American Family Motorcycle Etiquette

Motorcycle Etiquette

Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team

For motorcyclists, good manners are not only appreciated, they’re crucial to maintaining order on the road. It’s all about creating a better, safer experience for all. Here are some basics to keep in mind

For motorcyclists, good manners are not only appreciated, they’re crucial to maintaining order on the road. It’s all about creating a better, safer experience for all. Here are some basics to keep in mind.

Basic rules to follow

Lend a hand when needed. Motorcyclists are part of one big club, and helping a fellow rider in need is part of being in the club. That includes stopping to help or lending a hand when you can.

Approach with respect. When approaching another rider from behind, don’t honk or overtake them too quickly. Make sure they see you so you don’t startle them. Once they see you, proceed to pass them safely.

Pass with care. Wait for a passing lane to overtake a slower rider, unless they signal you to pass and there’s enough space in the same lane. Wait for their go-ahead, then use your hand signal to complete the pass.

Motorcycle family. While riding, it’s customary to give your two-wheeled brethren a simple wave or a nod. As always, watch where you’re going, but don’t overreact if someone doesn’t respond. Eyes on the road are priority.

We’re all in this together. The road is not the place to ride competitively. No matter how big, fast or special you think your bike is, everyone has earned their place on the road.

One bike per parking space, please. Parking spaces are big enough for two bikes, but never assume you can share one. If you’re riding in a group, and permission is implied or stated, it’s accepted, but otherwise, a parked bike means the spot is taken.

Etiquette and Communication for the Group Ride

When you’re riding with a group, the group moves as one, which means you must know how to communicate with your fellow motorcyclists. Understanding standard hand signals and following basic etiquette is key to having a good, stress-free trip.

Show up prepared. A pre-ride meeting is a good idea to avoid doubling up on tools, first-aid items and the like. When it’s ride time, arrive early with a full tank, a charged cell phone and other essentials. Most importantly, bring along a helpful, patient, courteous attitude.

Position yourself in the group. If this is your first time riding with a group, there are a few unwritten rules to follow. The lead rider in the front tells the group what’s coming. A sweep rider in back sets the pace. The least experienced rider should be behind the leader. Depending on your level of comfort and the power of your bike, figure out where you’ll be in the order.

Group formation. Leave plenty of room between you and the other bikes. On narrow, twisting roads it’s best to ride single file. When the road opens up, keep a staggered formation to give you the best view of the group. The leader rides on the left side of the lane, the second rider stays one second back and on the right side. The third rider stays one second behind the second rider and on the left side, and so on. You don't want to ride side-by-side since this will limit your maneuvering space.

Pass cautiously, then regroup. While your group rides as one, passing is a different story. Each rider should pass a vehicle individually and with caution then regroup in the same formation. The leader is in charge of starting the passing process.

Take care of new riders. Riders who are familiar with long road trips can lay down serious miles each day. But, when deciding to stop, look to the new riders who may be ready for a break. Their riding confidence is important to the group, so be courteous of their skill level and offer advice and encouragement along the way.

Hand signals in the group. Whether you’re leading the pack or part of the group, it’s important to know all the hand signals so you can react quickly during the ride.

  • Back off — Palm of the left hand shown to the group means the lead biker is signaling you to back off
  • Time to go — Thumbs up high enough to be visible to everyone to show it’s time to go
  • Single file — One finger pointing towards the sky on top of the helmet refers to single-file formation
  • Slow down — Waving your left arm up and down in a straight position is the universal signal to slow down
  • Speed up — Raising your left arm up and down with your index finger extended upward means the leader wants you to speed up
  • Emergency vehicles — Little hand taps on the helmet means there are police or emergency vehicles nearby
  • Staggered formation — First finger and the little finger pointing to the sky on top of the helmet means staggered formation
  • Stop — Extend your left arm at a 45-degree angle with the palm facing the group – this signals the group to stop

These are just some of the unwritten rules of the motorcycle road. Knowing basic etiquette makes you a better rider and a respected member of the motorcycle community, and on group rides, you’ll have the skills to enjoy the camaraderie, gain valuable riding experience and build memories.

Related Articles

Related article test
  • Couple riding motorcycle while wearing helmets
    Couple riding a motorcycle while wearing helmets
    Electric Motorcycles

    Electric motorcycles are becoming more popular every day. And like electric vehicles, they’re disrupting the industry and challenging traditional manufacturers to produce a better bike. With more electric sport bikes entering the market annually, newcomers are starting to draw serious attention.

    And conventional bikers are taking notice. From saving on gas bills to riding a smarter bike, old-school motorcyclists find dependability and decreased maintenance costs a major driver as well. A few manufacturers have electric bikes that have been on the market for about a decade. And others are following this trend — with the new rides rolling off the production line soon. Take a look where the market is at, and where it’s headed, with our primer on electric motorcycles.

