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Verdict: 
Puts shop-grade gear indexing in your pocket, but you'll pay for full functionality
Weight: 
82g
Otto Tuning System for 10-11 speed
8 10

The Otto Design Works Tuning System is a tool-and-app combination, that brings shop-level Shimano and SRAM gear setup to anyone capable of wielding a screwdriver and following instructions on their iPhone. There's an additional fee for full functionality, but most people will be happy with the free option. Campagnolo and Android phone users are not supported yet.

> Buy this online here

Few things mar the enjoyment of riding a bicycle more than having incorrectly indexed gears. If your indexing is out your bike will be noisy, inefficient and possibly downright dangerous, jumping gears under load when you least want them to, with consequences ranging from a dropped chain, jammed chain betwixt cogset and wheel, damaged components or even a crash. With 11-speed cogsets appearing on sub-£1000 bikes and chain-cogset clearances becoming ever finer, the importance of correct gear indexing has only increased. This is great news for bikeshops, but not so great for the wallets or free time of cyclists needing to book their bikes in for tune-ups.

Otto Tuning System 3.jpg

Otto Tuning System 3.jpg

If you are mechanically minded with the time and patience to learn the part-art-part-science of rear derailleur adjustment this is not an issue. For everyone else it's a frustrating time- and cake fund-depleting hassle.

So what if you could get a better-than-shop-grade gear tuneup in a few minutes, in your own home? That's the promise of the Otto Tuning System.

Face Front

Born in Portland USA, the Otto Tuning System (OTS) is part plastic gauges, part iPhone app. There are two models, for 9- and 10/11-speed cogsets - if you run both in your fleet you'll need both sets of £37 gauges. There's no Android version planned in 2016 as the app needs consistent camera calibration and that's only possible with iPhones sharing the same 'selfie' front-facing camera. Android cameras are all different, as are the rear-facing main iPhone cameras, and the development cost of supporting multiple cameras has made it unfeasible so far.

This limitation is easier understood with an overview of the OTS. It uses the phone's ability to play audio, video and images to walk you through the tuning process - it's like having a mechanic in your hand. The step-by-step process is very easy to follow, and there's the ability to repeat the instructions if you aren't sure.

Otto Tuning System 2.jpg

Otto Tuning System 2.jpg

It works by using the camera to detect twelve 'targets' on the two gauges fixed to your derailleur and cogset. These targets are much more than a bunch of stickers - they are carefully applied, then a factory calibration process maps them to within 10 microns across three dimensions. This calibration is then printed into a QR code on the box - which is then read by the app during setup. Finally, the app looks at the gauge through your camera lens, adjusts for distortions in the lens, and does 'a lot of maths' to arrive at a usable mathematical model specific to your phone and gauges. Once the camera is calibrated the app can detect differences in three dimensions between cogset and rear mech of less than 1/1000th of an inch in different gear positions, and has the intelligence to tell you what to do next to get everything in tune. Reading the Otto blog on the product development process is a real eye-opener into just how hard all this was to do.

Once the gauge and camera are calibrated you enter in your bike setup - cogsets, tooth counts, groupset - then save your bike profile and even add a photo to personalise.

The Sensible Caveats

You need to check the support pages carefully to make sure your exact derailleur and cogset are supported

There's no Campagnolo support in 2016; 9-11 speed Shimano & SRAM, mostly.

You need to be sure your cables and housings are in good order

Your chain and cogset shouldn't be excessively worn

Your drivetrain should be clean

Your bike needs supporting on a stand, so you can turn the pedals and reach the gears and brakes

The Marmite Moment

In use you can either 'Check' or 'Tune'. Checking is always free, Tuning requires an in-app purchase that costs about £3, £10 or £20 for a week, month or year, and allows you to save the Tune/Check history of multiple bikes. If your subscription lapses your bike profiles and records will still be there, but you'll only be able to Check, not Tune. And if you want to Check a new bike, you'll have to delete a current one.

