Hand signals are a valuable tool in the motorcyclist’s tool kit. Every rider should know the most common Biker Hand Signals. When you’re riding, either by yourself or in a group, it’s difficult to communicate with other riders, but you may have valuable information that warns them of a hazard up ahead or signals your intentions. To overcome the issue a set of universal hand signals were developed as a means of communication among riders.
Essential Biker Hand Signals
Those new to motorcycling might not even be aware of them, but it’s worthwhile taking the time to learn them and understand what they mean. Some signals are key to keeping you and your fellow riders safe on the road, so take ten and learn at least the essential ones:
1. Left Turn
Extend Left Arm with Palm Down
You’re legally required to know the biker hand signals for a left turn. This signal should be used whenever you are turning left and don’t have an indicator on your bike. There are some who advocate using it in all instances due to your noticeable increase in visibility.
2. Right Turn
Extend Left arm bent at the elbow at 90° with a closed fist
Use the right turn signal whenever you are turning right and don’t have a turn signal on your bike. The right turn signal is one of the less logical biker hand signals, but we don’t use the right arm because it typically controls the throttle and that would cause you to be too slow.
Left arm extended down, palm facing back.
This signal is used to show the motorcyclists and road users that you are about to slow and stop.
4. Hazard Ahead On the Roadway
Hazard on left: Left arm extended, pointing with index finger toward the ground and left foot pointing toward the ground.
Hazard on right: Right foot pointing toward the ground.
As riders use their hands to control the motorcycle some of the signals incorporate pointing with your feet. It’s important to practice signaling with your feet, as taking your feet off the pegs can affect the weight distribution on the bike which impacts balance, and the last thing you want is to take a tumble when you’re trying to prevent someone else from having one.
5. Blinker On
Open and close left hand
Unlike a car, the blinker or indicator does not turn off automatically on a motorbike once you have made the turn. The rider has to turn it off manually and for new and unexperienced riders it’s easy to forget. If you notice someone who has forgotten to turn their indicator off, use this signal to let them know. Combining it with the use of your own indicator usually gets the message across.
Police or speed trap ahead
Tap the top of the helmet with the left-hand several times.
This signal warns other motorcyclists that the police or a speed trap is coming up. If you’ve just passed through an area with a police presence or speed trap, use this signal to warn other motorcyclists approaching the area. This one is a real karma creator. If you’ve been saved from a sure speeding fine by another motorcyclist, remember to pay it forward.
Group Motorcyclist Hand Signals
In addition to the aforementioned biker hand signals, there are several signals that it’s important that you know and understand if you’re riding in a group:
1. Speed Up or Slow Down
Speed up: Left arm extended, palm up, upward motion.
Slow down: Left arm extended, palm down, downward motion.
When riding in a group it’s not always easy to see the road up ahead. The speed up and slow down signals are the best way to make sure everyone in the group can adjust their speed accordingly based on what the lead rider sees further up the road.
2. Change of Leader
Extend your left arm up at a 45° angle, pointing with the index finger, and waving back to the front.
If you are the ride leader, you may want a break and fall back into the pack. In these instances, use this signal to call up a new leader.
3. Follow Me
Left arm extended up, palm forward.
Use this signal when you’re taking over from the ride leader during the ride. It tells the riders behind that you are now assuming responsibility and to follow you.
4. Change Riding Formation
Single file: Left arm extended up, index finger up.
Double file: Left arm extended up, index and middle fingers up.
One of the key skills when riding in a group is adapting to the conditions. If the road is getting particularly narrow, the group is coming into a blind corner, or it would impede other road users from riding more than one wide, the ride leader may signal the group to fall into a single file formation.
At other times during the ride or when the challenging piece of road has passed the lead rider will signal to the group that it’s all right to ride double file. Try to avoid riding more than two wides. It makes it hard for other road users to get past and is considered rude.
Left arm extended, vertical waving motion in toward the body.
Use this signal to let the group know to pull off to the side of the road. Be sure to also indicate so that other road users not familiar with the signal know what you’re up to as well.
6. Fuel Stop
Point to tank with the left index finger, arm extended.
When riding with a group, it’s important you let the group know if you need fuel. Pull off by yourself without letting the others know and the group is likely to be miles down the road by the time you’ve refueled.
7. Comfort or Refreshment Stop
Comfort stops: Left arm extended, closed fist, in short, up, and down waving motion.
Refreshment stops: Left fist closed, thumb to mouth
As with the fuel stop, it’s important to let fellow riders know what you’re up to. Use these signals to call for the group to pull over for comfort or a refreshment stop.
The Biker Wave
Extended left arm pointing down at a 45-degree angle with two fingers extended.
Some have tried to claim it’s a Harley or cruiser wave, but it’s used by all motorcyclists as a courtesy to acknowledge a fellow rider and as a sign of mutual respect. Despite being relatively common in the past, many of the new or inexperienced riders are unaware of it, meaning in some areas use is low. Knowing and using the wave is generally appreciated by those old-school riders, so make sure you return the wave if a rider throws one your way. Of all the Biker Hand Signals this is the most common one.
The “What the Hell Were You Thinking” Wave
Extend the left arm, bend it at the elbow and raise the middle finger.
This wave is not exclusive to motorcyclists, it has been universally adopted by most road users to signal to another driver or rider who has done something silly “what the hell were you thinking.” It’s not a wave you pull out every day and should be kept for special occasions only when there is no other signal to explain or communicate what you have just seen.
Generally speaking, avoid using this wave to communicate with law enforcement, anyone bigger than you, and those on a faster bike. Of all the Biker Hand Signals this is the pne you should use the least.
Information for this article was partially sourced and researched from the following authoritative Government, educational and nonprofit organizations:
About the author:
Michael Parrotte started his career in the motorcycle industry by importing AGV Helmets into the North American market. He was then appointed the Vice President of AGV Helmets America, total he worked with AGV Helmets for 25 years. In addition, he functioned as a consultant for KBC Helmets, Vemar Helmets, Suomy Helmets, Marushin Helmets, KYT Helmets, and Sparx Helmets.
In 1985 he is the founded AGV Sports Group in cooperation with AGV Helmets
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