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Communication is key when sharing the road with other drivers and riders.
Hand signals are a simple, yet effective form to communicate basic concepts with other riders and vehicles around you.
There are some common hand signals shared between drivers of all vehicles, and some that are unique to motorcyclists.
We’ll cover them all below.
When riding with a group, it’s especially important to know what your lead rider is trying to communicate. Before it’s a group ride, it’s always smart to go over what hand signals may be used along the way.
16 Hand Signals for Riding a Motorcycle
Motorcycle hand signals are commonly used when riding in a group and communicating with other riders.
However, hand signals shared between riders and motorists (left, right, stop), are useful for motorcyclists to better communicate their intentions with drivers around them.
Since the turn signals and lights on a motorcycle can be small and difficult to see, the common hand signals can be used to help make your next moves clear to the drivers around you.
Making the hand signals below will require you to take a hand or foot off the controls.
For this reason, hand signals are made with your left hand, as your right hand is needed to operate the throttle.
For signals that require your foot/leg, you’ll use your right foot.
Do not attempt to communicate with hand signals when the current situation requires both hands and feets (riding through curves, shifting gears, braking, etc.).
When signaling for your group to pull off or stop, make sure to do so only where it is safe and appropriate with enough room for all riders.
In the list below, hand signals 1-3 are shared by all drivers and riders. Hand signals 4 through 16 are typically used to communicate with other motorcyclists when riding in a group together.
Get to know them below.
1. Left Turn
Just like the left turn hand signal for cars, to make this on a motorcycle, extend your left arm out with your palm facing down.
2. Right Turn
The right turn hand signal is also shared between motorcycles and other vehicles.
Bend your left arm upwards 90 degrees at the elbow with your palm facing forward.
The stop hand signal is another one that all motorists should recognize.
It’s made by bending your left arm down 90 degrees with your palm facing backwards.
4. Slow Down
When the lead rider wants the group to start slowing down, the left arm should be extended straight out with the palm facing down. Then, the arm is brought downwards towards their bike and side.
This is useful in instances where engine braking will primarily be used to slow.
5. Speed Up
Sometimes, speed is your friend when riding with a group.
If the lead rider decides the group is going too slow and needs to pick it up, the signal is the opposite of “slow down” above.
Extend the left arm straight out with the palm facing up, and raise your arm towards the sky.
6. Hazard in the Road (Left)
Communicating to your fellow riders about upcoming hazards in the road is extremely important.
If there is a hazard on the left side of the road, use your left hand to point it out.
7. Hazard in the Road (Right)
If the hazard is on the right, point to it with your right foot.
8. Single File Riding Formation
When riding in a group, a staggered formation is the standard way to travel.
However, there will be times when other formations need to be used.
If the lead rider calls for a single file, the left arm is extended straight up with the index finger held up.
9. Double File Riding Formation
Double file formation is signaled similarly. The difference being the index and middle finger are extended (2).
10. You Lead/Come to Front
If you want the rider behind you or riding next to you to take the lead, you’ll need to bend your left arm, point at the rider, and signal them forward by swinging your left arm from back to front. You can continue until they take the lead.
11. Follow Me
If you want to communicate for the rider(s) behind you to follow your lead, you’ll extend your left arm straight up with your palm facing forward. You can also make a slight forward motion with your arm to communicate for the rest of the group to follow.
12. Pull Off Ahead
If the group needs to pull off ahead, the left arm is extended to the left and then swung to the right. This is similar to making a left turn signal then a right turn signal in continuous motion. You can also point to the exit at the same time.
13. Fuel Stop
If you need to fill up, use your left arm to clearly point to your gas tank. Pull off at the next gas station.
14. Refreshment Stop
If you need to pull over for food or drinks, use your left arm, close your fingers, and point your thumb towards your mouth.
15. Comfort/Rest Stop
To take a rest stop, extend your left arm downward with a clenched first, moving your arm up and down slightly.
16. Turn Signal is On
Unlike cars, most motorcycle turn signals are not self-canceling. This can be dangerous and confusing for other drivers around you.
If you need to tell another rider that they’ve left their turn signals on, extend your left arm and open and close your fist in a “blinking” motion.
17. Police Up Ahead
Using your left arm to tap the top of your helmet can communicate with other riders and drivers that there are cops up ahead.
What does it mean when bikers put two fingers down? (i.e. the Motorcycle Wave)
Another common hand gesture you may notice when two motorcyclists pass each other going opposite directions is: arm pointed downwards with two fingers out.
This is also known as the “motorcycle wave.”
It’s simply a friendly greeting and sign of respect between riders on the road.
Learn more about the motorcycle wave here.