Wave goodbye to history- Can Riders keep the flames of the past going?

Posted by Wild Ride Radio Crew April 4, 2017 Comments are off

Wave goodbye to history

Can Riders keep the flames of the past going?

By Dallas Hageman, Wild Ride Radio Host

Let’s talk about the Biker wave…. But hold on, just wait a minute… Before you glaze over this article with that far off look in your eye only a reader who’s seen too many rehashed stories can have, give me a chance to somewhat eloquently present to you a new take on an old and somewhat beaten to death topic. Much like the cesspool social media has turned into, this industry has its fair share of people who want to contribute their two cents to any number of discussion items; but it seems that many fall short of adding any real substance or at the very least, some newly polished ideas from their antique thought processes… and that’s where you’re lucky that you picked up this copy of Thunder Roads.

Now, I’m not saying I have some gift that will evoke a new sense of wonderment in you. In fact if you stay awake through this article I’ll count it as a win as I’ve been told by a couple of “hilarious” fans of my show they take a great nap while it’s airing. Har har. I am a little twisted and somewhat jittery though, which I think turns me into the proverbial monkey throwing poop at the zoo. Everyone wants to come take a look and even though they’ve already seen monkeys many times before, it’s still entertaining to watch. Since you’re still here and two paragraphs deep you might as well stay with me and let’s talk about this age old topic, and after that lengthy and pompous introduction, here goes…

To wave or not to wave, that is the age old and sometimes vitriol question. Before I give my take on whether or not you show throw the old hand up in salute to another Rider I think we should look at both sides of the argument and dissect the mind of a Rider a bit. Biker’s, Rider’s, Motorcyclists or weekend warriors all have one thing in common (besides the love of two wheels), we all have a bit of rebellious behavior woven into our psyche. Some of us, including myself, have a little too much (as law enforcement has made it abundantly clear to me from time to time). We don’t want safety, at least in the sense of overly protective living. We don’t look at life as the general populace does and we have a passion for freedom from convention. If the “crowd” goes one way, our initial reaction is to change course just for the hell of it. This is so widely known and accepted that Harley Davidson has spent multiple millions of dollars playing up the fact that their brand is rebellious in nature. The tactic has proven effective, judging by the billions made over the years. This penchant for rebellion and risk taking is one of the many things I love about Motorcyclists. As time wears on however, it seems that there is a rift growing in the riding culture that is bucking the convention of what once was, turning on one of the traditions that has given Bikers the very identity the now draw from. Enter waving at other riders.

For those of you who don’t know, waving at other Riders is a tradition that can be traced as far back (and even farther according to some accounts) to World War II. For the sake of this conversation, we’ll stick to World War II. I’m sure you didn’t expect a history lesson buried in Thunder Roads (sneaky huh?!) Back when Veterans were coming home from the Great War they were, for all intents and purposes, broke. There were barely any govern-mentally backed systems to get them acclimated back into society, and when they set foot on our soil again they were expected to jump from total hell on earth right back into the thick of normalized society. As you can imagine, this acclimation into society didn’t happen as smoothly as the history books would like us to think. A lot of Vets were looking for release with a little danger and couldn’t find it in many places that a “civilized society” had to offer. Many remembered how much enjoyment they got from their military commissioned Harley Davidsons and, most looking to get a bike with little money, purchased decommissioned Harleys and started riding… hard. This era spawned the beginning of the “chopper” and “Motorcycle Gang” era that we all know to this day. We’ll break away from talking about that and table those discussions for a different time though. For all intents and purposes, as Veterans began to populate the roadways on their new rides they formed an unspoken and deep bond, eventually developing into a Brotherhood on the open road.

