How and when to use hand signals on your road bike

Be clear and take the lead out on group rides

Clarity and timing are key to using hand signals when leading group rides, says propello.bike coach Rob Wakefield. So if you're not familiar with cycling hand signals and when to use them take a look below.

Danger ahead

Cyclists perform to their best and safest with both hands on the handlebar or drops, so mastering good hand-signal habits means using them effectively and efficiently. I took a local cycling club out recently and they were all pointing out every lump and bump — needlessly, and in a way that detracts from performance.

It’s the rider at the front of the bunch who has the clearest view up the road and it’s their job to point out obstructions in the road that could be dangerous to the group.

Stay in lane

It is also the front rider’s job to take a safe line and everyone else needs to have faith in that and follow it. Group leaders should guide the group, initially pointing out hazards then steering everyone past them — pointing down at the pothole or hazard.

Having 15 people all taking their hands off the bars to point at a tiny hole that will cause no one any actual harm introduces danger that wasn’t there.

Keep clear

As pack leader you should aim to use clear, precise signals to alert everyone to your intentions and there’s no shame in using your voice too. Simple, universally understood hazard signals include ‘Slow Down’ (hold out your hand at waist level and ‘pat an invisible dog’) and ‘Stop’ (hold your hand up with your palm facing forward and shout “stop”).

Ideally, try to give plenty of advance notice to all riders.

Give way

Use your position to signal to the rest of the group the need to move out into the centre as you approach a hazard — take the arm on the side of the hazard (usually on the left on UK and Australian roads and right in the US) and bend it behind you to point across your back in the direction that the cyclists behind you will need to move.

If you need to make other road users aware of your intention to turn you should use a fully extended arm pointing in the direction you want to move, and when you want a fellow rider to come through flick your elbow out on the side you want them to come through.

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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