The Motorcycle Wave – What’s There to Say?

by: MCg

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.


109 Responses to “The Motorcycle Wave – What’s There to Say?”
  1. Bill says:

    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.

  2. Derek says:

    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.

  3. Pacific coast says:

    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!

  4. Christine says:

    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! :-)

  5. James Wright says:

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

  6. Harry B says:

    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).

  7. Bob says:

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

  8. Doug says:

    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.

  9. Mike says:

    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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