Unlike nowadays, motorcycles were MUCH more scarce on the roads. Finding another Biker back then was akin to finding a good deal at a Harley Davidson Dealership now, or finding unicorn poop, it rarely if ever happened. So, when one Rider saw another one they would wave as a show of solidarity not only for riding but also a connection that most times came through the military. The tradition eventually went full force towards anyone riding and since then Bikers would wave to each other, signifying and acknowledging an unspoken bond they had between them that was welded together with two wheels. This tradition was widely held between riders for over 50+ years and many still do it to this day. But as the newer generations come into the fold the lack of historical education takes its toll and unfortunately fewer and fewer Riders wave at each other.

I know, I know… there are two sides of every coin and this discussion is no different. So let’s talk about the side against the wave first. There are those who feel it unnecessary to wave. It’s either a time waster or a distraction to riding and some Bikers feel it’s unnecessary to acknowledge anyone due to the safety implications. Some think it’s an antiquated system of communication and may even think it’s gone the way of the Pez dispenser, needing to be put away and forgotten in history. I find that Riders who refuse to wave have a little more of the rebellious streak as well and if everyone is doing it, they won’t as a matter of principal. I get that. I can see why some didn’t buy a bike to impress anyone and may have an attitude of “Screw you, I have enough friends”. Some Riders even go so far as to refuse to wave at anyone who rides a different brand of motorcycle than they have. Many hard core Riders have taken this stance and may feel a disconnect with the weekend warrior since they have amply more miles than most other people on bikes. This isn’t a wrong way to look at it, just a different way.

Riders who are for the wave see it differently. They seem to take the stance that they want to convey to other Riders that they have their backs. They feel the need to connect more and, even though rebellious, see the wave as part of that rebellion. Whether it’s from the historical aspect of keeping the wave alive or solidifying their Brotherhood with a gesture, they do it religiously and without fail. It’s a signal that no other transportation group possesses and they like it. It connects them and sets and their riding Brothers and Sisters apart. Some in this group still reserve the wave for others on specific types of motorcycles and have selective preferences when it comes to giving the ole’ hello to other Motorcyclists.

Now, whether you’re asking for it or not, here’s my take. At the risk of sounding like a greasy politician I will say that I have been on both sides of this debate, multiple times throughout my lengthy riding career thus far. Believe me, this debate on whether or not wave has rattled around in my amply cavernous skull for nearly a decade and after over 250,000+ miles in the saddle, I think I’ve landed on where I feel most comfortable. I think the wave is something we as Riders own. It’s a symbol of a bond that goes deeper than non-riders can realize. It’s more than a gesture. It’s power; a power that unites us. In every town across this land there are Riders, just like you and me, and we as a collection of Motorcyclists are more alike than you may realize. As Mark Twain said once “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” The well-traveled, weathered and wrinkly Biker that still haunts the backstreets of a Sturgis Rally, and sits in the back of the “hole in the wall bar” knows this all too well. These true Bikers, the ones that TV and time have nearly forgotten are the ones who embrace this tradition the most. These old souls show the miles in the lines of their faces and their weathered leather jackets. They live the life, and it shows. The “Sons of Anarchy” knock offs and haughty arrogant weekend warriors are rapidly replacing the true blood, well-traveled rider and are snuffing out the flame of history in riding. The true Riders know that the ways of the “Biker” are fading away like the original paint of an old Panhead. This can’t happen, and it won’t as long as there are those to educate and perpetuate the ways of the Old School Biker. So wave…. Not to impress someone or because someone decided to buy the same brand you prefer, but to preserve the history and legacy of the Biker. That’s why I wave, to pay homage to tradition and keep one of the symbols of riding alive.

In the end, do whatever feels right to you. At least now you know the abbreviated history of the wave and hopefully you’ll have a broader and deeper understanding of where it came from and why it’s important to keep it going. Don’t forget what I said, if you’re an old school rider you are as rare. Don’t let misinformation invade and degrade the Biker way of life. It’s your ride, it’s your freedom and it’s your life. Like it or not, the Biker wave is part of your history and it’s up to you to carry the torch for future generations.

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SAVE with amsoil!


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