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Motorcycle Waving Etiquette For The Uninitiated

Posted on 15 May 2017

If you're new at motorcycle riding, then chances are, you probably haven’t had your first encounter with “the wave” yet…courtesy of another rider.

In any case, you could be dealing with an overwhelming urge to wave to another rider, or you're unsure of how to respond to them for fear of looking less cool.

Don't worry, the wave is typically symbolic of a connection between fellow bikers and there isn't really any special instruction on how it should be done. No one teaches it at biking class either.

But here's a rough and accepted waving etiquette that could help cut back on those awkward moments.

1. Waving is usually unnecessary
Whether you're in heavy traffic, riding fast on the highway or at a rally, waving is generally not expected. However, if you're slow-riding on a two lane or on a deserted highway with no traffic, it's just proper to exchange waves with your fellow biker.

2. Always try reciprocating
OK, so you didn't wave at the busy intersection but some old beard on a Honda Ruckus raises a heavy hand at you, smiling. Of course you should wave back.

3. Don't worry if your wave didn't get one back
No need to feel bad or offended, there are valid reasons for others and you not to wave back. Either the rider was busy with the clutch, or simply nodded their head instead or perhaps the wave wasn't even noticed.

And now that you know when (and when not) to wave, here is a basic collection of waves commonly accepted – if you're driving on the left side of the road, switch left with right and vice versa.

Five Motorcycle Waves

Left-Handed Low

Aimed down towards street with the extension of one, two, three, or five fingers.

Left-handed Straight Out

Arm fully or partially extended higher or lower than shoulder.

Left-Handed High

Elbow should be bent with slight forward angling of the forearm.

Right-Handed

Typically employed by Ultra Classic and Goldwing riders.

Left-Handed Forward

Almost imperceptible due to the speed of the wave and the bike.

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