by Leslie Kay Drury
The secret handshake – some are so old that they precede any specific dated origin. One thing that can definitively be determined about them; they are as old as any form of greeting.
My favorite of all these secret salutations is most unique, as it requires zero physical contact to conduct, yet holds more soul and intention than – I would vehemently argue – more traditional exchanges. Yes, it’s ‘The Wave’. If you drive a motorcycle, you know about this rolling phenome. This innocent mobile exchange holds an intrinsic insider connection to the biker brother and sisterhood.
As with other historic accounts, the wave comes with its own stories and tall tales about its origins and meanings. According to the WHAT – BS (Wave Hard And True – Biker Society), many riders believe there was once a secret wave society, similar to thePriere de Sion fraternal order, founded back in 1903 when the first Harley Davidson rolled out of the shed. Unfortunately, this tale is just that… a really cool tale. In truth? It all started one day in 1904 when Arthur Davidson passed by William Harley and, since they knew each other, they waved. Another biker saw the two ‘Kings of Motorcycles’ doing this and thought this was a biker necessity. It was all one, big, glorious accident of happenstance and nosey onlookers.
For those of you that have ever wondered if your wave is appropriate, then this is your insider’s guide to all of the possible biker high fives, peace outs, whaz-ups and yo’s . Although there are many waving flourishes that have taken hold over time, the long standing signature biker wave is a variation of two fingers pointed parallel or down toward the ground. There are many speculations for why this symbol: a”V” for V-twin; a “2” for keeping it “on two wheels”; or just a peace sign that keeps your hands close to the controls.
HOW TO WAVE LIKE A BOSS
If you are going to embark on the exclusive bikers hand shake, then learn the wave that is right for you. There is nothing worse than thinking you are waving like a pro, but in reality you come across like a poser. Truth be known, hard core riders even attach specific meanings to certain types of waves. Don’t get caught with your proverbial leathers down! Here are the different types of waving methods, broken down and idiot-proofed:
- The LOW WAVE
Appropriate For – Cruisers, Harley Riders, Universal Rider Wave
This is the most universal wave and a standard go-to for any rider. I have seen this technique utilized mostly for cruiser riders, particularly of the Harley variety.
- How To Boss It – Extend the left arm downward at a forty-five degree angle, then extend any variation of fingers.
- Idiot’s Method – Extend the left arm straight out. That’ the signal for a left turn!
- A fist with index and middle fingers extended together – The low wave if you’re on a two cylinder bike.
- All four fingers extended – The low wave if you’re on a four cylinder bike.
- A fist with the index and middle fingers extended but spread apart – A peace sign meaning “peace on the road.”
- Thumb and index finger making a circle other three fingers extended – The “OK” sign saying, “I’m okay, you’re okay.” Can also be a question asking if the other rider is okay.
- All five fingers extended, palm facing forward – the “low five.”
- The TWO FINGER FLIP
Appropriate For – Crotch Rockets, Rice Burners, Speed Freaks or Traffic Safety Situations
This is most often utilized by sporty types due to the seated leaning position that can make waving awkward and potentially unsafe. This is also an appropriate wave for any rider that needs both hands on the bars – such as in traffic situations – to maintain a safe response control.
- How To Boss It – Leave your left hand remaining on the grip, but then raise up the index and middle fingers.
- Idiot’s Method – Attempting this in an unsafe situation and dropping the bike. Dude, just forget it if you need your grips!
- The 4 FINGER WIGGLE
Appropriate For – All Riders in a Safety Situation
- How To Boss It –Keep your left hand on the grip, while raising all four fingers up and give a minimal wiggle with raised fingers side to side.
- Idiot’s Method – Over shaking your raised fingers and looking like someone should call a paramedic.
- The MINI WAVE
Appropriate For – All Riders Who Have Commitment Problems, But Want to be Nice About It
- How To Boss It – Raise your left hand up just a few inches of the grip and flash a wave before going back to the grip.
- Idiot’s Method – Flash it so fast that the other rider never even saw it and now thinks you are an A$$.
- The FULL WAVE
Appropriate For – All Overly Enthusiastic Riders or the The Cheerleaders of Bikers
- How To Boss It – Raise your left hand up to shoulder height or higher to wave.
- Idiot’s Method – Shake so vigorously your loose balance and do your best road rash impersonation.
- The RIGHTY WAVE
Appropriate For – Ultra Classic and Goldwing Riders
- How To Boss It – Raise your right hand, with elbow bent with slight forward angling of the forearms.
- Idiot’s Method – Raise your left first, then switch to the right. Yea, your other right!
- The PEACE SIGN
Appropriate For – Bippies (Biker Hippies), Chill-a-holics, and Antique or Vintage Model Riders
- How To Boss It – The left hand makes a fist with the index and middle fingers extended and spread.
- Idiot’s Method – This one is basically foolproof so if you mess this up, you have bigger problems then this article.
- The NOD
Appropriate For – Laid Back Cats, Cool Riders, and Grease Over-Indulgers
- How To Boss It – Nod your head down once on a slight angle, chin slightly pointed to one side, almost like a head wink and express a chill, cool facial façade.
- Idiot’s Method – Nod upwards Jersey style or nod upwards while pursing your lips like the ‘special’ guy standing at the bar with leathers too tight. Eww – Gross!!
- The BIKER SALUTE
Appropriate For – **CAUTION** For Advance Riders & In the Know Only!
This salute is rather rare. I have been riding over 18 years and have only seen this on the odd occasion, and always between riders that look as though they are part of the same ‘group’. The references that I have heard or read indicate that it’s an old-time biker gang signature. Sounds very mysterious, and I love a good story…so I’m going to go with it.
- How To Boss It – Raise your left fist and hold it up high and proud.
- Idiot’s Method – Any variation of this if you are not a HA or have not been riding since in diapers. Example: If you are just learning about this, you should DEFINITELY NOT try this one!
‘Sullen’ Rider ‘Snobby’ Rider ‘WHY DON’T THEY WAVE’ RIDERS
Sorry folks, but some riders just don’t wave. Why? Well, life is a melting pot of conundrums and this is one that is on my Riders Rant & Head Scratching list. To be fair, in my personal riding experiences I find that more often than not the vast majority of riders passing by do wave back. And it is not uncommon for the few that do not wave are not able to in that specific moment, or happen to be looking in another direction (in which case I rev the pipes and then “Hello”). But, every so often, I encounter the ever elusive fickle riders that just will not wave back.
I wave at EVERYONE. The way I see it, we are all part of the same brotherhood/sisterhood of riders. I don’t care what you ride, as long as your ride often and safely! “ ~ Leslie Kay Drury, Proprietor Leslie Kay’s Insurance
To Wave or Not to Wave…
That IS the question. And I’m going to simplify this for you so that you think less and enjoy more on your next wind-in-your-face adventure. Here are some general DO NOT wave rules:
- On the interstate; unnecessary
- On a curve; dangerous
- In the rain or at night; dangerous
- In traffic, unnecessary
- At a rally, unnecessary unless you want to wave your arm right off
Reasons Your Wave Failed…
I have seen some individuals write about brand loyalty being a catalyst for such behavior. For example: Harley riders should only wave at other Harley riders and Honda riders to other Honda riders.
- You weren’t seen
- Clutch manipulation
- A head nod was substituted
I believe the rhetoric about brand loyalties and uber ‘insider-inside club’ mentality is just an excuse for poor manners. The point is to ride people! I don’t give a hoot how you go about it or what revs your engine. Regardless, I’ll be waving to you anyway. And if someone chooses not to wave back… it’s not going to ruin my adventure; my soul will still ride free and happy!