Wednesday, May 02, 2007

One Down Rest Up

My first mobike was a Hero Honda which had the All Up gear system where I had to use my heel to kick on the rear of the pedal to gear up. I had got used to this gear system so much that that was one of the reasons why I stayed away from Bajaj and Yamaha for a long time. When I had a chance to move away from Hero Honda I had chosen TVS which had the same way of shifting gears. But now I use a Bajaj Discover 125 CC mobike and this one has an All Down gear system. After a long time I had to literally unlearn things to get used to the new gearing system, but I think its worth for the quality of ride Discover gives me. Nevertheless I decided to do a usability analysis of the different types of bike gears on Indian mobikes.

There are mainly three types of gearing systems on Indian mobikes viz All Up, All Down and One Down and Rest Up (ODRUP).

Coming to think of it gearing up of a vehicle is more of a conscious user effort than the gearing down process. Most of the times gearing down happens by more of an instinct or by an impulsive reaction to a situation on the road or the traffic. In that case I would say gearing down should be the easier action than gearing up.

Kicking the gear pedal using the toes seems to be comparatively the easier and faster task than kicking behind the pedal using the heel. So according to my previous logic the All Up gearing system makes sense as you consciously gear up using your heel as the bike’s speed increases and impulsively use your toes to change the gears down i.e. the same logic behind using my toes to use the brake pedal. By this way the results of both of your feet’s action are consistent i.e. I only use my toes to slow down my bike, be it the gear or the break.

But what about the first gear? Most of the time my mobike is stationary when I would want to shift to the first gear. Obviously we can consider that as a conscious action but for the reason that my bike is motionless, that action could be made easier using my toes. So then it becomes ODRUP. My conclusion on the most usable mobike gearing system in this way is One down and the rest up.

Hero Honda CBZ, Hero Honda Karizma, Bajaj Pulsar, TVS Apache and all the Yamaha bikes (not quite sure about Yamaha) are the bikes which have the ODRUP gearing system. I also heard that ODRUP is an international mobike gearing standard and soon all the Indian bikes will follow this. That has not happened yet but my doubt is why Hero Honda, TVS and Bajaj have given different gear systems for their different models. At least they could have followed a consistent standard among the models that are from the same stable.

8 comments:

Mahesh Shantaram said...

Remember the Yezdi and it weird gear system inherited from Czechoslovakia? It was also One-Up-Rest-Down, but what was unique was:

1. The gear shift and starter were the same lever on the left. To start, you had to release the lever by pushing it in using the right side of your left shoe.

2. The One-Up action was done by lifting the lever using the toe of the left shoe.

You can tell a veteran Yezdi rider by his damaged left shoe, not to mention left-body RSI.

Susheel said...

@Mahesh: What is RSI? My uncle used to have a Yezdi from as far back as I can remember... Nice bike.

@Umesh: Setting gears is not just a matter of usability. There are also engineering issues, of course. The 5 down configuration was apparently causing some gear slipping in the pulsars which was not happening in all earlier 4 gear all down bikes... thats one reason why they've moved to one down and rest up.

I've used all down geared bikes since I've the time that learnt to ride and changing is going to be a problem, like you had... My 150cc Pulsar is a 5 down geared bike. The last time I tried a one down rest up gearing I nearly had an accident!

For me, it seems odd that a person would press a lever backwards to shift to a higher gear. It seems very "american," if you know what I mean... Also, for me, clicking to a lower gear is much easier if its at my heel... for a while i tried slipping my foot under the front of the lever and pulling it up with my shoe, but I've stopped doing that since I got a pair of gleaming white sneakers! But the thing is that that was not an issue either...

Also, you know how I ride... fast furious is almost the right phrase... but not quite that fast and certainly not furious...

So I guess its all a matter of what you've grown up with... and what you're used to...

Umesh said...