This has to be the moment opinion diverges on the OTS. No other tool in the cycling world has a subscription model (assuming you don't consider Strava to be a 'tool'). That said, no other tool has an evolving platform (your phone) comprising 9/10ths of the overall system cost, that requires rather expensive people to be constantly developing for the next OS iteration.

Consider OTS as £437 worth of hardware: £37 of plastic and £400 of handset you already own. You need both to make it work. To support the app that makes your part (the £400 phone) tick, you need to pitch in £20 a year. If Otto didn't have developers on-staff to keep abreast of OS and bike tech changes you could well end up with broken functionality at the next OS or gruppo update, through no fault of your own. Given the gauges should last decades, a subscription model is the only way to make the overall proposition sustainable for the manufacturer and the customer.

Back to the Future

Assuming you've accepted the new reality of connected tools and paid up, it's time to Check. Placing the chain in the small ring and 4th from largest cog, you slot the orange gauge on to the upper derailleur pulley and slide the blue gauge on to the cogset. Then come the words you'll get to know well: 'Show me the targets'.

This involves moving the phone back and forth, up and down, to allow the camera to detect all twelve targets and do its magic - it's similar to the way image-processing algorithms identify faces and smiles.

You need good lighting for this. In a fairly brightly-lit garage I still had to supplement things with a headtorch, which required some playing around to get the angles just right. But fundamentally it worked well, taking maybe 5-6 seconds a time to get a fix. A few times it took longer, and more moving around of the phone.

Once Checked you get a 'Target Score' - measured in millimeters above or below perfect. 11-speed chains run just 0.4mm from the neighbouring cogsets, and the OTS regards anything beyond +/- 0.125mm to be in need of Fettling. That's less than 1/8th of a barrel turn. I was rather chuffed to find that after 25 years of learning my setup was -0.104mm - so just within what OTS considers acceptable. Not being satisfied of course, I selected 'Tune'.

Tuning gives two options - 'Fast' using just the barrel adjuster, and 'Complete' tweaking the high/low limit screws as well. The Complete tune takes you through slackening off the cable, setting the high/low limit screws, then re-setting cable tension and indexing. Fast tuning only adjusts cable tension. Instructions are given in both complete barrel turns and clicks - very handy. It will detect worn cable outers and instruct loosening off the cable pinch bolt for total cable re-tensioning, if needed.

After a Complete Tune my Target Score had improved to +0.069 - 7/100ths of a millimeter or 'Gnat's Testicle' from perfect. The app was able to detect adjustments -- or maladjustment -- of just a few barrel clicks either way, picking up just a few tenths of a millimeter in derailleur movement. After a tension adjustment it also asked to change down and back up one click on the shift levers to 'reset tension' in the cable. They have really thought this through. Once you are used to the process you can save time by turning off the voice instructions and videos.

Out on the road, the bike (Ultegra 6800) ran the quietest I've ever known it. Shifts were as slick as new. Probably slicker, to be honest.

But I've been fettling bikes for decades. How would a novice spanner-wielder fare? On her first-ever time taking a screwdriver to a bike my wife managed a Tune of +0.056mm - almost twice as accurate as my first go was. She admitted some frustration with the 'show me the targets' part and needed coaching to tell the upper limit screw from the B-limit screw, but apart from that the guidance offered by the app out of the box - including gauge calibration - was sufficient for an absolute beginner to achieve a perfect setup.

Of course there are many other things that can affect shifting - hanger alignment, bent derailleur, worn cables, dicky shifter and so on. The OTS should help detect these faults, and if your bike's in good condition will get you that elusive perfect indexing.

Tune up or Check out?

