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.
A successful motorcycle hand wave comes from 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! - a style and method to the motorcycle wave process exists.
Biker Wave - Getting it Right
The Peace Sign Motorcycle Wave
The peace sign as we all know extends the index and middle finger to form a "V" or "peace." The Peace Sign can be done in a number of ways, correctly and seriously wrong.
The Peace Sign motorcycle wave (also a favorite amongst UPS drivers) uses your left hand pointed towards the road at an angle. The suggested angle is 45 degrees. A common biker wave with the Harley crowd, 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 biker wave with simply an index finger as if pointing at the ground (don't forget the standard angle) or even stretch out 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 Peace Sign biker wave is also acceptable while leaving your hand on the clutch. Of course, we don't recommend this version while changing gears but you may or may not insult the initiating rider especially if he or she sends off a wave first. If the other biker waver rides 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 ride on.
The Faux Left Turn Motorcycle Wave
Putting your left arm straight out signals the technically and lawfully method to indicate a planned left turn for the traffic behind you. The Faux Left Turn motorcycle wave actually acknowledges another rider.
The Faux Left Turn biker wave simply requires placing your left arm straight out. Your hand may 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. Peripherals come into play here. 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 Motorcycle Wave
Like its cousin Faux Left Turn, the Faux Right Turn indeed announces the technically and lawfully correct method for a planned right turn. The Faux Right Turn biker wave sits low on the popularity scale of biker waves in the riding community because it's so much cooler and rippin' to do one of the above. Beginner riders represent most people who use the Faux Right Turn wave either out of excitement or perhaps nervousness to be out in traffic on their new bike.
The exception to this rule comes from the bad-ass sportbiker who rolls to a stop or gets stuck in slow traffic who takes the opportunity to relax a bit. The 100 mph crouch recedes, they sit upright with their right hand on the throttle and left hand lazily draped on their thigh. Do not 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 Motorcycle Wave
If you like record-keeping, perhaps you log the different type of motorcycle waves tossed at you. An actual right handed wave feels 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 Actual Right Handed biker wave is it requires the rider to take their "foot off the gas" or in this case their hand.
You more commonly find the Actual Right Handed motorcycle wave 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. This wave pops up quick with probably just a couple of fingers as they throttle on by. Or if their ride comes equipped with cruise control then you might get the Peace Sign or the straight-out right arm. If a passenger straddles the back expect more of a "Hello neighbor!" type wave.
The Head Nod has more or less taken over if it hasn't already for the motorcycle 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, some riders think they ride above the biker 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 try too hard. But, you'll never know and with practice soon you'll be a veteran at the motorcycle wave.