Reversing the Numbness

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Motorcycle Wave

As anyone who rides street motorcycles knows, there's a camaraderie between riders that is most visibly expressed through the "motorcycle wave," which good ol' helmetless St. Nick is demonstrating for us in this illustration. It's usually sort of low, off to the side, with a couple of fingers out, and non-riders can think of it as a sort of Fonzie-"heeeyyyy!" for the two-wheel set. (If you drive a Beetle or some other distinctive car like that, you've got your own little thing you do when you pass the 'others.')

I like this tradition. It's a nice acknowledgment that, at that very moment, the other person on the bike is probably feeling similar to how I'm feeling. We're sort of sharing an experience, and it's cool throw out a little I understand.

But not every rider does it. Sometimes you'll throw out the motorcycle wave and it isn't reciprocated. Why? Maybe the dude on the Harley thinks he's too cool for a Triumph. Maybe the squid on a Gixxer with the t-shirt and shorts thinks he's too fast for a Triumph. Maybe the dude on the custom chopper thinks he's too unique for a Triumph. Or maybe he just didn't see me?

For a long time I'd feel a little silly when I'd wave and the other person wouldn't wave back, so I started trying to predict. If it looked like the wave wasn't going to happen, screw it, I wasn't waving either. There were probably occasions where I saved a wave that would have been unrecognized, but there were also occasions when I noticed at the last minute that the other guy did throw out his hand, and all of the sudden I was the guy who didn't wave back.

I don't like that, so last week I made the decision that I'm going to wave every time, no matter what. Since then, I've yet to have one unreciprocated. I don't know if this is some form of karma, but I'm feeling pretty good about it so far.


josh williams said...

I used to drive the Jeep Wrangler , they had thier wave and I felt bad when I was to late, not to bad but not good, I do not like not being waved back to....The Street bike wave I see this even when I'm in transit on my EXC but its cool , I'm happy that they accept me as a rider even though I ride a sissy dirt bike. Ask Toilets, we were in Teluride eating lunch after we had ridden down black bear pass, a scary trail with a certain death drop off on stair step...At anyrate we sat and ate at the mega upscale cafe in I can "tell u ride" and these women who we did not bother asked us if we rode real bikes or dirt bikes...I felt this was a slight, but we did not get into a brawl we just told them we came down black bear pass and then out again another technical route. Odd but true , the ride we took was much more extreme than the fantasy ride they imagined but what can you do? These ladies were not hip to the to each his/her concept.Peace Trails JW

getto said...

I was fortunate that I never had to deal with the wave-or-not-to- wave scenario when I was driving my Land Cruiser. I never ran across another LC owner that didn't wave or stop to talk shop. I get the sense that the whole Harley vs other moto scene is alot like snowboarders vs. skiers. Although most of the time I do seem to notice the reciprocated wave amongst motocyclers.

Raoul Duke said...

Nice decision, Sleek. Don't let the world change you into something less than you are. You are throwing out righteousness, it is the other cat's problem if they are too caught up in the bullshit to spread a little love. Right on for you.

As an aside, I always throw a "what up" to white Jettas- pre 1998.


SleekPelt said...

josh: I'll tell you what you can do, pal -- you can enjoy the ride.

geto boy: Same thing exists between motocrossers and quad riders, and surfers and anyone else using the ocean, I think.

raoul: Yes, I'm feeling pretty good about the decision. Glad to see you have the same sort of camaraderie with the Jet set.

RomDdly said...

Sleek, I'm glad to hear that you decided to do it anyway. I do the same sort of thing on the rail trail - I say good morning (or at least hello) to everyone I see. I am always shocked when people don't respond and I start to second guess myself. Did I say it so quietly that I only heard it in my head? Are my headphones so loud that they drown out the sound of my voice? But I think when it comes down to it, it's just that not all people are comfortable being friendly. So cheers to the ones that are.

SleekPelt said...

RomDdly: Well said. I knew you'd understand.

Raoul Duke said...

jet set, i like that one.

DM- what happened to your arm?

Clash said...


The wife and I just had this discussion after a short road trip last week. I have been snubbed by the Harley elitist as well.

I used to give the low wave and if they failed to reciprocate, I would turn it into a one finger salute, but that got old.

I too want to be above the selective respect of the two-wheeled-brethren so I fly the salute regardless if the love is returned.

On a side note, I helped a Harley guy a few weeks ago at a gas station fix a broken chain with a new master link. He was very grateful and I wanted to ask him if he turned a blind eye to the other brands, but did not. I hope he thinks about that next time the opportunity arises.

Cruise on!

Bad Billy said...

I've adopted your theory when riding as well. Just wave no matter what. Who cares if they don't wave back. And I should be more fearful of not getting waved at because I'm the punk on a Ninja with shorts and a t-shirt. Okay, I do wear more protective gear than that most of the time, but old guys on Harleys are probably more inclined to wave at a Bonneville than a Ninja.

But we're all sharing the same passion, so it's all good.

SleekPelt said...

clash: I'd expect nothing less from you, pal. What do you ride?

bad billy: It all comes down to one simple question: Can't we all just get along?

Clash said...

Nothing as core as you. A new Yamaha FZ1. I like the stripped look to it with an upright riding position. I don't like to hump the tank all day like Billy. :)

Donna loves it too, and we try to hit the North Georgia mountains a few times a month.

There is a German candy store that we go to just for the chocolate covered strawberries. We eat our fill and head back home.

Zee said...

A buddy of mine used to have a Jeep Wrangler. Before that, I never knew there was a secret salute among them. I like the "wave to all brands" attitude. I will always have a soft spot for '84 Buick Skyhawks with faded hoods, but I don't think there is an acceptable salute for those.

SleekPelt said...

Zee: You're a man after my own heart! I used to drive an '84 Skyhawk with a faded hood, indeed. My very first car. I think we've discussed this before.

RD: I'd like to say I was riding the little guy's skateboard in the house and fell. (I have actually done that!) However, I was stepping over a baby/dog gate and caught the top of my back foot and went right down. Snapped the radius right through just below the elbow. After several hours of laughing about it, the pain became real, so I hit up the Lortab that I tried to convince the doc I wouldn't need.

The Dalai Mama said...

The previous post was written by me! I accidentally posted under sleek's account. I'm sure he'll delete it for me as soon as he gets home. However, it would be funny for all to think that sleek said Zee is a man after his own heart! Hahahahahaha!