From the Library: Dames on Frames: A Feminist Bike Zine


Our zine library received a package from Microcosm Publishing this week. The folks at Microcosm, a non-profit distributor and publisher of zines and related work, very generously donated all kinds of feminist zines to our collection. Today I'll be reviewing one of their donations that we now have available to check out, Dames on Frames: A Feminist Bike Zine.


Dames on Frames: A Feminist Bike Zine is the first in a series of four zines that explore the relationship between feminism and bikes. When Claire Stoscheck was in Bogotá, Colombia — the city that is said to have the most extensive bike paths in the world — she realized that only around 1-2% of the bicycle commuters she saw on the streets were women. Stoscheck began to ask questions about Bogotá's gender gap in bicycle riding, which then led to questions about the relationships between gender and bikes when she went home to the Twin Cities.

Back in the Twin Cities, Stoscheck started learning more about the local bike community. She found that only 1/3 of the local bike commuters were women, and that the bike shops in the area were hyper-masculine and "unfriendly towards people of other genders". (Sound familiar to other bike riders out there?) She decided to facilitate a class that would take a feminist lens to the bike movement. A class that took on some of the following questions:

What's the historical context of this gender inequality in biking? How is city design and planning gendered? Why do less women bike than men? How do various identities — not just gender, but race, class, ability, etc... — affect one's access or ability to bike safely? How does the alternative transportation and bike movement sometimes replicated systems of oppression or perpetuate privilege for the already privileged?

This zine was created as a collaborative project by the attendees of the class, and it answers some of these questions through personal experiences as well as quantitative and qualitative research.

One of the articles in this zine, The Path to Change: How to Get More "Dames on Frames", addresses specific deterrents that prevent women from riding bikes. Laila Davis and Cali Jirsa decided to poll bikers and non-bikers in the Twin Cities to find out which specific deterrents would rank higher for women than for men. They found that women were twice as likely to say "skill" was a major deterrent, and four times more likely to find "image" to be a major deterrent. They then addressed specific reasons why women might feel self-conscious about bike riding, and offered some solutions: women's bike rides, women on posters for cycling events, women led bike classes. They write, "If you are a lady, get out there and ride. Flaunt that skirt and heels if you like or sport that spandex. Women need to be encouraged by seeing other women out there on the road."

In addition to examining why women don't bike in the Twin Cities, this zine features some planning solutions that — if tailored to a specific city's needs and then implemented — would increase gender diversity out on the bike lanes. Some of these possible solutions that are suggested include: anti-sexism trainings in transportation organizations, hiring of more female transportation planners, wider bike lanes that are safe and attractive to women biking with children, safe urban biking confidence workshops, and a gender-equity approach to collecting data to determine planning. If you have other ideas that you would like to see implemented, please leave them in the comments section!

This issue also includes tips for moms interested in pulling their kids around by bike, a centerfold that features women with their bikes, and an ode to bike shorts that have actually convinced me to buy a pair. If you read it you'll probably be convinced to buy a pair as well. Dames on Frames is available at our library. If you'd like to buy it on-line, Microcosm has it available on their website.

by Ashley McAllister
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14 Comments Have Been Posted


I'm so excited to read this!

On another note, I feel lucky living in Portland as a cyclist because there is so much bike-friendly everything, but also all-genders-bike-friendly stuff too, like women and trans repair nights at <a href="">North Portland Bikeworks</a> (they were the first in the country to have such a program) and <a href="">Bikefarm</a>, plus many other organizations that want more women on bikes.

Further Reading

I serendipitously picked up this zine a couple months ago via the excellent Multnomah County Library System. The issue of bicycling and safety is really interesting, as well as the specific issues of biking mothers.

I would also suggest the zine Chainbreaker (found here:, which is excellent and addresses similar issues, plus offers useful D.I.Y. guides to bike maintenance.

Also, this NY Times article is pretty interesting:

And the super useful resource for all things Portland and bicyling related,, has a few articles on gender, race and biking:

We Portlanders are pretty lucky when it comes to biking (though Minneapolis was just ranked most bike-friendly city. Watch out Portland!), and I think there is a lot of attention being paid to issues of class, race, gender and ability. Still, if there's any activity that absolutely needs the widest range of folks participating, it's biking. I should follow my own advice and go on a ride!


I get so freaking excited every time you post one of these zine reviews. Holy gawd, it's my favorite thing right now. Every one of them is SO interesting! They all end up applying to my life too. New budget item if things continue as they have: zine budget to buy everything Bitch recommends.

Meanwhile, I second Kjerstin about living someplace bike friendly. I sort of lucked out getting hitched to a Dane because while we live in Copenhagen, I've gotten to be quite the mistress of cycling. Wide bike lanes, people who mostly obey the rules, and legally required gear have forced me to be an incredibly safe biker but with the same mentality I use(d) when driving. I'm so excited to move back to the U.S. (uh, because I miss home but also) because I'm gonna be able to ride in Boston/NYC with my skills honed abroad keeping me safe in places I would never have dared to bike otherwise. Now if I only I can get down with my helmet like a big girl...


