While it may be unknown to most car drivers, it is common within the motorcycle community – bikers wave at each other. It’s called the motorcycle wave. Whether you ride a street bike, chopper, touring, enduro, or cruiser, motorcycle riders belong to a close-knit group/brotherhood of people who have committed themselves to two-wheeled transportation.
As a sign of respect, or acknowledgement, or excitement for like-minded people, riders will give an acknowledgement to passing ‘community-members’ (this is generally accepted, however there are certainly sub-factions within the biking community that may dictate who gets a wave and who doesn’t).
Some will give a head nod, but most will give a wave – be it an over-head-haven’t-seen-you-in-years wave, or a subtle two-finger salute. There is no right or wrong way to do it. However, there seems to be two generally accepted, unwritten rules: 1) If someone waves to you, you wave back, and 2) Do not, under any circumstances, wave as a sign of respect to a vespa/scooter owner (A Harley sportster owner may not always wave to an eduro rider, and a Victory cruiser owner may not like a street bike owner, but none of them like scooter owners).
As an over-whelming majority of bikes are manual, there is a fair amount of gear shifting occurring for bikers. The wave should only be done when it is safe for both the rider and other drivers on the road – if you get a wave in the middle of a busy intersection with pedestrians walking about, it’s more important for you to focus on the road than give the wave back.
For most people, if you are out driving through the backcountry of Wyoming, or Montana, or Idaho, far away from your home on some lonely, winding roads, it is a welcome sight to see another bike. A wave is comforting, respectable, and purposeful. It is natural to want to feel part of a community, and bikers are no different.