THE BIKER WAVE
The Biker Wave
To wave or not to wave. That is not the question. Said topic has been dealt with elsewhere, ad nauseam. Suffice it to say that the choice is entirely yours: Wave first, wave back or don't wave at all. However, if you do decide to wave, then the Waving Code that all Real Bikers share needs to be committed to memory and implemented correctly.
The historical origin of the wave is attributed to armored knights on horseback. When approached by another knight bearing the same coat of arms, both knights would raise their helmets' visors to reveal their identities to each other. When knights were not in armor, the lifting of the visor was transformed into a salute, employing a similar motion of the arm and hand.
In the early days of motorcycling, two-wheeled warriors of the open road began greeting each other in passing with a knight-like salute. Nowadays, according to experts on waving protocol, the waves exchanged by bikers are determined by the kinds of bikes they are riding. The major categories are sportbikes, metric cruising/touring bikes, and genuine Harley-Davidsons. Anything else with a motor and two wheels is considered to be just a motor-bike.
Sportbikes, be they naked or faired, are designed to be pushed to scary limits by competent pilots of the non-squidly persuasion. Due to their awesome power and handling, they deserve special recognition with a specific salute. Don't expect a sportbike pilot to remove hand from grip when their bike is cranked over in a turn. While showering sparks onto pavement, the best riders may actually manage a subtle lifting of the left index finger. Consequently, waving at sportbikes by wiggling your index finger is considered the proper salute. If you are riding an inline-four and aren't preoccupied with scraping noises emanating from your footpeg, you may want to wave by raising all four fingers while leaving your left thumb curled under the grip. Ducati riders may similarly modify the standard sportbike salute, using two fingers to symbolize their twins.
There are a couple of other hand gestures shared by sportbike riders that are worth mentioning. If you have recently eluded a speed trap on your crotch-rocket and encounter oncoming sportbike riders, pat the top of your helmet to let them know there's fuzz up ahead. On the other hand, if the section of highway you've just burned up is not infested with gun-toting kill-joys trying to enforce speed limits meant for cagers, you may want to signal with a thumbs-up, just to let the other bikers know that they, too, can go for it.
Japanese metric cruisers and baggers, while undeniably offering the best bang for the buck in the forward-foot-control genre, just don't have enough innate character to garner the respect of bikers whose loyalties lie elsewhere. While heavily customized versions may receive admiration at bike shows, their riders tend to feel like Rodney Dangerfield when on the road. If you don't ride rice and want to avoid the appearance of snobbery, you may acknowledge these Oriental economic miracles by raising your left hand vertically, keeping your elbow close to your side so as not to imitate a right-turn hand signal. Keeping your fingers curled, touch your left thumb to your index finger as if pinching a penny. If you are riding a metric cruiser, open your left hand while maintaining thumb to forefinger contact, and form the universally recognized sign for "O.K., Dude!"
The venerable Harley-Davidson is the only motorcycle worthy of the V-Twin salute. A "V for Victory" or "Peace, Brother" symbol is formed with the index and middle fingers, and delivered with a slow extension of the left arm, downward at a 45-degree angle. If you own a Harley and have acquired the all-too-common "Harleyer than Thou" attitude towards other coats of arms, upon discovering that the approaching bike is actually a Japanese imposter you can simply retract your index finger. Depending upon the extent of your air-cooled bigotry, you may want to give an approaching V-Rod rider the same one-finger salute. Unless, of course, you are also riding a V-Rod, in which case a shoulder shrug is probably sufficient.
Should you encounter an off-brand American cruiser, a chopper, a Euro-bike that is not of the sporting variety, or a Japanese model other than cruiser, bagger or sportbike, a quasi-salute is optional. This can be accomplished with a brief opening of your left hand, just above the grip. However, if you happen to be riding the very same kind of motorcycle, then by all means feel free to make a fool of yourself by gesticulating wildly.
When it comes to waving etiquette, there remain several murky areas still being hotly debated. For example, should passengers wave to other passengers, thereby sharing pillion empathy? If you are of the waving persuasion, should you greet everyone coming the other way on your poker run? If there is a large group of oncoming riders, and their motorcycles represent a mixed bag, should you give the entire group one continuous, generic wave, or should you greet each rider individually with a wave that is politically correct for their specific mount? If you can accomplish the latter at 50 miles per hour, you can probably count cards in Vegas.
There is one more thing that needs to be said here. While it is perfectly acceptable for bikers to return in kind the waves of pedestrians, be they inquisitive children or envious adults, Real Bikers never wave back at grown-ups on bicycles, mopeds or motor-scooters. If you'll feel guilt-ridden for not being oh-so polite, then perhaps a simple nod of the head in recognition of their existence would ease your conscience. Just hope that your riding buddies don't notice!
Copyright © 2003 by Mick Skolnick - All Rights Reserved.
Why They Don't Wave Back
Every once in a while, somebody starts whining about Harley riders not waving back. Before those whiners dismiss all Harley riders as mean-spirited, they should consider that there are probably very good reasons why their waves are not being returned....
Top Ten Reasons Why Harley Riders Don't Wave Back
1 - They're afraid it will invalidate their factory warranty.
2 - Leather and studs make it too hard to raise their arm.
3 - They refuse to wave to anyone whose bike is already paid for.
4 - They won't let go of handlebars because they might vibrate off.
5 - The rushing wind could blow the scabs off their new tattoos.
6 - They're angry over the second mortgage needed to pay for the new Harley.
7 - They just discovered the fine print in their owner's manual revealing that The Motor Company is partially owned by rice-burner manufacturers.
8 - They can't tell if other riders are actually waving or just reaching up to cover their ears, like everyone else.
9 - If they wave back, they risk being impaled on their spiked helmet.
10 - They're upset that after spending $30,000, they still don't own a bike that's as comfortable as a Goldwing.
To be totally fair, let it be noted that sometimes Goldwing riders don't wave back, either. Again, to facilitate a better understanding....
Top Ten Reasons Why Goldwing Riders Don't Wave Back
1 - They aren't sure whether the other rider is waving or making an obscene gesture.
2 - They risk getting frostbite if they take their hand off the heated grip.
3 - They have arthritis and it is difficult to raise their arm.
4 - The reflection from the etched windshield was momentarily blinding.
5 - The on-board espresso machine had just finished.
6 - They were asleep when other rider waved.
7 - They were involved in a three-way conference call with their stock broker and accessories dealer.
8 - They were distracted by an oddly shaped blip on their radar screen.
9 - They were simultaneously adjusting the air suspension, seat height, programmable CD player, seat temperature and satellite navigation system.
10 - They couldn't find the "auto wave-back" button on their dashboard.