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How to Properly Use Motorcycle Hand Signals When Riding

Person making peace sign with fingers

Effective communication with other vehicle operators is essential when riding your motorcycle!

Yes, motorcycles do come with turn signals. 

However, you still need to learn basic hand signals, as there could be situations whereby the turn signals are insufficient or fail to function correctly. If this happens, you must know how to use hand signals effectively.

Using hand signals means you can communicate your intentions to drivers around you clearly and efficiently, ensuring that they understand your next move.

So, let’s look at some of the essential universal hand signals you need to know.

Basic Biker Hand Signs You Need to Know

Left turn

  • Bring your left arm out from your side. Hold it straight, ensuring your arm is parallel to the ground.
  • Your palm should be facing downward.

Right turn

  • Again, extend your arm out to the side.
  • This time when you extend your arm, bend it at the elbow, pointing your hand upward. This creates a 90-degree angle.
  • Clench your fist.


  • As with any hand signal, you’ll start by extending your left arm out to the side.
  • Bend your arm at the elbow, but point your hand and fingers downward this time, creating a 90-degree angle.
  • Your palm should face the rider behind, indicating the ‘stop’ sign.

Remember to hold each hand signal for a sufficient amount of time to ensure that other road users have a chance to see and understand your intentions.

Group Ride Hand Signals

You Lead

To tell the rest of the group that you are taking the lead position, use the following hand signal:

  • Extend your left arm out at around a 45-degree angle.
  • Your left palm should be forward, and you should point with your left index finger.
  • Swing in an arc from the back to the front shows you will take the lead.

Speed up

Is everyone going too slow for you? Do you want to ramp up the speed?

  • Again, extend your left arm straight out.
  • With your palm facing up, swing your palm upward.

Slow Down

Time to reduce speed?

  • If everyone is going too fast, let them know by extending your left arm to the side, with your palm facing downward.
  • You should then swing your arm down to your side so you’re moving the palm of your hand inward toward your body. You can repeat this several times to make sure everyone sees it.

Follow Me

When you want the group to follow you or change lanes, do the following:

  • Extend your left arm straight up from your shoulder.
  • Ensure your left palm faces forward.

Single File

To inform the group to ride in a single-file formation, you should:

  • Again, bring your left arm straight up from your shoulder.
  • Point your left index finger straight up too.

Double File

When you want the group to ride in a double-file formation, you should:

  • Again, bring your left arm straight up from your shoulder.
  • Point your index finger and your middle finger straight up.

Comfort Stop

We all need a comfort stop from time to time. To let the rest of the group know, follow these steps:

  • Extend your forearm to the side with your left fist clenched.
  • Move your arm up and down in short motions.

Refreshment Stop

Need a more extended break or some refreshments?

  • Close your fingers in a ball and use your thumb to point to your mouth.

Fuel Stop

If you need to refuel, you can use this gesture:

  • Extend your left arm to the side.
  • Point to the tank with your finger extended.

Pull Off

When you want to indicate that the group should pull off the road, use the following hand signal:

  • Position your arm as if you’re going to make a right turn.
  • Swing your forearm toward your shoulder.

Roadway Hazard Right (Leg)

If there’s a potential hazard on the right side of the road, alert the group by:

  • Extending your right leg out to the side, pointing towards the threat.

Roadway Hazard Left (Hand and Leg)

The following is advised for hazards on the left side of the road:

  • Extend your left arm out to the side, pointing toward the hazard.

Biker-to-Biker Hand Signals

Your Blinker is on

Have you noticed that another rider's turn signal is inadvertently left on? To alert them:

  • Bring your left arm out to the side.
  • Alternate between making a clenched fist and extending your fingers.

Police Speed Trap or Police Activity Ahead

To warn fellow riders of a police speed trap, you can use the following hand signal:

  • Extend your left arm out to the side.
  • Repeatedly move your hand up and down on the top of your helmet in a patting motion.

Wave to Fellow Bikers

Motorcyclists often use hand signals to acknowledge and show respect to each other while riding. One standard hand signal is the two-finger low wave:

  • Bring your left hand to the side, palm facing downward.
  • Slightly extend your two fingers (index and middle) in a low wave resembling the peace sign.

Hand Signal Best Practices

Use Clear, Obvious Arm Movements

Keep your hand signals deliberate and distinct to ensure they are easily noticeable and recognizable, even from a distance.

Avoid using ambiguous or confusing gestures that may lead to misinterpretation.

Before Changing Lanes or Turning, Signal 100-200 Feet

Signaling early allows drivers behind you to adjust their speed and position, promoting safer and smoother traffic flow.

If you signal at the last moment it can lead to confusion and increase the risk of accidents.

Safety Should Always Be Your Priority

Prioritize your safety and ensure you can maintain control of your motorcycle while using hand signals.

Keep both hands on the handlebars whenever necessary, especially during critical maneuvers or when navigating challenging road conditions.

Never Use Hand Signs at Night

Bike hand signals are most effective during daylight hours when other drivers can easily see and interpret them. However, hand signals may not be visible or clearly understood at night, increasing the risk of miscommunication or accidents.

Instead, rely on your motorcycle's functioning turn signals and brake lights when riding at night for maximum visibility.

Bottom Line on Properly Using Hand Signals

You cannot ignore the importance of using hand signals properly while riding a motorcycle.

Following best practices and guidelines for hand signal usage can enhance your visibility, reduce the risk of miscommunication, and promote safer riding experiences.

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