i’m not in, but they are DEFINITELY not in

July 23, 2008

Last Fall Kim and I got motorcycles. We did not get tattoos, we did not buy leather. Wait, Kim bought leather. But we did not buy chaps, or chains, or fingerless gloves. At least, not for riding. Anyway.

And yet, when I ride my motorcycle, about 75% of other riders I pass on the road give me the motorcycle wave. You know the motorcycle wave? As you pass riders going in opposite directions, you drop your left arm and slightly hold it out, low and subtle. But unmistakable.

Now, I don’t mind so much people waving at me. Cyclists do this all the time, sort of as a “hey, we’re in the same club” kind of thing. And cycling is a club I can get behind. We’re out pedaling, human powered. I’ll even wave at recumbent riders. Although that may also involve some pointing and laughing.

But I’m not in the motorcycle club. I commute to work on my motorcycle, I enjoy it, but I’m not a “Rider.” And yet, I feel this weird social compulsion to take my hand off my handlebar at 75mph and wave at people I’ll never see again, simply because they see me as a member of their club.

One weird thing about it–the grungier the rider, the more likely he/she is to initiate the wave. Not sure what that means.

However. Even though I’m reticent to join, or even be thought to have joined a club I have NOT in fact joined . . . there is a group I will never wave to, and want to stop waving at me. They should only wave at each other.

You guys on the Vespas–you are NOT motorcycle riders. You are NOT in the club! Stop waving at us. I mean me.


18 Responses to “i’m not in, but they are DEFINITELY not in”

  1. Rob Says:

    You need to re-watch Quadrophenia…


  2. Chad Says:

    As someone else who rides a motorcycle but is not comfortable with being a member of some kind of motorcycling culture, I am often very entertained by which people going the opposite direction give me “the wave”.

    As background, I ride a small, old, suzuki gs450e. I think its a cool bike, but most people do not. I have observed the following general guidelines about who will/wont wave at me:

    1. As you noted the more grizzled looking guys riding harleys will almost ALWAYS wave at anybody
    2. The guys on harleys who look like business executives and should have a license plate holder that says “my other harley is a lexus” never wave at me, but always wave at each other and #1.
    3. 90% of people on modern japanese sport bikes (race rockets) will not wave, but there are surprising exceptions (like a wave from the guy doing 95 in a 25 with no helmet).
    4. Other people on older japanese bikes almost always wave(like bikes always wave at like bikes)
    5. Women seem to rarely wave. But this may be because they often fall into #s 2 and 3.

  3. KanyonKris Says:

    You bought a motorcycle and joined the club by default. Sorry you have to deal with that, and your angst over whether scooters are worthy of your wave. I’m going to fit a chainsaw engine to my road bike and give you “the wave” when we pass, just to deepen your angst, or maybe just get the finger.

  4. Lori Says:

    There’s a guy here in town that rigged a weedeater motor to his bicycle, claims he gets 150 mpg. He waves at everybody and I mean everybody. Sometimes he waves when no one is there to wave at……

  5. Bikemike Says:

    yep, i’ve got a 750 suzuki katana. i just wave normal or if i really want to mess with ’em do that really quick side to side wave, you know, like a 5 year old girl waving to her friends. i really don’t mind waving, just going to do it on my own terms.

  6. VA Biker Says:

    KK, why do the bike conversion? When I’m on my road or touring bike, I give the longer processions of motorcycle riders (invariably Harleys), the wave. Has to be 5 or more riders.

    I’ll rest my right hand on the tops, then sit up, put my left elbow on my left hip, and stick that left index finger out, forearm horizontal. From my vantage point, it’s a semi-sarcastic reply to motorcycle culture.

    I’m on the road. I’m on two wheels. I’m human-powered smugness, completing my ride to work or to get some where for a greater distance than they’ve contemplated on a segment of a “poker run”.

    I should probably stop it as someone is going to slug me one day, but I really can’t resist. The best is when I’m on about a 1-2% long downhill grade, and “the train” is headed in the opposite direction.

    They always wave back to the lycra-clad cyclist that is me. Just sharing the road, man.

    So, is motorcycle to bicycle wave worse than the Vespa scooter wave?

