Have you ever wondered why bikers use finger signals with each other? It turns out this hand-sign system isn’t just for looks or fun. It’s a simple way for riders to communicate quickly with each other.
Being a biker comes with a unique set of risks. Motorcyclists are 20 times more likely to experience a wreck than other drivers. But learning how bikers use their hands and fingers to signal potential danger ahead can help protect fellow travelers on the road.
Today, we discover the specific meanings behind the finger gestures bikers give to each other and why they’re important for all of us to know.
Motorcycle Etiquette and Biker Fingers
Communicating with motorcyclists can be challenging, especially if you’re on a motorcycle yourself. Taking your hands off the bars is risky, but how else can you safely interact with other riders?
Over time, bikers developed a unique system of simple hand signals, waves, and finger signs to communicate with each other. Some of these gestures are for safety, and others are just good etiquette.
“The wave” is the most simple gesture motorcycle riders use. It’s a simple greeting to acknowledge fellow bikers. However, safety is the biggest consideration. Riders on a busy interstate, taking a curve, or driving in wet or dark conditions shouldn’t wave.
But those on an easygoing two-way road or low-traffic highway should feel free to do so if they want.
Bikers use other specific signals and gestures for more complex messages. Any rider should know all signs for turns and stops, as well as signaling warnings to other bikers about road hazards. Motorcycles can be risky, and safe communication between drivers is a good thing.
Bikers Using Two Fingers Down
The “two-finger wave” is a common greeting among American riders. This gesture uses the index and middle fingers, similar to making a peace sign. Bikers who use this greeting point their fingers downward when passing each other. This allows them to wave while keeping one hand on the handlebars.
Bikers use this signal as a way to say hello and show respect. The idea behind the downward-pointing fingers is that motorcyclists should keep both wheels on the pavement. It’s a sign that the person greeting you hopes you get to your destination safely. Bikers also use this gesture with auto drivers to say thank you.
In the U.S., the two-finger wave is typically a left-handed gesture. Since traffic moves on the right, it’s easier for other motorcyclists and drivers to see this signal when given.
Do Bikers All Over the World Use Two Fingers Down?
The two-finger wave is very common in the U.S. However, it’s also used in other countries too. But double-check the local etiquette before you use this sign in another country. For example, in certain cultures, a two-fingered gesture is similar to the middle finger in the U.S.!
Waves and other hand greetings are less common in some foreign locations. Many European countries, like Germany, don’t use hand gestures much at all. French bikers will sometimes motion with their feet rather than their hands. And a simple head nod is much more common than a hand gesture in the U.K.
5 More Biker Signals You Should Know
Whether or not you own a motorcycle, you should be familiar with hand and finger signals bikers regularly use. Some of these gestures are used by bicyclists as well. Safety is always important, no matter what vehicle you drive.
Here are some of the most common biker signals to recognize.
#1 Left Turn
Sometimes a rider needs to signal a turn to other drivers. This may happen if a turn signal bulb burns out or if a biker is in a large group of other motorcyclists.
The left turn signal is simple. The rider extends their left arm straight out, palm facing down to the pavement. This allows them to steer with one hand while gesturing. It’s also highly visible to drivers in both lanes.
#2 Right Turn
The right turn signal is also very simple. This gesture involves bending the left arm at the elbow to make an L shape. The hand extends straight up while the biker’s fingers clench into a fist.
As with left turns, the gesture signaling a right turn allows the rider to communicate to drivers in both lanes. And if they’re in a group of other motorcyclists, it’s visible to those folks too. The biker still keeps their right hand on the handlebars for steering control.
The hand sign for stopping is very important. If a rider’s tail lights fail, this gesture is the only sign that they plan to brake. Unfortunately, motorcyclists risk being hit without a recognizable stop gesture.
The symbol for braking to a stop is similar to the one for right turns. The biker bends their arm at the elbow. But instead of extending a fist upwards, the hand extends downward with a back-facing open palm. The biker’s fingers point straight down to the ground.
#4 Hazard in the Road
Sometimes a motorcyclist needs to warn others of a hazard on the road. This could be a car wreck, a piece of debris, or even roadkill. Any object blocking traffic poses a risk to bikers.
Road hazard signals are slightly more complex than other gestures. For example, the rider points their left index finger to the ground to warn others of a left-side road hazard. They also point at the pavement with their left foot. The biker motions their right foot toward the ground if the danger is on the right side.
#5 Police Ahead
Many motorcyclists do their best to warn motorists about police and speed traps. This gesture involves tapping the left hand on top of the head with a flat palm. An easy way to remember this one is to imagine the tapping hand as a flashing blue-and-red light.
This symbol is different in other countries. For example, bikers in the U.K. use a thumbs-down gesture to indicate police presence. After all, no one likes getting pulled over.
Biker Finger Signals Can Save Lives
Biker finger signals aren’t just a fun way to communicate with each other; they’re critical for safety on the road. Motorcyclists face a much higher accident risk than drivers of cars or trucks.
Learning biker finger symbols is important. These hand signs may help you avoid a wreck. And they might even save a rider’s life.
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