The Motorcycle Wave – What’s There to Say?

Motorcycle WaveI’VE BEEN SAYING TO MYSELF FOR YEARS I WOULD NOT WRITE ABOUT THE MOTORCYCLE “WAVE.” On the one hand – at least in North America – it’s a fine symbol of the brotherhood experienced by riders of all ages, races, religions, creeds, socioeconomic backgrounds, etc. On the other hand, it can be tiring in areas where there are lots of motorcyclists. And of course, at certain times, it’s downright dangerous (like when riding around turns, or any instant when a rider wouldn’t feel confident about taking a hand off the handlebars, or for an inexperienced rider at any time).

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m actually one of those guys who does wave to other riders – the majority of the time. And much of the time, I enjoy the simple acknowledgment to other riders, some whom I may see regularly on mutually and routinely traveled roads (although never having met them except in passing as we travel in opposite directions). But mostly I wave to riders I may never see again.

The reason I have not wanted to write about this is because, to me, to wave or not to wave is really a personal preference and, from my perspective, if you’re going to do so, it should be based on common sense. In other words, even if you are of the persuasion to wave to other riders, it’s smarter not to wave if doing so might endanger yourself or the other rider(s) you are waving to.

Hence, it just doesn’t seem like a topic that would warrant much contemplation.

But, I can imagine there are those sticklers who would argue that one should NEVER take their hand off the handlebars at any time, due to safety concerns.  Although I like to consider myself somewhat of a motorcycle safety advocate, I’m not in the sticklers’ camp.  Yet, I would argue that anyone who lacks the personal self-assurance about taking one hand off their handlebar, even for a fleeting moment, should definitely not do so.

One remark I might note is a change I’ve observed over the decades. Back in the 70’s, it appeared to me then that there were certain bikers who would only wave to other riders who rode machines similar to what they were personally riding. Although it would not be true to say that such a bias no longer exists, personally, it seems like nowadays there are more riders willing to wave to other riders, regardless of their machines.

Having said all that, I’m older now, and my recollections may be somewhat influenced by the perspective that all riders should be able to get along, regardless of what brand of motorbike they might be riding on any given day.  Despite such sentiments and much more to the point of this article, I don’t really care one way or the other who waves to who and for what reasons. I’d rather just ride and be friendly as it fits the circumstances.

117 thoughts on “The Motorcycle Wave – What’s There to Say?

  • I’m an introvert by nature, so my natural instinct is not to wave, just keep to myself. But I was thinking that we are in a brotherhood to some extent (women too). I hope that if I ever need help, the biker riding by doesn’t just ignore me and keep going. So in that spirit I wave. Sometimes I don’t get a return wave. It could be that they just weren’t paying attention to me. I’ve done that before. But regardless, I’ve decided that rather than waiting for the other guy/gal to wave, I will just cut the drama and wave quickly and safely.

  • First, we need to establish whether it was bike riders or sports car drivers who waved to each other first.

    Then, consider the fact that everybody stuck between floors in an elevator together will eventually speak to everyone else. It’s sort of the same psychology at work….the “common bond”. Or possibly, “united we stand”, etc.

    Whatever, as others, possibly ME have said before…the odd men out are most often the hog riders. But I say: if the Harley boys don’t wanna wave, cause they’re too cool, or a “breed apart”….or, more likely just afraid of falling off if they let go for a second……..then up theirs!

  • In UK, a nod of the head is the normal way to wave – as we ride on the left this is the best way – not convenient to use the right hand, throttle.

  • Unlike the photo, I wave with my left hand–’cause I ride on the right side of the road. My European friends who ride on the left say that they wave with their right leg… though they may’ve just been pulling mine.

  • I really enjoy waving to fellow riders, it is kind of like saying “HI” to a neighbor over the fence in your back yard. I have very few fellow riders that do not wave and that is ok too! I was out on the hi-way one afternoon, I pulled over to take some photos, a rider that was on the opposite of the hi-way made a U-turn to see if I needed any help, seems he had been a fellow waver a few days before this. Neat!

  • I wave to everybody except scooters. I mean…c’mon…scooters? Scooters are only cool in France, Italy, Asian and Pacific vacation islands (tourist rentals.)

  • I’m tired of waving. Seems dumb to me now. It was fun when I first started riding but seven years later I lack the enthusiasm and I’m sure others do too, judging from their half-waves, barely waves, or NO wave. There are too many bikers out there and waving seems silly and redundant. I like the Australian custom of just nodding. That’s acknowledgement enough.

  • I wave at anybody else who waves to me except on divided highways. I started out on an 80cc bike and worked my way up to a 1600cc cruiser and a 1300cc Sport bike. I want to encourage the smaller bike riders so I wave to them, too.
    I think we should have a few waves, not just the one. I wanted to warn a guy the other day about a stretch of road that had sand scattered over it for about half a mile but there is no hand gesture to indicate Danger or Radar ahead, or Cattle on the road, or anything that might be useful to let the other rider know about.

  • In Australia we DO wave, but never with the hand (Well in 50 years riding here I have never seen anyone wave using a hand). We Nod the head, (an exaggerated nod)
    I have no idea why we do that, but it works plus its subtle and safe.

  • 90% of the time I wave. 10% I’ve missed it because I’m in a turn or busy with something on the bike. I always wondered if people think I didn’t wave because I’m on a different bike than them…which is not at all why!

  • TO COOL TO WAVE? The other day I took a trip with my brother. It was a perfect day for riding and riders were a-waving! I waved to one guy with very high ape hangers. He ignored me.

    After we got off our bikes, I said to my brother that it must be hard to wave when your arms are extended like that. He said, “Well, he’s probably too cool to wave at people anyhow.”

    It’s true, I think. When I wave a someone and they don’t wave back, I figure they have an inflated sense of self and consider themselves a notch above everyone else.

    So…if you don’t return my wave (barring dangerous situations), you are telling me you’re insecure and trying to keep up the tough guy image and that you don’t give a damn about your fellow riders…Actually, in my book, the tough guys who DO wave are the ‘cool’ guys I look up to as a new rider. Love them! 🙂

  • Real bikers arrive at the destination safe and unhurt to ride another day.

  • Years ago I would wave to other bikers. Today, anyone with the bucks can go into a shop and buy a $25,000 dollar bike and feel like a real biker. Kids with zoomies, weekend drivers, accountants, lawyers (never drive in winter, caught in the rain, or had to fix a tire).
    Who are the real bikers?
    Oh well, Guess I’ll still wave (LOL).

  • Pretty silly article in my opinion. The entire thing could have been written in two words; common sense.

  • This is kind of old, stuff now, how about something on a GoPo, video, etc going down the .road. Maybe something on winter ride.. How about, what to say to people that don’t ride.Thanks.

  • If the 1%ers don’t want to wave, screw them. We the 99%ers and we like acknowledging the brotherhood of being on two wheels.

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