Motorcycle Etiquette: How Not to Wave Like a Dork.

How to Wave While Riding a Motorcycle

Left-handed low and and left-handed high biker waves.
Left-handed low and and left-handed high biker waves.

If you drive a motorcycle, you know about “the wave”. The wave is your rolling connection to your biker brother and sisterhood, but is there a special secret to this wave? When you started riding did you seek out a wave master and perhaps copy theirs, or did you develop one of your own? Have you ever wondered if your wave is appropriate? Unfortunately, wave training is not covered in the basic or advanced motorcycle safety classes.

Well, here I present the five basic motorcycle waves. Your worries about not knowing proper biker etiquette are over.

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.
Typically employed by Ultra Classic and Goldwing riders.
Left-Handed Forward
Almost imperceptible due to the speed of the wave and the bike.

Origins of the Motorcycle Wave

Many riders believe there that was once a secret wave society, similar to the Priere de Sion fraternal order, founded back in 1903 when the first Harley Davidson rolled out of the shed. There wasn't. 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. A tradition was born.

The waving tradition continued on through the years but was always haphazard. There were bikers doing the “Bye Grandma Wave,” others doing the "Howdy Wave," and still others doing the extremely feminine “Princess Wave."

In 1946, after several years of these image-destroying gestures, a group of crusty old bikers decided to put some proper waving rules in place. They formed the Wave Hard And True Biker Society. Abbreviation: WHAT-BS.

Fast Motorcycle Wave While Passing

To Wave or Not to Wave?

To wave or not to wave, that is the question. We’ve all faced that moment when we felt obligated to wave but then become unsure. The worrying starts and then there’s that overwhelming feeling of guilt. Well, worry no more. Here are some general waving rules to help guide you:

  • On the interstate; unnecessary
  • On a curve; unnecessary
  • In the rain or at night; unnecessary
  • On a mellow two-lane; proper
  • On a highway with little traffic; proper
  • At a rally, unnecessary
  • In traffic, unnecessary.

There are, however, times when not waving is just down-right rude. So if you’re not a jackass, you should, if at all possible, reciprocate when another biker waves to you.

If it’s the proper place and time and you receive no reciprocal wave, don’t get your panties in a bunch and think you’ve just passed a jackass, because there are some acceptable reasons. These reasons are as follows:

  • You weren’t seen
  • Clutch manipulation
  • A head nod was substituted

The Five Basic Motorcycle Waves

  1. Left-Handed Low Sometimes this wave is called the Harley or cruiser wave. These are typically used by cruiser-style or custom-chopped motorcycle riders. The arm is fully extended and aimed down towards the street in a 45 or lesser degree angle, with one, two, three, or five fingers extended. The direction of the palm is also critical to the look and feel of this wave. The palm must either face the other rider or face the road. A classic variation of the finger positioning is to throw a peace sign (duce) or a thumbs up. A low wave with an angle greater than 45 degrees and/or with the palm facing up or back and/or with the use of four fingers is telling the biker community at large that you are either new or inept. If you have a cruiser and can’t get this wave to work for you, then consider the Left-Handed Straight Out or trading in your bike.
  2. Left-Handed Straight Out This is an all-around general wave. They're typically used by crotch rockets, cruisers, customs, and bagger riders. The arm can be either fully or partially extended with no more than a 10 degree angle higher or lower than the shoulder. The palm must be facing the oncoming rider in either a horizontal or vertical position and a full palm must be shown. It is suggested that you present the hand in a relaxed state, as flattening it will make you look like a dork. The classic variations of the peace sign (duce) or thumbs up are also acceptable. If practiced, this is one of the easiest waves to master and will work with all bikes. If for some reason you can’t get this wave to work, you will probably have serious problems with the kickstand dynamic and should immediately sell your motorcycle before you cause yourself anymore embarrassment.
  3. Left-Handed High This is a variation of the typical wave seen made by kings and kids alike. It's used mostly by upright riders of crotch rockets and baggers. The elbow is kept even or slightly lower than shoulder height. The elbow should be bent at about a 75 – 85 degree angle with a slight forward angling of the forearm. The palm must be facing the oncoming rider and the hand can either remain still, though the use of a side to side motion is acceptable. This wave has been proven very useful when you have a loose watchband. It is suggested you present the hand in a relaxed state, as, once again, flattening it will make you appear to be a dork. The classic variations of the peace sign (duce) or thumbs up are frowned upon when using this type of wave. It’s a bit too over-the-top. Important: Should you be riding a crotch rocket, it is extremely important to maintain the crotch rocket image by using this wave only if the left hand is coming from the left hip or thigh. This should never, ever be used when coming from the handlebars. Warning of possible injury: Do not use this type of wave on a cruiser. You will appear aloof, snobbish, and everyone will hate you. If you have a medical condition or feel you must use this type of wave, get a bagger or ride a crotch rocket only in the upright position and don’t be a dick about it. There are rules.
  4. Right-Handed This is also known as the "Ha, ha. I have cruise control" wave. It is occasionally used by bagger riders but more typically by Ultra Classic and Goldwing riders. They’re riding on rolling living room sofas. These big, comfy, and not really cool bikes are great for touring. This lack of coolness can cause a temporary condition known as “dickishness,” which can be instantly healed by passing a cruiser and giving the right hand wave. The general message being sent is "You might be on a cool bike but damn it, I’m comfy.” If the rider of the touring bike is a smoker, he will typically light up a cigarette or a cigar, just to drive the point home.
  5. Left-Handed Forward This wave is used solely by crotch rocket riders because, let’s face it, what the hell else can they do in that position? A flashed wave, it is almost imperceptible due to the speed of the wave and the bike. To execute this wave one must slightly raise the left hand from the grip, no more than three or four inches, show the palm, and return to the grip. This entire motion must be fluid and executed in under three seconds. You must learn all the intricacies of this wave before you take your first ride. If you don’t, they will know you’re a newbie and you’ll instantly become pink-slip bait. The only way to avoid this lame wave stigma is by doing something crazy like riding a wheelie while naked. If you don’t fall off, that’s a big plus.

