Whether you are riding in a group or solo, it is important that you alert those around you – including car drivers – of your intended movements. This can be accomplished via the use of hand signals.
If you are a beginning cyclist, you may be asking yourself “what are the bike hand signals?” Much like using flashing lights to communicate when driving a car, cycling hand signals serve as your brake lights, warning signs, and turn indicators.
Knowing the right cyclist hand signals can make the difference between getting your intended message across and placing yourself – and other road users – in a potentially dangerous situation. To help you improve your cycling safety, we will discuss important cyclist hand signals in this article.
Important Cycling Hand Signals
The ideal hand signal for stop will depend on the situation. If you are on an off-road bikepacking trip with 1 or 2 cyclists, a closed fist behind your back should be sufficient – the following steps will work in a situation where not many people need to see the signal:
- Detach one hand from your road bike handlebar and bring your arm behind your back.
- Bend your arm at the elbow to create a 90-degree angle. This should place your palm just above your waist.
- With your palm facing away from your body, fold your hand to create a fist.
On a large group ride – or an on-road biking trip where you are sharing the road with vehicles – raising one hand above your head may be the more ideal option since it will be more visible to both the car drivers and cyclists. For this alternative hand signal, follow the steps below:
- With your palm facing in the direction of travel and fingers held together, extend your non-dominant arm up as far you can.
- Form an angle as close to 180 degrees as possible, with your armpit.
Keep in mind that when a sudden stop is necessary, you will most like have both hands on the MTB brake levers. In such a situation, calling out “stop” over the shoulder is the most ideal option.
When riding with other bikers, you should alert those behind you when the cycling speed starts to drop. This will keep the cyclists following too close from riding into your rear bike wheel.
To signal that you are slowing down:
- Extend one arm with the palm facing down.
- Next, move the hand up and down.
If you are reducing the speed through braking and both hands are on the brake levers, using the cycling hand signals may be impossible. In such a case, simply yell “slowing” over your shoulder.
3. Left Turn
Whether you intend to make a left turn at a stop sign or you are entering an adjacent lane to your left, letting other road users know beforehand is extremely important. To indicate a left turn:
- Extend the left arm away from the body to about shoulder height.
- Keep the extended arm parallel to the road and pointing in the direction you intend to go.
Alternatively, you can also use the right hand to indicate the left turn by following these steps:
- Extend your right arm away from your body – make a 90-degree at your armpit.
- Next, bend the arm 90 degrees at your elbow.
- Keep the palm facing the current direction of travel and your fingers held together.
4. Right Turn
Similar to when indicating a left turn, you can use both your left and right hands to show that you are changing direction toward the right-hand side. This can be done by following the steps below:
- Extend your right arm away from your body.
- Bring it to about shoulder height
- Keep it pointing to the right side while maintaining a 90-degree angle at your armpit.
The alternative hand signal involves using the left hand to point into the air:
- Extend the left arm away from the body – maintain a right angle at your armpit.
- Bend the left arm 90 degrees at the elbow.
- Keep your fingers pointing up into the air and the palm facing your current direction of travel.
If a cyclist hits a pothole at a high speed, he/she may need to replace the MTB wheels. If the pothole causes the rider to fall and he/she wasn’t wearing a fitting bike helmet, the cyclist may end up with complicated brain injuries.
To signal a pothole to other cyclists:
- Take one hand off your MTB handlebar, extend the arm on the side of the pothole
- Using your index finger, point the pothole.
Note: This hand signal can be used for any other obstruction that shouldn’t be ridden over.
Sand, dirt, gravel, or other types of loose debris on the biking path can cause your mountain bike to lose traction, leading to unexpected balance loss. To help trailing cyclists avoid debris, use the following hand signal:
- Extend your arm to the side of the debris.
- With the palm facing down, wiggle the fingers or wave the hand side to side to indicate the portion with debris.
7. Approaching a Hazard
To keep other cyclists safe, you must alert them of approaching safety risks – for example, these could be an open door when exploring a pavement or a parked car on the road. To signal approaching hazards:
- Detach the hand that is on the side of the safety risk from the handlebar.
- Bring the arm behind your back, bending it 90-degrees at the elbow – this should place the length from the elbow to the palm above your waist.
- Using your index finger, point to the direction that those trailing you need to move.
To give you an example, if there is a car blocking the roadway on your right-hand side, place the right hand behind your back and use your index finger to point to your left.
8. Train Tracks
In addition to causing serious accidents when riding in groups, unexpected train tracks can cause significant damage to your road bike. To help other cyclists avoid dealing with complicated bike maintenance and injuries after exploring a bikepacking trail featuring train tracks, use the following hand signal:
- Extend the arm that is in the direction of the train tracks.
- Using your index finger, point the train tracks.
- Move the index finger – in a back and forth motion – horizontally.
9. Pull Through
If you often involve yourself in biking races, this is one of the cyclist hand signals you should be familiar with. If you find yourself riding your hardtail mountain bike in front of the pack, and have already completed your pull or you are too exhausted to maintain the front position, you will use the hand signal to alert the rider behind you that it is their turn to pull through and come to the front:
- Check the biking path to determine which side you want your colleague(s) to come through.
- With your hand still on the handlebar, flick your elbow out to indicate the side the wheel-sucker(s) should pull through.
If you often ride a commuter bike on the road, you already know that it can be stressful. While it is easy to get angry when inconsiderate car drivers create dangerous situations, it is also easy to forget to acknowledge other road users when they give you the right of way.
One of the best cycling hand signals, waving promotes positivity on the road and encourages the creation of a less hostile environment. It is also an ideal reminder to be friendly and have fun while sharing the road with others.
To wave, follow these simple steps:
- Extend one arm away from your body.
- Bend the arm 90 degrees at your elbow.
- With your palm facing forward, move the palm from side to side.
Another ideal hand signal you can use to acknowledge fellow road users is the thanks sign:
- Extend your non-dominant arm away from your body.
- Bend it just slightly at your elbow – the angle created should be bigger than 90 degrees
- Give the road user a thumbs-up sign.
In most countries, cyclists will salute each other as they pass by. Much like acknowledging other road users when they give you the right of way, saluting each other helps create a more friendly environment.
Various cyclist hand signals are acceptable for the salute. However, the most common signal is described below:
- Lift your non-dominant hand of the handlebar.
- Keeping the elbow just in front of your stomach, bend your hand up such that the palm faces forward.
- Hold the hand up for a couple of seconds.
Note: This signal works best for the oncoming cyclists – they are the only ones who can see the palm facing forward.
An Alternative signal for oncoming riders is a nod and a smile – when using this signal, try to maintain eye contact with the rider you are saluting. For riders on the same side of the road, simply say “hello” when passing by.
12. Pay Attention
In group riding, it is not uncommon for the trailing riders to get too close to the rider in front. You should let these riders know that they need to stay further back and pay attention to bicycle road rules. To encourage trailing cyclists to maintain a safe riding distance, you will need to follow the steps below:
- Detach the right arm from your raised handlebar.
- Bring the arm behind your back and bend it in a way that allows you to touch your bum.
- Pat your butt for up to 5 times.
Globo Surf Overview
Biking inherently requires sharing the road with both vehicles and fellow cyclists. To improve your safety and the safety of other road users, you need to have an effective way to communicate. Cycling hand signals are one of the best ways of communication.
In this guide, we have discussed, the most important cyclist hand signals. Practicing using the right signal for the right situation will help you avoid confusing other road users.