Why do motorcycle riders wave at each other?

As a rider for over 20 years, I’ve waved at countless brothers and sisters of the road. Cruiser, cafe bike, crotch rocket, enduro … if you’re on 2 wheels (or even 3 – trikes count!) I’ll wave. While I’ve ridden American iron my whole life – Harley-Davidson and Buell – I don’t care what you’re riding. If you’re out of the cage (aka “car”), you’re a kindred spirit. more


As you may have noticed, I ride a Buell. While it’s built with the heart of a Harley, some HD riders see the race bike posture and assume I’m not “one of them.” At the same time, the race bikes, or crotch rockets, see the Buell as a bit of an outcast as well. So I know what it’s like to wave and not have it reciprocated. So I wave no matter what. 

Why do we wave? And how do we wave?

As a motorcycle enthusiast, I know the dangers other riders face. I also know the feeling of freedom that comes with shedding the confines of the cage. We’re kindred spirits, you and I. When I see that single headlight, I feel a connection. So, I wave to my biker brethren. 

I’ve noticed over the years, different bikers have their own styles. 

The Harley Wave

While riding your American Iron, the proper wave is to nonchalantly let go with your left hand, drop it to your thigh and give a 2-finger subtle wave. Use your index and middle fingers to simply “flick” a wave in the direction of the oncoming biker. 

You don’t want to appear too eager, so you’re cool and reserved. This simple wave lets everyone know just how in control you are, and how much “biker” runs through your veins.

The Goldwing Wave

While this may have originated with Honda Goldwing riders, it seems to have permeated many other models of Honda, as well as other motorcycle manufacturers from the Far East – Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki. 

This motorcycle rider is happy to see a fellow motorcycle enthusiast, and takes the “enthusiast” label to heart. While cruising along on your Goldwing, as soon as you see another bike coming your way, take your left hand and let go of the handlebar. Move said hand out past your fairing, elbow bent and hand at shoulder height. Begin to wave back and forth at the oncoming biker, to let them know you see them and you’re happy they’re on two wheels as well. 

Depending on how happy you are, you may want to shake your hand vigorously, or maybe a bit more controlled. Either way, you’re letting that bike know that you can be friends.

The Crotch Rocket Wave

A bit like the HD wave, this salute to fellow bikers is done at thigh level and with controlled movement. You’re cool enough to wear your full-faced helmet since your machine can break land-speed records, so you’re cool enough to wave like you almost don’t care. 

Drop your clutch hand to your knee to give a quick flip of a wave. Only with this one, it’s the full hand, not the index/middle finger HD wave. 

Your Turn

How do you wave? Have you noticed the different waves bikers give each other? Weigh in down in the comments below. Ride safe.