Smart money setup

Photo courtesy of Sean Lerner

Wheel Analytics is a kit for adding visualization to your truing stand. It looks a little different from one installation to the next as each workbench has its own character.

The photo above is the workbench at Eastern Wheelworks , a shop owned and operated by Sean Lerner in La Grande, Oregon. Sean is a specialist offering wheelbuilds and suspension service in house. At Eastern you’ll get service advice from the same person who turns the wrenches, which is a model worth supporting.

A setup like his gets you into visualization for the smallest investment.

Sean took Wheel Analytics without indicators, opting to source his own from iGaging. He transferred the tips from his Park Tool analog indicators, saving quite a few dollars for a few minutes’ work. Since a pair of iGaging indicators can be had for as little as $125 USD, this is a cost-effective setup. If I could offer a deal like that without losing my shirt, I certainly would.

Sean bought a new computer for his wheelbuilding bench. He’s using the Raspberry Pi 400, a tiny all-in-one system that retails for $100 and offers plenty of power for fronting Wheel Analytics. That price includes everything — keyboard, mouse, power, storage, wireless and operating system — everything minus the monitor. Any HDMI monitor will work and Sean has chosen a large one. Large screens are great because they let you absorb visualizations without losing sight of the wheel. You can mount the display further away without sacrificing legibility.

Have a picture of your workbench? Tag Islandix on social media.

Annual report 2021

What follows is a retrospective on the first anniversary of this blog. How we got here, how it’s going and next steps.

Read more →

Tensio demo

This is a quick demo of Live Tensio. With no extra effort you get primary metrics for tension range and balance. Control by foot pedal means the relationship between your hands and the wheel is unchanged.

This is Live Tensio, part of Islandix Wheel Analytics. In version 1.0.6 Live Tensio gets a performance upgrade. Here I’m surveying wheel tension to decide what services should be recommended to the owner. I’m working quickly so the screen moves fast. The top area shows live tension as I work my way around the wheel. Values are displayed in kilograms but it works in Newtons too. Each time I tap the left foot pedal, it records the current reading for the left side of the wheel. Live Tensio automatically calculates min, max and average tension as I go. The distribution of tension values is visualized in a bar graph for each side of the wheel. Each horizontal tick represents 5% deviation. Use the graph to recall tension for any given spoke. Hover with the mouse or tap a touchscreen for more information. It turns out this wheel’s in rough shape and the customer will need a re-tensioning service.

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New software

Wheel Analytics doesn’t check for software updates so you might not know what you’re missing. The WA-1 doesn’t connect to the internet at all but perhaps worth a rethink in this case.

Software version 1.0.5 was released this week. There are a few improvements but a couple worth mentioning. Truing visualizations now zoom to use available screen space automatically. Bigger is better. And all visualizations have improved printable versions for saving or sharing. This is a free update available via the Update tab on your Wheel Analytics tool.

Version 1.0.6 is tentatively complete but still under test. It won’t deliver any new features but expect better responsiveness with less memory usage. The changes are most noticeable in Live Tensio, which becomes the real-time tool it was meant to be.

Update: version 1.0.6 is now posted. It’s recommended for all users. 1.0.6 is expected to be the last software release for several months.

Manual online

Did you know the Wheel Analytics manual is available online? The first half covers installation and configuration. The second half is all about wheelbuilding with color diagrams that unpack each visualization in detail. Feedback is welcomed on documentation just as much as on the tools themselves. Please email if you have any comments or questions.

True from the joint

If you true bicycle wheels using indicators, dial or digital, you’ll know the joint area can be problematic on some rims. A little twist or bump can wreak havoc, sending your instrument to the moon if only for a moment. It’s possible to work around this problem.

Normally truing is oriented from the valve hole. That’s to say start at the valve hole and continue around the wheel until returning to the valve hole again. It’s nothing special other than being a signpost to indicate you’ve covered the whole wheel. Instead start at the joint. Begin scanning immediately after the joint and continue around the wheel until returning to the point immediately before the joint. This factors out hyperlocal distortion at the seam. If you need to make the joint more conspicuous, apply a little piece of masking tape to establish your own signpost.

Islandix on Insta

Islandix is low-key on the social media front but check out Instagram. IG gets used for highlights, behind-the-scenes stuff and less serious amusements.

Make-a-tensio

Refitting a tensio to work with Wheel Analytics can be pretty easy. In this video we’ll refit a typical tool, this one imported from Asia but similar to tensiometers from a dozen or more manufacturers. This particular tool is well-constructed with a ball bearing pivot. The factory dial indicator is its weakness but we’ll see it replaced with a digital part.

The indicator is released by loosening a single set screw on the back of the tool. With the indicator removed, the stem is measured. There are two common sizes — 9.5mm (3/8″) and 8mm (5/16″) — and this tool uses the latter. Mitutoyo 543-781B features an 8mm stem so it’s a direct replacement. Insert into the bore and secure with the same screw. Job done.

Compatible indicators are commonly available in most global markets or available direct from Islandix.

Power up

Wheel Analytics includes a USB power supply with three ports when only one is needed. Wall sockets can be a precious commodity so this supply is ready for triple duty. True wheels without losing your phone charging port. Or power a tablet, which might be used with Wheel Analytics at the same time. The WA-1 is a low-power instrument and will work happily with any of the ports. Save the higher current port for heavy-draw rechargeable devices. Select US-style, EU-style or UK-style plug at checkout.

Update: AU-style power adapters of a different style now available.

