Motorcycle Classics

Analyzing the Motorcycle Wave

Reader Contribution by Pat Parziale

Pat Parziale’s been a little disappointed with the quality of motorcycle
waves he’s received while riding his 2002 Kawasaki Sherpa.

Not long ago I purchased another motorcycle, a dual sport 2002 Kawasaki Sherpa. As of the moment, I have three very different motorcycles. First is an old school cool cruiser, a 1982 Honda CB900 with a 10-speed transmission. Second, is a highly capable Honda Helix, a classic maxi-scooter from the 80s which Honda continued to produce well into the late 2000s. The third is the previously mentioned Kawasaki Sherpa.

While not a classic, the Sherpa is a near perfect representation of historic motorcycle design, the lightweight on and off-road motorcycle. I say all this to lead into a discussion which recently has dawned on me … the motorcycle wave. I wish to take the time to briefly explain some things that go through my mind in regards to the “wave” for purely entertainment purposes.

Anyone who has thrown a leg over a motorcycle has seen the “wave.” The description of the motorcycle wave is pretty vague, but basically it is the act of acknowledging another biker while riding. It is a simple gesture that defines the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of motorcyclists. I personally wave to anyone I see on a motorcycle of any kind, but there are plenty of those who don’t. And I must say the one’s that don’t, seem to fall into stereotypical categories. Allow me to expound.

Pat gets his best waves while riding his 1982 Honda CB900.

Usually one can find me on my inline-four Honda. And whenever I ride, I almost always receive the “biker wave.” Very rarely do other motorcyclists ignore me. The riders that do ignore me typically look as though they stepped out of the state penitentiary recently, and I guess I don’t really mind if they don’t wave. Anyway, I see all kinds of waves: the peace sign, the overstretched lateral wave, the high-five wave, the one-finger point wave, the chicken wing elbow wave, the foot wave, the pistol wave, Mickey Mouse wave, etc.

The other times I don’t see or give the wave (for safety purposes) is when passing on opposite sides of a busy highway median, riding in the thick of rush hour, or while up/down shifting on a pass. When I don’t see a wave I typically notice the list above as a valid reason for its neglect. However, except for safety reasons, the ones that don’t wave seem to intentionally ignore. They probably never wave to any biker anyway. So, my guess is, they have a bad father-son interpersonal relationship which they bury in their leather jackets and tattoos and silence by load pipes, blinding chrome, and cigarettes. Moving on …

If I mount my dual-sport Kawasaki, I find I get a slightly smaller percentage of waves, and often less enthusiastic. Except I do get tons of energetic waves from the BMW crew with loads of gear, for whatever reason. Maybe they sense the need I have for adventure. Aside from that, I get a substantial proportion of “waves” that look more like dead fish. The source being, I feel many bikers see a dual-sport as a tad less of a motorcycle and a little more of a recreational toy. Yet, many out there can tell you that there isn’t anything more hardcore or Marlboro Manish, I-could-break-my-femur-doing-this than an off-road adventure. I mean, you couldn’t complete a rock climb with an Electra-Glide or pace Baja silt with a Victory High Ball. What I’m saying is that each bike has its own qualities that perhaps someone like Steve McQueen would value.

Pat’s 1980s-era Honda Helix.

  • Published on Aug 24, 2011
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