The Wave – a gesture of brotherhood among motorcyclists

Diana Pillion Princess

The very first time I ever hopped on the back of a Harley, I was introduced to the waveAt first I thought it was a wave hello to an acquaintance, but I quickly discovered that it meant much more than that.  The wave was a sign of approbation to another member of arguably the largest fraternity in the world.  And I was welcomed as a part of that brotherhood…simply because I was riding on two wheels. 

The whole motorcycle culture was new to me at that point, and it was fun discovering all of the different ways that people would wave.  (Check out Dave’s post on this topic over at Road Grits Café.)  It was a huge part of what made me fall in love with motorcycling–that sense of camaraderie on the road.  But as I rode, I felt guilty because sometimes I did not reciprocate the waves.  As a novice rider I had so much to concentrate on–shifting, braking, traffic, curves, obstacles in the roadway…  Since I know from personal experience many reasons why one might with no ill intention refrain from waving, I bear no ill will towards others when they do not reciprocate my waves.

There are many alternatives to the traditional wave (sometimes referred to as “the secret Harley wave” by riders of other brands of bike).  You can raise a few fingers without actually letting go of the clutch with your entire hand, or you can offer a simple nod.  Some of these alternatives are not easily visible, particularly if you are concentrating on riding safely instead of stressing over whether or not another rider is waving at you!

Lately there has been a lot of negative talk about waving.  Some argue that all of this waving is dangerous, and that motorcyclists should always keep both hands on the grips where they belong, or that waving is distracting.  While I realize that there are some out there who leave caution to the wind, I would hope that none of us would intentionally put themselves or others in harm’s way in deference to making sure they acknowledged another rider.

We are all brothers and sisters on two wheels, and I encourage you to safely give a gesture of approval to any and all you come across on the road-no matter their club affiliation, gender, or brand of bike they ride.  Whether it is a low five, a peace sign, a nod, or a full wave, I can’t imagine why anyone would take issue with you wishing them a nice ride.  And don’t take offense if the gesture is not reciprocated…they may just be saving your life by it!

13 Responses to “The Wave – a gesture of brotherhood among motorcyclists”

  1. Mrs. RC, I couldn’t agree more. Great post topic. While safety is key. The brotherhood – sisterhood of bikers is a pretty cool thing to be welcomed into, regardless of age, gender, club, or type of bike you ride. I like the two fingers down low peace sign myself. Just looks cool.

  2. Just yesterday I was out and that happened. I was coming towards a stop sign and had the clutch pulled when a guy coming the other way waved. There was no way I could return it. I didn’t even have time to think of just nodding. Hey, this is the nature of being on the road. I’d like to think we all realize that and wouldn’t let an un-returned wave give us a complex. My favorite waves are when I’m with the “herd” on a Blackstone run, and 20 to 30 hands are out at once – pretty cool. My other is any I get from little kids. In fact, that may be my most favorite. Some of them get SO excited when they see a motorcycle, especially a group of them, and they wave like crazy. That’s what makes my day.

  3. Kid waves are the best. I throw a sign always. Don’t care if you throw it back. If you can’t throw back because you have to keep the hands on both grips to operate the bike safely, please don’t wave. I don’t argue the safety issue. I don’t look over at the rider when I wave, im still looking at the road. I have heard the arguement yet I watch these same guys take their hands off the bars to adjust the brain bucket, give the wrist a good shake to fight numbness, mess with the ipod or whatever, yet they can’t manage a quick throw of the hand. lol…I think it has more to do with not looking like a newbie. Bec’s favorite part of riding is the wave. Makes her feel like she’s in a big family…which she is. No matter what the bike, your riding it and face the same dangers…throw the salute!

  4. Mr Motorcycle,
    Two fingers down (peace) is my fave too!
    I know what you mean about the group wave. I was trying like hell to get a photo when we went to Skyline Drive of a group wave between us and a pack of oncoming riders. Got one shot that captured it, but not very good.