So do you need to pay for the ability to Tune? Maybe not; you can use just the Check function. If all you want is certainty that your indexing is correct, are happy to set your limit screws, and don't need or want to save bike profiles or history, then you can put that £19.99 into four extra coffees & cake each year. Otto CEO Jake VanderZanden admits to mostly using Check (then tweak cable, then Check again) when swapping between wheelsets with minute differences in cogset/axle spacing, and only using Tune for new bike or build setups where limit screws need setting.

Future-Proof

If your road, hybrid or mountain bike has a longer-toothed pulley wheel than standard, the orange gauge won't fit properly. ODW have you covered with an aftermarket adapter for Tourney, Altus and Acera mechs. If you aren't sure, the ODW website lists all the combinations of supported derailleurs, and whether they support only Check or Check and Tune.

ODW plan to release 'My OTTO' on their website this summer, so you can upload all your tune history (and also show it in app): dates, scores, duration of tune, time between, miles/km ridden (Strava), comments if any maintenance is done, and even a replay. The Strava integration might even track miles ridden, and alert you when a check-up is likely to be needed, just as car dealers do through onboard telemetry.

As an app linked to other telemetry, location and the internet in general there's scope for some innovative features. Linked to electronic shifting, such a system should in theory know exactly how much use each cogset, chainring and chain has had, under what power loads, even in what weather conditions. You can imagine tie-ins with retailers where parts are automatically ordered at a predicted or measured wear point based on personalised maintenance preferences.

For Android users who like the sound of this system, it is in development for your platform. While Jake VanderZanden told us there was "no chance" it would be ready in 2016, Otto Design Works is aiming to have it ready for 2017. He added: "Investment is rich and we must make the features/product become adopted with iOS first."

Overall the Otto Tuning System works for iPhone owners, and will get your rear mech set up and running closer to perfect than you can. It also brings shop-grade indexing competence within the reach of beginner cyclists. Whether that's worth £37 (plus possibly £20 a year) to you is the moot point.

Verdict

Puts shop-grade gear indexing in your pocket, but you'll pay for full functionality

road.cc test report

Make and model: Otto Tuning System 10-11 Speed Cassette

Size tested: Orange/Blue

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

£36.99 from http://innovativecycleproducts.com, in-app purchase to be able to TUNE.

ODW say:

CHECK & ADJUST YOUR BICYCLE SHIFTING

WITH CONFIDENCE

Introducing the OTTO Tuning System, an industry first, voice-guided iPhone vision App and tool that enables checking & tuning rear derailleurs in under a minute. You need this for keeping your bicycles shifting perfect.

Smart. Quick. Precise!

Don't put up with sloppy shifting. The OTTO Tuning System de-mystifies and simplifies the derailleur adjustment process, giving everyone the power to adjust their bicycle with professional precision.

This smart Tuning System uses the iPhone's camera and a set of engineered gauges to check shifting alignment, and provides verbal prompts that lead users through any needed adjustments. The OTTO App offers progressive levels of functionality with both CHECK and TUNE options, as well as a multiple bike profile feature. Simple enough for the weekend cyclist or bike racer to use, yet precise enough to earn a spot on the mechanic's workbench, it's ideal for pre-ride/pre-race shifting confirmation, after wheel changes, or for regular maintenance.

· Week (7 Days) £2.75

· Quarterly (90 Days) £9.50

· Annual (1 Year) £19.99

Don't put up with sloppy shifting. The OTTO Tuning System de-mystifies and simplifies the derailleur adjustment process, giving everyone the power to adjust their bicycle with professional precision.

This smart Tuning System uses the iPhone's camera and a set of engineered gauges to check shifting alignment, and provides verbal prompts that lead users through any needed adjustments. The OTTO App offers progressive levels of functionality with both CHECK and TUNE options, as well as a multiple bike profile feature. Simple enough for the weekend cyclist or bike racer to use, yet precise enough to earn a spot on the mechanic's workbench, it's ideal for pre-ride/pre-race shifting confirmation, after wheel changes, or for regular maintenance.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Platform Compatibility iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6, 6+, 6s, & 6s+ running OS 8.1 or newer including iOS9

Convenient - Do-It-Yourself. Make adjustments on your schedule.

