Harley Iron 883 Motorcycling Joie de Vivre – Communicating with hand signals

These past eight weeks on my Harley Iron 883 have been amazing.  It so strange to say, eight weeks. Not only because motorcycling is a new sport for me, but such a short period of time feels a lot longer.  Riding nearly every day and putting on 1,750 miles in that time helps improve my confidence and skills quickly.

During that time and riding all those miles (most of it in Madison’s busy commuter  traffic) I’ve discovered a fun and useful tool: communicating with other motorists with hand signals. Before I get into this subject, I’ll say that I’ve used these signals, with one exception, with care and thoughtfulness.  While I ride, I am still vigilant.

The obvious hand signals come in to play here. When I feel a car may not see my signal flashing indicating my lane merge, which I believe happens often, I’ll extend my arm and point aggressively and demonstratively in the direction I’m going.  Of course I don’t merge until I know it’s safe to do so and the hand signal adds a bit of mental, and physical, security.

Yep, the other hand signal you’re thinking of has been used early on in my riding fun. While not very useful, the use of the finger as a hand signal you’re thinking about was employed after the inattentive and dangerous actions of motorist shown in the Instagram video below.  My post actions aren’t shown here, but rest-assured I felt justified in the hand signal I used.

It’s also easier on a motorcycle than it is in a car, or even a bicycle, to use hand signals to let motorists they are behaving in an unsafe manner. Sometimes it effective, or times it’s not, but it is satisfying.  I probably won’t employ the “phone-to-the-helmet, hang-up-the-phone” signal too much anymore.  Drivers’ need to check their Facebook feed seems to supersede safety and it’s so prevalent that quite honestly that’s all I’d do at every stoplight if I continued to use it.  I’d rather look for my escape routes than fight a losing smartphone battle.

A signal that I like to use is the “slow-the-fuck-down” signal.  This is one that is sometimes effective. Especially at an intersection with a stop sign that I’m at, oncoming traffic does not have a stop sign, and there are a lot of pedestrians.  I’ve actually had a commercial truck driver slow down and wave a thank-you.  Maybe he thought I was warning him about a speed trap, but at least he slowed down.  to signal, I hold a flat hand and raise and lower it several times. I could employ the motorcyclists’ group ride signal of an arm reached out lowering it to the hip as or even decoy with a helmet tap to signal a cop, but those are less clear than a clear aggressive “slow-the-fuck-down” signal all motorists understand.

The “back-the-fuck-off” hand signal is useful.  I hold a flat palm with fingers facing down and push my arm back.  I only use this if a few rapid brake light flashes are ineffective.   In fact, I’ve only used it twice. Once with success and another where the driver stayed right on me.  At the next intersection an SUV driver behind me shouted at me.  I could hear him. but what he said was inaudible.  I just pointed to my ear and  shrugged my shoulders.  I now ride with earplugs in, so if that happens again, I won’t even hear the inaudible expletives drivers may shout at me.

My favorite so far is the “your-blinker-is-still-on” signal.  This only works for drivers behind me.  I’ve only used this once.  For three blocks a drivers turn signal was still on.  At a stop, I first used an index finger and and circled it around my rear turn signal.  That didn’t work as the drivers turn signal stayed on for another block.  At the next stop, I used the same motion with my index finger, but this time I closed and opened my hand extending my fingers outward like a mini-light explosion. It worked!  The motorist immediately turn off their signal.

What hand signals do you use while riding?  Let me know!


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