Safety Tips – September 1988, page 34

I've read some recent motorcycle articles suggesting that we, as touring riders, could achieve increased safety and control on our group rides by using hand signals. Now these are not the biker-unique signal that we've all used now and then, like pointing to the gas tank when you're low on fuel or pointing to your mouth when you're hungry. Rather, the articles encouraged the use of standard old-fashioned hand signals to indicate turning and stopping — the way automobile drivers used to do in the late 1940's before signal lights came into being.

Since all modern motorcycles have prominently mounted, generally self-canceling turn signals and since many of us have also added auxiliary flashing brake-lights to further signal our intentions, the idea of taking our hands off the handlebars in order to point out our next move seems both redundant and dangerous.

Riding in a group last week, I heard the ride captain reminding everyone to "remember your hand signals." Obediently, as our group came to the first turn, many of the riders had their hands in the wind, while they were also (...oh yes) clutching, down shifting, braking and steering around the turn. I was observing this rolling instability and flailing about as we moved through several closely-spaced intersections, when, to my amazement, I heard the ride captain on the CB admonishing some of us for not complying with the hand signal rule!

While I have no problem with my passenger giving hand signals (if she wants to), I feel strongly against anyone requiring that I give up positive control of my motorcycle to do something a signal light can do equally as well and certainly better, at night.

The ergonomic engineers who designed my Venture ensured that all the controls necessary to drive the bike safely were near at hand, whether it's the signal lights, the brake lever, or that other vital signaling device, the CB talk button. With all this effort made by manufacturers to keep our hands on the handlebars, I question why anyone would advocate taking them off in the name of increased safety and control?

Hand signals had their place, three or four decades ago in automobiles but don't forget; automobile drivers don't have to balance their cars going through turns!

It must be obvious at this point that I feel motorcycle hand signals are a thoroughly inappropriate approach to safely controlling a modern motorcycle. As a recommendation, I suggest that ride leaders continue to stress conscientious use of signal lights, sensible speeds, proper spacing, staggered riding positions and all the other standard elements that we know are part of a successful ride. Skip the hand signals please, ride captains, or the next silly trend we'll be dealing with will be those big fuzzy dice hanging from our mirrors!

J.P. Greeves, #01872