As with any group, motorcyclists, all over the world, have developed a code of ethics they religiously follow. This code may not have anything to do with ‘secret handshakes’ however, it is there to help other riders stay safe and secure on the road. The occasional banter, casual waves and even trash talk are bound by some ground rules of etiquette and protocol among motorcyclists.

Let’s take a look at some of the etiquettes and protocols motorcyclists follow:

The Wave

The biker wave is almost as old as the bikes themselves. The purpose behind this gesture is quite simple, acknowledging your fellow ‘two wheeled brother/sister’ on the road. This sense of two-wheel camaraderie could be a simple wave or a subtle nod. But there is a certain etiquette involved with the perfect wave. It is not supposed to be an overenthusiastic wave or a ‘I’m too cool for this’ subtle movement of the hand. Make it a nonchalant wave, with the right balance which gets you noticed.

When talking specifics the wave usually involves moving the left hand off the bar, dropping the arm to 45 degrees and simply extending two or three fingers. This is best for countries where you ride on the right. In some countries, riders prefer to nod instead of wave. But this won’t be your typical nod. It is more lopsided, as if you are winking.

Waving is not always necessary. For instance, you don’t have to wave when you are on a highway, at a rally, in the rain, at night or riding in heavy traffic. And it’s okay if the other rider does not return your gesture. Be cool about it. They might not have seen it.

Group Riding

This is perhaps among the top draws of having a motorcycle. Group riding comes with some basic etiquette as well. The first thing riders do is hold a short meeting before they ride. This revolves around talking about where you will stop, where to go if someone gets lost and how long will you ride. The second concern is deciding on a riding order. Choose a lead rider (the front rider) and a sweep rider (who brings up the rear). The lead rider keeps an eye out for what’s coming ahead – a traffic jam, rainstorm etc. And the sweep rider sets the pace of the group. All the riders in the group should be aware of their positions and should stick to them.

The next thing you need to keep in mind is not to go rogue. You are not in a competition with members of your own group. Keep taking short breaks every now and then to pick up energy. And a quick pointer: not everyone in the group will be an accomplished rider. Keep your least experienced rider in mind too. Use their riding skills as your bench mark to ensure that everyone is comfortable.

Hand Signals

When riding in a group, bikers can’t communicate by shouting instructions at each other. Therefore, they follow a code of hand signals that makes it easy for everyone to stick together. Even though every group can put together their unique signals, there are a few widely understood ones that may help you when riding with a new group.

For instance, if a biker wants to signal his group to start their engines, he would extend his right/left arm, raise the index finger and move it in a circular motion.

For a left turn signal, the biker would raise the left arm horizontal and fully extend it outwards.

For a right turn, the left arm would be extended horizontally and the elbow bent making a 90 degrees vertical angle.

Other common hand signals include those for hazards on the left or right, speeding up, slowing down, stopping, tightening up, creating a side-by-side formation and forming a single file. Getting a hang of these simple hand gestures can make riding in groups fun and safe.

Parking

Believe it or not, riders have their own set of rules for parking as well. There is a certain protocol that they follow in this regard, most of which is defined by state/city traffic laws for motorcycles and scooters. It is ok for riders to park in alleyways as long as the vehicle does not block. Also, typically there are motorcycles’ parking stands available at major public places such as airports, shopping malls, post offices etc. Use these for safe parking. And as far as parking receipts go, you should attach the larger section to the vehicle, and keep the smaller section for your own records. In case you lose the larger section of the receipt, you can present the smaller section from your records.

Depending on which city you live in, you will have to pay a certain amount for on-street parking, or for parking in a city owned car park. Keep in mind that motorcycles are considered vehicles like cars or trucks, and cannot be parked on the sidewalk.

Trash Talk

Yes, even trash talk has particular biker etiquettes. The first rule is to not be intimidated. Contrary to popular belief, most motorcycle riders are friendly. Rookie riders tend to get intimidated due to all the things they’ve heard about riders having a ‘temperament problem’. It is not true.

The second rule, which will most certainly help you stay out of trouble is that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all – which applies to every facet of life. Don’t go around calling anyone’s bike a “little girl’s bike”. While girls are pretty good with bikes, this is typically meant as a nasty insult. Trash talking other rider’s bikes even when you are certain you have a really cool one yourself is a big ‘no no’. Always be nice and encourage new riders, since they are still in the process of learning.

The key here is to watch what you say, who you say it to and what kind of a mood they seem to be in. Everyone has bad days; don’t throw a nasty comment because you never know what sort of a day they’re having.

Bikers’ camaraderie is a light-natured, friendly companionship. That is why these etiquettes and protocols are not gospel. There are situations where these might not apply or might not be as helpful. Some groups have their own system which works just fine for them. However, for new riders, trying to get into the world of motorcycle riding, these would be a good point to start.