Derailleurs. If only someone could just tell you why your chain keeps skipping cogs. Like if only they could just look at your bike and tell you, “Oh. Turn your high limit screw 1/8 of a turn, and twist your barrel adjuster four clicks clockwise.” That person would be a true friend.
Well be prepared to spend more time with your new bestie, Otto.
The Otto Tuning System does exactly what we all wished it would–it looks at your rear derailleur and tells you exactly what you need to do to get your shifting back to perfect–all through a couple of target attachments and an app.
Thanks to the fine folks at Otto Design Works, we got our hands on the system to give it a try and see if the claims are what they seem. And so far, we’re stoked by the ingenuity of the Otto.
Otto Tune System Specs
Sizes: Two versions available work with either a 9-speed cassette or 10 and 11 speed cassettes.
Upsides: Completely hassle-free rear derailleur adjustments. The app walks you through each choice with simplicity, and will give you exact instructions for getting a perfectly adjusted rear derailleur–and it definitely works.
Downsides: It can be difficult to hold your phone at the right angle and distance from the targets, and poor lighting makes it even more difficult to get the app to recognize all the targets.
It was with a little doubt and trepidation that I opened the 007-esque box with the Otto inside. The videos looked cool, and simple. But would this really get my shifting smoothed out?
A quick app download (yes, you will need a smart phone for this), a scan with the unique QR code on the box, and a simple calibration with your gear selections and such gets you up and running with the Otto. The app will walk you through each step of installation and derailleur adjustment, but there really isn’t much by way of moving parts here. The set comes with two gauges–the orange gauge attaches to your upper jockey wheel, and the blue gauge sits over the cogs in your cassette. The targets printed on the sides of the gauges tell the app how aligned or misaligned your rear derailluer sits currently. Then, the app walks you through turning high and low limit screws and twisting barrel adjusters.
How Did The Otto Perform?
On my first attempt with the Otto, everything went haywire. I ended up taking a slightly rough shift into a misaligned mess. The derailleur started skipping, jumping gears, and generally made a racket. I was disappointed, and I almost blamed the system.
Until I realized that I actually hadn’t seated the orange gauge properly in the jockey wheel. It takes a bit of practice to extend the derailleur properly and push on the orange gauge, but once I had it completely popped into position everything changed.
With the targets fully visible, the Otto quickly captured all of the dots and told me to turn my high limit screw 1/8th of a turn. A few more target images and a couple of times on and off with the gauges, and Otto found the trouble in my shifting. A few twists of the barrel adjuster later, I was removing all the orange and blue bits from my bike and testing the shifting.
What’s smoother than butter and quieter than silk?
I don’t know, actually, I just wanted to avoid using a cliche. Whatever that thing is, the Otto achieves it. My shifting went from just a little glitchy to now that’s a noiseless drivetrain.
A Few Tips
Be sure to carefully move the rear derailleur body open in the same way you might do to remove your rear wheel. Any pulling side to side could throw off your shifting or put your derailleur hanger out of whack (unlikely, but I’ve had it happen with certain hangers). Expose the jockey wheel fully so that you can get a good marriage of the gauge and the wheel, otherwise the targets will give the app a false reading.
Good lighting is important. If you don’t want to hear the app tell you repeatedly to “Show me the targets” and then, “No, seriously, show me the targets” and again, “I’m getting impatient here. Show me the darn targets!” If you can use the Otto outside on a sunny day, it seems to work best. Otherwise, you’ll need a really well-lit space. Our office workroom obviously did not have adequate wattage, and I actually had to resort to holding my 400 lumen bike light behind the phone in order to get the app to recognize all of the targets. I decided not to fight things any longer and took the setup outside (getting sunshine ain’t a problem for us these days in California) where it worked without a hiccup.
The Otto is perfect for home mechanics who want to take the variables out of shifting. The system works quite well once you get over the small learing curve of setup and lighting. Although holding your phone out away from you and making certain that all of the targets are visible takes a little practice, the folks at Otto Design Works have actually created a phone clip that holds it at just the right distance. But I did find a selfie stick works pretty well too. I’m also told that a gauge for adjusting a bent derailleur hanger may also be in the works–now that would be sweet.
At $39, the Otto Tune System is a relatively inexpensive addition to your toolkit, and makes for a much faster adjustment than old school wire pulling and checking travel. The company claims 60 seconds, and I wouldn’t say that’s undoable. Once I had used the system a few times, I was able to get things all fixed up in a matter of two-three minutes. I see the huge potential the Otto has for the future of drivetrain adjustment. Here’s hoping we see an Otto for the front derailleur at some point.
Make Friends With Your Own Otto
You can pick up your own Otto Tune System at ottodesignworks.com or you can ask for it at your Local Bike Shop. If you do grab one, be sure to let us know how you like it!
And, if you’re wanting to see the Otto in action, check out the video below:
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