Monday, February 7, 2011

To Nod, Or Not To Nod.

When my father first started teaching me how to drive, I was about 12 or 13  years of age, the car of choice was a 1964 Valiant AP5.  You may know the car.  Simple lines, Chrysler 3.6L 225 slant-6 engine, automatic with push button gears - looking back I think of this car as being a total classic.  At the time, I was both thrilled to be driving and mortified that it was in such a bomb.  My father continued his love affair with what he called the 'Marrickville Mercedes'.  Once that old Val had been run into the ground he acquired a marvelous VE, which I loved, and after that one had gone to God a terrific VF coupe, never paying more than a few hundred dollars for the old things.  They would seem to go forever, be very cheap to run, they just didn't know how to die.  Then as I came of age to own and drive myself I purchased a 1966 VC (my all-time favourite) and then later on a 1964 AP5.  All lovely, distinguished and classy cars, if a little rusted, tired and worn.  This was all in the 80's and early 90's mind you, well before the old Chrysler Valiant brand had anything like esteem or respect or even a hint of coolness.  Now, of course, it's a different story.  They, like the old Holden and Ford marques of the 1960's, are the ubercool of the inner-city set.  I see lots of hot little Fitzroy chicks (who weren't even born in the 80's, when I would be laughed at and mocked by the Torana-driving, flanny-wearing Westies in North Canberra) floating around on the soft suspension of VCs.  I see many trendy Northcote boys cruising around the inner-North in their exquisitely and faithfully restored S Series, frequenting drive-thru bottle shops and choking up Brunswick Street with their low-octane fumes.  It is more than ironic that so many of these old beauties sport Greens Party bumper stickers!  But I digress.  The point to all this is despite the brand being hijacked by these 21st Century urban trendies, despite the fact that my first auto love is now the plaything and objet d'ego of arts students, new-age wannabe Trotskyists and pro bono Collingwood solicitors, they all have one thing in common with the time when I was driving the wide avenues and endless roundabouts of my youth - as one Valiant driver passes another they wave to each other.

Valiant drivers are special.  They share a common bond.  There is a special link between each driver that no other car owner can truly understand, that other drivers may only aspire to, if you will.  The wave is a part of the Valiant driving experience.  Whether the wave is a signal of shared pleasure (or pain), or just a cursory gesture of acknowledgement, it is, as much as I can gather, unique amongst car drivers.  And so I come to the crux of this article:  The Wave, or it's equivalent amongst motorcycle riders, who also share a special and common bond - The Nod.

Motorcycle riders are a breed unto themselves.  Most people regard them as reckless at best, insane at their worst.  A friend of mine (who, incidently, was killed in a motorcycle accident a couple of years ago) always used to describe motorcyclists as 'temporary citizens' (you see the sad irony).  I like to call (most of them) 'tourists' (from the idea that they are here on this Earth just briefly, for a visit).  Now I too am a rider, a motorcycling commuter - I have already been described as a temporary citizen by a friend, despite the fact that I ride like a grandma.  Since spending a good deal of time on the road on my bike I have noticed the Valiant-analogue Wave occur amongst motorcycle riders, except of course waving whilst riding is quite dangerous and would look totally naff to boot.

So - The Nod.  Unlike the Valiant Wave, The Nod is a much more difficult thing to pin down.  Not every rider will do the Nod to another.  I have noticed that there is a Nod Hierarchy amongst riders.  For example, no self-respecting motobike rider will Nod to a scooter rider (perhaps the scooter riders Nod to each other?).  No one who rides either a sports bike or a naked will Nod to a Harley or Harley-wannabe (think Yamaha Virago or Honda Shadow) rider.  People who ride tourers don't tend to Nod much to anyone.  And the Harley riders themselves are best left alone, whether they be the professional, enthusiastically hirsute Harley folk (or of the conspicuously bald kind), or just the weekend-riding, rich-boy try-hards.

I ride a 2005 Honda CB900F Hornet, a big naked bike with a sports pedigree (see article below for a wee little peek).  As far as The Nod is concerned, I feel pretty much caught in the middle.  If I see any other rider (with the exception, of course, of a scooter commuter) passing on the other side of the road I will pretty much always give it, and I do feel slighted when it is not reciprocated.  Yesterday I passed some racing leathers-clad dude on a big Kawasaki sports bike, who was screaming up High Street Road in Glen Iris at 60 kph in second gear, gave him The Nod, and got no reaction whatsoever.  What a tosser.  There is no doubt he saw me give it.  There is no possibility he missed it.  I gave him the signal of recognition, the subtle hail of rider to rider, and the prick left me hanging!  And so I got to thinking about the unwritten Nod etiquette of riders.

Behold, the unwritten now written.

Nod Etiquette

  • For the sake of camaraderie, fraternity and kinship, all riders may Nod to each other, regardless of make, style or size of machine.
  • Scooter riders are the exception to the above.  If one receives a Nod from a scooter rider one is allowed to either give a very slight Nod in return (think neck twitch, allowing a slight dipping of the helmet), or one may simply ignore said Nod.
  • The Nod itself can be a proper full Nod, a forward dip (see above), or a side twitch (think of the movement a dog makes when it is either confused, or just been shown a card trick, or the movement ones makes when winking and making that clicking sound at the back of the mouth).
  • Hand signals, or waves, are forbidden.
  • No rider should acknowledge a rider (or group of riders) of Harley Davidson motorcycles.
  • If one is Nodded at by a rider of an HD motorcycle, one is encouraged to Nod back in a non-threatening/inoffensive manner.  Immediately afterwards maintain the eyes-front position.
  • It is optional to give The Nod to anyone riding a Harley analogue, as these riders are little more than glorified scooter riders (just get a real one!)
  • If one gives The Nod and receives no Nod in return, ride on.  Remember - hand signals and gestures are forbidden.

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