motorcycle wave hand signals waves

Which motorcycles attract the most waves?

Over the years I have ridden a huge variety of motorbikes and have noticed that when I’m riding some models I get a lot of appreciative waves while others attract none.

So which bikes attract the most appreciation form the public and other riders and motorcycle camaraderie and which ones make you a motorcycle pariah?

(The following observations are based on my own riding experiences as well as the anecdotes of readers to our article on the etiquette of motorcycle waving.)

Harley creates waves

Interestingly, Harley-Davidson motorcycles create the most division.

In the past 25 years I have ridden every model from the Milwaukee company and I can tell you that no other bike attracts more attention from the non-riding public, particularly children.Motorcycle wave heart waves

The bigger, louder and more colourful, the more attention it attracts.

Of course, obnoxiously loud Harleys tend to also cop a fair amount of disdain from the public, as do any ridiculously loud motorcycles.

Yet the motorcycle-riding population tend to shun Harleys, unless they are also riding one.

Harley riders wave at Harley riders, but non-Harley riders rarely wave at HOGs.

Maybe there is some degree of superiority among Harley riders who, I find, often don’t acknowledge other makes, even if the rider waves at them.

OMC members also rarely wave at “normal” Harley riders.

Perhaps that’s because, like the Del Fuegos in the 2007 John Travolta movie Wild Hogs, they think they are posers or wannabe OMC members.

As Ray Liotta’s character, Jack, says in the movie: “The joke is the assholes who buy leather outfits and think they’re bikers.”

Most ignored

In my experience, these are the brands, types and models that rarely receive waves from the public and/or other riders and their riders rarely wave:

Scooters: Except for Vespas and old Lambrettas who attract waves from hipsters and pretty young women with a Roman Holiday fixation, most riders seem to disdain scooters and won’t wave when I’m riding one. 

Most of the motoring public either have them in their blind spot or seem to actively hate them. Scooter riders seem to acknowledge their pariah status and don’t wave, either.Lambretta V200 Special

Goldwings: Kids and people impressed by size will wave. However, most riders and the public seem to think Goldwing riders should just get a car and will not bother returning or giving a wave. It’s a shame as Goldwing riders are among the biggest and most enthusiastic wavers.

BMWs: BMWs were long considered the “Camry of motorcycles”, ridden only by middle-aged men in cardigans. Either that or they are ridden by wankers, so people tell me. However, some modern models, such as the S series and the R nineT derivatives are breaking this mould and do attract some waves.

Adventure bikes: It depends on whether you or the other rider is wearing those garish adventure outfits. Perhaps it’s because they are deemed to be Charley and Ewan posers.

KTM rally suit jacket textile waves
Would you wave at this?

Trail bikers: No one waves at them because they are rarely on public roads. They don’t wave back either, probably because they have their hands full.

Sportsbikes: Similarly, sportsbike riders are usually too busy concentrating on getting their knee down to wave. It’s also difficult to lift your hand to wave in those restrictive leather outfits. They also go by so fast you don’t get time to wave to them.

Wave attracters

In my experience, here are the motorcycles that attract the most waves:

Trikes and outfits: These get a similar reception to Goldwings, but they attract a lot more appreciation than disdain, probably because the pillion is having such a great time and often waving exuberantly at everyone.motorcycle wave waves

Classic motorcycles: The public just love old motorcycles while riders appreciate them and understand the commitment it takes to own and ride them. And the riders are so proud, they wave at everything!

Old Boxer BMWs: I’ve separated this group from the above because old boxer BMWs are now enjoying a resurgence of popularity among young hipsters. When I owned an R 65 back in the ‘80s I even received waves from OMCs.

Triumphs Bonnevilles: Probably because they look like classic motorcycles, they attract admiration. They also get waves from young hipsters and even old-school OMCs. My Street Scrambler even attracts the occasional wave from adventure riders! And maybe because most of them are not riding flat out with their knees down, they tend to be active wavers.

Road names motorcycles Triumph Street Scrambler stalling waves
Street Scrambler
  • Have you experienced this wave and non-wave phenomenon depending on the bike you are riding? Please leave your comments below, but remember this article is meant to entertain, not incite a riot!

  1. I wave or nod to all Bike Riders, as long the machine has an engine and two wheels I’ll wave or nod.
    I notice that Harley Riders don’t acknowledge and just ignore me but I’ll continue to wave or nod at them because I do like to annoy them. Now come on guys – we all like to Ride our Bikes and guess what: It doesn’t cost you any money to acknowledge another Rider, just be proud that you are on Your Motorcycle…

  2. I’ve had a Road King for several years now and whilst kids often wave, other riders tend to ignore it to the point where I don’t bother anymore unless I get one first……so I guess it can become a self fulfilling prophecy in a way.