Easy to Use - Interactive screen graphics and clear audio instructions.

Fast - CHECK confirms your tune quality in under 30 seconds.

Complete - TUNE provides barrel nut adjustments in under a minute and complete limit screw verification and adjustment in less than 10 minutes. * In-App Purchase required for added features (7-day: $3.99 / 90-day: $11.99 / 1-year: $26.99)

Precise - Ensures shifting accuracy to +/- 0.125 mm (0.005 inches), less than 1/8 barrel nut turn.

Platform Compatibility iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6, 6+, 6s, & 6s+ running OS 8.1 or newer including iOS9

(Android not currently supported)

Rear Derailleur Compatibility Shimano 9-11 speed derailleurs

SRAM 9-11 speed derailleurs

MTB with barrel nut at handlebar Now Supported

See Supported Derailleur page for supported models

Audio-Guided Adjustments

CHECK: Confirms tune quality / need for further adjustment

TUNE: (Fast) Barrel nut only

TUNE: (Complete) Barrel Nut, High Limit, Low Limit, Cable Tension

In-App Purchase*

Tuning and multiple bike profile functions require In-App Purchase; ranging from single use to one year programs. Click here for details. Note: The OTTO App includes other Free functionality, including the all-new CHECK function, which does not require In-App purchase.

*OTTO may run promotions from time to time, and reserves the right to change pricing and period at any time. Contact us at support [at] ottodesignworks.com with any questions. Internet connectivity is required during the gauge registration process.

(Android not currently supported)

Rear Derailleur Compatibility Shimano 9-11 speed derailleurs

SRAM 9-11 speed derailleurs

MTB with barrel nut at handlebar have limited support/functionality

See Supported Derailleur page for currently supported models

Audio-Guided Adjustments

CHECK: Confirms tune quality / need for further adjustment

TUNE: (Fast) Barrel nut only

TUNE: (Complete) Barrel Nut, High Limit, Low Limit, Cable Tension

In-App Purchase*

Tuning and multiple bike profile functions require In-App Purchase; ranging from single use to one year programs. Click here for details. Note: The OTTO App includes other Free functionality, including the all-new CHECK function, which does not require In-App purchase.

*OTTO may run promotions from time to time, and reserves the right to change pricing and period at any time. Contact us at support [at] ottodesignworks.com with any questions. Internet connectivity is required during the gauge registration process.

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10

The plastics feel very strong, and look to be up for a lifetime's use.

Rate the product for performance:
 
10/10

Vagaries of lighting aside, it works - amazingly accurately

Rate the product for durability:
 
10/10

Cannot imagine it ever wearing out

n/a

n/a

Rate the product for value:
 
8/10

Tricky. Depends entirely on your view of pricing for the full Tune functionality

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Very well indeed - out of the box it gave me as good as or better tuning than I've learned to do in 20+ years of Fettling

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The smug feeling of hyper-accurate shifting.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Sometimes excessive waving about of the phone to detect the targets.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.

Would you consider buying the product? Maybe.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if I knew they wanted accurate gears and were understanding of the pricing uncertainty

Use this box to explain your score

Tricky, as it's in a market of one. If I knew the full Tune function was included in the price forever, it would be a 4.5. As the annual sub is under £20, let's call it 4.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 43  Height: 183cm  Weight: 72kg

I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: A few times a week  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking, Dutch bike pootling

15 comments

Avatar
kil0ran [980 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

Love innovation like this. Have no need for it because I have Di2 but if I go back to mechanical shifting I'm there.

Avatar
Adam Ef [9 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes

I'd be interested to know how it handles things like bent mech hangers, freehub problems or loose hub play etc.