@ Brittany- I'm so glad to hear that you're enjoying the zine reviews! Good thing incorporating zines into ones budget doesn't break the bank. Also, I'm jealous that you're living in one of the biking capitals of the world.

It sounds fascinating

It sounds fascinating indeed!

Bicycles were actually a mildly feminist innovation, giving a bit more literal and figurative mobility to 19th century women, at the very least scaring the pants off up-tight Victorian types.

It's kind of funny but the advent of bicycles caused a great deal of anxiety. It's odd to see how quickly it was medicalized and policed. There were lots of strange concerns about how bike-riding would adversely affect the health of the women riding them. And of course, there were concerns about preserving feminine modesty while riding (after all, how does one ride in those long dresses without getting caught in the wheel?).

Here is an interesting article reproduced from "The Ladies' Standard Magazine" in 1894 that assures opponents of lady bicyclists that women will not be harmed. It does however recommend that women wear an "entire suit of wool," and that's "Winter and Summer." If one should be so brash as to wear silk or cotton underwear, remember to carry a sweater.

And remember your posture, ladies. Don't want to end up with "round shoulders":

<i>It is no wonder some women dread becoming round shouldered in view of the fact that some riders stoop so over their machines. This is a fact to be deplored, but it should in no way reflect upon the exercise, as it is the fault of the individual, and does not accompany real skill. The straightest riders are the most expert, and, like bad walking, it is an unpardonable awkwardness.</i>

All that said, I know I shouldn't say this as an environmentalish person, but i personally hate riding bikes. I mean, ride your bike, fill your city with bike paths, more power to you. But I've never gotten off a bike and not felt awful and sweaty. And it usually needs more repairs than my 15 year old geo metro. Lucky for me, I happen to live in a city with wonderful public transportation.

Why Microcosm?

I'm honestly a little surprised to see Bitch accepting packages from Microcosm, given its <a href="">seedy history</a> and the legacy of abuse in Joe Biel's relationship with Alex Wrekk, documented in an issue of her zine, Brainscan #21. This isn't to criticize the zine in question-- it looks wonderful! --but I'd feel a little better knowing that such zines were purchased (or traded) directly from the zinester.

@witch wife

I appreciate you voicing your concern and bringing attention to this. All of the zines in our brand-new zine library have made their way to us by donation. Since we're building this zine library from the ground up, we've been happy to welcome large donations from zine distros, including Microcosm, with whom we have a longstanding working relationship because of the feminist zines they publish. But rest assured, we accept (and prefer!) donations from individual zinesters as if you write a zine, send it our way!


first of all, thanks for the heads up on brainscan 21. i have ordered a copy online from smallworldbuttons.

i hope it is okay to ask a few questions. is it possible joe biel has a different take on what went on here? is it possible he has learned from the experience and might not repeat the same mistakes? is it possible microcosm today is different from microcosm of several years ago? i actually do not know the answers to these questions.

but (also) does it not create a sort of catch-22 if you say on the one hand do not distribute through microcosm and then on the other hand complain that they are thin on feminist titles (if in fact they are)?


disclosures: i am male. i am very slightly acquainted with joe biel, though i did not know him back when. i am myself a survivor of a very long term abusive relationship. over a number of years, i allowed myself to be persuaded that i was worthless, and did not immediately leave when the abuse became physical. i will nonetheless acknowledge that my ex is a very intelligent and actually well-meaning person, who has her own perspective on what happened between us.

Dames on Frames

Hi r.,

Thanks for your comment. However, we have no way of knowing the details of Joe Biel's interpersonal life so we can't speak to your questions. Also, as far as I can tell no one has said not to distribute through Microcosm, nor that they are thin on feminist zines. Please try to keep all future comments on the topic at hand, which is Dames on Frames.

Kelsey Wallace, Web Editor

<i>Ask me about our <a href="">Comments Policy</a>!</i>

Out of Stock

I just clicked on the Microcosm site and issues 1-3 are out of stock. Only Issue 4 is available. Most of the articles noted in the review above occur in issues 1-3, it seems.

Re: Out of Stock

Thanks for letting me know! I'll look into this and find out when <i>Dames on Frames</i> will be available again.

free download of Dames on Frames

Hi all,

I'm one of the contributors to the zine, and wanted to let you know that's it's available to download for free at our google group:

The first zine is just called bike zine.pdf. Issue #3 seems to be up there too, and issue #4 is called "Zine layout Fall 08-Fall 09".

I just found Issue #2 in my email and will try to get it uploaded to the google group soon.

The google group isn't very active, but still mildly functions. If you're interested in posting to it, you have to wait for a moderator to approve your message, but it should go out eventually. Most of the discussions focus on local issues, but there's stuff of interest to all as well.

As far as I know, there aren't any plans in the works to put out another issue, but reading this thread is inspiring, so who knows! I and some others just tried to organize a Women Trans Femme action at the dudely Bicycle Film Festival afterparty in Minneapolis, and I think I'd like to write about that. So if you have something you'd like to write about, maybe we can get an issue together!



Just got back from 3 1/2 months in Colombia. It might be true that there is a minority of women on bikes in Bogota, but I did not find this to be the case else where. Especially in rural areas I saw women pedaling often with two kids all riding the same bike.

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