Maintain the Rule of the Wave

When approaching another biker always remember to maintain the rule of "The Wave." You never know who's watching!

What Do You Think?

If you ride a motorcycle, do you wave at other bikers?

  • Heck no! I'm not letting go of the handles for anything!
  • Yes, and I think it's rude when other bikers don't wave back!
  • Sometimes I wave, sometimes I don't. It depends.
See results without voting

Comments 170 comments

John D'Angelo 6 years ago

One of my favorite waves is when I ride past a large group of riders and I give the low 5 until I pass the whole group and I get it back from most of them.

Sheri B 6 years ago

Awesome article! A new biker myself, I'm trying to perfect the Harley wave. Hopefully, my novice clutch ability is not compromised while practicing. haha. Great article!

dunkpick profile image

dunkpick 6 years ago

Many gifts Many gifts Many gifts

Chaotic Chica profile image

Chaotic Chica 6 years ago

I haven't laughed so hard in a while!!! I love it!!

dongately profile image

dongately 6 years ago from Sana Clarita, California

This must be satire. I've been riding since 1955 on all kinds of bikes (but only a couple, for not long, Harleys). I always wave, but never realized there were so many kinds of waves. I ride a Yamaha FZ1000 naked bike and notice that often Harley riders don't wave back. In the old days, all bikers waved at each other, but now the new breed of RUBs (rich urban bikers) may feel that if you don't ride a Harley you don't merit a return wave.

earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia

I never wave, always dip my head, going too fast to wave!

Greg 6 years ago

Let's this satire...let's review the evidence shall we:

"a group of crusty old bikers decided to put some proper waving rules in place and formed the Wave Hard And True - Biker Society. Abbreviated: WHAT-BS"

With an abbreviation like that it must be spot on :-)

Dave 6 years ago

Excellent article, except, the author missed a wave; the "both-hands-in-the-air, two-thumbs-up, thank-you-god-for-making-it-spring-again" wave. This particular wave is awesome because anyone who does it is quite obviously totally stoked that they can ride again after a crappy winter, spent scratching an ever growing beer belly. Often on those perfect runs (e.g. dragons tail) the rider two handedly points at another bike who is performing a wheelie, as a fanfare or sign of bravado at the end of an intense technical run; almost exclusively seen between riders of supersports. God... I wish it would stop raining...

Writen4u profile image

Writen4u 6 years ago

I don't ride a bike but that was entertaining. We have our own little wave in the VW community, sometimes I see a nice ride, get a little to excited and give the dorkiest wave ever.

We all look like tools sometimes!

Wayne Orvisburg profile image

Wayne Orvisburg 6 years ago

Loved it!

bonenitville 6 years ago

mint articule, in the Uk we nod, I supose it coz we ride on the 'other' side.....

vnbrtzl 6 years ago

You do not drive a bike, you ride it. Are you a real rider?

VivekSri 6 years ago

creative things to share. nice way of putting your points in place. good streamlined hub.

Pat H 6 years ago

In my book "How to Ride a Motorcycle" I also addressed the concept of waving. Here is the excerpt:

Big Secret #7: Riding the Wave

Deep in the conscience of the motorcycle community, there’s this irrepressible urge to raise your left arm, move your left hand back and forth, to and fro, or up and down, and commit some sort of outwardly friendly maneuver in the direction of an oncoming motorcyclist. What’s really great about this urge is that you almost always get a similar gesture “right back atcha.” This is the motorbike wave.

It comes in many forms: a subtle glance, quick nod, gloved-palm flashback, gotcha-pointed finger, howdy-peace sign, rock-and-roll devil fingers, down-low wrist-flipper, and sometimes, the granddaddy of all waves, the “both-hands-in-the-air-roller-coaster-Homer-Simpson-woo-hoo!” wave. Riders do this because they’re out having fun on a vehicle only one in ten people know how to ride—and they’ve just seen another one-in-ten person. There’s a bond there, a secret you share, and you can’t help but acknowledge it with a little flash of greeting. In a great big world where everyone’s going their millions of different ways, you and that other person have something in common—more in common than you do with most of your acquaintances.

Half the riders out there will shoot you one without being prompted, and you’ll instinctively return the wave, completing the happy electric circuit. If you wave first, you’ll probably get a return gesture three times out of four. Why don’t they always wave back? Hard to say. Most likely, they’re focused on the road or a particular hazard. (You don’t have to be looking at someone to wave at them, you know!) They may be holding on for dear life (a nod would still be acceptable). They could be lost in thought (not the best time or place) or fiddling with something on their bike (what’s so important down there?) and simply didn’t see you. It’s usually something like that.

However, there’s always the chance that may not actually be riders: maybe they’re squids or posers who aren’t real motorcyclists and don’t understand what riding is all really about, so they haven’t developed the return-wave instinct. They’re simply not riders so they don’t “get it.” On rare occasions, it’ll be worse than that: an elitist jackass who thinks that motorcycling is only about the bike or the protective gear (or lack thereof), ignoring the rider, the riding, and the road. Since you don’t ride the way he or she does, you therefore have nothing in common.

(In those cases, you’re better off without the wave.)

BlackBike profile image

BlackBike 6 years ago from On The Road, On My Motorcycle

I typically give a knowing nod when I don't know the other rider and wave when I know the other rider.

Awesome article, very scientifically analyzed!

Air Jordan Fusion 6 years ago

Deep in the conscience of the motorcycle community, there’s this irrepressible urge to raise your left arm, move your left hand back and forth, to and fro, or up and down, and commit some sort of outwardly friendly maneuver in the direction of an oncoming motorcyclist. What’s really great about this urge is that you almost always get a similar gesture “right back atcha.” This is the motorbike wave.

Ninjadude250 5 years ago

Great article! I kinda just figured it out on my own, but I was always self-concious whether or not I looked as newbie as I am =D

bigocean profile image

bigocean 5 years ago from New England

Well, that was an interesting read! He failed to mention the foot wave, but I suspect that's a story for another time. I've been perfecting my foot wave (MFW) and will reveal it at some future time..... when the world is ready to embrace it!!

