Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication

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I nearly got cleaned up by a car coming around a blind corner last week. This was because our communication got mixed up.  My mate yelled “CAR!” as he was half way across the road in an intersection.  I’m used to “CLEAR!” being yelled out when it’s safe to cross.  “CAR!” sure sounded like “CLEAR!” to me. I began to cross the road when I saw a car come flying from around the corner.  Luckily I didn’t blindly trust my riding partner and took a quick look for myself. The larger the group is, the more we seem to trust what the riders in front of us are doing without question. Always look for yourself!

With so many nationalities, accents and colloquialisms here in Australia things are bound to get confused from time to time.  Here are a few tips on verbal and non-verbal communication while out riding.  Note that these verbal signals can vary from group to group and country to country but the hand signals are fairly universal.  It’s a good idea to sit back and watch attentively if you’re not familiar with the group you’re riding with.

ROLLING! We all know not to run red lights, but it’s equally as dangerous to stop dead when the light suddenly turns yellow when you have 80 riders going 45km/hr behind you.  If it’s a fresh yellow and there are riders behind you yell “ROLLING” as this lets others know that you’ll be rolling through.

CLEAR! When an intersection is safe to cross call out “CLEAR!”.   Don’t yellNO!” as this can easily get confused for “GO!“.

CAR BACK! This is hollered to the group if there is a vehicle behind everyone and is attempting to pass.


SLOWING!or STOPPING! Don’t yellCAR!” if a car is coming across an uncontrolled intersection.  This easily gets mixed up with “CLEAR!“.  Also, yell “STOPPING!” if you’re rolling up to some traffic lights and you intend on stopping. This alerts the riders behind you what you’re doing.


Keep out of the gutter. Signal to move out from the left hand gutter (Australia and UK) by waving your hand behind your back.
CAR UP! This is called out to the group when there is a vehicle parked on the side of the road to alert everyone to get over.

RIDER(s) UP! Call this out when you are in a fast moving group and you are passing another rider or group of riders. This alerts your group to move over to the right (or left if you’re in North America). Remember to always pass other riders on their right hand side (in Aus and UK).


Pothole or Hazard. A simple point to the road hazard will be enough to signal to the other riders.  Do this well before the hazard is near and predictably move over so you don’t roll past too close to it.


Glass or Loose Gravel. Almost like pointing to signal a pothole but using a waving action. This denotes that you’re approaching a scattered hazard such as glass or gravel.


Pull Through – A gentle flick of the elbow on the side of the riders that are to be coming through indicates that you want the next rider to come through to pull a turn.  I’ve done a few articles on echeloning, pulling turns, and pacelining.  Also, here are some common mistakes when pulling turns.


Puncture – Raise your hand, stop pedaling and hold in a straight line until everyone has passed you.  When everyone is ahead of you it’s safe to pull over and call your wife for a ride home. Best to raise the front brake-side hand so you can come to a safe stop.

ninjaAnother hand signal to add that I don’t have a good illustration for is described here when climbing.  It has to do with throwing the bike backwards when going from a seated to standing position on the bike while climbing.  Also known by some as “the samurai sword“!

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