard C50. It looks good and it fits me. A lot of the bikes are built for men. They’re too big, too heavy. I’m 5-foot-3.

Why I ride with Dykes on Bikes: Ever since I can remember. I would see the Dykes on Bikes in the parade and say, “One of these days I’m going to do that.” Then I turned 40, and it was now or never. I bought a bike before I learned to ride. I took the course and then rode in the parade. I’ve been riding in the parade since about 1997.

What I feel when I put the colors on: A sense of pride and also targeted by intolerant people. The pride is that I will always be a Dyke on a Bike even when I cannot ride anymore. A target because people see that patch and sometimes they don’t react favorably to it. But I don’t care. This is who I am.

Name: Sheila Malone

Occupation: Theater arts instructor at Chaffey College (Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino County).

What I ride: Moto Guzzi 2001.

Why I ride it: I’m kind of in love with the Italian bikes. I had a Ducati and I kind of totaled it down in L.A. where I live. I rode up yesterday. I took the long route, up 101. It took me nine hours. My butt was hurting.

When I first rode: I was in junior high when I first rode a motorcycle very badly. So I was obsessed with motorcycles until I left the nest and was able to buy my first motorcycle in Omaha. I was like 23.

Why I ride with Dykes on Bikes: It’s community. It’s sisterhood. It’s brotherhood. It is a tribe. We all come together around motorcycles. Some of us come together because of orientation. Really it’s your home.

Sam Whiting is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: swhiting@sfchronicle.com Instagram: @sfchronicle_art

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