Ride safe.

vibram 5 years ago


kims3003 5 years ago

very impressive hub! Great pictures - excellent instructions - easy to understand - very nice writing style- one of the best done hubs I have seen in quite a while. Loved it

moshitup profile image

moshitup 5 years ago from Wisconsin

I've been given the "wave" twice from moped riders! MOSH \m/

smmotorb profile image

smmotorb 4 years ago from New Zealand

Well that's a classic, nice hub, here's hoping to see it in a book maybe bike rider wave's for newbies or something. Is there a list for head nodding as well.

I have to admit I thought there was more to it than just a stick your hand out, now i know, thanks.

JJ 4 years ago

I have a crotch rocket and there is alot more things you can do than you think. So next time go ride one ( that is of you have the balls) before you knock it!

The Time Rider profile image

The Time Rider 4 years ago from Hampton Va Author

Hi JJ, This article was satire and if you'll notice every type of bike rider got picked on. As far as I'm concerned if you're riding anything with 2 or 3 wheels you know what living is all about! BTW; I've seen guys do things on crotch rockets that couldn't possibly be done with anything but maybe a dirt bike. Life's too short, kick back, laugh and enjoy the ride!

Cindi 4 years ago

I am a scooter rider, and with a 500cc I decided that because I am driving the same roads, on two wheels I deserved to not feel like a dork waving at others. It is typically met with ridiculous looks from others but I hold onto the hope that if I continue to wave at others that some day more than 30% will acknowledge my presense =)

Chris 4 years ago

@ Cindi, you will get a wave from me 100% of the time :) and i ride a sport bike. it will make me smile to myself too haha lets face it, how could a scooter not make anyone smile/chuckle

Nick Fotopoulos 4 years ago

Reading some of these other comments about different riders/bikes not waving makes me a little sad, but also makes me realize how good it is here in Nashville.

I love my Nashville riding community! Everyone shows love around here no matter what your riding. Cruiser, sportbike, trikes, dual purpose...even mopeds and scooters get love (but not enough in my opinion)...

I can't even remember the last time I went to a bike night that didn't have a wide variety of bikes, ethnicities, ages, MCs, solo riders. But you won't find any cliques huddled up in different areas.

Cars aren't watching out for us, so we have to watch out for each other....

Sarah 4 years ago

Thanks for the article - I was thrilled when I received my first "wave" the other day!

As far as I'm concerned we are all taking the SAME risks while we are on two wheels, therefore we all deserve the same respect and camaraderie.

goose 4 years ago

its not about being "cool" its about being that % of people who are willing learn to ride, get the bike and deal with all the bullshit that idiots who dont know how to drive a car, let alone a motorcylce,....because they love the raw form of transportation that is a motorcycle....if i had explain this this thing to you, you wouldn't understand. GREAT ARTICLE!

Groove 4 years ago

Interestingly, whenever I meet up with one of these "SMART CARs", I give them the wave also. I figure they are risking their lives just as much as I am, they deserve it.. ;-)

donnieb883 4 years ago

Hey Snicktish, I ride a Harley and have an above IQ. Even if I didn't, at least I wouldn't have written "love IQ" instead of "low IQ". By the way, the "wave" was started by Harley and Davidson, research it.

I wave to every rider on the road no matter what they are riding. And yes cindi, I always wave at scooter riders. I have a 49cc scooter I take with me when I go camping and even on it, I get return waves.

Bottom line, if you ride, wave. If you see someone waving at you and you don't return it, you just don't get what it means to ride.

MAINEAC 4 years ago

No mention of the 2 fingers down.... meaning keep your 2 wheels down on the ground...

TheVulcan 4 years ago

@donnieb883...If you are going to downgrade someone else's comment, referring to the fact that you're "smarter" than inferred, you should probably not leave out words. "I ride a Harley and have an above IQ." Really?

Marni 4 years ago

I loved this! LOL

Adam 4 years ago

@JC- Jeeps wave at each other

Mrshadetree 4 years ago

I've been riding Motorized two wheelers for Over 45 years...Starting with a Benelli mini bike @ 5yrs old...When we are on two wheels it's our own world that someone that DOESN'T Ride would EVEN Know about. Thats Why I ALWAYS wave at ANYONE on top of anything with Less than 4 wheels....As Far as Cagers (i.e.Cars & Trucks) If Ya live in the Midwest or Out in the Farmland Everyone in the Know waves at Each other...Just like riding...They are ALL HARD Working farmers & ranchers...Again If you don't live in the circle of life You Wouldn't Understand...When I lived in Nebraska I Even waved at bikes when in my cage...Because I'm A RIDER.....If I Don't get a returned wave...I take it You NOT A REAL Rider...Just a POSER or Jackass...would you also refuse a Friendly hand shake in Person???

Angie 4 years ago

Cute article :) Don't take it personally if someone doesn't wave. I remember when I first started riding I was terrified to take my hands off the handlebars but I wanted to wave SO BAD! They may be a new rider, we all get the hang of it eventually :)

HenryP 4 years ago

Back in the late 70's and early 80's we used to give the raised fist (right on) wave. When we started riding again a few years ago everyone was doing the low wave. I really don't care what kind of wave you do. We're all bikers as long as you don't ride like an idiot.

Duke 4 years ago

The straight out wave can be seen as a left-turn signal. The down slash wave can be interpreted as a road hazard warning. All waves give a temporary lessening of control. I wave when there is NOTHING that can be misinterpreted and NO possible idiots making a turn in front of me. I may quit waving altogether and just suffice to head-nod. I've got nothing to prove in the way of coolness anyway after fifty six years of riding everything from Whizzers to Japanese to British to Excelsior Hendersons and Harleys.

va 4 years ago

back in the day .. like the 60's the outlaw bikers had a one finger wave to acknowledge the 1% 's when Bikers were Bikers. now it's a million motorcycle riders. who know nothing about being a "Biker".