I'd say that over 50% of bikes I see needing gear work have other issues such as above that are contributing to the gear problems. Bent in mech hangers are very common, as are corroded dragging cables or damaged housings causing flex or cable snagging. Almost all bikes I've seen recently also have worn out chains with the customer being unaware that they are, often with cassette worn out too as the majority of people often don't take their bike to be repaired until it's really not working, often due to excessive wear or corrosion of some sort.

Avatar
BBB [479 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes

It would be probably quicker easier and cheaper to visit YouTube or Park website...

Avatar
Ghisallo [38 posts] 2 years ago
4 likes

Help me out here. This is better than doing it the way we've doing it for decades now, how?

Avatar
wellcoordinated [206 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

And it only does half the job. What about the front changer.

Avatar
KiwiMike [1369 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Ghisallo wrote:

Help me out here. This is better than doing it the way we've doing it for decades now, how?

 

It's in the review. If you've 'been doing it for decades', it probably won't make a massive difference to your life, granted. 

Avatar
KiwiMike [1369 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
wellcoordinated wrote:

And it only does half the job. What about the front changer.

I did speak to them about this - no current plans. It's a lot harder as there's no small cog to attach a gauge to, there's stuff like trim and yaw to account for, larger variations in relative tooth count, and generally with front shifting only being one way  or the other with much larger movements less susceptible to tight clearances, 'indexing' isn't really an issue.

Avatar
iandusud [85 posts] 2 years ago
5 likes

What a load of tosh! That sounds like a very long-winded way of doing a simple task.

Avatar
Rapha Nadal [864 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

"cogsets".

Just gotten into riding, have you?

Avatar
fustuarium [246 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes

Just to say, that's a good write up. Quite a few caveats and complications that are well signposted.

Avatar
KiwiMike [1369 posts] 2 years ago
1 like
Rapha Nadal wrote:

"cogsets". Just gotten into riding, have you?

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cogset

 

[Darth Vader voice] The pedantry is strong with this one [/Darth Vader voice] 

smiley

 

Avatar
gonedownhill [196 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
fustuarium wrote:

Just to say, that's a good write up. Quite a few caveats and complications that are well signposted.

 

Agreed, don't really like the product but the review is a good 'un. Great idea to get a novice home mechanic to have a go and bonus points for getting a pint into one of the photos.

Avatar
kcr [154 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

For me, the biggest problem with this is who is it actually aimed at?

if are comfortable with working on your bike and have basic home workshop skills, adjusting and tuning gears is fairly straightforward (and you probably already know how to do it).

The other type of cyclist is the person for whom the bike is a black box. They're only interested in pedalling it, and if anything needs fixed or adjusted, they are happy to hand it over to the bike shop. 

The former group is unlikely to buy a special tool to do something they can already accomplish with allen keys and a screwdriver. People that fall into the latter group tend are generally not interested in messing around with any sort of tools, and would rather get the job done properly by someone who knows what they are doing, so they are unlikely to buy either.

I think there is a  very small group of potential customers who fall between these stools and are going to need this solution.

Avatar
me [98 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

"You need to be sure your cables and housings are in good order" - that fixes most shifting issues doesn't it? (Apart from the already mentioned worn out chain and/or cassette)

I didn't see any reference to it saying how to adjust the B screw - and I can't check as I don't have an ithing and have Campag.  But if the B screw isn't needed then it wouldn't be on a mech?

Avatar
KiwiMike [1369 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
me wrote:

"You need to be sure your cables and housings are in good order" - that fixes most shifting issues doesn't it? (Apart from the already mentioned worn out chain and/or cassette)

I didn't see any reference to it saying how to adjust the B screw - and I can't check as I don't have an ithing and have Campag.  But if the B screw isn't needed then it wouldn't be on a mech?

 

B-screws are to set clearance between the top pulley and the cogset - you want them not quite touching. No, this isn't in the OTS guide because it doesn't affect indexing - rather the speed for the shift. The further out the B-screw is set, the slower the chain will be put onto the new cog.