Motorcycle riders wave to each other. It usually is a small thing - a simple raise of a few fingers or nod of the head in a lot of instances. This article includes some of my thoughts on this great practice.
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It has always given me a sense of community and never ceases to put a smile on my face. It means we're brothers and sisters on the road.
Today, though, it became a lot more - a reminder of what it really is all about.
I was riding home from work when I saw a guy riding a Harley coming into the intersection from my left. He waved, and as I was holding down the clutch with my hand, I just nodded. Then he entered the intersection to turn left in front of me. His front tire lost pressure, his bike lost contact with the road and he dropped the bike.
It took me about three seconds to really get what had just happened. Once it sunk in, I pulled my bike to the median and went over to him. As bad as things can be when you drop a bike, he was relatively okay. But I stood with him and made sure everything was okay. We checked out the bike and noted the scrapes and scratches, and then he got his bike back up and I followed him down the road to a gas station where he refilled his front tire. We talked a bit, making sure that he was good to ride home, etc.
That experience was a bit startling, but not what really drove home to me the issue of why motorcycle riders wave. What drove that home was one of the stories he shared - about a night where he was basically ridden off the road by a van and left behind in oncoming traffic, and about how no one stopped to help until two motorcyclists stopped and helped get him out from under his bike and out of the road.
My point? In many instances, we're all each other has. I've stopped a number of times for riders who look like they might be in trouble. This is the first time for someone who had dropped their bike, and I'm damn glad I did. Thinking back, I am sure I could have handled a situation like that on my own, but I'm sure I would appreciate having someone who understood riding (or even just someone to make sure I was okay) there to have my six, so to speak.
On the rest of the way home, I saw a number of riders. Bikes of all kinds - cruisers, crotch rockets, touring bikes. And every time someone waved, I could feel the camaraderie - and the underlying "when we waive, we celebrate enjoying riding together, but we also say 'I've got your six', too."
So if you ride - thanks. Thanks for being a part of that family that takes care of each other.
If you don't ride, please, watch out for the motorcycles out there. Car and truck drivers have a tendency to not notice motorcycles because they are more focused on the larger vehicles like themselves. I'm asking you to be proactive in noticing the motorcycles out there, and if you happen to see someone on a bike in trouble, consider checking to see if they are okay. The vast majority of the riders out there are not the stereotypical biker gang dude, but rather people who have found the joy of riding motorcycles.
If you are considering taking up motorcycling, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE consider taking a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course. The VAST majority of serious motorcycle accidents happen in the first year of a person taking up riding. Reduce those odds by taking a MSF course and then riding carefully for at least six months.
If you want more information, take a look at my old "Get in the Saddle - A Motorcycle Rider Beginner Basics" page. It has a lot of solid information about how to evaluate bikes, links to resources, etc. Some of them are outdated, and I plan on doing a revised version here on this Blogspot page, but for now, it is still a useful page.
Also, in checking out articles about riders and waiving, I found an old friend, so to speak - BeginnerBikers.org! This was a wonderful resource from when I started riding. It included a forum that was great for discussing all things a learning rider needed to see and read and talk about. I met friends there who rode with me in the Hill Country - what a great ride! Unfortunately, that version of the organization apparently hit a road bump or two and was offline for a bit, but apparently it resurfaced and is back, stronger than ever. I HIGHLY recommend it to any rider with two years experience or less, and would even recommend it for experienced riders who just want to stay in touch.
Keep the shinny side up, folks. And remember - when riders wave, it not only means "ain't this cool?", but also "I've got your back."
By the way, there was a follow-on article that happened soon after the events that inspired this post. It resulted in this article, "Karma = Good (Motorcycle Version)."