There are many, many things you can do with your smartphone. One of the biggest revolutions in cycling, which incorporated the smartphone, was using the GPS receiver to record your course and speed, when out on the bike. One of the most commonly used app, which enables this, is Strava. Now there is a new app on the market which uses the smartphone for something entirely different.
The OTTO Tuning System uses the smartphone to tune your bike’s rear derailleur. They claim that their ‘easy-to-use’ system can tune your sloppy, badly adjusted gear shifting or help you set-up your new derailleur from scratch.
Features of the OTTO Tuning System
The OTTO Tuning System has two main functions, ‘Check’ and ’Tune’.
The ‘Check’ function analyses the alignment of the jockey wheels on your derailleur, in relation to you cassette, and scores it on whether the indexing is correct and if the gear hanger is straight. From the negative or positive readings from the app you can either add or remove tension from the cable.
The ’Tune’ function uses OTTO’s guide to help you fix any indexing issues that the app has found. There are two levels of Tuning. The ‘Quick’ level, which solely fixes cable tension issues which can be corrected by using the barrel adjuster alone and the ‘Complete’ level which also corrects problems caused by the High and Low limit screws and correcting cable tension using the cable pinch bolt. This ’Tune’ feature, however, is a feature which requires in-app purchases.
Their demonstration video shows how easy it is to use.
How Does it Work?
The OTTO system comes with two targets, one which clips onto your rear derailleur and the other onto your cassette. The app on your smartphone then, using the phone’s camera, compares the positioning of the two targets and works out whether the alignment of your derailleur is correct.
Fad or Functional?
I’m not sure whether the OTTO system is really worth the money or not. Whilst I’m aware that some people are intimidated by bicycle gears and, after fiddling with the barrel adjuster on their derailleur, cannot get their gears to work properly. However there are several really good tutorials on YouTube showing how to properly adjust your gears. With just a little practice and a good video you can get the hang of it. Ironically one of the best tutorial videos is made by Art’s Cyclery, one of the OTTO Tuning System distributors.
- Easy to use
- Very little technical knowledge needed
- Compatible with most 9–11 speed Shimano/Sram derailleurs
- Very precise analysis of your drivetrain
- New technology is awesome!
- Not currently readily available in the UK
- Does not support Campagnolo derailleurs
- The app currently only works on iPhones and not Android phones
- Quite expensive
- It doesn’t help with the front derailleur (which I find the harder of the two to get running sweetly)
- Badly indexed gears are not always the cause of poor shifting!
In my experience if you are having problems with poor gear shifting there is usually something other than indexing causing the problems. A worn chain, old and corroded gear cables, a very dirty chain and cassette or simply that you haven’t oiled your chain in a while are all a likely culprit.
One redeeming feature is that if you have had a crash it will tell you if you gear hanger has been bent. That said most replacement gear hangers are cheaper than this system. So if you think your gear hanger is bent (you can usually tell by whether your derailleur is hanging vertically and the swingers is parallel to your chain) it is still cheaper to replace it than buy the OTTO system.
Personally I don’t think the OTTO Tuning System is worth the money, but those who struggle with the art of indexing gears may disagree.