Yup, I’m referring to the ubiquitous motorcycle wave. The motorcycle wave has gotten out of hand…. way out of control. Why do I say this you ask? Well over the past two weeks Annie and I have ridden the Lolo Pass, Yellowstone NP, Grand Tetons NP, Chief Joseph Byway and the Beartooth Pass. All are motorcycle magnets and I would estimate that we encountered (going to be very conservative now) 15 million motorcycles. Doing some quick ciphering I estimate that means we received 18.6 million waves when the two-up two-phers are accounted for. So, as I rode along and received all those waves I began to ponder, as I am want to do while riding. (Normally I ponder weighty matters of national security, but lately it has been the whys and how’s of the wave.)
First I wondered why it is the people wave to me when I’m on my bike. Could it be intended as a general gesture of goodwill, a conveyance of kindness and friendship from one human to another? I think not. The wave seems to be limited to motorcyclists and if it were intended to be such a universal greeting it would seem it would be granted to all; even those in Buicks. The closest thing I’ve seen to a true gesture of goodwill is the finger I often get here in Montana no matter what I’m riding or driving. No not the finger you are probably thinking about, but the raised index finger from a hand at the 12 o’clock position on the steering wheel of a pick-up truck driven by a generally older rancher or farmer. Those guys seem to finger just about everyone; true humanists those agricultural types. But anyway, even if the waves I received from all those bikers of late were of the general goodwill-to-all ilk they are still not for me. I tend to identify with Oscar more than I do with Felix, sad to say.
Well then what is behind the wave if it is not such a universal custom. It must be that all those millions of wavers thought that we have some other form of bond; a link formed by the fact that we ride motorcycles. I don’t buy that either. Other than a two-wheel vehicle I think that I share little in common with the riders that waved to me. The overwhelming majority of the wavers were of the rebel, non-conformist outlaw sort. How could I tell? Well they were generally bedecked in the rebel, non-conformist outlaw uniform consisting of: the rebel, non-conformist outlaw bandana worn as a helmet (preferably in a stars and stripes pattern); a rebel, non-conformist outlaw black leather vest covered in pins obtained at events they towed their motorcycles to (the vest was often worn over a rebel, non-conformist outlaw wife-beater shirt); and they sported other rebel, non-conformist outlaw accouterments such as the chained wallet, manly leather tassels on the ends of their handle bars and genuine F-16 fighter pilot sunglasses. These guys and gals may be doctors, lawyers, teachers or carpenters and be very nice people, but they weren’t waving at me because what I do for a living or because I’m nice to puppies. Nope, they were waving because of motorcycling and in my opinion our values and behaviors concerning motorcycling could not be more different.
And to go off target for a moment…. I also pondered the different types of waves one receives. First is the effusive wave. This is given above the handle bar and is like Queen Elizabeth’s wave (elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist) but delivered as if the waver is on an overdose of meth. This is rare, almost always delivered by a female rider and I suspect is a genuine expression of happiness and goodwill. Then there is the point and ignore. In this wave the deliverer must be careful to never, ever make eye contact with the recipient or even slightly turn his head towards the other rider. The arm is extended and the index finger is pointed towards the ground as if to say, “Look out for the pothole”. Although the index finger is used, these are not agrarians. The aloof manner in which this wave is delivered makes it the ultimate in cool. It can only be enhanced by the tricky double delivery in which rider and pillion deliver the point and ignore in perfect unison. There are other variants of the below the bar wave, including; the hand slap in which they waver holds out the arm with the palm facing the recipient. It’s almost as if you are expected to slide over and slap his palm as if you were the Yankees celebrating a win at Yankee Stadium. And finally there is the drop. This is the lazy man’s wave. The waver simply lets go of the handle bar and lets the arm fall to his side… little technique and no effort here. Kinda makes me wonder what would happen if all bikes had left hand throttles. Oh the chaos that would cause.
Back to why riders wave. So I don’t buy into the brotherhood pap. No I just don’t think I share enough in what I think motorcycling is about with folks that spend as much time polishing chrome as they do riding, or have bikes with more time parked in front of a bar as it does on the road, or ride crotch rockets on the road as if they were at Leguna Seca. Maybe if I met them we would be close friends and I do wave to friends.
But I haven’t gotten to what is truly irritating about the wave. What really makes me shake my head is the attitude of some towards those who choose not to wave (me for instance). For example, recently on this forum a member posted about how he felt GS riders are snooty because they do not wave. Another comment on this forum indicated that the poster assumed that those who do not wave were having difficulty controlling the bike and could not handle a wave; sad commentary indeed. Reminds me of high school hallway behavior. “We all bundle.”
So I’ve officially forsworn the wave. Please do not condemn me and I will not think ill of the wavers… yes, even those of the rebel, non-conformist, outlaw sort. Remember, my right to not wave is guaranteed in our Constitution. Article…. Well look it up, it’s in there. Remember, love and waves, to be considered true, must be given with no expectation of getting anything in return.
So as not to be seen as a hypocrite, I must acknowledge that even I in my most curmudgeonly of moods sometimes develop an instant bond with an approaching waving rider. In a nano-second there develops a sense of communion and goodwill that is overwhelming and instinct and reflex takes over. My arm tenses and my hand quivers and sometimes I’m waving despite myself. This normally takes place when the waver uses the effusive technique. And, oh, I always return the friendly finger when I get one.