Donald 3 years ago

Waving is a sign of respect. If you are foolish enough to climb on a two wheeled vehicle, fight all the crazy cage drivers, and enjoy it, YOU DESERVE A WAVE. Doesn't matter what you ride. Just ride. And always look for a wave from me. Guess I'm just friendly that way.

ErikwithaK 3 years ago

My question is; Do you return the wave from a scooter? I can't bring myself to do it. Yeah, they're on two wheels....but it's a scooter.

tronman1 3 years ago

A sideway nodd with the head to the left is how we brits do it in the uk ,,anyone like right hand bends in the road at max,,comment pls keep riding bros :)

tronman1 3 years ago

waving is a confusion to the person being waved at if they dont know the meaning in the first place ,,,use your head as a wave a nod to the left with the head is a biker bro,,, hi and i like your wheels greetings ,,but a nod to the right is an offer for a race ,,,thats over here uk ,,a nod downwards says i like your a 2 wheeled person ,,,lower respect but respect anyway :) 3 years ago

I personally have never understood the wave. I own a Mustang and don't wave to every Mustang I pass nor do I see every owner of a Corvette, Ford or Dodge waving to each other. If I see someone I know, I wave. Me owning a bike means nothing and doesn't make me special. 3 years ago

I wave at all the riders and my 9 year old boy just waves at everybody!! lol

Dean 3 years ago

MINI Cooper owners of the R50, R53 and R52 cars were taught by the dealers to wave at another MINI when ever they saw one. But by 2007 when the R50 and R54 were replaced by the R56 the dealers quit teaching owners to wave. In a MINI it is the classic "Queen/Royal Family" wave. Holding the fingers together and rotating the radus around the ulna.

I ride motorcycles and I wave even at kids on 49cc Drunk Scoots. On bikes I give the down at 45 degrees peace sign.

frank goza 3 years ago

dont try to wave if your going over lets say 70

Karla 3 years ago

I give the two wheels to the ground wave if I am able or the nod. I wave at all other bikers no matter what type of bike they are riding or whether they wave at me or not. To me it is a sign of respect for another rider, but it is NOT necessary for everyone.

Jimi 3 years ago

WOW! cool stuff.... Ok now the facts.... there is only one wave and it's a low five. It is to say to the other rider that you acknowledge them as a brother of the wind. If you don't ride you don't know. If you flap your arm around like a chicken it proves it.... lol

Kathryn Antinore 3 years ago

Right handed isn't cool huh? The alternative is a no hands ride, which I have no problem with when the road is relatively straight. But I'm not putting my right hand up just to wave. The point is that you have been acknowledged PERIOD!

Nick C. 3 years ago

another reason is my favorite, I don't know you so I am not gonna wave at you or taking a hand off of the bars is one of the most dangerous things you can do while riding a motorcycle !!!!

mike b. 3 years ago

it just a friendly gesture from 1 biker too another.

Doc 3 years ago


Donna Rae 3 years ago

Two points!!!!!

mick 3 years ago

...Riding a Harley or any 2 wheeler is flying if I feel like waving to another bike rider, i'll do what feels safe; maybe it'll look cool or maybe not...but at that moment I'm sharing my joy of riding, take it or leave it , it will still happen for me. I'm just a 61 yr old rider from Milwaukee from back in the 70s .

KRANKY 57 3 years ago

Very entertaining read, I ride for the freedom no seat belts no helmet. just go for the ride no matter what you ride. makes no difference.

Jim Higgins 3 years ago

Been riding since I was sixteen, now seventy-seven and sport a 1100 Classic, did Route 66, Philly to Chicago and then to Santa Monaco, always give the left low wave and get a little pissed when no response. Thank s for clearing up my attitude, much appreciated. ADIP

Ginny 3 years ago

In the 70's "THE WAVE" was basically the same as what was used as more power to you. Or black power or a right turn made with a fist. I imagine it was given up for the newer versions because it could be easily misconstrued as a turn signal. Howevr, it was MORE than common to get a very strong forearm with a fist from just about every rider you'd pass. It basically meant Biker brotherhood .I had to get used to the new version when I started riding again.

Roy 3 years ago

I have ridden many miles and known all types of "bikers". The wave, as I know it, is about being out on the ride. Not in a cage. We all are taking the same risk being out in traffic with the 9 of 10 that don't ride. It means ride safe, and I respect your choice to do so.

FlaBikerBabe 3 years ago

Hi Time Rider,

I would love to republish your article in our "Paradise Hog" newsletter. With your permission of course.

Dave Bongiorno 3 years ago

We were takeing a trip around Ohio, the four of us,when one of our buddys, started to wave,(with his hand up in the air,just waveing like a dork) the rest of us saw this, and backed way back from him, thinking we are not with this guy.....funny shit...

doriann b 3 years ago

you guys must be bored or not riding enough, a nod or anykind of wave is sufficient, riding for 35 years and still riding

Scotty Phillips 3 years ago

Just wave to say you do see me. I reciprocate by waving to acknowledge that I see you too. Exception "Big Biker events". Your hand would get tired of letting go waving and doing it all over about a hundred times in a half mile! Just be cool. I also have a wave (salute for veterans). I typically salute all of my biker friends . I'm proud to have served!!!

Jessie 3 years ago

I ride a scooter and just about everyone waves to me.

diehard dodger 3 years ago

Excellent, entertaining article- very funny! However, we all know why we wave (in whatever form) show our respect and love for the Dodgers! With all this support, I smell a championship! Wave on! This IS the year!

Stephen Gard 3 years ago

Back in the day (1974-77), I rode a Honda 4 and we always waved. If we had passed cops back there, we'd give the palm-downwards wave to an approaching rider, a gesture that resembles pushing a basketball down into the water, meaning 'Slow down or get booked.'

Okay, so now I'm 61 and I ride a 125cc Piaggo (it's transport, not a mid-life crisis) and I still wave to the two-wheel crew. Most of the time, they wave back, but I get the feeling the young folks don't do it much.

