The Not So Secret Handshake

The Not So Secret Handshake
There are no dues, no terms and conditions, no regular or formal meetings but when you ride a motorcycle you join a club, a fraternal organization of men, women, boys and girls who share only one common activity – they ride a motorcycle. Don’t get me wrong. ONe doesn’t have to OWN a motorcycle to be in this club. No, one merely needs to ride a motorcycle. You could be a member for one day or a lifetime.
While there are no club rules, each member share a common decency to treat each other with respect regardless of the type or model motorcycle he or she might own. And when a motorcycle ride comes to a pit stop, food break or a call it a day stop at a hotel, campground or wayby one can expect gentle nods of acknowledgement, scanning eyes over the motorcycle or a simple exchange of pleasantries.
But the real acknowledgement and recognition of a club member comes when riding the great roads and trails of our world. If you’ve never ridden a motorcycle you likely won’t understand this, but for riders you know and have your way. And while this acknowledgement occurs less in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day city or suburban utilitarian riding, it still is an innate behavior practiced by virtually every rider I’ve encountered.
I”d have to say it’s the club’s official and not so secret handshake.
It can catch you by surprise if you’re concentrating on your riding or when your mind wanders and eyes take in the scenery. But as the motorcycle approaches from the opposite direction and you speed toward the rider, as the two of you pass you can expect to receive and reciprocate a gentle wave of acknowledgment.
This wave, or virtual handshake comes in all sizes, shapes and flavors. And as I’ve been riding the last 1,600 miles I’ve kept a mental inventory of the different types of waves.
For some, the rider simply lifts his left hand off the handlebar and with full 90 degree extension and palm facing toward you. As you pass, the rider rests the hand back to his handlebars. Others can be more creative. There’s the low wave usually practiced by cruisers where the riders hand drops from the handle bars and extends at a 45 degree angle. A nice variation of the cruiser wave is the subtle piece signed made by the gloved hand of that rider.
Keep in mind these subtle handlebar releases and hand motions happen at all speeds and all driving conditions. Yesterday a rider on a zooming sport bike rounding a nice banked decreasing radius turn swathed in bright red leathers and fully decorated racing style helmet lifted his hand, bent his arm at the elbow and gave me a wave that would have made the Queen of England jealous.
I personally like the “I’m going to acknowledge I’m in the club but remain cool wave” I notice often. That is, the rider simple raises his hand off his handle bar about six to ten inches and then slowly and surely drops it back. Two up riders must have their own code of handshake or wave acknowledgement Sometimes the rider does the work. While others it’s simply the passenger. But pay dirt happens when you get the double whammy — both riders extend there hands and give it to you.
Keep in mind there’s no training or induction into this club. You’ll simply develop your own style of wave as you gain more experience riding. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation doesn’t tell you how. And I’m sure the Harley Owners Group (HOG) doesn’t offer a pictorial of styles in its magazine. One thing is for sure, the mutual admiration, respect and feeling of belonging is part of the motorcycle riders pride. Perhaps no other group, whether its motor vehicle owners, sports fans, collectors or hobbyist share and experience this feeling in such a random and offhand manner.
For me, I’ve got a few styles and mix them up depending on how I’m feeling at the time. You might get a peace sign, a two finger scouts honor type of gesture or a gentle lift of the and coordinated with a subtle nod of my helmet.
Hope to see you on the road. Tell me your style. And welcome to the club!

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