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Why do motorcyclists hold up 2 fingers?

Motorcyclists holding up two fingers is a common hand signal that riders use to communicate with each other on the road. This simple gesture has an important meaning and purpose behind it.

What Does the 2 Finger Sign Mean?

When motorcyclists hold up their left hand with only the index and middle fingers extended, it signifies a friendly greeting to other riders. This hand signal indicates “Peace” or “Hello” to fellow motorcyclists traveling in the opposite direction or passing by.

The two extended fingers represent the number 2. Displaying two fingers is a universally recognized sign of acknowledging and showing respect to a fellow biker. It lets them know “I see you” and serves as a simple way to connect with the greater motorcycling community.

Origins of the 2 Finger Biker Wave

No one knows for certain when or where this tradition started. There are several theories on the origins of the two-finger biker wave:

  • Some attribute it to outlaw biker gangs like Hells Angels who used it as a sign of brotherhood and belonging.
  • Others believe it emerged in the 1940s or 1950s as a variant of the peace sign during the post-war era.
  • It may have derived from an earlier one-finger salute that was a way for riders to acknowledge each other at intersections.

What is clear is that the 2-finger greeting has been an established practice among motorcyclists for many decades. The simple hand gesture continues to thrive as a symbol of camaraderie on the open road.

Why Do Riders Use the 2 Finger Wave?

Bikers use the 2-finger wave for several important reasons:

  • Communication: It allows riders to silently communicate with each other in a efficient way without taking hands off the handlebars.
  • Safety: It serves as a visible heads-up to other riders that they have been seen and acknowledged on the road.
  • Etiquette: It demonstrates good riding manners and etiquette when passing fellow motorcyclists.
  • Camaraderie: It shows a sense of community and connection with other bike riders.
  • Culture: It represents being part of the greater motorcycling culture and tradition.

Exchanging the simple 2-finger greeting is about respecting your fellow riders and letting them know they are not alone out on the open highway.

When Do Motorcyclists Use the 2 Finger Wave?

Riders will use the 2-finger wave in various situations, but primarily when:

  • Passing an oncoming motorcyclist in the opposite lane
  • Overtaking another motorcyclist traveling in the same direction
  • When riding in a group and acknowledging other riders joining or leaving the group
  • Meeting at intersections or other stops
  • Bringing awareness to a hazard or obstacle on the road to oncoming riders

The wave is often exchanged when passing other motorcycles going the opposite way. Riders may initiate the wave as they approach each other, maintaining the gesture for a brief moment as they pass by. It’s an efficient way to connect without needing to slow down or stop.

Proper 2 Finger Wave Etiquette

While the 2-finger wave is an informal tradition, there are some basic rules of etiquette to follow:

  • Use your left hand to allow your throttle hand to stay on the handlebars.
  • Extend your index and middle fingers fully while keeping other fingers closed.
  • Keep the wave simple and brief – holding for just 1-2 seconds as you pass.
  • Maintain control of your motorcycle, only wave when safe to do so.
  • Wave to riders going the same direction by briefly taking one hand off the bars.
  • Nod or salute riders when unable to wave safely.
  • Return waves from other riders when possible.
  • Don’t take offense if a rider does not return the wave.

Following basic waving etiquette demonstrates your experience level on the road and prevents dangerous distractions. Safety first, but don’t forget to spread the goodwill with fellow bikers!

Do All Motorcyclists Follow the 2 Finger Tradition?

For the most part, the majority of motorcyclists recognize and return the 2-finger wave as a common courtesy. However, not all riders abide by the practice. You may encounter some who don’t wave back because:

  • They are new riders and unaware of the tradition.
  • They are focused on riding safely and unable to wave.
  • They ride in group formation and only wave to each other.
  • They have a preference to not wave or acknowledge other bikers.

It’s not considered disrespectful if a fellow motorcyclist doesn’t return the wave. Every rider has their own comfort level when it comes to riding etiquette. The best approach is to wave if you feel inclined, but don’t take it personally if the sentiment is not reciprocated.

Variations of the 2 Finger Wave

While the standard is flashing the peace sign, some riders like to mix up their waves with alternate gestures such as:

  • The one finger wave – index finger extended
  • The three finger wave – pinky, ring and middle finger extended
  • The five finger wave – entire open palm
  • The low wave – hand extended low with palm facing behind
  • Pointing wave – directing attention to hazards
  • Salute wave – brief nod or salute instead of fingers

These variations all carry a similar meaning of acknowledging a fellow biker. Riders often develop their own personal waving style over time.

Paying it Forward

Exchanging waves not only connects motorcyclists with others from the community, it also pays respect to generations of riders who paved the way. The simple tradition exemplifies camaraderie and shared understanding among the motorcycling culture.

New riders are encouraged to adopt the practice, while experienced bikers have the opportunity to mentor newcomers on the proper etiquette. With every wave, motorcyclists preserve the tradition and keep the spirit of the open road alive.


The 2-finger wave serves an important purpose in the motorcycling community. This simple hand gesture allows riders to silently communicate and show their respect for one another on the highway. While not every biker chooses to participate, waving continues to thrive as an enduring tradition uniting generations of motorcyclists across the world. So whether you ride a sportbike, cruiser, tourer, dualsport or scooter – flash those deuces and spread the good vibes on the open road!