Motorcycle Touring Etiquette: Know These 11 Unwritten Rules?

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When I write an article, I usually sit down and plan it all meticulously.

I don’t enjoy this approach, but it’s necessary if I want our readers to enjoy our content. And it’s necessary if I want Google to deem our work good enough to show!

But a few months ago, I posted a spontaneous article on the etiquette of the motorcycle wave.

And whilst it’s no longer our most viewed article, it still sits proudly on the first page of Google. For a while, it was the article that drove many new visitors to our website.

Considering it was nothing but a personal rant, it did rather well! So I decided to take it one step further and delve into motorcycle touring etiquette in more detail.

motorcycle wave - motorcycle touring etiquette
Motorcycle touring etiquette… how’s your knowledge??! (Image via Bikeweek)

1. You Are ALWAYS On Call: Lend A Hand

If you’re touring and you happen to see a stranded biker at the side of the road, it’s your duty to stop and help them.

9 times out of 10, they’ve broken down and are waiting for a tow truck. And if this is the case, you can bid your farewell and be on your way.

But what if they’ve fallen off and banged their head? Or worse?

What if they’ve been knocked off? And what if they’re in a panic and need someone to take charge?

Don’t assume that a biker is okay just because they ‘look’ okay. And don’t assume that somebody else is coming to help them.

Most often, I simply slow down, flip my visor up, and show them a thumbs up to ask they’re okay. If everything is fine, they’ll return the thumbs up and wave me on.

Don’t be the dick that rides past someone in distress. Because motorcycle touring etiquette dictates that later down the line, you might be the one that’s stranded at the roadside.

motorcyclist broken down
As bikers, it’s our duty to stop for those in trouble

2. Motorcycle Touring Etiquette: Don’t Trash Talk

It’s okay for you to dislike a particular bike. It’s okay for you to dislike a particular brand, and it’s okay for you to dislike a different style of bike.

But it’s NOT okay for you to trash talk someone else’s bike. They love their bike in the same way you love yours. And just because their choice of bike isn’t right for you, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t perfect for them!

Chances are they worked hard for that bike, so have some respect. And besides, isn’t it easier (and nicer) to play along, and let them think you love it too?

It’s no hardship for you to humour them for a minute and then let them carry on with their tour with a smile on their face.

Be kind.

motorcycle trash talk - motorcycle touring etiquette
We’re all different. And the world would be a boring place if we all liked the same things. Motorcycle touring etiquette doesn’t include trash talking!

3. Don’t Take Up An Entire Parking Space

We’ve all been in that situation where we need to park but there aren’t any spaces. In these circumstances, be mindful of others and park your bike considerately.

In most cases, you have two options.

  • Either park your bike at the top end of the parking space so another biker can park behind you, or,
  • Park to one side of the space so another biker can park beside you

More often than not, even two large bikes can fit in a single car parking space.

Even in the tiny spaces at the top of Stelvio!

Related: Stelvio Pass: Spectacular? Or Spectacularly Overrated?

correct use of car bay - motorcycle
The considerate way to park a motorcycle!

4. Motorcycle Touring Etiquette: Don’t Park Too Close

I was at the Ponderosa cafe in Wales before lockdown. Having finally found a spot, I pulled in and noticed another biker who was also looking for a parking space.

So I shifted over to the right to let this fella share my parking spot.

Now, because I’d ridden in forwards, my bike would lean to the left (towards the centre of the parking space) when I put my side stand down.

But the idiot who I moved over for, reversed his bike in. And this meant that his bike would also lean towards the centre of the parking space when he put his side stand down.

Before I realised what had happened, he’d parked up and pissed off – leaving me unable to put my stand down with my bike knocking into his.

In the end, it took me longer to manoeuvre my bike into a safe place than it took me to find the damn parking spot.

parked motorcycles - motorcycle touring etiquette
Consider motorcycle touring etiquette when parking. Parking too close may stop others from getting on (or off) their bikes (image via Clay Banks)

5. Don’t Ride Into A Mechanic’s Garage!

If you have a breakdown on tour, never ride into a mechanics garage! Especially if you don’t have an appointment to be there.

You wouldn’t walk into someone’s house without knocking, so why would you drive into someone’s garage uninvited?

It’s common courtesy to park outside and wait for the mechanic to invite you to bring your bike in.

The other thing to remember here is that that the garage will be full of other people’s bikes. If you knock one over, or damage one, the mechanic will be liable for the damage caused.

Wait outside, or, walk in and ask them if it’s okay for you to bring your bike in.

motorcycle mechanic working on bike
Driving into a workshop without an invitation is considered by many mechanics to be bad motorcycle touring etiquette (image via Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels)

6. Don’t Assume You Can Get On Someone Else’s Bike

As a biker, if someone shows interest in my bike and they look ‘alright’, I’ll invite them to have a sit on it. And that includes random riders I meet on tour.