  7. co Says:

    hey Dug – the “low five” originated w/ Harley riders in the 60’s, but I received it when decked out in my blue-and-white graphics on my beamer R-65. It’s OK but never worth sacrificing safety – so no worries if you don’t return the sign. And before anyone slams Harley riders, one “of them” was first to stop and block traffic when I tipped on my maiden major-road ride (after several car drivers about drove over me). Gave me time to take a breath and stop quaking, get my bike back up, and get back on the road. Never spoke to the guy, don’t have any reason to believe I’ve ever seen him again (yes, it was a he and I’m a she who was in blue-and-white graphics riding a beamer with a full-face helmet), and I always returned the low-five. But scooters are not bikes, they don’t belong on the roads, so no low-fives for them.

  8. KanyonKris Says:

    VA – You like to live dangerously. I both admire you and think you’re nuts.

  9. mocougfan Says:


    I’m curious what kind of bikes you guys have. I’m currently in the begging stages with my wife. I really want a motorcycle. She really doesn’t want me to have one. Tug of War.

  10. mocougfan Says:

    I’m an idiot. I looked it up in the other post. No reply necessary.

  11. Bikemike Says:

    mocougfan, if you’ve got your motorcycle certification, borrow a buddies bike and take your wife for a ride, she’ll love it. you could also just have a friend take her for a spin. i was going to sell my bike about a year ago and my girlfriend had a fit, didn’t want me to sell it. of course with gas through the roof, i’m glad i didn’t. i’m in flat florida, would love to be in hilly, twisty stuff. good luck.

  12. Annie Says:

    For most of my bike rides I see few other cyclists, but am surrounded by motorcycles. Being new to this whole thing I had mastered waving at other bikers (but not to bozos without helmets; such stupidity does not deserve a wave), so when I noticed motorcyclists waving at each other I would also wave when I went by. When I got home, I told my husband about the disappointing results. As a former motorcyclists and now avid biker, he almost fell off his chair laughing at my utter stupidity in expecting a large Harley guy to wave at a chubby middle aged chick in spandex shorts on a bike.

    Now I make a point to wave a give a big smile to the motorcycles. Hey, we’re all out here enjoying the road together, right? Might as well make them feel uncomfortable about not waving back at me!

    (Still don’t wave at cyclists without helmets though. But I’m sure organ donor recipients appreciate the gesture they are making!)

  13. americanson Says:

    This ties in well with some help I am looking for. I hope you do not mind a shameless plug here. For anyone that can add ideas, thanks in advance.


  14. Vespa Rider Says:

    The following happens every fall. It’s twilight on a nice day for riding. It’s too dark to really see more than headlights until you’re right up on the vehicle coming the other way. I’m riding my Vespa, a motorcycle coming the other way sees the single headlight, starts the wave, then sees he’s waving to a scooter and snatches the wave back.

  15. midwestmom Says:

    The same thing goes for Jeep drivers. We got a Jeep about two months ago. We just got it to have a second vehicle for our hectic summer schedules. We only drive around our little town in it. I had no idea we were joining some sort of ‘jeep club’ or something. Almost everytime I pass a Jeep they wave. I’m still not used to it.

  16. Lizzylou Says:

    I’ve noticed that triathletes never wave, or at least people who ‘look’ like triathletes (aerobars and sleeveless jerseys scream triathlete at me).

  17. Anonymous Says:

    So scooter riders don’t deserve a wave? So what you RIDE makes you better than somebody else, right? News flash champ, my “scooter” goes 110. It’s on two wheels, just like yours. I am just as “exposed” as you are. The wave is consideration to another non-cager. We are all in the same group, and are in the same situations. I had to get the SAME license as you did. You probably think what you wear is what defines you right? and by default, what you drive makes you more “cool” than other people. Grow up, you vain narcissist douche.

  18. dug Says:

    hey anonymous (nice touch), of the 10,023 comments on this blog, yours is the best. you so clearly get the vibe and meaning of this blog, especially this post from 5 years ago.

    also, you might want to look into some therapy. you might have some inferiority complex issues to work out. i’m not a doctor, but i’ve seen one on tv.

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