Omid A 2 years ago

I just bought my first bike. Kawi ex300, at age 20. I've been riding dirt bikes since I was 16. My first trip was the second I got my bike registered and threw my tag on it. I rode a small street near my house. So within 20 mins or so another sport bike rode past me and waved, somehow I automatically knew to wave back. I was filled with a sort of euphoric joy of being part of another big culture. I wave at everyone now, even waved at a scooter gal who didn't wave back and laughed my ass off. I find that some cruisers don't wave back, it's fine, I'm enjoying myself. Choose to wave or not it doesn't matter, but I'll wave at everyone so long as my left hand isn't occupied.

Whatever 2 years ago

Why does it matter if you look like a dork? Wave how you wanna wave.If people think you look dumb for trying to be polite, they can fuck off.

Ride for the joy of riding, and wave to be friendly. What's so hard about that?

............ 2 years ago

article made me laugh, I figured it was satirical just because who in their right mind would seriously get this technical with it.

I don't wave at people unless I know them. and only if we wont be seeing eachother in the near future. I don't wave at people in the grocery store just because we're all pushing shopping carts. im there for a very specific reason and my forays into safeway last about 10 minutes. they're cattle mulling about the feed chute for as long as they can.

Ray 2 years ago

As newer rider (at 58) I'm finding other HD riders are more prone to offer the "two fingers, palm out" wave to which I reciprocate. I've had scooter riders wave, sport bike riders wave and even a grey haired older lady in a truck shot me the "peace" sign (still pondering her intentions). I reciprocate with a low 5 or two finger palm out acknowledgment when I can. We're all experiencing the road in a similar fashion. I'm having a ball and not in the least worried about etiquette between make or model of ride. You wave, I'll wave (albeit in a low profile cool kinda way.) Even though I'm feeling like a kid inside I gotta maintain that HD image ;).

Dan 2 years ago

To be honest I could do without all of the hand waving I just want to ride and there are already enough distractions.

Matt 2 years ago

I wave at everyone on two or three wheels strictly because they're just as susceptible to the risks of the road than I am on my dresser. Respect and courtesy doesn't cost anything.

JQL 2 years ago

There is one other wave used in Europe. It's called "Le Leg". Basically you stick your leg out at an angle away from the bike (trying not to ground it).

Gabby 2 years ago

I ride a HD and wave at all bikers. For me the wave is like "ride on, stay safe" and it has nothing to do with what you ride or who you are. My IQ is average and I love my ride and the wind therapy. Not sure why there are so many negative comments here. You don't wave then don't. No reason to call people names because they do.

JZ 2 years ago

I hate the wave. Any and all of them. I got my first bike over 40 years ago and have two now. I don't remember everybody and their "brother" waving at each other back when I first learned to ride. When I'm riding I concentrate on the road, and I don't want to have to think about taking my hand off the handlebars to acknowledge some stupid camaraderie with someone I don't even know simply because we both happen to be riding motorcycles. And no, I don't put my left hand on my hip while riding either. I'm also an avid cyclist, and whenever I'm pedaling down the road and see motorcycles coming toward me, a mild relief comes over me with the knowledge that I don't have to even think about the stupid waving thing.

Unpenned 2 years ago

I live in Indonesia. Here, almost everyone rides a motorcycle, so people only wave to their friends. If I ever decide to move back to the states, I will probably wave to anyone on two wheels. I know for sure that I'll never drive a car again.

Cliffy 2 years ago

Then there's the stand straight up on your pegs, throttle lock on, both arms out to your side "damn it's good to be on a bike" pose... The "t"

Not dorky 2 years ago

It's all very dorky

Rider 2 years ago

I don't know what made me laugh more - the obviously satirical article or the people who actually took it seriously! Love Cliffy's wave the best!

As for the people who are putting too much thought into this, wave if you feel like it. Don't if you don't. It's a friendly gesture, and that 's all, folks.

2 years ago

I'm a biker and a sci-fi nerd. I flash the "live long and prosper" salute.

Dick 2 years ago

Never wave to a yuppie..

g casillas 2 years ago

Never wave at all. Lol.

Deane Cooper 2 years ago

Ginny already mentioned the one I noticed had been left out, the fist. Arm out and crooked at the elbow(not straight in the air) in a fist with palm forward to other riders.

Another thing about the right hand wave... guys on 45s have no other choice but to use the right hand wave. They also have to signal with the right arm, so if and when you see it, take a look at what he's riding. I haven't seen one in a long while so they must be getting scarce.

Conservative Mark 2 years ago

I have the word, "HI!" on my leather glove in masking tape so when I wave the opposing riders can read what I mean. Is that dorky?

Me 2 years ago

Damn people, Drink a beer and have a laugh. If you take this shit seriously you are missing the whole point of riding in the first place.

backwarmer 2 years ago

But what's the protocol for us backwarmers? We have both hands free - it's too easy for us to make complete dorks of ourselves! Yet there is an underlying need to maintain the coolness of our riders ... what to do!?!

Loved the article :)

2 years ago

first things first you don't drive a motorcycle you ride one!!!!!!

Cool Daddy Chris 2 years ago

Interesting. I don't remember when I started doing it, been riding for 30 years, but now I always do it. And I don't care what you're riding. Mostly because it makes car drivers wonder what we're up to....

Curt 24 months ago

Very funny stuff, thanks!

gadabout 23 months ago

Who knew there were so many ways to wave from motorcycle. Being a member of the Red Hat Society, we don't even have that many waves.

Charles 21 months ago

Love it! I was rolling in the floor. Funny you mentioned the riders course. Our Rider Coach actually did mention the wave as he "didn't want us hitting the road out of HIS class, looking like dorks!" Great article!!

BOFH profile image

BOFH 21 months ago from Perth, Western Australia

Sports bike riders nod to everyone. Cruiser riders nod to other cruiser riders. Harley Riders are too cool to nod to anyone unless they are in the same MC.

I nod to riders even when I'm in the car.