Tensio support

Wheel Analytics includes two modules for interfacing with bicycle tensiometers. This feature is evolving and will be the subject of a free update available next month.

One frequently asked question concerns tensiometer support. Wheel Analytics works with any tensiometer equipped with a Mitutoyo or compatible digital indicator. Many tensios can be retrofitted with such an indicator, allowing you to continue using the tool you already own and enjoy. Islandix supplies indicators for this purpose with no extra shipping cost. Please inquire for specific advice or to order indicators.

A related question concerns available tensiometers that are compatible out of the box. There are a few on the market. The Wheel Fanatyk tools pictured above are an Islandix favorite. Choose the Digimatic version for compatibility. Wheel Fanatyk tensios are calibrated to a universal standard and this information is preloaded into Wheel Analytics as a default setting. On the other hand if you prefer a more traditional tool, IceToolz makes one featuring a Mitutoyo indicator.

Cloud not required

Wheel Analytics uses a web browser interface. This post explains how we got here, what it means and what it doesn’t.

Fundamental to visualization is a way to display graphics. This could be accomplished by selling a screen, which comes with a cost and bakes in certain limitations. If you prefer a larger display or prefer the display you already own, an included screen does you no favors. Islandix may offer such a tool in the future but it’s not the right solution now.

If the end user supplies the display platform, how are visualizations rendered? Providing apps is one option but it’s expensive to support every operating system so we’d have to pick and choose. And apps require ongoing maintenance, for example when platforms update. By using a browser as the rendering engine mechanics can work from any device, upgrade them at will or switch anytime. With Wheel Analytics there are no apps to install because every platform has a browser already.

The browser connects directly to the WA-1 controller, whether over Wifi or USB. Everything happens within your workshop — in no case does the browser connect to any off-site service. This is deliberate and has important implications. There are no cloud components that can fail or be withdrawn. If your internet goes down, Wheel Analytics is unaffected.

Now shipping

Wheel Analytics is now in stock. Tools are available for use with your own indicators or can be bundled with an optional kit, currently featuring made-in-Japan Mitutoyo indicators (model 543-782). Mitutoyo are highly refined, long-lasting instruments that offer exceptional battery life.

Efforts will be made to keep Wheel Analytics in stock but the optional indicators are liable to vary depending on availability, price and customer preference. Your thoughts on the subject are solicited.

Indicator backs

Indicators are sold with lug backs, flat backs or both. Lug backs are a good way to mount indicators on most truing stands. As an example they make for drop-in replacements on Park Tool TS-2/3/4 truing stands. Flat backs are an alternative if you plan to mount indicators by their stems and want to keep the rear tidy. Magnetic indicator mounts and most tensiometers use a stem clamp design.

iGaging indicators include both styles so you can switch back and forth. Mitutoyo indicators are sold as one style or the other, however you can purchase extra backs to convert a flat back to a lug back or vice versa. By Mitutoyo part numbering conventions, models numbers ending in the letter ‘B’ ship with flat backs. Model numbers not ending with ‘B’ ship with lug backs.

Going digital

Thinking about adding digital indicators to your truing stand but not ready to dive into visualization just yet? This post contains pointers to digital indicators you can add to your truing stand so visualization is an option when the time comes.

Islandix Wheel Analytics interfaces with digital indicators that conform to the Mitutoyo Digimatic SPC standard. Data is read using a special uplink cable (two included with Wheel Analytics). You can’t go wrong with Mitutoyo indicators but the market is served by compatible brands too.

The Mitutoyo 543 range is a great choice. 543-5XX and 543-7XX models are my preference. You’ll see lots of options with different feature combinations depending on your preferences. Say, for example, you want to replace your Park Tool analog indicators with Mitutoyo 543. Look for a model with #4-48 UNF threads, which lets you re-use the nice #4-48-threaded indicator tips from your Park Tool kit. The Park Tool truing stand attaches indicators using a lug back so pick a Mitutoyo model with this feature (all model numbers except those ending in ‘B’). Compatible indicators for this specification include 543-506, 543-507, 543-783, 543-792, 543-793 and 543-796 among others. All Mitutoyo products are premium quality and the least expensive are perfectly suitable for driving visualizations. Finding a model below $200 USD is pretty easy, as low as $175 on a good day.

Other brands also implement the same standard, which means there are options at difference prices. For example iGaging 35-705-10 and 35-700-10 have the same data interface but cost less. Both models use #4-48 UNF threads and both include lug backs, which make them drop in replacements for Park Tool analog indicators. Again the least expensive are suitable for driving visualizations. Finding iGaging indicators below $100 USD is pretty easy, often as low as $65. Try iGagingStore or eBay.

Manufacturing quality

Wheel Analytics WA-1 controllers are checked with in-house testing tools including the one pictured, the Islandix Digimatic Signal Generator. It emulates a pair of Mitutoyo digital indicators, which allows each WA-1 to be tested with an external signal source. The tester generates readings at eight times the peak indicator data rate in order to expose tolerance problems (circuits are more sensitive when run faster). Both ports are bombarded with over a million samples, each decoded, processed and relayed over Wifi and USB simultaneously for a full-coverage test at impossibly high data rates. Software verifies no readings are lost and no transmission delays are experienced.

Holiday update

Happy holidays from Islandix.

A big thank you to everyone who pre-ordered Wheel Analytics tools. The next production batch has completely sold out. Parts to manufacture and fulfill these orders are now on hand or underway, which is great since we live in times of challenging supply chains. More Wheel Analytics tools will be available for shipping by April 2021.