The term's origins date back to the first Chicago Critical Mass which took place on September 5, 1997. Upon approaching the intersection of Milwaukee, North and Damen Avenues, an intersection known for being difficult for bikers due to unpredictable traffic, bikers lifted up their bikes, thus holding up traffic for a few moments, and cheering in a parade-like atmosphere. The Chicago Hold-Up is now frequently performed by corkers blocking traffic on either side of the Chicago Critical Mass in order to ensure safety of the riders.
The gesture is often performed as a tribute to biker solidarity and an exhibition of the strength and dedication required for long distance, inner city cycling.
During the Vancouver Critical Mass, when riders reach the top of the bridges around downtown, they stop, and perform a bike salute, generally waiting until the mass has all collected before moving on.