The Biker Wave
What is the Motorcycle Wave? What does it mean? Why do Bikers do it?
What's Motorcycle Wave etiquette? Who should I wave at? What if I don't want to wave?
It strikes me as odd that there are so many questions surrounding the not-so-mysterious "Motorcycle/Biker Wave."
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What is the Biker Wave?: It's just when bikers wave as they pass each other.
What does it mean?: It means "Hello."
Why do they do it?: This really is not some secret code used by a clandestine community to keep out the uninitiated. It's just a greeting - a simple acknowledgement - a momentary bonding - a friendly gesture. It's kind of like waving to a neighbor that you don't know well - maybe you'll get to know them some day but, not today.
What is Biker Wave Etiquette?: There is none; they're Bikers.
Who should I wave to?: Whomever you want to wave to.
- Some motorcyclists wave at all other motorcyclist. This gets old quickly; imagine driving a Chevy and waving at every other Chevy that you see.
- Some don't wave at any. They're either afraid to take their hands of the handlebars or they're just too bad a$$ to be bothered.
- Some only wave at Bikers on certain types of motorcycles. They're just too cool to be associated with the rest of us.
- Some even wave at scooters. That's slumming it a bit, I think.
- Nearly all will wave at a pretty young thing, whether she on a Bike or not.
What if I don't want to wave?: Then don't... but beware the Biker Karma.
How To Do the Biker Wave
and not look like a Biker Noob
Universal Wave: Extend the left arm down at a 45 degree angle for one to two seconds as you pass another rider. The elbow should not be too straight or rigid as this indicates a willingness to readily conform to "the system" - an attitude not supported by the greater Biker Community. The hand can be open or loosely closed. Extending the pointer finger is acceptable.
Passenger Wave: It is acceptable for the passenger to wave instead of the driver. This allows the driver (the man) to be hard and cool while the passenger (female) shows friendly courtesy, thereby avoiding a great deal of inter-relational conflict.
Head Nod: Used in countries where motorists drive on the right side of the road since the right hand is needed for throttle control; the head nod goes largely unnoticed in other countries.
Middle Finger Wave: To some Bikers, this is a favorite way of communicating affection to car drivers and police. The British equivalent is to form a "V" shape with the pointer and second fingers.
Queen's Wave: Reserved for parades.
Whatever Wave: Half-heartedly raising the hand straight up off the handlebar. Better than nothing, I guess; on second thought - why bother?
le Leg: I hear that the French prefer to... Raise a Leg?! I think someone must be pulling mine.
When someone pumps an open palm up-and-down,
or draws small circles above their head with a finger, it means:
"Slow Down - There's a speed trap (or road debris) ahead."
Dog Doing Motorcycle Wave
Do You Biker Wave?
Some Car Drivers Do It, Too.
Many specialty cars have "the Wave," too:
British Roadsters: When I owned my TR6 (the car), I was waved to by the driver of nearly every British car that I passed (well, except for Jaguar owners - they're a little stuck up I guess).
Jeep Wranglers: Especially when it's top-down weather.
Karmann Ghias: Acknowledged by the entire Air-Cooled VW community.
Antiques: While driving my '57 Chevy, I was waved to by everyone that had ever owned or wished that they had owned an American car from the 1920s-1950s.
Volkswagen Beetle: Air-Cooled Beetles are unique. The drivers don't wave at each other but, every boy between the ages of 8 and 18 starts punching his friends in the arm at the site of a Punch Buggy. Do kids still do this?
Smart? or Lazy?