Keep Your Hands On The Bars

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Dear Motorhead,

I just received my new issue of Supertrax Go Snowmobiling Magazine and there are 8 sleds on the cover and not one of the drivers can be seen with both hands on the handle bars.

Up until about the mid 90s there was much less use of the hand signal. If you did get a hand signal from an oncoming sled there was a good chance that something serious was ahead and you should proceed with extra caution. Now almost everyone signals all the time and the signal means basically nothing.

While giving the hand signal you must remove your braking hand off of the handlebar and drive with the throttle hand alone. This results in less control of the machine at precisely the time when it is needed most.

Many riders will even hold up digits to try and indicate how many sleds are coming behind them. So now the oncoming riders are controlling their machines with one hand while looking at each others digits instead of concentrating on the trail. All of this potentially dangerous loss of control to give a hand signal that is absolutely useless.

If you are riding in a congested area you need to be on high alert for oncoming sleds ALL THE TIME.

I hold the OFSC and Supertrax somewhat responsible for the current state of hand signaling in the sport as they all have promoted it.




Thanks for your email!

Well, you certainly are marching upstream with your opinion on hand signals!

Here’s the deal – the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA) and every OEM with the complete support of every state and provincial snowmobile sanctioning organization as well as every snowmobile enthusiast media outlet SUPPORT THE USE OF HAND SIGNALS!

Here’s one more – I personally support hand signals and use them whenever I ride. I believe snowmobilers are alive to day as a result of the signals which give clear indication as to how many sleds are in line and most importantly – last sled in line.

I think you are sorrowfully mistaken in your calling out of this discipline as dangerous. I never remove my hands from the bars to give signals until I’ve slowed enough to maintain complete control. If you don’t get that important point, I don’t think you’re gonna like anything I or anyone else has to say about hand signals.

If I meet someone suddenly and without warning in a low visibility section of trail my first concern is get to the right and slow down – in that order.

Once slowed I use my signals – however – if there’s no time for the signals then that’s okay – by the time my group gets slowed up the oncoming sled will at least get the last sled in line signal from our groups tail-gunner.

One more thing – I have never in all my years of snowmobile journalism had even one person agree with what you’ve asserted.

FYI – there is a warning light system from a US aftermarket company which you can control from the handlebars, which emits a color coded beam indicating first or last sled in line – although you will have to move your thumb from the grip.

I haven’t ever met anyone on the trail in the US or Canada using this set-up but it might be the answer for you.

Motorhead Mark

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