Yankee 21 months ago

I was previously told that the wave was left hand 2 fingers pointing to the pavement symbolizing the two wheels to the road. I personally use the left hand flat palm hoping that the arm would turn into a wing and allow me to fly away.

Mike 21 months ago

You missed the biggest reason for the wave is from the military. After WWI and WWII a lot of military men started riding and seeing the country. The wave was a friendly jester between brother in arms. The same reason for the Jeep owners. Again AFN would proudly like to inform you that this was another thing developed by the military.

Danno 21 months ago

any acknowledgement of another rider is OK , and should be appreciated. Not returning a wave, however , makes you a total douche bag and pariah to motorcyclists everywhere.

DD, 25 year HD rider

Otter 21 months ago

The inverted two fingers is the peace sign upside down. It's shown as a protest for all the MIA's. It began in the 60's. If a passing biker shows you this sign and you don't return it, it says that you do not support our troops.

Cecil 21 months ago

Meh, the type of wave is irrelevant and getting into hand position is ridiculous and inaccurate. Some articles say the low wave should be palm up, others say it should be down. Whatever. Nobody cares, and there is no wave that looks dorky. Some of the waves are better at higher speeds than others because of wind. But you're on a bike, you can't look dorky, even on an eighties Goldwing wearing a 30-year old stained blue Aerostitch suit. Do a single finger downward point, a two finger down point, a four or five finger wave at any height, a "I'm shooting you" gun point, a peace sign, a shaka, rock-on horns, whatever - it's all good. The point is you waved.

For waving at Harley guys, I find I can guilt them into a wave by waving really early and wide and leaving it out there. If you're not confident when you do a wave it's easy for them to blow you off. If not a full wave or a head nod, I'll at least get like a pinky finger wave off the bar (real subtle), so that their buddies won't see it. Pretty funny actually. If they're a real douche-bag they'll do the look up and slightly the other way to completely ignore you, but that's pretty rare if you do it right. If they're riding in a pair I can almost always get the second guy to wave. The best is when the guy tries to ignore you but the girl on the back gives a really friendly wave.

mono 20 months ago

As a rider of over 40yrs and an owner of many cycles i reserve the right to wave anyway i choose depending on which ride im enjoying and consider each wave to be courtious and cool wether bbagger or bad boy or side car with rottwieler but here is what i consider to be my own adapted from sf black panther party 1960s aclenched fist arm at a 90° angle and say to my self ride on ride on i think its humourous to myself and often wonder if anybody ever gets it and what's up with my spyder no waves!so wave like a dork who cares? What really matters is when your pushin on the side of the road everybody else gfy

Daryl 20 months ago

the problem with waving in the uk is we ride on the left so your hand comes off the throttle lol , so you have to nod really

Irish B.O.B. Sister 19 months ago

The kind of wave I give depends on who I'm waving to: Kids in cars, while in a parade, old folk sitting outside their "home" I give the "Left Handed High" wave. Biker to biker I give the "Left Hand Low" wave with a Peace sign.

trixie 18 months ago

"Only rule is there ain't no rules" someone gets it... Since when did riding become about other people? "Oh you're not a real rider you didn't wave right" Who cares? Riding is about individuality. I wave, by the way.

trixie 18 months ago

Oh yeah I don't wave at people wearing flip flops... Hahahahah

labradog 18 months ago

'77 R100S.

Low speed cruise, low left peace sign.

Slow enough speed to have faceshield flipped up, two left fingers salute at top of face opening.

At speed, all four left fingers rise from the grip with a little palm showing, thumb stays on back of the grip.

shatnurface 18 months ago

I've noticed two phenomenon surrounding the wave though. 1 if riding say below 50 degrees or so, everyone will return a wave. The middle of summer is ckmpletely different. This does lead me to believe that those who don't wave back don't understand the "brotherhood" of riding. I often look out for other riders on the road in reference to cagers. Sometimes guys don't notice that car half a car length behind them going down the interstate. 2. I started riding in the virginia beach area while in the military. Heavy sports bike scene, big military area, with quite a few cruisers also. But even in the middle of summer, i would get waves back at least 3 out of four times. I moved back home to SC where the Harley scene is much bigger and the sport bike community still stays about the same, but the cruiser guys only wave back for maybe 1 out of 3 times... I ride a ninja 650r by the way. Another thing, a little off subject, is in talking to other riders, i get the impression that cruiser guys tend to be, not all of them, but more so than sports bikes or sport touring guys tend to be less enthusiastic. By less enthusiastuc i mean they have less knowledge of motorcycles overall and show horrible riding techniques in general. They choose crappy lines, they try to force the bars into the turns as opposed to countersteering, they ride without helmets, etc... just food for thought

shatnurface 18 months ago

I did have a foot in mouth moment about a week ago from waving. I gave a gsxr 1000 a wave on a 4 lane road only to realize when he got closer that he was an amputee as his sleeve flapped freely in the wind. He was still cool about it though and returned a nod

shatnurface 18 months ago

One more final thought on waving, why don't those posting your opinions on waving also post your annual milage on your bike or bikes. Mine is around 10k miles.

Sarah 18 months ago

Just wanted to say that actually, my motorcycle course at MSP Groton Cycle (Groton, NY) did, in fact, cover this important information! So I guess my class was better than most.

Escotaon 18 months ago

Jeep people do the same thing.

I live near the Smokey Mountains/ the Dragon. There are just to many Jeeps and motorcycles to wave at everyone, just because they are on a bike or in a Jeep.

Adz 18 months ago

What about England? I ride a Lexmoto (sorry) 125(Sorry!) and I ride on the left so how the heck can others see my wave if im waving left low?

oleander 18 months ago

Been riding 0ver 50 years. my generation it is a sign of respect, and the old addage of brotherhood and recognition. Never leave another behind. Lots of surgeries on my arms over the years, so the high waves don't go so well. Hand flys back with wind. On my electraglide, the right hand twp finger salute works well, otherwise, my ban hand flys backward with the wind. I love my cruise control. Friendly acknowledgement is good.

big johnson 18 months ago

I always give the bird out the window of my Taurus station wagon when I pass by all the biker ferrys in leather

Drifter 17 months ago

I don't wave to those 100 to 150 MPG scooters or dirt bikers, nor do I wave when it's not safe to do so. I'll nod my noggin at a traffic light when I'm gripping the clutch.

