When you’re riding in a group, it’s important that everyone’s on the same page. When a sudden change of pace or a surprise obstacle could cause a pile-up, you want to make sure you’re telegraphing your intentions and warning riders in the back of the pack about hazards they might not be able to see. Luckily for us, there are hand signals for pretty much everything you could encounter on the road, and this handy cheat-sheet should make deciphering your first group ride a snap!
Meaning: Watch out for that _______.
The single-finger point indicates a hazard or obstacle in the road to be avoided. If you see someone in front of you pointing, follow their finger to pick up the hazard and once you do, point at it yourself. Follow it with your finger until you’re past it to give the folks behind you a chance to see it as well.
Gesture: Open-hand point/wave
Meaning: Lots of hazards/loose gravel/ride carefully
An open-hand, waved or wiggled palm down indicates a multitude of hazards, or a change in the road surface (ex. gravel on the concrete). If the person in front of you flashes their hand down like this, get your bike underneath you, keep an eye out for the obstacles, and be sure to give those behind you a wave so they know to focus on their bike handling too.
Gesture: Fist on back OR open-hand palm back.
Meaning: Slowing and stopping
If you’re approaching a stop, need to slow the group down to re-bunch, or are dropping the pace for any reason – you need to signal before you start scrubbing off speed or you’ll end up wearing the rest of the group on your back. A closed fist behind your back tells the rider behind you that you’ll be slowing down, and gives them a chance to relay the signal to those behind them. An open-hand, palm back, also frequently gets used to indicate slowing or stopping (usually stopping in my experience). If you see either signal, be sure to pass it on to those behind you, and gradually bring the pace down with the rider in front of you so you don’t run them over. Depending on the “vocality” of your group, you may also hear people shout “slowing” or “stopping”. Anything you can do to give the people in the back a heads up that things are slowing down is a good idea.
Gesture: Elbow flick
Meaning: Take a pull, I’m dropping back
When you’re leading the pace-line, you’ve got a face full of wind and that means drag, resistance, and eventually suffering. Once you’ve done your turn at the front, it’s time to drop back into the comforting draft of the peloton. But with someone right behind your wheel, you can’t just drop off without a warning. Pick which side you’d like the gal behind you to pull through on, and flick your elbow a couple times to give her the go-ahead to pull up. Once she starts pulling the line past you, just ease off the pedals a bit until you drop to the back of the line. And if you’re near the front and see the guy ahead flick his elbow, pedal steady up along the side he signaled to and take your turn at the front!
Gesture: Hand on butt
Meaning: This guy…. *eyeroll*
Someone's being unpredictable, dangerous, or just a jerk - heads up. If you can't tell who they're referring to, you're that guy. Don't be.