Short Days and Hazard Lights

The days are getting shorter and I find myself riding in the dark more and more. My place of employment is about 28 miles away, if I take a direct route, and I usually try to be there between 7:00am & 7:30am. The ride takes about 40 minutes, which means I am leaving the house in the dark and get to the office around sun-up. This is a perfect part of the day to ride as I love watching the sun come up, but really, what part of the day is bad for riding?

For the most part, I like the controls on the ST, particularly those on the handlebars. After you figure out where they are, they become very intuitive. My wife's Honda Odyssey is very similar, once you figure out the multitude of buttons, (there's a lot, and they're everywhere; like flying the Space Shuttle), everything is in the right place. (I do, however, take exception to two of the 'environmental control' switches for the rear of the Odyssey. After 70,000 miles, they're still counter-intuitive to me.) Thankfully, the ST only has a few buttons and switches on the handlebars, all which are standard on every bike I've ever owned or ridden.

But... there are three non-standard buttons and a non-standard dial on the ST dashboard. Their uses are very straight forward though. The dial adjusts the headlight pitch. The headlights can be adjusted - raised or lowered - on the fly. There are eight increments on the dial that allow the rider to find that happy place. If you carry a passenger, or adjust you rear shock with too much preload, and your headlight is pointing in the trees or only shining 20 feet in front ahead, a quick turn of the knob and it's all good.

The three nearly flush-mounted buttons are placed to the right of the headlight knob, and control some of the information shown on the ST's dash board computer read-out info screen. The lower right button toggles between the two trip meters. The lower left button toggles between instantaneous fuel mileage (updated at ten second intervals), average fuel mileage, or just turns the mileage data off with one less piece of info cluttering the info screen. The top button is simply a brightness adjustment, with three increments, for the info screen. This top button I've been using a lot lately as I've been riding more in the darker hours. During the daytime, I like to set the info screen at its brightest. It's not absolutely necessary, but it helps when the sun glares on the dash. When the sun goes down, I turn the brightness on the info screen down, where its brightness about equals the backlights in the analog tachometer & speedometer.

Of those four controls, two of them, the headlight dial and the info screen brightness adjustment, are intended to make functional adjustments between daytime and night-time riding. As such, they are frequently used in low-light, to no light conditions. I think Honda could have made them a bit easier to use in these conditions if the buttons lit up, or at least had a light halo around them. As they are, they're black buttons on a black dash. At night, it's just a whole lot of black nothing. When I do want to adjust them, unless I pass under a street light at the right moment, I have to grope my way around until I find them. The knob for the headlights isn't much of a problem, but finding the right buttons with my winter gloves still involves some trial and error. I try to dim the lights only to find I'm toggling between my trip meters.

There is one other nit I can pick about button location, but I'm not sure if I can attribute the problem directly to Honda. I have a set of bar risers on the ST that lift the bars 3/4" up and 1" back. They do make the riding position much more comfortable than I believe the stock position would be, (The risers were on the ST when I got it) but they place me farther from the dash, making the buttons harder to reach. Now, I'm a tall guy - 6' tall - with a longer than most wingspan. I can reach about 6'4", but I've still got to lean pretty far forward to reach the buttons.

Now, there's another button on the ST that is standard on many newer motorcycles, particularly tourers and sport-tourers; the Hazard switch. The ST has one located on the top of the left hand control cluster. For comparison, my BMW GS has a hazard switch located on the right of the dash, opposite the switch for the heated grips. Honda put it closer to the rider, but it's still necessary to let go of the bar to activate it. The problem I'm finding with it's location, and this (minor) problem may be attributed to the bar risers, is that when I lean forward to grope in the dark to find the the headlight dial or the info screen brightness adjustment, my forearm hits the hazard switch and activates the hazard lights.

These aren't huge problems. They are relatively minor in the grand scheme on the bike. (I have lived with bigger problems on lesser bikes.) Once the switches are set in the proper positions, you forget them. During daylight hours, these problems don't exist, and using the buttons is simple and intuitive. But, their existing design and configuration seem to make more work than it should be at night. Work that I'll have to get used to as the days keep getting shorter.

At least the ST doesn't have that same upside-down 'environmental' switch as my wife's Odyssey.

1 comment:

irondad said...

I really like the ability to adjust the display illumination on the ST. I don't think I can do that on the FJR. On the other hand, the FJR has the hazard switch on the right switch pod. Really easy to use with hands on the bars.

The little differences between bikes is interesting, isn't it?