Why don't people wave back?

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    1 of 11
    rshaug
    6 years ago
    I started to notice something when I was out on my longer solo ride yesterday, just how many people don't wave back. As my friends know I'm a friendly rider who waves at other motorcyclists regardless of brand, equipment, profile, etc. We're all on two wheels and it's just a little nod to the brotherhood. I started to pay attention after the first hour or so and made a little mental list of who waves back and who doesn't...was interesting. These lists are not meant to be definitive, simply my observations from the last 30ish years.

    Who waves back?
    1. MC's. Yes, MC's with rockers and all. In fact, I can't recall not getting a wave or nod back from at least one (if they're riding in a group).
    2. Other grey haired folks on sport bikes and sport touring bikes, pretty much without fail.
    3. Other solo sport bike riders.
    4. Folks with a whole heck of a lot of stuff strapped onto their bikes with bungees and tape. Always.

    Who doesn't wave back?
    1. Harley posers in small packs. they must be too cool or simply can't bring themselves to acknowledge a non Harley. **These same douches would always wave back when I was riding my cruiser.
    2. BWM riders on very clean, new model, "big" BMWs and especially if they are with one or two others similarly equipped. Typically the person will be fully decked out in the full Motorrad catalog with blinged out rides (usually GS) that likely never see rain. Other BMW guys just fall in with the rest (sport bike guys and sport touring guys who do wave). If it's an older GS or K, especially if it also meets num4 above, they ALWAYS wave back.
    3. A large number of riders who must be too nervous/afraid to take their hand off the bars or eyes from the death stare forward. You can see the fear in their bodies from across the highway. Get educated. Go riding with veterans. RELAX, trust us, it's supposed to be fun.
    =note= I think 1 and 2 in this section are related and maybe 2 and 3.

    At this point I think I can make some general observations:

    - Road dirty (not gross, just "used") bikes wave back. They also stop to help you if you need it.
    - The older the bike the friendlier the rider. It might be from having to talk to a lot of strangers over time because the bike breaks down, but whatever these are a friendly bunch.
    - Odds are really good that the person in the Vanson with a nice patina is going to wave, and you probably won't be able to keep up with them when the roads starts twisting. The guy in the brand new Harley vest, over the Harley jacket, Harley shirt, Harley glasses and Harley underwear, who looks like they are very afraid of having to turn around in the parking lot, is not.
    - The guy with the big grey beard, skin tanned like leather, more patches than denim on his ragged vest, is going to know a shitload more about bikes; even though he's on a big ole' Harley and your not. When he says "Maybe check the connection under the fuse block first", just do it. You never know, his other bike might just be a class winning CBR-RR.

    Above all folks, wave back. Like I said, it's supposed to be fun! If you break down on the side of the road I *will* stop and help you, I'm hoping you would do the same.
    2 of 11
    Yermo
    6 years ago
    Riding across country it seemed to be a regional thing more than a brand thing. I forget which state it was, Idaho I believe, where it seemed like no one waved. In other states, Tennessee for instance, it seems like everyone does, new Harley riders included. I remembered thinking, as we were riding through WV, that it was more like Idaho in that regard. Just my $.02 worth.
    3 of 11
    holygoat
    6 years ago
    I was just thinking about this today. Went out for an hour or two, had a few people not wave.



    The trend I spotted: the closer to middle age, and the less 'responsible', the less likely to wave. That is, the guys who somehow looked like an asshole on a cruiser with no helmet: no wave. The students on dirt bikes, the couple on the big Honda, the old guy on the BMW R80 — they waved.



    If I had to speculate as to why that is: perhaps the people who are buying into the appearance ("yeah, I'm a biker dude who rides a Harley") don't do the waving (at least not to guys like me on big new Beemers!)?
    4 of 11
    holygoat
    6 years ago
    Also interesting: I drive a WRX. The few folks in my area who also drive WRXs, particularly the ones in my demographic or with similar model years, all give a little wave as we pass each other.

    I was driving (fast) through Oregon this year, and another WRX moved over to let me pass, and gave me a wave and a grin as I went past.

    "The wave" applies to anyone who treats driving/riding/piloting as more than getting from A to B or presenting an image, I think.
    5 of 11
    Ian
    6 years ago
    As a limited waver, I'll chime in. 

