bikers signs


The motorcycle wave is different from the typical ‘‘Hey how’s it going?’ wave. It is signified when the rider takes their left hand off the handlebar, drops it to 45 degrees, extending two or three fingers and points towards the ground. By doing this they indulge in a century old salute exclusive to riders only.

Since Arthur Davidson and William Harley (the co-founders and partners of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle company) waved at each other in 1904, the biker wave has become a common etiquette amongst riders.

Other forms of acknowledgment such as a nod or a regular wave are acceptable too. However, it would be a mistake to come across as overly enthusiastic or indifferent. As with any custom, there are certain rules that need to be followed - and the motorcycle wave is no exception.

Let’s start with the no no’s. Here’s when waving may get you in trouble.    


When NOT to do the motorcycle wave

While acknowledging your fellow rider is a good practice, there are certain situations in which it might be dangerous. In these situations, riders should avoid the wave like the plague, for the sake of their safety and the safety of others on the road.

Under the following circumstances, the rider’s hands should be firmly on the handlebars

When turning a corner – Turning corners can be tricky, and can result in slips and falls. That’s why you should focus your attention on the turn as opposed to trying to wave at a fellow rider.

In the evening or at night – Visibility is usually an issue in the evening or at night. And the last thing you should do is try to get another rider’s attention.

During extreme weather - rain or snow Chances are the other rider won’t see you wave, so don’t bother.

On a highway There are too many cars on the road and your wave could be misinterpreted as a signal to other drivers.

When you’re doing a wheelie or other stunts Forget about the wave, let’s talk about wheelies and stunts first. They serve no purpose apart from putting yourself and others in danger.

During traffic or rush hour – You priority here should be more towards navigating through traffic rather than waving to other riders.

During a group ride – How many people can you possible wave at? Say your ‘hellos’ when you stop for a rest or a regroup.

At intersections – Intersections see the largest number of motorcycle related accidents. Don’t wave, just focus on the road.


When it’s OKAY to do the motorcycle wave

Since the motorcycle wave is a popular form of greeting amongst motorcyclists, there are certain instances where it’s alright to acknowledge your fellow rider.

These include when:

  •  You’re cruising down an open stretch of road
  • There’s not too much traffic around you
  • You can get the attention of the other rider easily
  •  You’re filling up on gas or stopped for a break

The above is not an exhaustive list. A lot comes down to the particular circumstances and your own discretion. Just don’t overthink it. Remember, the wave is a hello between you and another rider; you’re not obliged to wave.  In addition, safety should always be your paramount concern. If you can easily and safely wave to another rider, go for it. If not, no one’s going to hold it against you.