When NOT to do the Motorcycle Wave!

“The wave” is one of the coolest things about being a rider; a way to show some solidarity with people you don’t even know, just because they’re riders like you. But there are a handful of times you actually should NOT wave – see if you agree!


When shouldn’t you do “the wave?”

  • Anytime you need to use the controls
  • When you’re riding hard/taking corners
  • At a major bike meet/ride
  • While commuting
  • At intersections

Where does “the wave” come from anyway?

There are a few stories floating around the internet about the origin of the rider’s wave.

Some say that, in “ye olden tymes”, knights crossing each others path would lift their visors with an open hand. This would show that they were unarmed, and allow them to see each others faces as a sign of trust and goodwill; a tradition that has gradually made its way over to modern-day motorcycle riders. (As one person commented, this is more the origin of the military salute than “the wave.”)

A more realistic explanation comes from the surge of returning service members after WWII, who bought military surplus motorcycles in droves. The abundance of motorcycles and the solidarity among veterans gave birth to the American biker culture as a whole, and motorcyclists in those days were eager to greet each other with a wave on the road. It wasn’t just as a biker thing, but also as a veteran thing – it was safe to assume that any male of that age group on a chopped Harley or Indian in those days had served in the war.

There are many types of waves, but the signature “biker wave” tends to be some variation of two fingers pointed parallel or down toward the ground like a “peace sign.” There are many explanations for this too: a “V” for V-twin; a “two” for keeping it “on two wheels”; or just a peace sign that keeps your hands close to the controls.