Date Published: 2023/01/18

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Hand signals that motorcyclists need to know and use

A person on a motorcycle is driving down the highway on a partially cloudy day. The photo is taken from the driver’s perspective.

While today's motorcycles are designed with all the latest safety features built into the bike, the world is still dominated by cars and trucks. Using motorcycle hand signals and turn and brake lights helps increase your visibility while enjoying the open road. This quick review of hand signals that every motorcyclist needs to know will help you and your friends stay safe and improve communication, even over the rumble of your engines.

4 Easy Motorcycle Hand Signals When Rolling Solo

Hand signals are visual tips that both fellow bikers and car and truck drivers can easily interpret.

1. Left and Right Turns

Using your left arm, hold it to the side parallel to the ground when you want to signal that you are about to take a left.

When planning a right turn, raise your hand and arm from the elbow.

It’s always wise to use the arm signals and your turn indicators. The lights on a bike can be small and easy to miss from the cab of a truck or large SUV.

2. Coming to a Stop

Hold your left arm and bend the elbow so your hand points to the ground when you put on the brakes. Your arm's physical movement is more visible than a slightly brighter tail lamp.

3. Taking the Next Exit

Is your exit ramp coming up on the highway? Hold your left arm the same as a right turn, point your index finger, and then repeatedly raise your arm over your head. You’re pointing at the exit, and other travellers will know that you intend to change course.

4. There is a Road Hazard Ahead

Are you about to swerve a little to avoid a pothole or some debris on the road? Hold your left arm out at an angle and point at the hazard. The following driver will look in the direction you indicate and be better prepared to avoid an incident.

Motorcycle Safety Tips for Cruising with Friends

Most riders don’t have a microphone and speaker in their helmets, so every motorcyclist should be familiar with these standard hand signals.

Slowing Down and Speeding Up

Whether in the lead or running mid-pack, giving your buddies notice of a change in speed helps keep the club together.

With your left arm extended, hold your palm face up and raise your arm repeatedly when you want to speed up.

Hold your hand face down and repeatedly gesture towards the ground when putting on the brakes. A more significant gesture shows the other bikers to expect a faster acceleration or deceleration.

Time to Fuel Up

Some bikes can only drive up to 190 km on a tank of gas, while your touring machine might be able to roll for over 500 km between fuel stops. When you cruise with your crew, the leader should clearly indicate when it’s time for a pit stop.

Constantly using your left arm, make a bold pointing gesture at the gas tank. At the next gas station, follow up the gas tank motion with an exiting motion. Everybody will know it’s time to top up their tanks--for the bike and their bellies.

Single or Double File

Not every country road across Canada features wide travelling and breakdown lanes. It may not be safe to have the entire group of bikes rolling side by side. The leader will determine if there’s enough room for two-by-two travel and tell the crew by holding up one or two fingers over their head.

Pausing to Stretch

Tired muscles can lead to fatigue and distraction. Make sure everyone stays alert and fresh by taking regular breaks to stretch their arms and legs.

Hold your arm to the side and make small up-and-down motions with a closed fist. This tells everyone you’ll be pulling over for a short break. Take advantage of rest areas and scenic turnouts whenever possible to avoid causing a slowdown on the highway.

Don't Forget to Protect Your Bike, Too

While using these motorcycle safety tips will help you avoid trouble on the road, sometimes accidents still happen. Make sure your motorcycle insurance is up to date. If you need a new policy, don't wait, call an Orbit insurance broker for a personalized quote.