When I first started riding, I naively assumed it’d just be me, the bike, and the road to consider. But soon after I dared to move out of the industrial estates and onto the open road I realised that there was this whole biking culture that I’d unwittingly bought into. The first sign was the non-verbal language going on between riders. Now and then I’d see a fellow rider wave his left hand at me. Was I going too fast? Was there something wrong with my bike? To be honest it freaked me out a little.

Then I’d see the hand signals when there were cops around. Suddenly it was clear; they were signaling me to slow down. I began doing it myself and I’d get a satisfying nod of appreciation back from other riders. At that point I went from being a lone motorcyclists to a member of a big group who were looking out for each other, and that was a cool feeling.

Fast forward to me a few weeks ago riding into a police speed trap along a stretch of road packed with other bikers. I was confident that my two-wheeled comrades would have signaled any danger well in advance. But they didn’t. Then I see the flashing lights and I have the horrible realisation that I was going faster than I should have been. Much faster.

So in the hope that next time it might be you coming in the other direction, here’s the sum total of my motorcycling hand signal knowledge. Study them. Use them. Add your own in the comments section. Bikers of the world unite.

  1. Left hand held palm-down in front of chest making a patting motion – “slow down”.
  2. Left hand pointing upwards next to helmet and spun in circles – “police ahead”.
  3. Left hand held down and out from the bike with palm pushing forward – “please overtake me”.
  4. Middle finger of left hand raised with other fingers folded down – “police helicopters about”. I think.