2008-10-07

Halleluja! BMW Motorrad are ditching their 3-button indicators

It's been a long time coming, but the new BMW K1200* series now have "proper" indicator switches!!!! (sorry for the exclamation marks). Let me make sure I cover all bases.
"Normal" indicator switches on a motorbike is handled by one multi-switch. It's located at your left thumb. You push it towards the right to turn right, and you push it towards the left to turn left. You push it in (forward actually) to cancel the indicators.
Now, BMW, who insist on doing things "a different way" has at some point deviced that you need one switch on the side to which you're turning. This results in one switch on the left and one on the right. It sounds logical, but it's not. On top of this you need a method of canceling the indicators, and the BMW idjiteers have placed another button for that at your right thumb. You push it upwards to cancel the indicators. (And for reference there's no other bike manufacturer that insists on having a button that you push in a totally unnatural direction. Imagine if you'd have a mouse button above the keyboard operated by your thumb.) All in all you have three buttons operating your indicators, two on your right hand controls and one on the left hand controls. Some bikes have also have a hazard indicator cancel (and on some you can activate the hazards on the same) button.
Let's forget the manufacturing costs of all these buttons (including the cabling etc), but lets have a look at how you operate them. This is what happens in UK (riding on the left hand side of the road). Let's do an overtake. You need to accelerate, indicate, change gear, overtake, indicate again and then possibly slow down. Right, so let's pull that apart into molecules. First I indicate right with my right hand thumb, pretty much at the same time I need to apply throttle with my right hand. Notice I have to use my right hand to do two controls. I've moved lanes and I'm now overtaking. And at this point, you might need to change gear. This involves grabbing the clutch with your left hand, pretty much at the same time when you need to indicate left to get back to your original lane. Notice again how I have to use one hand to perform two actions. The next step is to slow down - for example if you have another car in front of. You now need to use the front brake with your right hand, at the same time as you need to cancel your indicator by lifting your right thumb upwards. Once again I'm using one single hand to perform two different actions.
Ok so this is in a left hand "drive" country (which incidentally covers more people than right hand drive countries). The situation wouldn't be too different riding on the "right" side of the road. Obviously the system works slightly better if you overtake on the left. But you're still using two hands to do one control action.
With a "traditional" set of controls the right and left hand controls are divided into two logical "hands". Your right hand controls acceleration and decelration (throttle and brake). Your left hand controls the clutch and auxillary functions, such as indicators, lights and horn. Quite logical in my not so humble opinion.
I'm so relieved to see that BMW has come to terms with this on their "flagship" bikes (previously the F650 series and other ones had had "traditional" controls). The new K1200R, K1200S and K1200GT as of 2009 model have got real proper indicator switches. BMW has finally learnt that you do not need to have multiple switches to operate one function. And above all, you don't need to mix in the hand that controls the speed!
Well done, BMW! About 15 years or so too late, but still. Well done!
The pictures attached to this post are 1) left hand BMW-bar. You can't see the orange big indicaor button, it's hiding just below the red horn button (which incidentally is where the indicator switch it on a "normal" set-up. Oh the times I've honked at people when I've tried to cancel the indicators). 2) The right hand BMW-bar, showing the orange indicator switch and the cancel button above that. And finally 3) the new BMW switch. Aaah... all is well!

No comments: