Photo: Ronen Topelberg

About a year after getting my motorcycle license I went travelling in Europe with close friends. This was in the 80’s and at the time there were not that many motorcycles on our roads where we grew up. There was definitely no motorcycle culture that we knew of.

Our long awaited Europe trip was supposed to be a motorcycle trip throughout Europe. Unfortunately an accident at the Greek island of Kurfu forced us to change our plans and we ended up travelling by car (… and what a trip that was…). However, we were still very focused on motorcycles, with our jaws dropping several times a day whenever we saw models we didn’t even know existed.

One of the first things we noticed when we drove through The Netherlands and Germany was that every single rider on the road was waving to other riders. No exceptions. They were all mates. Comrades. They all acknowledged each other. They all said “G’day” to each other. 

Fast forward 30+ years, I have been living in Australia for many years and even went back to riding. One of the first things I noticed was that Aussies don’t wave. Aussies nod!

The Bikers Nod

Aussies don’t wave, Aussies nod. Waving means having only one hand on the handlebar and is dangerous. Riding on the left-hand side means that when you wave you have to take your hand off the throttle. So Aussies nod. 

Not only do they nod, but they have perfected 3 different techniques of nodding: 

The down-up nod: a standard “yeah” nod, with the chin going down then up. Can occur unintentionally when riding on bumpy roads and therefore you’re always at risk of being spotted nodding to a scooter (or worse, a cyclist!)

The up-down nod: a variation to the standard down-up nod where the chin goes up then down. It is a much cooler nod, saying “hey”, “wassup” and “g’day”, all in one nod. 

The head-sideways nod: a nod I’ve seen many times done by old-school Aussies, and by far my favourite. The head is quickly tilted on an angle and the nod says it all. The coolest, no doubt.

To Nod or Not to Nod

So I started nodding. I started nodding at any motorbike in the opposite direction. On some rides I nodded so much I felt like one of those noddy dogs people used to have in their car’s rear windows. 

Nodding to everyone felt good. Reminded me of the riders we saw in Europe. But then I noticed that not everyone nods back. In fact, on some rides most did not nod back. So I became curious. After all, wasn’t it part of the culture?

Well, that depends on whom you ask. There are those who nod to anything on 2 wheels, those who nod to some, those who only nod to adventure/sports/tourers/cruisers, and those who do not nod at all. There are also those who say it’s plain bloody rude not to nod and those who simply don’t care. Ah, yeah, and there are those who ride Harleys. 

Interestingly, no one would nod to a scooter.

Another curious thing I found, was that every time the topic of nodding comes up it sparks a debate, sometimes heated. It appears there are always those who think people bring up the subject because they are upset.

Pro Nod

Those who nod do so for various reasons. They say “g’day”, they acknowledge each other, they appreciate a fellow rider who is out for a blast. They have a type of camaraderie, a mutual passion, a secret code, a secret handshake. They know something only riders understand and they share it with a nod.

Con Nod

Those who don’t nod just don’t. Some think nodding is time consuming, others can’t be bothered to say “hello!” to a rider that they cannot see and will probably never see again. They don’t share the feeling of “look at us we’re both on motorbikes, weeeeee”. They don’t believe you’re anything special just because you own a motorcycle. Why would they nod their head just because you also have a motorcycle? They are too busy trying not to get killed by some driver on their phone. They just want to ride!

Keep on safe nodding

I’m a nodder. I nod whenever I can (read: safe to do so) but mostly on weekend rides. I don’t get upset when others don’t nod back. Staying focused on the road ahead is far more important.

If you are a nodder, remember your focus should be 100% on what is happening around you. Ride safe and never nod in a corner. You have enough on your plate steering the bike and looking where you’re going. You must always focus on the road, on traffic, on a corner.

You must never nod in traffic either. You are too busy with everything around to be acknowledging other riders.

If you are not a nodder, so be it. No issue, we can all enjoy riding together. It’s about the ride.

I believe the roads seem a bit friendlier when people acknowledge each other instead of being wrapped up in their own little world.

So Keep on Noddin

Be safe. Enjoy the ride

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