Crazy bob 17 months ago

I was told 30 + years ago the wave began after WW2. HARLEY RIDERS BACK then never waved to anyone on a Japanese bike. You can imagine why. Today, im.glad to see everyone waving at everyone, for the most part.

Sprocket 17 months ago

Yes I Wave and did as a Truck Driver too ! lots of them do the same to each other but sit to high for people to see . But I do because I am happy and Have meet many good friends on the Road ! Now I am waving GOOD BYE !See You on The Road Make sure you Wave !I ride a Street Glide !

Me Myself & I 17 months ago people need someone to teach you how to wave!

I like the two handed over the windshield "peace my brother" sign. I prefer to do it while cornering if possible but I don't pass bikes on corners that often.

Spiffy 17 months ago

I always make sure my nails are properly clean and my hair is just right before i would ever consider waving! Oh guys don't forget to floss!!!

Jlo 17 months ago

im sorry but I call a spade a spade, I ride 8 to 10 thousand miles a year and have ALWAYS waved if not in mid shift or in a turn. If at a stop light I give a nod, so if you are at all a respectful rider and TRUE Biker no matter what you ride you wave! Period!

Otter 17 months ago

It's not a wave, it's a protest. It's an inverted peace symbol protesting our country's lack of interest in getting our POW'S back in Vietnam.

Boats 17 months ago

As any Sailor worth his salt knows US Navy customs and regulations permits a left handed salute. So that is what I render rather than the limp armed wave.

your ass 16 months ago

What a stupid article, I'll waive the way I fell like waving...

azlandman 16 months ago

I don't wave to people wearing flip flops and shorts riding through town and waving while turning at a light.

Jimmy 16 months ago

I started riding mopeds when I was 12. I've always preferred two wheels. I've owned 5 Harleys now. Been riding motorcycles since I was 21. The wave to me has always meant "ride safe". It means that we are part of a rider community and I got your back.

Dennis 16 months ago

goddamn funny.

how about the bagger that gets his passenger to do a wave.

didn't SAMCRO wave?

SHAIN GROW 16 months ago

I was asked if there was any biker I would not wave response is yes, the GOLD ING takes them to long to roll their window down !!!

Tobey McCool 16 months ago

I see someone also mentioned this, I have always done the low left hand wave with two fingers. I don't mean it as a peace sign, I mean it as keep your two wheels safe on the ground. it is the wave I will always use, whether I know the riders or not. it is my way of wishing other riders a safe ride.

Ozzy 16 months ago

I don't care what you"re riding. If you're on two wheels, I'm waving.

Bright 16 months ago

I joke with my husband that you put your arm down so your arm fat doesn't flap in the wind.

BA80 profile image

BA80 16 months ago from Tulsa, Ok

I wave most of the time. If I'm busy trying not to crash or traffic has my full attention (morons) and I don't notice another rider(s) sometimes not.

bill 16 months ago

For the last time, you don't DRIVE a motorcycle!

druid 16 months ago

I talked about waving in my trans-Canada blog ( There was all kinds of talk on (remember them?) about "Squids Don't Wave" or "Harleys Don't Wave" (everyone riding a HD is named Harley, even the women). I wave. It's like a 2-wheel Namaste: The Coolness in Me Acknowledges the Coolness in You. I'm still unsure about the 3-wheelers, and the barges like the new HDs that look like "hell, add two wheels and call it a car!"

Ryan 16 months ago

I always wave, but most cruiser type bikes never wave back. (I ride a sports bike).

Nomadd2029 16 months ago

The only correct etiquette for waving or anything else bike related is to not give a shit how any self proclaimed expert, or anybody else in the universe, thinks you should do it.

Michael 16 months ago

I ride a sport bike and I always either wave or nod, unless it's a Harley because I know they won't wave back. A while ago I waved at a group of Harley riders while at a red light and they all shook their heads at me so that was the end of that.

everythingbike profile image

everythingbike 15 months ago from The Road with corners.

Great article. The nod to the side seems to be the new biker wave. Much easier and do not have to let go the handle bars and be safer.

Travis 14 months ago

One thing you forgot is don't wave to someone out of your league Ok lol. So molike or enduro riders don't wave to Harley or crotch rocket guys ull just getta weird look lol

Mab Max profile image

Mab Max 12 months ago

Forgot one... same as left handed low, except palm down, move arm & hand with up & down motion several times. Usually signifies a speed trap to oncoming.

Ardvarkious 12 months ago

Just for the record since this painting ends up all over the net....Painting by K Dawne Holmes a well known custom bike painter and artist. Painting is from a road just outside Prescott, AZ heading up to Jerome. And yeah, if safety permits, I wave.

Tramp 12 months ago

I LOVE my couch. Comfort beats cool hands down. Especially when you've been riding for over 40 years.

buddy 12 months ago

Yes indeed,you do not drive a motorcycle, you RIDE a motorcycle!

Wave, Shmave. You wave ,you get a wave....

RageAgainstTheMachine 12 months ago

Harley was crapping his diapers in the 1880's. His mama probably called them 'baggers', not 'diapers'.

BOB RITCH 7 months ago

Been riding since 13, now 66, haven't been without a bike more than a year. Needless to say, I've owned several bikes...I have waved at mopeds, peddle pushers, anyone that is a avid rider is a biker to me. Growing up pushing peddles, that where it got started for me. Having said that I really find it funny and immature when someone won't return a wave from another biker because of the type bike they are on, or the ones that have their nose in the air with a proud mean look on their face. As far as all bikers having your back, I've know bikers you turn your back on them they will steal your bike..I don't think being a biker makes us any better than anyone else. And for the ones who think they will get a bike, some leathers and it changes you into some kinda bad-ass or special being you have missed the whole point of the ride!........Ride Easy

tt 6 months ago

This article missed the purpose of the wave. The purpose is to point directly down at the road in honor of all downed bikers.