    Extended Riding-range for Battery Powered Motorcycles

    Manufacturers are plugging new tech into their electric bikes, scooters and motorcycles. Lithium ion battery R & D continues to produce more energy efficient ways to ride. Here are a few ways these powerful batteries are charging the industry.

    Better mileage

    Many manufacturers have pushed the range that their bikes can travel before running out of a charge with their latest offering.

    Fast charging

    New quick-charging battery systems keep your downtime to a minimum. A few producers are currently promoting a charging pack that’s 50% quicker than previous models. The most aggressive of these charging systems boast a 100% charge in just 60 minutes.

    Battery guarantees

    Some groups are offering unlimited battery warranties that extend for five years.

    Regenerative braking capability

    One big benefit of electric motorcycles is their ability to re-capture energy. By converting braking and coasting momentum into a real-time recharge, that energy is used over and over again.

    Electric motorcycles vs. gas

    When compared to the range that a conventional 1000cc sports bike gets, some e-motorcycles travel just as far on a full charge as they would on a full tank of gas.

    E-motorcycles Accelerate Faster

    One of the coolest things about electric motorcycles is the immediate torque and acceleration they have. By not depending on a clutch or a multi-speed transmission, these rides really move. There’s an electric motorcycle for every kind of rider. Whatever bike you choose, remember to leverage a motorcycle insurance discount with our suite of motorcycle safety course options.

    Motorbikes, race bikes, superbikes — these are the kinds of electric motorcycles you might have already seen on the market. But if you’re more of a cruiser or a tour bike fan, don’t be discouraged. You’ll find there’s perfect ride out there to fit your needs. And best the best part? They’re all lightning fast off the line.

    220 mph, zero to 60 in 2.0 seconds

    The heavyweights on the market can hit 60 mph in two seconds flat with a top speeds around 220 mph. Now that’s cooking!

    Peak performance via onboard energy management

    Newer battery-controlling software allows you to ride like you would with a normal bike. And you won’t have to worry about burning through your battery.

    Hydraulic brakes helps you stop on a dime

    Folding in automatic breaking systems (ABS) technology, these fast bikes come equipped to slow down smartly — and quickly. And American Family’s advanced riding course can help seasoned bikers up their game, which is even smarter.

    Electric Bikes Require Less Maintenance

    One big win for e-motorcycles is that there are fewer moving parts. And that translates to lighter, less-expensive maintenance schedules. It’s true, some of the electronic motorcycles have a higher initial price tag. But the money saved across the life of the bike can help to offset that up-front investment. Here are a few other important electronic motorcycle maintenance details:

    No oil means no oil changing

    Owning an electric motorcycle is just plain easier. No checking and changing the oil or filter.

    Tune ups are a breeze

    No spark plugs, clutch or timing belt to replace. No fuel filter to change. In the long run, less maintenance helps to justify the higher price tag.

    Less moving parts

    Because e-motorcycles are really just an electric motor and drive train, there’s less worry. You won’t have to keep an internal combustion engine up and running.

    Smarter ebike tech

    Bluetooth-enabled smart phones can hook into many of the e-motorcycle’s stats. A sampling includes maps to known charging stations, carbon footprint data and financial comparisons of money saved over conventional gas-powered bikes.

    Electric Scooters Are Gaining Momentum

    With some scooters reaching top speeds around 50 mph, e-scooters are also gaining popularity. The Super Soco is targeting more aggressive riders with their TC MAX, which push above 60 mph. The Vespa Elettrica is made for urban commuting with a more conservative 30 mph limit. Like e-motorcycles, these models also come equipped with an app. You’ll get a wide array of data and stats that inform your ride.

    Do You Need Insurance for an Electric Motorcycle?

    Yes, you should take a look at your motorcycle coverage options to best protect your ride, and remember to check in with your American Family Insurance agent. Reducing your carbon footprint can help you contribute to a greener world, and getting an electric motorcycle might be the way to go. With it, you’ll enjoy performance, convenience, versatility and all the other cool benefits that are part of being a biker. Ride on!

    This article is for informational purposes only and includes information widely available through different sources.

    This article does not afford or guarantee coverage.

  • Row of moped wheels
    Row of mopeds
    Insurance for a Moped or Scooter

    Whether cruising to class, work or out for a leisurely ride, a moped or scooter is a convenient way to get from point A to point B — plus, they’re great on gas!

    When you hit the road, you have your helmet and other riding gear ready to go, but you’ll want to make sure you have that extra layer of protection in place — motorcycle insurance.

    Is it required to have insurance for a moped or scooter? Let’s find out.

  • Motorcycle rider
    Motorcycle rider
    Top 10 Tips for Buying a Used Motorcycle

    So, you’ve decided to buy a used motorcycle. Good for you! You’ll probably save money on the bike itself, and you can reap additional savings by avoiding setup, delivery and dealer fees if you’re buying from a private seller. The last thing you want though is for your used bike to break down or have surprise damage and problems.

