Why Do Motorcycle Riders Wave To Each Other?

hand wave

Once upon a time, the black leather jacket was like a calling card for motorcycle riders. But though they are no longer a trend these days, the camaraderie between most riders remains in the form of a wave. On the road, you can raise arm while riding and wave to each other.

Motorcycle riders wave to each other because motorcycling is not just a mere hobby, but a community. It’s not just about riding a motorcycle, it encompasses all sorts of subcultures – one of them being the “motorcycle club”. These are guys who are devoted to motorcycles. They ride their own bikes for fun, hang out together and form brotherhoods. Most motorcyclists will be members of nearly every motorcycle club there is. As a whole, the motorcycle wave serves as a symbol of unity at bikers’ meet.

So, what is a motorcycle wave?

The Biker’s Wave

The motorcycle wave, also known as the biker’s wave, is a way for bikers to acknowledge each other’s presence on the road. It starts off with the front rider signaling the rear rider that he wants him to slow down; then, they will ride together and wave at each other. Riders use various hand signals and waves: waving your right arm while holding the throttle in a neutral position means “Follow me”.

Riders also do this to show appreciation for one another while respecting each other’s space while sharing the road. However, it does not apply when there is oncoming traffic or if you’re stopped at an intersection waiting for a light to change.

Though this may be considered a form of acknowledgment to other riders, there are also unwritten rules on how the wave should be done. There is always this one guy who just wants to show off in front of his friends when he waves at another rider. He gets in front and then slows down just so that it would look like he’s having an intense conversation with them when they pass by him. Sometimes, motorcyclists will try to copy a motorcycle wave from others; but since everyone has their different styles, you can’t really mimic it well.

Who Initiated The Biker’s Wave?

sport bikes

Though the actual history of this wave remains unknown, some claim that the wave was initiated by Arthur Davidson and William Harley of Harley Davidson during the company’s early days. Since then, many motorcycle enthusiasts have taken upon it. There are even people who will wave to motorcycles that look similar to theirs just because of the color scheme of the bike. Sounds crazy, right? Apparently not for some people.

Some sources state that the biker wave originated as a form of respect shown to veterans for their service. However, there are no indications that WWII veterans, who may have initiated the first motorcycle wave that is the V-salute—now known as the peace sign, were involved in motorcycling. So, it would be safe to say that this theory of inventing a peace sign is just a bit of historical speculation.

What If You Can’t Wave Back to Other Riders?

motorcycle riders

There are situations when a Harley rider won’t actively participate in a head nod or motorcycle wave. Also, Gold Wing riders usually avoid waving because they are preoccupied with adjusting the air suspension, checking odd shaped blip on the radar screen, or searching for the dashboard’s “auto wave back” button. If you don’t want to wave back but still need to acknowledge them for whatever reason, you can always return the motorcycle gesture with an “okay sign”, showing both your index and middle finger lifted up; or do a hand signal by extending your arm and your fingers spread out like they were saying “V”. This shows that you also acknowledge their presence on the road – without putting too much effort or risking accidents.

How To Do The Biker’s Wave?

Riding motorcycle fingers extended

Stick out your left hand at about 45 degrees upwards below your handlebars and pull out your middle and index fingers to form a V. Extend your arm and keep it straight as you do this so that the rear rider can clearly see what you’re doing.

The reason they use two fingers is to make a V sign and ask you to keep both your tires on the ground so you don’t tip over. The rear rider will acknowledge your presence by returning the V sign, but it’s best not to look at him while you do this so that he won’t think you’re trying to copy his motorcycle wave.

However, if the motorcycle rider is going in the opposite direction and he holds out his left hand above his handlebars with his palm facing down while waving at your left arm, it means that he wants you to fall back.

If your motorcycle club has its own set of motorcycle waves, then get familiar with it – especially when there are new people whom you meet through rides.

How To Avoid The Biker’s Wave?

Motorcycle riders

There was a case when a Harley rider waved back, his hand was pierced by his spiked helmet. So, bikers, especially new riders should be more careful about waving while riding. If you feel like the other rider behind you will distract you while riding, put on a full-face helmet and wear sunglasses so they can’t see your eyes and know if you acknowledged them. This will make them believe you didn’t notice them at all and they will eventually give up.

But, if you really want to have a biker’s wave-free motorcycle ride, just stick to yourself and don’t look back when another rider waves at you. Otherwise, there might be cases that you’ll need to signal backward with your left hand or helmet just so he thinks that you know what it means when the rear rider waves.


It’s okay to wave at a fellow rider but make sure that you don’t get distracted while you do it. Also, only acknowledge the motorcycle rider if he wants your attention or is trying to give you a friendly gesture. If not, just don’t bother acknowledging him and avoid distractions so you can continue with safe riding. Enjoy your ride!

About The Author

daniel and sarah on motorcycle

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