    Firstly, I always try to acknowledge a wave.  Either with a hand signal or a nod, depending on if my hand is on the clutch lever.  You're right, it's supposed to be fun and friendly.  If a biker looks like they need help, I'll stop and see if they in fact do need help.

    Secondly, I personally don't have the desire to wave to every motorcycle I pass, basically as a matter of practicality.  When I'm riding the bike, especially in the summer time, I pass an awful lot of other motorcycles.  And because I'm an urban dweller, it's often in traffic and/or fairly frequent.  We can make friends at the coffee shop or something; on the urban street there are too many nitwit cage drivers and other hazards to look out for to go taking my hand off the handlebar every time I pass a two-wheeler.  It's different if you're out in the country where traffic is light and you're not constantly passing other motorcycles.

    Here in Canada, cruiser riders do wave.  I can't always tell what make they're riding, so maybe they're on metric cruisers, I dunno, but there is less of the Harley-Davidson 'us versus them ' mentality here, although Harley's ARE quite popular here.

    Did you see the column in Motorcyclist recently by the guy who lost his "bro card"?  It's quite telling.
    6 of 11
    buffalo
    6 years ago
    I do believe that it depends a lot on who you're passing. As rule (and a basic courtesy), I tend to wave at all other riders unless. I need both hands right at that moment in which case I'll try to at least nod and acknowledge the other rider. I used to be mildly offended when the gesture wasn't returned, but now I take a more zen approach and just sent the positive gesture out without focusing on a result.

    In my opinion experience, I've usually had waves returned unless:

    1) The other person is a "fashion choice/lifestyle" rider--i.e., someone who bought a particular bike to make a fashion statement, or to join what they think of as some kind of exclusive (or "superior") riding subgroup (brand or "lifestyle") as opposed to choosing to ride a motorcycle in general.

    2) New/inexperienced riders who haven't quite figured out that there is an implied general connection and standard set of courtesies observed by and between most experienced people who ride the roads on two wheels (I personally count trikes, and sidecars in that group as well).
    7 of 11
    Gabe
    6 years ago
    Being a new rider and in my limited experience, there are circumstances in which I don't feel comfortable taking my hand off the bar even briefly, usually in tight turns, making a turn in an intersection, on a steep hill or other circumstance that requires my full and immediate attention in traffic or on the road. In those I always feel a little bad that I can't wave back, but fairly certain that most riders can recognize a new rider that isn't quite comfortable waving back yet.

    When on the straight or not requiring extra attention, I make it a habit to always wave or drop the fingers back, although sometimes miss the less obvious oncoming riders if I happen to be in the Zone.

    As far as the types in my short 3k miles on the road, those that wave less tend to be the choppers (the hard core beyond the Harleys).

    Sometimes I think it has something to do with the perception of the bike I'm riding... for example when in the city I put my windshield down and don't usually travel with the trunk on, giving my bike (a sport touring Honda NT700v) more of the appearance of crotch rocket and then I always get waves from that crowd without fail.

    If I ride with the windshield up and trunk on (maybe a more sport touring/partial gold wing passing impression) I get an increased amount of waves from cruisers and the HD crowd and slightly less from the crotch rocket crowd.

    Thus, I would roughly break down the chance of a wave/acknowledgement back as:

    50% Rider Friendliness (personality/mood)
    20% Attitude & Appearance (bad ass factor; if don't care then add to Rider Friendliness)
    20% Psychological response to the bike I'm riding
    10% Rider Comfort & Attention Span Elsewhere, Busy / Not Noticing
    8 of 11
    rshaug
    6 years ago
    GabeWait until you're so comfortable on the bike that you're *preferred* time to wave to another rider is leaned over at the apex :-) 
    9 of 11
    Gabe
    6 years ago
    Rob, I can't begin to even think on that one without leaning over in my office chair slightly, LOL!

    It would be a small, yet very interesting experiment in cultural and psychological perceptions to find out from the most experienced riders on here how this embedded piece of motorcycling culture has changed over the decades. Notably as there are more motorcyclists hitting the road than ever (I think), if changed regionally and improving in general or not.

