The Harley Non-Wave: Am I Missing Something?

WaveI went on a 500 mile ride this weekend on roads that draw a lot of motorcyclists.  Just as a mental exercise, I decided to take an informal tally of riders that responded back to my “biker’s wave”.  The results were interesting.  Before you jump on me for being trivial, I know waving is a minuscule part of motorcycling, but it is a time-honored tradition.

So here was the strategy – I would initiate the wave to every passing motorcyclist.  Then, to the best of my ability, I would keep track of the country of origin (or style) of the motorcycle and whether or not my wave was returned.  No, I was not stopping to keep a scientific tally every time I passed another motorcyclist.  However, I did keep good mental notes, and jotted them down at the next gas stop.  For your information I was riding my BMW R1200GS on this trip.  So here are the results:

Other BMW motorcycles: 7 passed / 7 waves returned
Ducatis: 2 passed / 2 waves returned
Japanese sport and sport-touring: 16 passed / 15 waves returned
Japanese and European dual-sports: 3 passed / 3 waves returned
Metric (Asian) cruisers and tourers: 6 passed / 6 waves returned
American (Harley) cruisers: 23 passed / 11 waves returned

So of the 34 non-American motorcycles that I passed, all but 1 returned my wave (that one may have been a newbie afraid to take a hand of the grip).  Sadly, fewer than half of the Harley riders returned the gesture.

Now it must be said that I am not, and have never been, a Harley rider.  However, it also must be said that I am not a Harley hater.  I appreciate a nice custom Harley; and I am especially fascinated by vintage American iron.  All I am asking is what is the root cause of the non-participation of the Harley riders?  How different is it to ride an American twin as opposed to a Bavarian twin or British triple?  Maybe I am missing something here.  By the way, I may have a German surname, but I am as American as they come.  Yes, I may wave more earnestly or sincerely to another BMW rider because of a mutual interest, but I will return anyone’s wave.

So what about you?  I’d love to hear from riders of bikes of any brand or style.  Is the venerable biker’s wave now divided by some pseudo elitism?  Is it now segmented into waves for Harley riders and then everyone else?  From my end, I am just going to keep waving and take solace in the fact that even with the poor showing from the Harley crowd, more than half of the riders I pass will wave back.

Courtesy of

0 thoughts on “The Harley Non-Wave: Am I Missing Something?

  1. I gotta say that here in the upstate of SC 99% of the riders will return on initiate the wave. When I lived in Florida a lot of the harley riders would not return a wave. But if I had the time, I’d turn around and ride with them so that to all it looked like we were traveling together. If looks could kill!


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