  • A motorcycle that's just been tuned up for the spring.
    A motorcycle that's just been tuned up for the spring.
    Get Your Motorcycle Ready for Spring

    When the snow finally melts, winter says its goodbyes and you welcome the arrival of spring, there’s one thing on your mind: getting your motorcycle back on the road. While you give your motorcycle regular maintenance during the warmer months, it likely needs a little bit more love after hibernating all winter. That’s why we put together a list of motorcycle maintenance tips to get you ready for the spring.

    Motorcycle Tire Maintenance

    Start where your bike meets the road and give the tires a thorough check before you start the engine. Here’s how you can make sure your motorcycle’s wheels are ready for spring:

    Check the tire pressure. You always want to check your motorcycle's tire pressure when your tires are cold, which shouldn’t be a problem since it’s been in your garage since last fall. Grab a tire pressure gauge and your motorcycle’s manual and see if they’re within the recommended range. Underinflated tires will cut down on your gas mileage and overinflated tires will be more susceptible to wear and other damage. Plus, they’re both much more dangerous to drive on.

    Give them a closer look. Take the time to look closely at both tires and spot any cracking or other signs of a leak like punctures. If you notice wear, swap out the tires as soon as possible. Driving on a damaged tire is never worth the risk.

    Know your tires’ story. Different styles, brands and types of tires will have different lifespans and fare better in certain conditions. If you bought your bike used, you should have gotten details on how long the tires have been used, mileage and where it was driven. Research the specific tire model, its lifespan and find its date code on the actual tire. If you’re not sure, take your bike to a repair shop or dealer to get more info and an inspection.

    Check Your Motorcycle’s Brakes

    The brake system is probably the most ignored part of your motorcycle. When it works, you don’t think about it — and when you notice something wrong, you need to take it in right away. Avoid an expensive and potentially dangerous problem by checking these parts of your brakes:

    Check the brake fluid. Motorcycle manufacturers’ recommendations will vary, but the general rule of thumb is that you should change your brake fluid at least once every two years. Refer to your owner’s manual and manufacturer tutorials if you want to do it yourself, or hand the job off to a pro.

    Making sure your brake fluid is within the recommended range, however, is something you can do every time you hop on your bike. Make sure it’s at its maximum level at the start of spring by checking the gauge usually located near your handlebars for your front brake and near the back tire for the rear brake. If it’s low, fill it with manufacturer-recommended brake fluid.

    Peek at the brake pads. When brake pads wear down and aren’t replaced on time, your bike could suffer some seriously damaging and expensive consequences. Most brake pads will have an indicator visible without having to take your bike apart, so make sure you understand how it works and how it indicates that a change is necessary. And if you’re not comfortable handling the job yourself, it’s not all that expensive to outsource it to a mechanic.

    Inspect the Interior of the Motorcycle

    Once you’ve checked the parts of your bike that keep you on the road and stop you when you need to, it’s time to check out some of the parts not visible to the naked eye:

    Check the oil. You may have changed your oil and replaced the filter when you winterized your bike, but if not, you’ll want to do that now — it’s good to give it a healthy start to the riding season.

    Test your battery. When your motorcycle sits still for months at a time, especially in less-than-ideal weather, your bike’s battery’s life can be shortened. It’s smart to charge it occasionally throughout the winter months, but if you forgot to do so, it may need replacing. If you’re having trouble getting your battery to work, remove it and take it to a local hardware store that offers battery testing.

    Look at the fuel filter. Your motorcycle’s fuel filter is crucial to the health of your engine. Give your bike a clean start by replacing the fuel filter and filling it up with a fresh tank of gas before you take it out for a long ride.

    Check the bike’s spark plugs. Most manufacturers will recommend that you check your spark plugs every 4,000 to 5,000 miles, but even if you didn’t ride your bike that much last year, you should still inspect them. Take a look at each one individually and keep an eye out for oil leakage, ash deposits or overall wear and tear. If you notice wear and tear or are concerned about their condition, replace them — they’re a small price to pay for a clean-running ride.

    Inspect other often-ignored moving parts. The chain, kickstand, throttle shifter — all these parts can get dried out and even rusty while in storage. And while they’re considered minor when compared to your tires, brakes and engine, they’re still important! Lubricate where you need to and avoid having to make a frustrating fix early in the season.

    Once you’ve inspected and tested your motorcycle, clean and shine it up make sure you're ready to ride with proper etiquette before you take it out on the road — then, make sure you’re protected from the unexpected with the right motorcycle insurance. Your American Family Insurance agent is dedicated to making sure your coverage is customized to fit your specific needs. Get in touch today and get the peace of mind you deserve.