Group riding is one of the best and most enjoyable aspects of road cycling, whether heading out for a group ride on your road bike, or joining a club ride. Group road rides are brilliant for improving your speed, fitness and stamina. Road cycling in a group also requires its own set of skills, techniques and signals. To warn the group of the hazards cyclists are exposed to with various hand signals and calls, it’s vital you know the meaning for each one, and when you’re the rider on the front, being able and confident to make a call.
Slowing[Optional call: “Slowing!”]
road cycling hand signals
Always show your buddies what you are about to do: this signal tells riders you are slowing down. With your arm outstretched, palm-down, and slightly behind you so cyclists behind you get a clear view of your hand, move your hand up and down at the wrist to indicate that you’re about to slow. When you’re confident that you’re going to be pulling the brakes in order to significantly slow your speed, use this gesture.
In addition to the signal, and if braking is more urgent and you do not have enough time to indicate safely, call out “Slowing!” loudly and sharply.
Stopping [Optional call: “Stopping!”]
Usually at junctions or obstructions, use this indication to stop your group. Signal: one arm raised straight above the head. The hand signal you use for stopping will most likely depend on the situation. A closed fist behind the back is probably sufficient if you’re only riding with one or two other cyclists.
Remember that, you’ll likely have both hands on the brake levers, when a sudden stop is required. In this situation, calling out “stop” loudly over your shoulder is your next best option.
Whether you are entering an adjacent lane of traffic or making a left turn at a traffic signal or stop sign, you’ll need to indicate to others on the road that you intend to change your direction of travel. To signal a left turn, extend your left arm away from your body to shoulder height, parallel to the road.
Just as you would signal for a left turn, a right turn should be signaled when you intend to change direction and move to the right. In a group, it is usually acceptable to extend your right arm away from your body to shoulder height and pointing in the direction of the turn.
When you are riding solo, make your signal more visible to motorists by using an alternate signal, extending your left arm away from your body at a 90-degree angle.
Pothole or hazard on road [Optional call:“Hole!”]
An unseen pothole has the potential to cause an accident. If you are approaching a hazard in the road, for example a pothole, manhole cover or drain cover, outstretch your arm on the side that the upcoming hazard will pass your bike and point to the floor. This will sometimes be accompanied by a circling motion – if there’s time.
For deep and sharp holes in the road, alert others behind you by a clear and loud call of “hole” or “holes” if possible.
Approaching a hazard
Although a bit tricky to signal, you’ll need to alert cyclists behind you of a parked car or an open car door. As you approach a physical oncoming hazard, take the arm on the side of the hazard behind you and point across your back in the direction the cyclist behind you will need to move in order to avoid it.
For example, if there is a parked car on the right side of the road blocking the roadway, place your right hand behind your back and point to the left.
Gravel/debris [Optional call:“Gravel!/Loose!/Ice!/etc.”]
For specific hazards where the effect will be a potentially slippery surface. Though there are two variations to this signal, you should always extend your arm on the side of the loose debris: take your outstretched hand, palm down and wave at the floor. This can also be used on a broken or unconsolidated road surface.
Calling out the nature of the hazard loudly can add extra important information to your fellow cyclists. Make sure you use clear, single word calls to avoid confusion.
This signal is most commonly used in a pace line during a group ride or race. When you find yourself on the front of the pack and have either completed your pull or are too tired to continue maintaining the front position, flick your elbow out on the side you want the wheelsucker(s) to come through. Emphasize this by safely moving out slightly to give them extra room to come by, and ease off the pedals very slightly; they’ll get the message.
For hazards running across the road like rail tracks, cattle grids and speed bumps, take your hand behind you and draw a line horizontally back-and-forth across your back.
Trace that line clearly in the direction it runs to point it out to your fellow cyclists if a hazard of this type is even close to being in line with the direction you’re riding, such as tram lines.
The road can be a stressful place. It’s easy to get mad when an inconsiderate motorist creates a dangerous situation, it’s just as easy to forget to appreciate others when you’ve been given the right of way.
It helps to create a less hostile environment and positively promote the sport of cycling by waving to other motorists and your fellow cyclists on the roadway. It’s also a good way to remind yourself to have fun and be friendly when sharing the road with others.
The nature of riding in a group means, if you are not on the front of the bunch, you may not always see a hazard, but a bridle-wise group using hand signals and calls correctly will ensure all riders remain safe on the road.