21 Feb 2017


Riding in a club or group is one of cycling’s great pleasures, but no-one needs to be nervous about the prospect of your whole mini-peloton sliding along the road in a mangled, out-of-control heap. Accurate, timely and clear signals are a huge part of staying upright and safe. Consequently, everyone from the pro peloton to the club newbie – and even mountain bikers transitioning on roads or savvy commuters alerting the wheel-sucker behind – must know what they’re seeing and how to react. It might look like high-speed tic-tac-toe to begin with, but you’re learn quickly with our of list of all the key signals…

#1 SIGNAL: Slowing down
A vital signal within the pack.

WHEN… you know you’re about to brake meaningfully. If there’s no time for the hand signal, use the optional call instead.

This signal is pretty well universally recognized – you pat the air with an outstretched arm, as if calming an animal. Make sure to hold your arm slightly behind you to give those following the best view, and pat your hand palm-down from the wrist.

Shout out ‘Slowing!’ in a sharp voice. It can give the others a vital extra second or two to respond, especially if they don’t happen to be looking at you at the time.

#2 SIGNAL: Turning
The most important signal for everyone outside the pack.

WHEN… you’re turning off one road onto another, particularly at dangerous left turns (right turns if you’re in the UK, Australia or other locations that rive on the left).

Stretch your arm out horizontally in the direction of the turn you’re planning to make. Do it in good time, and /always/ look behind to check the traffic has actually reacted before even moving to the center of the road – let alone actually turning. In busy areas it’s all too common to watch car after car simply overtake as you sit there with your arm out.

If you’re at the head of a big pack, lift your arm higher still and actively point towards the junction, so riders further back can see.

  • Stop Sign
  • road cycling hand signals slowing_0

#3 SIGNAL: Stopping
Probably the most important signal within the pack.

WHEN… you know you’re going to brake to a halt. If there’s no time for the hand signal, use the optional call instead.

This is another internationally recognized sign – think of a policeman stopping traffic. Hold your hand up high, straight-armed and palm forward. There’s no need to reverse it, though aim to get your arm as vertical as possible for maximum visibility.

Shout out ‘Stopping!’ in strident, sharp way. Make it extra loud and harsh if there’s no time for the hand signal – this is a very easy time to get into a pile up.

#4 SIGNAL: Come through

WHEN… you’ve been out in front for too long, and the others aren’t taking their turn.

With your hand in front of your belly, poke your elbow repeatedly in the direction you want the next rider to pass you. Make it more obvious still by moving over slightly to give them room, and backing off – again slightly – on the pedals.

You can probably think of the right words that will motivate your fellow riders. You can probably also think of the wrong words, but try to resist.

#5 SIGNAL: Thanks!

WHEN… another road user does the right thing and drives safely and considerately. It happens!

Raise a hand in thanks, and hold it for a few seconds so it can’t be mistaken for a dismissive or rude gesture. Think of it as positive reinforcement: it reminds other road users you’re not just ‘a cyclist’ and therefore a minority that can be easily hated, but a fellow human being. And if they feel a bit better about cyclists, the next one they encounter might benefit (and the next one might just be you).

A thumbs up helps (unless you’re in the Middle East, South America or West Africa), as does a smile, especially with eye contact.

#6 SIGNAL: Upcoming hazard

WHEN… you’re approaching an obstacle, such as a parked car, and need to indicate which way following riders must move.

In order to point out the direction to move without looking like you’re indicating to turn, cross the opposite arm behind your back and point with that. For example, if you’re moving left around a parked car, put your right arm behind your back and point left (if you’re somewhere that drives on the left this is reversed – UK cyclists should avoid going left around stopped cars in case the Transport Secretary decides to leap out).

#7 SIGNAL: Slippery surface

WHEN… you see gravel, ice or any other loose or dangerous surface.

Reach down as if pointing at it, but with your palm flat above the road, wave your hand side-to-side as if scuffing the loose material across the surface.

Shout ‘Gravel!’ in a sharp voice – or ‘Ice!’ or whatever it actually is. Stick to clear, one-word descriptions. Yelling ’Diesel slick from a 2004 R-Series Scania five meters ahead on the left!’ is only going to confuse people.

#8 SIGNAL: Potholes

WHEN… you spot a deep hole, a bad manhole cover, a branch, a piece of lorry tire or any other solid object that could cause a crash or mechanical damage. But not just any bit of rough road.

Point at it! If it’s a pothole and there’s time, circle your pointed hand to mime a hole.

Shout out ‘Hole!’ as you point. And try to avoid accidentally pointing at passers-by as you do it.