    The more I think on it, the more I can imagine the riding psychology potentially changing with each generation or decade based on cultural perceptions and any motorcycle evolution. Or perhaps it's the psychology in the observer and rider over time that is changing more than any act or change in the motorcycling culture itself. Hmmmm.

    Change is inevitable they say, well... except from a vending machine.
    10 of 11
    rshaug
    6 years ago
    Gabe I'm just about to hit 30 years of riding street bikes and sometimes I'm as amazed at what hasn't changed as much as what has. I think that the general societal image of motorcycling changed far more from 1970 to 1990 than from 1990 to now, largely due to Honda (american Honda to be precise) and their "You meet the nicest people..." campaign, followed by the emergence of Harley Davidson as an aspiration lifestyle (which really started in the 80's). Both of these mainstreamed motorcycling and changed it from having a somewhat negative image to being something more akin to a legitimate hobby or pastime - a very positive change.



    The major change has been in the equipment, both the machines themselves and the gear we have access to. The capabilities of the motorcycles available today are simply mind blowing, especially when considering the economics. Many multiples more cars are manufactured than motorcycles, and yet I think it could be argued that more dynamic performance improvement has happened in motorcycles. that's a lot of bang for the buck in platform R&D. As someone who has always like performance motorcycles I have personal experience with the tremendous gains we've seen.





    Between the 1930's and 1970's you might be surprised at how little performance really improved. Handling, acceleration, top speed, horsepower, and the evolution of chassis development did not go very far. From the mid 1970's to 1985 it accelerated rapidly though. From the Honda CB750, to the Kawasaki Z1, to the Suzuki GS, and finally in 1985 to the release of the first generation GSXR. that GSXR broke ground for motorcycle performance gains that are amazing regardless of industry. When it came out it was a racebike that you could put plates on, but more than that it was the first bike with performance that could be considered "modern" even by today's standards almost three decades later. Very soon after the GSXR came the Kawasaki Ninja and 1000cc Ninja which set records for HP and speed (and became famous in the movie Top Gun). From there not only has horsepower become incredible but chassis refinement, brakes, tire technology have all had their development curves come into alignment leading to today's landscape. For less than $15,000 anyone can purchase a machine that will go 0-60 in less than 3 seconds, go over 180 MPH, get 40 MPG (or more!), stop on a dime, and turn at greater than 1G - on a motorcycle. Simply amazing.



    Gear has also improved tremendously, as well as the understanding of what works and what doesn't in a crash. Leather has always worked, but today's armor and the chemistry and engineering that goes into protective gear is tremendous.



    In many ways we, as riders, haven't changed but our equipment sure has. Although, I think we may have been even more brand "loyal" in the 1970s and 1980s when motorcycle racing was much more popular and you would support the brand of your favorite racer. I think the overall societal perception of motorcycling and motorcyclists probably leveled out somewhere between the mid 1980's and early 1990's and hasn't changed much since. I think a similar trend exists within the riding community as well, we're pretty much the same as we've been only now we can wave or not wave much safer and at higher speeds



    To give you an idea of how much things have changed here is a list of my principle rides from 1984 to the present day (you can look up all of their performance stats and specs), with their factory HP rating. All of these were one of the hot rides for their day



    1977 Suzuki GS550 = 49HP

    1980 Suzuki GS550E = 49HP

    1980 Suzuki GS750ES = 68HP

    1985 Suzuki GS550ES = 64HP

    1986 Suzuki GSXR-750 = 100HP

    1987 Suzuki RG500 = 95HP

    1983 Kawasaki KZ1000R ELR = 92HP

    1995 Kawasaki ZX900 = 135HP

    1999 Kawasaki ZRX1100 = 106HP

    1997 Honda CBR1100XX = 164HP

    2011 Kawasaki Z1000SX (Ninja 1000) - 140HP



    There were other bikes in the mix as well (various cruisers, dual sports, dirt bikes, etc), as anyone who has had this disease for a while knows...you really can't own just one bike
    11 of 11
    SprintKS
    6 years ago
    Out here in Kansas/Missouri, most people wave though the Harley group is 50/50.  Sometimes people on older blue BMW's make hand gestures...not a wave per say...just odd gesture.
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