    The kids crack me up. And the old folks too! Especially when they see a group of us, it’s like they think it’s a parade! Everybody smiling and waving their little hearts out.
    I’m telling ya, Bec sounds more and more like me every time you mention her!

    From the very beginning the waving thing made me feel welcomed into this huge biker family. I still remember when it first hit me, it near brought a tear to my eye. “Wow,” I thought…”I could have a single-digit handicap in golf and many of the golfers still wouldn’t accept me into thier little clique, but here I am–a novice rider who won’t go faster than 40 mph or ride on a road with more than 2 lanes–and everyone in the biker community loves me!!”
    As always, thank you all for stopping by. Please keep the comments coming! (Jay has tied my best at 17 comments for his Road Captain prospect article. We can’t have that!!)

  5. I always try to give some type of wave, nod or hand getsture. Oh and one of the first things we did in the Experienced Rider Course was to ride around weaving in and out of the cones with one hand on our leg and the other on the throttle.


  6. Mrs. Road Captain, when I first started riding, I was positive there was no way my hand would ever come off the handlebar voluntarily…lol…but eventually I was able to salute my fellow riders. I don’t have any favorite style, If it’s windy, I give a low wave. If I have room and saw the other rider(s) in time, I give the open hand, outstretched arm. And if I’m making turn or leaving a stop, then I’ll just catch you on the next round. I’ve enjoyed reading your comments. Keep up the good work.

  7. Ronman,
    RC and i were out this morning weaving around cones in the school parking lot around the corner…boy I wish I could’ve rested my left hand after awhile of covering the clutch. It’s a tight squeeze on my bike, and for my first ride in a few months my gripper is out of shape!

    I am definitely getting more comfortable taking my hands off the grips every once in awhile. Last summer I took my first few rides on my own bike with groups of riders (instead of just me and the hubby). By October, I even pointed out a road obstacle with my foot!! 🙂 Thanks for dropping by. Come again soon.

  8. Thanks for the tip Dave! Earlier today we were riding and when I would wave and watch the other bike my bike would meander a little. Then I remembered your above comment and how it made perfect sense! I felt pretty dumb. KEEP HEAD & EYES POINTED IN DIRCTION BIKE IS SUPPOSED TO GO! Can not be watching to see the other guy. Just have to throw the sign and keep truck’n! No time to see his reaction. Watch straight ahead.

  9. Mrs. RC,
    Dave is right, waving has got to be one of my favorite parts of riding. I enjoyed reading your post, and it’s funny that you said I sounded like you, because I was just thinking today about how I am going to wave when I start riding my own bike.
    I also appreciate that you mentioned waving to all on bikes, no matter the type of bike. I feel like no matter what you ride, you are in this family. Crotch rockets may not be my style, but those guys (and girls) love to ride just as much as anyone else.
    Thanks again for a great post.

  10. Since joining the motorized two wheel blog community and reading quality scooter blogs like Scooter In The Sticks, I have started waving at Scooter riders too!

  11. Hey Bec,
    So your “if” has become a “when”??? More power to ya, girl! I have so much fun riding my own bike. Got it out for the first time this spring yesterday. I’m a bit rusty (as would be expected after 5 months off), so we practiced weaving around cones in the school parking lot down the street. Might seem alittle silly, but it was fun.

    Later yesterday afternoon a bunch of us got together for our monthly dinner ride. As we gathered, Jay noticed that all 3 women there had their own bikes but had decided this time to ride on the back with the hubby! It’s all about balance…and designated drivers–LOL!

    Good luck with riding. And definitely take the Basic Rider Course. If you can get in to a class through the DMV, it is a hell of a lot cheaper than at a Harley dealer!

  12. I’m the “peace” wave….

  13. Mrs. RC,

    I wave because I have been doing it since I first started riding. I ride a Harley, but I’m not a brand snob because it is the same wind for all of us. I know some who refuse to wave at any other bike that isn’t a particular brand. How sad to be so small.

    In answer to your adding me to your blog roll I would be honored. Thanks,

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