Pir8life 5 months ago

I almost never initiate a wave. I will return them but not really initiate. I also don't really get the whole brotherhood/sisterhood thing on motorcycles. I would never disrespect another rider and if I came across one in need of assistance I would certainly help but I just don't get the whole ride free ride hard brother sister stuff. I'm an adventure rider and ride way harder physically by default that people that cruise. on their shiny bikes. Duel sports and motocrossers ride harder than me but what is ride hard and ride free to a cruiser or tourer?

Linda Robinson 5 months ago

Wow Time Rider what an excellent hub, very interesting and so much essential information for every one that rides a motorcycle. Such detail, tons of important and life saving appropriate content. Fantastic job. Hope that you will be writing many more displaying your expertise on the subject. Talk to you again. Linda

midlagednkrazee 4 months ago

2 fingers in a peace sign low and left

Blue 4 months ago

There's also the thumbs down which indicates a cop up ahead,

Dude 4 months ago

What does it matter? I wave at times and other times I don't. If I don't why does it matter and how does that make someone not understand what riding means. Riding to me has nothing to do with waving or any of that trivial crap, to me riding is getting to my destination unscathed and enjoying every moment I am on my bike. I don't get pissed if someone don't wave and someone shouldn't get pissed if I don't wave. People get their feelings hurt over dumb shit that don't matter anyway.

Colin 4 months ago

Another wave not mentioned is the left hand down but with thumb and pinky extended like the hawaii wave which sends the signal to oncoming bikes that the road is clear of police for a couple of miles. A nice message to get from a fellow biker. Love this article.

Magilla 4 months ago

I wave when the other bike is paying attention except once you get to Sturgis, everyone realizes that there are so many other bikes on the road, you would be riding around waving like a fool the whole time and everyone just sort of stops waving.

Al 4 months ago

I live in Alabama...We wave at everybody..LOL

rider 4 months ago

what a load of crap !!!!

David 4 months ago

Two fingers pointing down says keep both tires on the pavement...

Author totally missed that...

Saferide 4 months ago

If you pass us, I always wave using two fingers, peace sign. I say a quick prayer to keep the other rider safe and keep his or her rubber side down.

Okie 4 months ago

and then there's the classic ZZ Top wave index finger pointed down Armstrong to the forward position indicating your direction of travel reference the ZZ Top videos from the 80s

Rhesus 4 months ago

C'mon, it's not about tradition nor being cool. It's about aerodynamics.

cuervokate 4 months ago

Just started riding and I've already dumped my bike once so for now no wave until I get this riding down pat.

HH 4 months ago

Frist off we don't "drive" a motorcycle. to be honest, after riding for over 45 years, there is really no "Right" way to wave. silly article that I hope was written tongue in cheek. You acknowledge other riders with a wave of any type that you are comfortable with. There is no "bagger" wave, or crotch rocket wave, and by the way, my ultra limited is a very cool ride.

wowiecowie 4 months ago

Yes, I wave if it's safe to do so, I think it's just a thing that bikers have been doing for years, we are a different breed, just a friendly Hello....

roadbum 4 months ago

you know, the one thing that most people really get tired of are people taking a simple thing and complicating the crap out of it."you don't know the secret wave, or handshake, or you didn't hold your fingers right so you ain't cool."what a load of crap.

look, it 's as simple as this. wave anyway you want. if you don't feel comfortable letting go of the bars, nod. just acknowledge the other rider. if they don't wave back, big freakin' hairy deal!just enjoy your ride and don't worry about what everybody else is doing.that is what this is about. there isn't any secret handshake or decoder ring you have to use. nor is there a secret conspiracy against anybody.and the rest of you wannabes,stop making this something it ain't.

ann 4 months ago

i drive a Corvet, i give the wave as well. i think anyone driving a Muscle car should give anyone riding a HD the acknowledge wave.

stay safe.

Webb 4 months ago

I dont wave at rice rockets....

Bryan Ryder 4 months ago

Like the truckers wave, it's becoming a dieing art. On the bike & in the truck, I wave a lot but don't always get one in return.

Jeff Cranston 4 months ago

Things sure have changed. In the 70's, it was the left arm raised with a fist facing fingers forward. Now it's the hand down like you are slapping hands as you go by. LOL. I felt like it was a generational shift. I do it only if it's safe and I'm not shifting. In the case where I'm shifting or something, I might nod back if someone else waves.

CC 4 months ago

I have been riding for 47 years. And in all those years waves are head bow if you will has always worked. But for the most part I see cruisers and touring or full dresser stay within there own group. as do most sport bikes unless they have hard bags attached. No matter what you ride always ride safe and sane. As the cages could care less about you.

Lonwel 4 months ago

Not sure I like the comment about Goldwing inner child is weeping. Even if I have the cruise control on, I always wave with my left hand high. Most Goldwing riders do this wave due to necessity and aerodynamics. I did the cool low wave my first ride and was not prepared for the following wind blas on my arm which caused quite a pain in my shoulder. Since installing my baker air wings, I can now do the cool two finger down wave. Great article.

nice monet 3 months ago

funniest one I've seen, a rally bike rider took both feet off pegs and spread eagled... needless to say I didn't wave, too busy laughing....

Howie 3 months ago

Oh good grief, you make it sound like it's biblical. I usually do the 45 degree downward wave with the finger pointing down, but I am not offended by the goldwing waves. I'm just glad that they enjoy the same sport that I do. If you get your panties in a knot over such things, maybe you should take up bull fighting.

Simon 4 weeks ago

So what's the etiquette when encountering a bicyclist? When I ride my bicycle I always nod or wave to others who are out and about bicycling, walking, jogging, or motorcycling. But the motorcyclists never respond. I'm a member of the two-wheel-invisible-to-cars club and we have to stick together, but I always get snubbed. What's up with that?

Muffdyver 3 weeks ago

Waving is gay, I just give the finger to everyone

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