If you don’t ride a motorcycle, you may not know this – but bikers wave at each other. Not occasionally, but like, all the time, constantly. It seems to be some kind of acknowledgement of a shared experience. Nothing like the possibility of grievous injury or death to form a bond, eh?
Several forms of “The Wave” are acceptable. They range from a few lifted fingers to a fully upraised arm. The coolest riders have mastered the “arm dragging in the slipstream with index finger pointed down” technique. This has the greatest effect when executed from the “left hand resting on the hip” position. After all, the accomplished rider has no need to keep both hands on the grips, right? Indeed, if it weren’t for the pesky tendency of the throttle to snap back to idle when you take your right hand off, we could probably ride with no hands at all. Then both hands would be free for various poses of indifference.
On a typical Saturday afternoon ride, you can expect to pass dozens of bikes going the other way and to exchange waves with them. Sometimes you have to make tough calls. Like “do I hang onto the handlebars to negotiate this turn – or return the wave?” You get a lot of style points for waving while the bike is leaned down 45 degrees and pulling a full ‘G’ in a turn. But zero points for dropping the bike and leaving a trail of parts, glass, leather and skin on the road. No, nothing cool at all, about leaving the scene in the “disco van” or life flight.
Of course, there are lots of groups and cultures and sub-groups among bikers. And there is enough indifference, annoyance and downright animosity between them that they don’t all deign to wave at each other. The Harley folks aren’t likely to acknowledge anyone riding anything not Made in America. The sophisticates on the European BMWs and Ducati’s aren’t likely to acknowledge anyone – period. The regular people on the Japanese bikes are just giddy to be out riding and wave at everyone and can’t understand why people would spend 3 or 4 times the money for “an icon”. Nobody pays attention to these hapless fools…if we have to explain it…. Oh, and the GoldWing riders. They generally accept and are accepted by all…but a lot of the time they are too busy looking for the next Dairy Queen to notice the other bikers waving at them.
This is a lot to keep track of. Who to wave at, how to do it, whose wave to return, whose to ignore. In the midst of all this, you actually have to ride the bike and give a bit of attention to cars and drivers who will swear “I never saw him”…
I just got back from riding to the annual rally in Sturgis, SD. I was relieved when I got there to find out that by universal, unspoken agreement, “The Wave” had been waived. With a half a million bikes in town (really – can you imagine a mile long traffic jam of motorcycles?) no one was waving. It took a lot of pressure off! I liked it. I guess by being in town “The Wave” was assumed. Good thing, as there were plenty of other distractions.
OK. Enough. I’ll wrap this up. Just one final thought. While you are driving, before you start texting or take a sip of your coffee or work on your makeup – take a quick look around you – try to avoid a maneuver that will earn you another unmistakable biker gesture...you know, the one with the single upraised finger…