Thursday, September 04, 2014

The Secret Biker Wave

One thing I've noticed when out riding my little Honda Rebel cruiser motorcycle commuting to and from my several MCC campuses is the wave I often get from other bikers. The left hand is extended downward at a 45 degree angle in recognition of the brotherhood/sisterhood of us bikers. At first I didn't know what it was and wondered if my helmet was on fire, or on backwards, or the rear tire was flat, or my zipper was down, or something I couldn't even imagine. The I began to notice that sometimes the fingers are making the peace sign; other times the four fingers are held flat, or thumb held up, or making the ok sign. And apparently there are a multitude of subtleties about the etiquette and the nuanced hierarchy of this wave. A cruiser may or may not wave at a chopper or a sport bike, but will likely wave at another cruiser if the circumstances are conducive. And a chopper may or may not wave at a cruiser or a sport bike depending on the mood of the driver and the traffic environment. It's unlikely that a chopper will wave at a scooter, but it is surely not impossible that the chopper pilot will admire the spirit of the plucky scooter driver and give that wave of solidarity with that free spirit which coexists on that common roadway of life. (Of course, if a pretty girl is driving the scooter, I'll bet it's a 100% wave scenario whether it's a Harley, a chopper, a sport bike or a small Honda cruiser). A scooter pilot may be perceived as "cheeky" if they initiate "the wave," but the chopper may very well appreciate the upward mobility of the thought. Harley drivers are thought to be fairly selective about their waves -- only to other Harley drivers, but I've gotten the "wave" from Harley drivers even though I'm on a little Japanese import. It might be the cool looking gas tank or my 60's James Dean style sunglasses (or my whitish beard). I'm not sure. But I digress. And the return gesture is also important. The full "biker wave" is be be returned if possible and one has the time. Sometimes a head nod is sufficient if your left hand is occupied on the clutch, for example; or you are leaning into a turn; or some other driving critical factor like busy traffic. Other times, two fingers raised from the left hand grip is sufficient. So tonight I'm researching "the wave." In my riding so far, I've done the low wave, the two finger lift wave, the four finger lift wave, and the head nod, never knowing for sure if I was being identified as a true "biker" or a "rookie." I just googled "the motorcycle wave" and got 22,000,000 hits, so I'm reading them now. There's an entire body of literature devoted to this secret ritual amongst us bikers..........there's an entry in Wikipedia. I have even found on-line "biker wave" forum websites where the uninitiated can have their "biker wave" etiquette questions answered, the answer of one such question notwithstanding: Biker etiquette? Hell, no. They're bikers.


Blogger Phil Smith said...

Nice review of biker wave etiquette but as a life-long biker (In the 60's I owned a Cushman Model 52, made in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1946. I had it in college because first year students in this Gulag were not permitted cars. Bought it off Pig Ryan in MV for $100. Had to fix just about everything. Parts were easy to get since the main factory was in Lincoln. Current price for same scooter on "For Sale" page of Cushman Club of America is $7000. So I know my bikes and waves. I also owned a Kawasaki, also had a factory in Lincoln, and this was my first real bike.
Your essay was excellent but must be amended. At big time rallies like Sturgis or Bike Week down here in Daytona, waving is a clear sign you are a rube. Maybe a first-timer, maybe hauled your bike to Daytona from Nebraska City in your horse trailer and wave at every one of the 3/4 million bikers who descend upon this year- around biker Mecca. If you haul your bike to Sturgis or Daytona you don't admit it. The super cool bikers just do not wave at these big rallies and if you do you get the stinkeye, as if you are a pissant and unworthy of any recognition.
Your inventory of biker waves was spot on except for one notable omission--The Wingers, that is, that species (probably also own a Hummer I) who purchase Honda Gold Wing bikes, usually blood red or puke yellow. These behemoths are the Caddy Escalades of the biker world. Wingers are a unique mutants, those who want every sort of gadget and accessory known to the modern world attached to that bike. Example: Goldwings have butt warmers, small fans to cool you while you ride, Honda suits that plug into various electrical comfort power stations that warm the body if you ride in cool weather, and side vents that keep the legs warm in cold weather. Wingers have two sizes to choose from: Regular and OMG. Honda dealers would have to close up shop if they depended just on Regular sales. Industry research reveals that the average Winger is 100 pounds above the average--each rider. Oh, yes, about waving: Wingers in the "Command Seat" don't wave; the rider (almost always female) in the secondary seat does the waving and its accomplished thusly: Wife or girl friend extends arm to 12 o'clock position and opens hand to display all fingers and she shakes arm and hands like she hadn't seen you since junior prom.
Wingers even have a motto. Most real bikers' have a tattoo or belt that says "Ride to live; live to ride." Now Wingers, dressed in matching suits and helmets and little ear phones and mics so they can talk to each other and discuss where they will stop for lunch, are firmly committed to the mantra: "Ride to eat; eat to ride."
Bud, as always your essay was informative and also fun to read; and you opened up to the neophyte one of the rituals of the cabala to educate those who misunderstand that even regular Joes like you and me can be bikers and not sell illegal pharmaceuticals or participate in gang wars. Two artist/teachers enjoying ourselves on alternative vehicular transportion. Loved what I thought was a self-portrait you included. I see your taste in books runs pretty much along my own areas of interest. Phil Smith

9:36 AM  
Blogger Bud Cassiday said...

thanks Phil. you filled in some areas I wasn't aware of. and made me laugh at the same time. My Honda Rebel has a speedometer and three little lights --- that's it. blue for the high beam, blinking yellow for the turn signals, and green for neutral. Regards, Bud

7:11 PM  

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