The road can be a tough place to communicate with others, and because of this, cyclists have bike hand signals.
When riding with other cyclists or road users, letting them know what you are doing is vital to everyone working in sync.
Unlike driving, where you are taught the rules of the road and have indicators and brake lights, bike riders instead have cycling hand signals which you generally learn yourself.
In this article, we’ll be teaching you the 10 Essential Bike Hand Signals every cyclist should know – and when you need to use them.
We’ll be covering:
- Why Is It Important To Know Bike Hand Signals?
- 10 Essential Bike Hand Signals Every Cyclist Should Know
- 4 Top Tips For Using Bike Hand Signals Like A Pro
Let’s dive in!
Why Is It Important To Know Bike Hand Signals?
Knowing hand signals is not the first thing you think of when you start cycling, but it’s a very important part of it.
As an experienced cyclist who didn’t learn hand signals as quickly as I should have done, here’s why it’s I believe it’s vital too.
One of the biggest causes of accidents when it comes to road riding is people just not knowing what others are doing.
If cars or other cyclists around you don’t know when you’re turning or slowing down, they have much less time to react, which isn’t ideal.
- Taken a tumble? Check out How To Treat Road Rash Properly here!
Many Clubs Require You To Know
Joining a cycling club can introduce you to many like-minded people who share your passion for riding bikes. However, cycling clubs generally expect you to know hand signals before riding with them.
This is to protect the other riders and also other road users.
You Can Get Fined
Failing to use hand signals can get you a fine or a citation.
Although cyclists are often guilty of thinking that some road traffic laws tend not to apply to them, in some states, they take it very seriously when it comes to cyclists neglecting safe riding practices.
10 Essential Bike Hand Signals Every Cyclist Should Know
Now for the fun bit: here are the essential bicycle hand signals every cyclist should know.
The signals we show below are standard where we’re based in the United Kingdom. While the signals are likely to be the same (or pretty similar) in most places in the world, for the sake of safety it’s important to make sure they’re the same where you’re cycling.
If in doubt, it’s a good idea to consult experienced riders at your local cycling club or a cycling coach based in your area.
#1. Left Turn
The first signal you need to learn is the left turn.
You do this before turning, to show other road users the direction you intend to move. The turning signals are the two bike hand signals you’ll find yourself using more than any other.
First, scan the road to ensure it’s safe to turn. Remember to check your blind spots.
To signal a left turn, hold your left arm out horizontally while riding, pointing in the direction you are turning.
Hold this for a couple of seconds, then as you arrive at the junction, return your hand to the handlebar and turn the corner.
#2. Right Turn
Next is the right turn. This is exactly the same process as the left turn, but instead, you are using your right arm.
Do the same as the left turn, but on the opposite side to signal a right turn. So, stretch your right arm out horizontally, pointing to the direction that you are turning. Again, hold it until you reach the corner, then return your hand to the handlebar before turning.
#3. Straight On
Straight-on is a hand signal we use when telling people we are continuing forward.
This could be used at a roundabout or a crossroad. It’s good to use the straightforward, as drivers will sometimes be unsure of your intended direction if you don’t tell them.
To show people you are going straight on, put your hand in the air and motion forwards.
This is how we show people we are going straight ahead, and can be used while riding or waiting at a junction for a gap.
#4. Slowing Down
Another great bike hand signal to learn is slowing down.
This is very useful when coming up to traffic lights that are about to change or if you are coming up to slow-moving traffic.
It’s especially important if you are riding with other cyclists sitting on your wheel, as sudden braking can cause inexperienced riders to crash into the back of you.
To show you are slowing down on a bike, you must put your hand out to the side lower than a turn signal, typically level with your waist. Then move your hand slightly up and down like you are petting a dog.
You make this gesture when coming to a complete stop, such as a red traffic light or a blind junction.
It’s important to understand this bike hand signal is different from slowing down. When you signal that you are coming to a stop, you tend not to use the “slow down” signal first.
It’s most commonly used when riding as part of a group.
To show you are stopping, put your hand above you with a flat open palm. It’s also a good idea to shout “Stopping!” at the same time, in case anyone in the group wasn’t able to see.
#6. Rough Terrain
The rough terrain signal is used when you’re coming up to something on the road which could cause you to slip. This could be gravel on a corner, sand on the road, or you could even use it for puddles.
It’s mainly a courtesy to cyclists behind you to alert them to the danger, but it could also be useful to advise drivers to give you extra space around the hazard.
To show you’re coming up to rough terrain, put your hand out by your knees on either side and have the palm parallel with the ground. Then, shake your hand to show you’re approaching rough terrain.
This can be done on either side.
#7. Point Out
The point out is what you do when showing a potential hazard in front of you to warn other riders who might not be following your line. It’s what you would do to show a rider there’s a pothole or an obstacle such as a branch in the road.
To do a point out, all you need to do is point at the hazard where it will be coming up. For example, if a pothole is coming up on the left-hand side, point to the floor on the left to warn the rider that there’s a hazard.
It can also be a sensible idea to call out the hazard to riders behind too, especially if riding at speed or in a large group.
#8. Going Around
Then we have the “going around” bike hand signal.
This is what we use when showing we need to change direction to go around an object. This could be a parked car or bike, which could be in the way and would force you to come out toward the center of the road.
To show you are going around, you need to put your hand behind your back and point to the direction you need to be going in.
Unlike a turn signal, you use the opposite hand to point, so that your finger is pointing in the direction you intend to move (e.g. in the picture above, I would be moving to the right to go around the obstacle).
#9. Go Ahead
Cyclists often ride in front and behind one another in a line.
By hiding in another cyclist’s draft, you can save as much as 30% of your energy. When you’re in front and are starting to burn out, you can signal the next rider to go ahead.
To signal a go-ahead, you put your hand out to the side and wave to the next person to come in front.
Depending on what side of the road you’re riding on, it could be either the left or right (you should stay towards the side of the road, with the rider behind overtaking you towards the middle).
#10. Coffee Time
Finally, the last – and most important – bike hand signal is coffee time!
This is simply miming a gesture to drink from a mug to your fellow riders, signaling them that it’s time to stop for coffee (and possibly cake).
4 Top Tips For Using Bike Hand Signals Like A Pro
Riding with hand signals can take some practice. It might feel quite daunting to start with, as it requires some skill to ride one-handed.
Here are our top tips to make the process more familiar:
#1. Practice Riding One Handed
A big part of doing hand signals for biking is riding one-handed.
This can take some time to learn and feel confident. We recommend finding a quiet road, spending a good bit of time riding one-handed, and practicing your signaling.
- If you want to boost your cycling skills, check out 6 Simple Ways To Improve Bike Handling here!
#2. Check Your Surroundings
Before doing any signaling, you must take a good look at what’s up ahead and make sure you are safe to do so.
If you need to warn someone of a pothole and risk hitting it yourself by removing one hand, it’s better to shout and stay in control.
When doing hand signals, I personally shout at the same time what I’m signaling.
I do this because when you’re riding in a group, not everyone can see your signals, so shouting helps them hear it too.
#4. Pass It On
Finally, we have “pass it on”.
This is where when you see or hear a signal, you repeat it so other people in the group also get the message. This is important when in large groups and keeps everyone in sync.
Now you know all about Bike Hand Signals…
Bicycle hand signals are an important part of being a cyclist, and help other road users know what you are doing.
We highly recommend learning your signals as soon as possible, as they improve safety and make you a much more pleasant rider to cycle with.