As you’d expect, I get asked a lot of questions from a lot of riders when it comes to motorcycles.
But one thing that a lot of non-riders ask me about is the various gestures and hand signals that bikers make to each other.
And at first, I thought it was funny.
But then I realised it was quite important. Because whilst many riders look down on ‘cagers’ for not seeing them, they seem to be seeing us enough if they’re noticing our hand signals.
So if car drivers are watching our hand signals as well as other bikers, isn’t it important that we’re getting them right?
After all, our hand signals are an externalisation of our objectives. Just like a brake light or a turning signal, our hand gestures signal our intentions to other road users.
What Does It Mean When Bikers Point Two Fingers Down?
This is the question that non-bikers ask me the most. If you’re a non-biker and you’re reading this post, it’s simply a way for bikers to say hello to each other.
In days gone by, ‘the point’ was a reciprocal biker sign of respect.
These days, it’s more of a ‘hello’ between bikers. Sometimes we point (with one or two fingers), sometimes we nod, and sometimes we do a full-on wave.
There are even some ignorant so-and-so’s out there who ignore other bikers entirely! And whilst that’s generally frowned upon, that’s their decision.
Biker Hand Signals To Each Other
If you’re an experienced rider you’ll more than likely already know the signals below. But what if you’re a new rider?
Well, you need to know them too!
One day, you’ll find yourself riding along and on the receiving end of a signal from a fellow biker. And you need to know what it is they’re referring to.
Similarly, if you ever do any group riding, you’ll find that various members of the group (usually the leader) utilise hand signals to let the rest of the group know their intentions.
This prevents accidents by clearly communicating what is about to happen.
What Do Biker Hand Signals Mean?
We’ve listed below 10 biker code hand signals that we all should know.
Some are prevalent the world over, and some a more common in certain countries than others.
And whilst you probably won’t find yourself needing them daily, it’s a good idea to have a general idea of what your fellow bikers are trying to communicate to you.
So, how many of these 10 biker code hand signals do you know?!
For the purpose of this post, assume you are following another biker. (So you are seeing the biker code hand signals from behind.)
1.Indicate To Turn Left
More often than not, a rider will use their left turning signal if they intend to turn left. But what if their bulb goes, or if their turning signals fail?
If riding in a group, the ride leader will need to alert their intentions to the riders behind.
To turn left, the commonly accepted hand signal is to hold your left arm out to the side as in the image below.
2. Biker Code Hand Signals: Indicate To Turn Right
If a ride leader wants to indicate a right turn, it would be unsafe to remove their hand from the bars (and particularly away from the front brake.)
So they will have to use their left hand.
But how do you use your left hand to signal right?
In the image below, you can see that the biker code hand signal for a right turn is to hold your left fist up with your arm at a 90-degree angle.
3. Signal To Stop
No matter where you are in the world, if you hold your palm up to someone, their instinct would be to stop.
And in the biking world, we use the same concept.
But how do you show the palm of your hand to a group of riders behind you?
Easy. By extending your shoulder and flexing your elbow, your arm will drop at 90-degrees. This will allow you to show your palm to the riders behind as in this image.
4. Failed To Turn Indicator Off
If the rider in front of you opens and closes their left fist, they’re telling you that you’ve left your indicator on.
With their left arm down to the side, their clenched fist will open and close to signify the flashing of your turning signal.
5. Biker Code Hand Signals: Slow Down
For many reasons, the lead rider may signal for the riders behind to slow down. It could be a potential hazard. Or it could be something as simple as they are lost and need to figure out where they are.
But if you see the lead rider waft their left arm (and hand) in a downwards motion, they are signaling for you to slow down.
Expect to see their brake light come on either at the same time they make this gesture, or slightly afterwards.
6. Drop Off
When riding in a group, it isn’t uncommon to utilise a drop-off system. This ensures the group doesn’t get split up when coming to a turn.
The ride leader may point to a place at the side of the road where they want the following rider to stop.
It is the job of the drop-off rider to signal to the riders behind that the lead rider has turned left or right.
7. I Need Fuel
There are a whole manner of signals to indicate to riders behind that you need a break, need a toilet break, or need fuel.
You can pretty much use your imagination for these. But one that everybody will recognise is the signal for fuel.
If the rider in front makes an oversized gesture that points to their fuel tank, you can be pretty certain they need petrol.
8. Biker Code Hand Signals: Hazard
It’s quite common for the lead rider to notice potential hazards before the group of riders behind. Of course, you should spot these hazards on your own merit. But if there’s a hard-to-see hazard in the road (perhaps gravel, or a pothole), the lead rider may alert you.
If the hazard is on the left side of the lane, the lead rider will point directly at it using their left hand.
If the hazard is on the right side of the lane, they will likely point at it using their right leg. (This is so they can keep their right hand on the bars and close to their front brake.)
9. Pull Off At The Next Junction
This makes much more sense in the UK because we drive on the left – which means sliproads are also on the left.
If the lead rider makes an exaggerated gesture with their left hand (usually at a motorway marker or sign) they are telling you that the group will be coming off at the next junction.
They may repeat this signal as you get closure to the junction.
10. What Does It Mean When A Biker Taps Their Head?
In the land of bikers, tapping your head indicates to other bikers that “cops are ahead.”
In the UK, we tend to use a thumbs down sign to indicate the presence of police or mobile speed camera trap.
Most bikers do this sign to car drivers as well as other bikers to alert people to police speed traps. And you may even see a car driver do it to you if you are about to stumble upon a hidden speed camera.
Make sure you take the time to thank them.
Biker Code Hand Signals: Conclusion
So as you can see, biker code hand signals are an easy and intuitive set of indications used to alert the riders behind.
In all honesty, these signals aren’t set in stone. And you will see a variety of wild and wonderful charades when on a group ride out.
Just use your imagination, and make sure you pass the signal back so the entire group knows and understands the intention of the lead rider!
If you liked this post, you’ll really like these!
- Motorcycle Touring Etiquette: Do You Know These 11 Unwritten Rules?
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Top image via Cafer Mert Ceyhan / Unsplash