Brothers and sisters of the road - do you wave?
No hard and fast rules exist for waving to other motorcycle riders. Years ago waving was not only acceptable it was quite natural. Just a fellow member in the small club of motorcycle riding. Today with so many bikers on the road and motorcycle ownership at an all-time high waving to a fellow rider feels passé.
That's not to say no one waves anymore. Indeed they do especially the old timers who've been riding for decades and considered to be founding members of the riding community. Though if you're new or clearly someone who just bought a crotch rocket to look cool, they'll know. They always do.
The key to a successful motorcycle hand wave is knowing how to do it. Waving like fellow Jeep owners do doesn't cut it. In fact, you may just get cut off! As full of clichés as the motorcycle community tends to be - and proud of it! - there is a style and method to the motorcycle wave process.
The Peace Sign
The peace sign as we all know is the index and middle finger extended to form a "V" or "peace." This can be done in a number of ways, correctly and seriously wrong.
The Peace sign wave (also a favorite amongst UPS drivers) is done using your left hand pointing towards the road at an angle. The suggested angle is 45 degrees. This is common with the Harley crowd and you may or may not get acknowledged by a Harley owner if you're not on one yourself. Regardless, it's up to you on whether you throw down the wave first or wait to see if the other rider steps up to the wave plate.
You can interchange the peace sign with simply an index finger as if you're pointing at the ground (don't forget the standard angle) or even three and four fingers, thumb tucked a bit inside. However you do it, know it's all in the wrist. Think James Dean throwing down his cigarette. A quick flick of the wrist resulting in the peace sign or whatever fingers you wish to show says rebel like nothing else.
This wave is also acceptable while leaving your hand on the clutch. Of course if you're changing gears this is not recommended but you may or may not insult the other rider especially if he or she sends off a wave first. If the acknowledger is secure in who they are they won't take your snub personally and will assume you either didn't see them or couldn't remove your hand from the clutch. Or just think you're a jerk and move on.
The Faux Left Turn
Putting your left arm straight out is the technically and lawfully method to indicate a planned left turn to the traffic behind you. The Faux Left Turn is actually waving to another rider.
The Faux Left Turn is simply placing your left arm straight out. Your hand my take the shape of the above Peace Sign, simply point with the index finger or have all five fingers spread out and your hand slightly raised showing your palm. Oh, and you never look at the other rider. This is where peripherals come into play. Keep your eyes on the road and as you pass the other rider lift your arm, hold it a sec and drop back on the grip.
The Faux Right Turn
Like its cousin, Faux Left Turn, the Faux Right Turn is indeed the technically and lawfully correct method to indicate a planned right turn. This wave is not all that popular in the riding community because it's so much cooler and rippin' to do one of the above. Most people who do this are beginner riders just excited or perhaps rather nervous to be out in traffic on their rides.
The exception is the bad-ass sportbiker who is rolling to a stop or stuck in slow traffic taking the opportunity to relax a bit. The 100 mph crouch is gone. They sit upright with their right hand on the throttle, left hand lazily on their thigh. Don't expect them to acknowledge you first. When you do any of the above they'll respond with the Faux Right Turn more out of compliance - but they're totally annoyed.
Or you may have just woken the rider from a MotoGP day-dream and you'll get a more pronounced wave as if they've just come off the track and now acknowledging the crowd.
Actual Right Handed Waves
If you're the record-keeping type, perhaps you're logging the different type of waves tossed at you. An actual right handed wave is like finding "Q" or "Z" when playing the alphabet game in a car with family. It's rare. Primarily because you cross paths with another rider on your left. The other issue preventing the right hand wave is it requires the rider to take their "foot off the gas" or in this case their hand.
The right handed wave is more commonly found on long stretches of highways where the cruiser crowd likes to congregate. Most likely you'll get a right-handed wave as the rider passes you. It'll be quick and probably be just a couple of fingers as they throttle on by. Or if their ride comes equipped with cruise control then you'll get the peace sign or the straight-out right arm. If a passengers is present you'll probably get a more "hello neighbor!" type wave from them.
The Head Nod is taking over if it hasn't already for the wave. There will be no hand wave when you get the head nod. It may be subtle, a quick tap-nod without a head-turn or the rider may turn to face you and fully acknowledge you with a nod.
Whatever method you employ in your riding adventures understand that attitude sometimes comes with a bike. Don't feel rejected if you get ignored, it may or may not be intentional. Yes, there are riders who think they are above a hand wave but most motorcyclists have no problem with waving or being waved at.
Just do it right. Even the nicest guys will roll their eyes if it looks like you're trying too hard. But, you'll never know and with practice soon you'll be a veteran at the motorcycle wave.
Written By: AndrewT