Story by Pedro Gregorio
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published the Feb. 2014 edition of the MSTA Michigan Chapter newsletter. The story has been edited to match the MSTA website’s style.
I do quality audits on cars for a living. What that means is that I notice the little things that separate the good cars from the also-rans. This can sometimes be a curse when I ride bikes. On a recent ride on my 1999 BMW I once again thought about turn signals. Yep, I said turn signals. Like I mentioned, I notice the details.
If you’ve been reading motorcycle magazines for the last 10 or 20 years, you know that every time that any motojournalist reviewed a BMW motorcycle, there would inevitably be a comment disparaging the separate left and right turn signal switches plus the additional cancel switch on the right handlebar.
These idiosyncratic switches became a running joke. I never got the joke. I’ve put thousands of miles on BMW bikes with these turn signal switches and I love them. They’re incredibly intuitive and easy to use. I never have to shift my thumb sideways like I do on the industry-standard sliding switches, just push down without shifting my hand.
A few years ago BMW finally succumbed to the pressure and changed all of their turn signal switches to the sliding type common on other bikes. Motojournalists all over the country rejoiced. I’m guessing there was also a cost benefit, one switch instead of three.
The first BMW I rode with the new switch was a K 1300 S. The first time I used the switch I knew there was a problem. It barely moved when activated which didn’t give me enough tactile feedback. In other words, it felt like crap. Every BMW I’ve ridden since has had the same problem. I recently rode a Ducati with the same issue. Maybe BMW and Ducati use the same switch supplier.
So what, you say, it’s just a damned switch. True, but it’s also the most used switch on the bike and a critical rider interface. For me, the seat, pegs, grips, and switches are my connection to the bike and if any of them don’t feel right, I’m not happy.
So to all of the manufacturers that are using these crappy switches, please stop it. I know you can do better.