But if someone gets on my bike without asking, I feel it’s within my right to drag them off it by their face!

I don’t know many riders who would refuse another rider a sit on their bike. But it’s courteous to ask rather than assume they won’t mind.

If you’re reading this as a non-rider, don’t be surprised if a biker declines your request to get on their bike.

You won’t be used to the weight and there’s a good chance you’ll drop it. That’s why they said no.

Don’t take offense!

man getting off motorcycle
Never ever get on someone’s bike without asking first!

7. Motorcycle Touring Etiquette: Don’t Assume You Can Lane-Share

Lane-sharing is where one rider moves to the left of the lane to accommodate another rider.

The second rider then uses the space on the right of the lane to ride next to the first rider.

In many countries (such as the UK), this is illegal.

But if you find yourself touring in a country where it is legal, don’t assume it’s okay for you to take up the lane of the rider in front of you. In this circumstance, consider motorcycle touring etiquette.

Firstly, they may not know you are there. And secondly, they might not want you there!

Look for an invitation from the rider in front (a look in their mirror, or a point) before you pull up alongside them.

motorcycle touring etiquette - lane-sharing
It’s good motorcycle touring etiquette to avoid lane-sharing with people you don’t know – unless they invite you

8. Unnecessary Revving

There’s a time and place for revving.

Doing it unnecessarily whilst waiting for the traffic lights to turn green won’t make you any friends.

Car drivers will wonder what the hell you’re playing at. And other bikers will feel ashamed that they’re associated with you.

If you’re the guy who does 14,000 mini-revs a second on your 125 whilst sat at the traffic lights, then stop it.

Because everybody around you thinks you’re a knob.

9. Motorcycle Touring Etiquette: Pulling Untimely Wheelies

Trust me when I say this. Nobody finds wheelies impressive in the middle of the town centre.


Especially when you’re in somebody else’s country.

As mentioned above, most bikers will feel ashamed and embarrassed that they’re associated with you.

Don’t pop an aggressive wheelie through a pedestrian crossing and then expect a clap from the rest of your two-wheeled family.

Chances are, they’ll think you’re a dick.

yamaha motorcycle pulling wheelie - motorcycle touring etiquette
Wheelies in inappropriate locations – not good motorcycle touring etiquette! (Image via Jakub Sisulak/Pexels)

10. Have Some Decorum When Overtaking

If you’re making progress on an Alpine pass, there’s a chance you’ll catch a biker in front who’s pootling along and enjoying the scenery. After all, if they’re touring, they’re likely to be enjoying the scenic views.

And if you’re moving fast enough, they might not even see you approach. So don’t fly past them at 95mph!

For a start, it could be dangerous. If they move out to avoid a dead bird or a pothole, it could spell disaster for the pair of you.

At the very least, you’ll just shit them up.

Overtaking another biker is fine. So long as you do it properly and with motorcycle touring etiquette in mind.

Approach them slowly and position yourself where they can see you in their mirror.

Usually, they will move to the side, create space for you, and then wave you through.

Once you’ve made your overtake, don’t forget to wave and say thanks!

Related: Overtaking On A Motorcycle

motorcycle touring etiquette - overtaking
Avoid sneaking up on bikes (or cars) for overtakes. Make yourself visible and wait for them to move aside

11. Motorcycle Touring Etiquette: Waving

Speaking of waves, don’t be a non-waver! People don’t like non-wavers.

As mentioned in my previous post – The Motorcycle Wave: Banging Heads Together! – waving to (or at least acknowledging) other riders is a widely used mark of respect.

There are different signs in different countries. Some riders will nod to each other. Others will wave. If you’re touring in Europe, many riders will stick their hand out at you whilst pointing.

To be honest, it doesn’t matter whether you nod, wave, or point. Just do something to acknowledge the biker coming in the other direction.

It’s just what we do!

motorcycle touring etiquette - motorcycle wave
The epitome of motorcycle touring etiquette! (Image via CanadaMotoGuide)

Motorcycle Touring Etiquette: Conclusion

None of what’s listed above will be ground-breaking news for you. If you’ve been riding a while, you would have come across these unwritten rules plenty of times.

But as the roads get busier and touring locations become more and more congested, we need to remember we are a small group.

We’re a family.

And as the world spins madly on, we need to look out for one another.

We have the power to make the lives of other bikers that little bit nicer. A friendly nod or a wave, or a little bit of courtesy goes a long way.

So let’s all pledge, right now, to be a little nicer to each other this summer with some motorcycle touring etiquette!

Top image via Yamaha


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