    Anyway, last weekend I bought a second bike and I couldn’t believe all the waves and nods received from other riders……even dirt bike riders. So ok, it’s a r nineT with knobblies on and you did make special mention of this model, but I’d upgrade the “a few” waves mentioned in the article to many! I’m just going to wave/nod to everyone on either bike now as all it can do is make positive energy and spread some camaraderie.

    Enjoy reading your stuff Mark keep up the good work!

  3. Usually start out waving, but by end of day back to nod as only a few respond. More waves on back roads and from most adventure riders [BMW also] Dont have fancy gear but 93 Guzzi lemans usually gets most attention at the stops.

  4. Great article again Mark. I’d echo the fact that it is getting rarer for *the nod* to be acknowledged as the years roll on. On our last trip to Finke Races saw more unsolicited *gdays* from cars than the bikes when we crossed – and on the Stuart the cruisers always gave a thumbs up as opposed to the blank look of a certain group of KTM riders #mannerscostnothing ….Could be just an Old Guys thing?

  5. I only got a one finger wave when I rode a Sym 300 scooter, especially when overtaking HD’s and old classics?
    The most waves I got was riding a Moto Guzzi V7 racer with the chrome tank and leather strap.
    No waves when on the BMW lime green Funduro and only a few on the Honda CBF1000 sports tourer. (Love the Honda)

  6. I have been riding on the road for just on 50 yrs and own a number of different machines and wave at anybody on 2 or 3 wheels. What is interesting is who waves back at what.
    We have a Can Am Spyder I get waves from riders on ‘big’ touring bikes, semi trailers and females on the foot path and believe it or not the occasional OMC member.
    Ducati; some Ducati riders but not all, BMW riders and most touring riders and never from a Guzzi rider.
    Classic Triumph: Other classic riders, Harley riders, very rarely from ‘New” Triumph Riders or sports bikes.
    With the Triumph’s I remember at a Classic Bike Show a couple of years ago, a group of riders from the RAT club arrived and there Pres made the statement that there was nothing to see ‘only just a lot of old Pommy bikes’ .

  7. Mark… I agree with your comment “even old-school OMCs” in relation to Triumph Bonnevilles. I even had one pull alongside me on his HD on the freeway and comment: “nice bike” referring to my silver Street Twin. I think some of it with the MC’s is the fact the Pagans were a Triumph club and after that the anti-Jap sentiment. But I think the wave or non-wave from other riders and general public can come down to helmet type and overall appearance. That is to say, any rider, whether on a HD or sports bike looks less intimidating with a full face helmet as opposed to a rider with an open face and ‘skull mask’ or bandana for example. I think a lot of people feel it would be better not to wave in case it gets misconstrued and ends up in something shall we say unpleasant!

    I also ride a Yamaha Tricity (3 wheeler) for occasional shopping and fast lane splitting commutes in very heavy traffic. You don’t get many waves but you do get a lot of stares and second looks and quite a few people are interested to talk once stopped.

  8. I ride a harley and i dont wave at ‘hogs’ mainly because nearly without fail they
    are a bunch of wankers , I would put sidecars as the most waved at from children, and
    just about all members of the general public. And even offers of sex from quite a few women
    …Mind you mostly over 80 years old

  9. I’ve been riding for more than 50 years now, and I used to wave at all riders. Over the past decade I’ve noticed that the friendly salute has been becoming a rarity. Only about 1 in 5 would return the wave, some would give me a slight nod. Harley riders almost never wave back. Actually most of them pass without even turning their head. Except in New Zealand when I rode around both islands in 2012, then every Harley rider waved back, and lots of them waved first.
    On the way up to Adelaide last October I passed 3 riders, waved and got no response. Well that Sunday in October did it for me. No more waving. If other riders can’t be bothered to wave, well I’m not going to be bothered either. I ride a white BMW GS1200, and I wear a white helmet. Perhaps I’m being mistaken for someone (or something) else.
    A recent trip up to Byron Bay from South Australia just confirmed that the wave from other riders hardly happens now.
    I will wave back though if someone waves to me first, I’ll even give a nod to the nodders.

  10. Scooters, hmmm since I don’t wave while “in town” this maybe not a fair comparison. Don’t see many if any scooters on a country road.

  11. Let us not forget the “motorcycle nod” which is passed between riders no matter what you ride. This is about brotherhood which is more important than bragging rights.

    1. Yep. Waving is dangerous. It takes a hand off the handlebar and your attention off the road. A nod is a much better idea if you feel the need. I don’t. When I ride I’m in a meditative cocoon and I want to stay there at all times. The time for camaraderie is when I’m OFF the bike.

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