Mahesh: i do remember the Yezdi with a One up rest down gear combined with a kicker. I have a cousin who used to leave his yezdi unlocked so that it can be easier for someone to steal it and go. But he was quite sure that no one will ever dare to do that.

Susheel: RSI is Repetitive strain injury.

Its true that once you get used to doing something, usability never matters. Its tough to unlearn things to take up more usable stuff. The usable stuff becomes unusable then. I'm talking about a first time user. I have explained this in the Switch Board Lesson.

May be it didnt make sense to you to press a lever backwards to shift to a higher gear but as i said compared to the other action this action is slightly tougher and so can be used when you are conscious enough. But i agree that you have already got used to the other pattern and so any other way will be tougher.

I didnt know that the all down 5 gears made an issue with their gear box. I wish they should have worked on the gear box rather than taking away bajaj's gear system consistancy.

Muthu Online said...

From a UX perspective, the gear system represents the system implementation model. What is the bilady need for it? It doesnt reflect user's mental model at all. It was designed at a time, when automobile technology wasnt advanced enough. Now that we all got used to it, its a lil tricky to imagine such bikes with automatic transmission and without manual gear changes.

That said, i still luv the Yezdi design. It used be called the "Lovers's Bike" 4 decades back :) My ex boss, worships it. It kinda had a cult following.

Umesh said...

Muthu: Are you saying there was no need to have the rider change the gears in the first place and would have made it automatic? Do you think there is absolutely no difference in cars/bikes with auto transmission? Frankly as a slow driver for me it doesnt make much of a difference. But i think it really makes a difference when the vehicle is climbing/alighting to change gears and control/drive more efficiently.

It doesnt reflect user's mental model at all.

Could you please explain this point if you dont mind?

Muthu Online said...

Nobody thought that Desktop Interactivity was possible on the web, until someone came up with a technology to enable the same.

The crux of the matter is that we need to first identify user's needs
and then tweak technology to enable it and not the other way around.( yada yada yada)

When it comes to driving cars or riding bikes what are the basics needs of a user apart from reaching safely, comfortably and economically from point A to B?

Think the mental model would be
move forward, speed-up, slow down, manoeuver left or right, stop and go backward.

IMHO, owing to the technological limitations, we've been forced to learn this "complex notion" called changing gears. I'd recommend "automatic transmission" which should be smart enough to automatically change gears depending upon the need and spare users from changing gears.

Users dont need to learn all the complex and intricate details of technology in order to use products.

The notion of "changing gears" is forced onto us. It aint a natural expectation of a user.

Umesh said...

Muthu: i think for almost all the carsthere is a automatic variant (bikes depends on how un macho they are) which comes at a premium. So the idea is clear. If you want better user experience features pay more.

Also i think joysticks can replace the steering so that all the controls can be brought to the hands. no pedals so that legs can have rest.

Minimal digital dashboard guages even though i like lit up dasboard clusters in the night....

Anand Ghurye said...

There are several additional reasons for the gear system . For example when you have all gears on one side up or down the gearbox size as well as the distance between two gears reduces . This you can compare on say bajaj discover and bullet .

In all down configuration you start with the neutral whereas in the one down other up , the neutral is between the first and the second gear .

The first gear is to be only engaged while starting . It is not needed during riding . Also in a running bike it is difficult to engage the first gear as it is the only nonsyncromesh gear in the whole system ( same in cars ) . So logically when the neutral is between the first and second gear , the bike is much more manoeuverable in traffic or starting or stopping is better . In case of all down or all up system , the neutral is difficult to engage as it is beyond the first gear so what you actually do is stop the vehicle on clutch and then shift to first and neutral .

Also when you start in traffic , if all down system is used , you start with the first gear , resize your position on the bike as it accelerates ( you know what I mean ) and then change to the second gear . In this case there is always a chance of reengaging the first gear again and getting a strong jerk . This will not happen in the other system as the first gear and the other gears are on the opposite side .
All in all riding a bike is an extremely educative experience.