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Essential motorcycle hand signals every rider should know

In group rides, the leading rider also indicates that he is slowing down by engine braking, in which case the brake light doesn’t light up. Unless you have a dedicated device, that indicates engine braking on your brake light. Read this blog to learn about the »slowing down« and »you forgot to cancel your indicators« among other essential motorcycle hand signals. Get some hints on how you can improve your motorcycle for more safety on every ride.

Proper communication in traffic improves your safety

Every rider knows that motorcycles are much more likely to be exposed to dangerous situations compared to other motorized vehicles. Even the smallest mistake can lead to severe injuries and can damage your motorcycle beyond repair.

One of the most important aspects of riding a motorcycle is to anticipate all possible scenarios waiting to knock you down. Furthermore, it should be every rider’s interest to be noticed and seen by other motorists. Not to show off! Just to make sure car drivers will see you soon enough, so they don’t pull up in front of you. Taking the riders right of way is one of the biggest causes of accidents. So, what ways of communication are available when riding a motorcycle?

Every motorcycle is equipped with a headlight, passing light and a taillight, brake light, turn-signals or indicators, a horn, several reflectors and that is mostly all that is a part of your motorcycle that you can use to communicate. Occasional rev-bombing is also a way to attract attention. However, it may not always attract the type of attention you seek 😉

As a rider, you sure must know the limitation of above-listed aids to communicate. It is obvious where motorcycle hand signals can help you reach out to other motorists. Proper communication will increase your visibility, and it will help other motorists to recognise your intentions more accurately. In the end, this can increase your safety and confidence on the road and prevent a large percentage of accidents and injuries.

So, what are the most important hand signals every rider should know?

Essential Motorcycle Hand Signals

Group Motorcycle Hand Signals


Credits: Motorcycle Legal Foundation

Why is it important to know hand signals

Even though you can find several aftermarket devices intended for communication between riders, there are many occasions where they simply don’t help. Communication systems are intended for use among fellow riders that connect to the same »stream«. There is no way to use them to communicate with the random rider coming from the opposite way or a car driver.

As you can see from the infographics above, there are several poses and gestures with a very specific meaning. At this point, I must note that in some countries, riders got used to different meanings for the same gesture. Nevertheless, the motorcycle hand signals in the infographics above represent the most common and universal meanings of the gestures described.

Wave »Hello« to a fellow rider

Motorcycle hand signals

Some hand signals are simply a nice way to let other riders know you noticed them and waved hello. In this way, you show respect and appreciation to a member of the motorcycle community. Several motorcycle hand signals inform you about unexpected situations on the road. If you notice an obstacle on the road and hand-signal it to other riders, they know to expect something unusual. In this way, the rider can slow down and put more attention on the road to see the obstacle earlier and pas it safely.

Slow down and watch out for … 

Riders use hand signals to inform you about the presence of the police. Wouldn’t you want to know, if there is a cop waiting for you two corners ahead to write you a massive speeding ticket? I’m sure you would rather slow down a bit and go on with a smile, rather than with anger in your face and a broken wallet.

I lead the group, so follow my signals 

If you are riding in groups, you should also know the signals that the leader of the pack of riders uses to bring the group to the destination in a safe manner. Of course, dedicated headsets help a lot, but there is always someone in the group without extra technology. In the end, you will still have to rely on reading the hand signals accurately to avoid unnecessary confusion.

The leader of the group will hold the pace for the whole group of riders. He will signal when to go faster, slower, when to ride in a single or a double file. The leader is the one that will indicate with hands the most, so riders who follow read his intentions properly. But since every member has to refuel or stop for a break at some point, they can also use motorcycle hand signals to inform the group leader about their needs.

Is it legal to use hand signals or is it illegal not to use them?

I know, could I write the title more confusingly? Well, to clarify this immediately. It IS legal to use hand signals on a motorcycle. And it’s not illegal to not use them. As long as your motorcycle is equipped with amber coloured indicators, headlight, tail light and brake light.

In most countries in the world, it is not mandatory to use hand signals. However, it is advised to use them. It makes sense, the better the communication, the more likely it is that two drivers will recognise each other’s intentions. In this way, we can avoid not only awkward but also dangerous situations. When you are braking with the engine, there is no indication to the drivers behind you, if you don’t signal it with your hands.

Indicating a turn without your hand signals 

Nowadays most riders use turn signals or indicators instead of hand signals. Since turn signals are manually operated on motorcycles, also for the cancelling part on the majority of bikes out there, a new hand signal was adopted for those, who forget to cancel it after the turn. Not only is it embarrassing to ride with a blinking indicator for miles and miles, but also it is potentially very dangerous.

Why is it dangerous? Well, you are indicating something you are not about to do. Drivers have a hard time to assess if you are about to make a turn or you forgot to cancel your turn signal. Misinterpretation of your signals can lead to the driver taking your right of way and pull up in front of you. I’m sure the majority of riders experienced a similar situation sometime in their riding history.

Improve your knowledge and gain experience 

The more experienced and knowledgeable about motorcycle culture you gain, the safer your rides will be. You will fit in more with the community and will be able to contribute to the community. I can assure you, you will appreciate any of these things throughout your riding career. Motorcycle hand signals are only one of the important things a rider should know.


We are sharing tips on safe lane splitting, how to approach roundabouts properly, which motorcycle accessories we find a must-have, what is the ultimate way to choose the right motorcycle for beginner riders. But every rider can contribute to the community. If you have a story to share with us or a useful piece of advice, comment or simply something you would like to share with us – do it. Let us know about it, and we will make sure, your word will reach out to our members.

Take care, ride safe, become a better rider and gain experience every day. I hope you have learned something from our blog about motorcycle hand signals and that new knowledge will come to good use.

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