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Simplified Electronic Measurement with Commercial Electronic Counters
Neville Wood

1. Introduction

I was very interested to read about Steve Collins novel electronic version of the Jones counter using a commercial electronic counter (Omron H7EC-NV-B, McMaster 1737T23, $54.59) coupled to a proximity detector. It did not seem competitive with my Protégé method, but I was excited to see that the counter module itself was only moderately priced and had several obvious advantages such as an always-on display with a battery life of 7 years. Steve had abandoned his research, and so kindly sent me his parts for my evaluation.

2. The Proximity Detector

The detector requires the use of a 9-volt battery and evidently requires a heavy current draw, because the one Steve sent was completely flat. After replacing the battery, the detector worked well with only one washer on the rim as a whole revolution counter. However, even with this improvement it did not appear competitive with the standard magnetic reed switch because of expense and other reasons.

3. The Omron Counter Coupled with a Reed Switch

I coupled the counter Steve sent with a reed switch from the Protege and it worked perfectly. Of course as for the Protege the counter was precisely synchronized with a calibrated rim. Steve had chosen this Omron with a voltage-only input because he was working with the proximity detector, and so I had to use the 9-volt battery also. However there is a version of this counter (McMaster 1737T22, $52.53) and many others that require only input from a switch closure.

4. The Eaton (Durant) E402400 Coupled with a Reed Switch

The Eaton counter can work with switch closure only and has an always-on display with a battery life of 10 years. I found one at my local Grainger warehouse for $44.75. I connected the low speed count input to the Protégé reed switch and it worked perfectly up to a bicycle speed of 15 mph or 3 rev/sec. However, the counter quit at higher speeds, and this was very strange since it is rated for up to 50 rev/sec. When I tried the high speed count input though, it worked fine. This input does not have de-bounce circuitry, but this does not matter at bicycle speeds.

5. Disadvantages of Commercial Electronic Counters Compared with Cyclocomputers

1. Cost

2. Weatherproofing: The Eaton front panel is waterproof, but the rest of the case must be sealed with the gasket and clips provided. Some are designed only for circuit boards.

3. Does not have other data outputs for other bicycling use.

4. Does not have a second counter like the Protégé 8 or 9.

5. Reed switch and magnet have to be obtained separately.

6. Advantages of Commercial Electronic Counters Compared with Cyclocomputers

1. No programming required: I initially thought that programming the Protégé was a trivial matter especially as I have simplified the instructions. After talking with many measurers though, I find that they find it very challenging. It is quite an advantage therefore that the commercial counters come ready to count revolutions. The only button to operate is the reset.

2. Operation Standardized: Reset is always done just ahead of the start line and intuitively obvious. There is no need to memorize the special quirks of each individual counter.

3. Reset instantaneous as opposed to taking a couple of seconds.

4. Decrement Mode: A much-touted unique advantage of the Jones is that it can be reversed to correct for a missed mark by backing up the bicycle. However, some commercial counters can operate in decrement as well as increment mode, and so can do something similar. Backing up though is a clumsy and inaccurate procedure. The commercial counters have the advantage over the Jones though in that they also allow the bicycle to be turned around and ridden back while decrementing the reading.

5. Always-on Display: The counters do not fall asleep after 5 min of inactivity and the measurer does not have remember to awaken them before resuming measurement.

6. Display for Revolutions only and Uncluttered by Irrelevant Data.

7. Battery Life: This is usually from 7 to 10 years and can be as long as 20 years!

8. Ruggedness: Since they are of industrial grade, I anticipate that they may be more long lasting.

9. Indefinite Availability: The counters are used in commercial operations and therefore will always be available in contrast to recent experience with cyclocomputers and the Jones.

7. Future Evaluations

I have ordered four different models of Veeder-Root counters for evaluation. The 799984-322 shown below costs only $12.

8. Conclusions

With the simplicity of operation of the commercial electronic counters there seems little reason to prefer use of the Jones or to resurrect it.
If you would like me to send you one of these new easy-to-operate counters, please contact me though 919-846-6374 or NFWOOD AT HOTMAIL. Total cost with the sensor and postage will be between $30 and $70 depending on the meter selected.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Neville,
Posts: 304 | Registered: 01 November 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Picture of Alan Jones
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Good work, Neville. Will be interesting to see what comes out of the evaluations. You say there seems little reason to prefer the Jones or to resurrect it. However, it should be pointed out that this is a revolution counter with a revolution being on the order of a meter while a Jones counter's count is on the order of 10 cm. So we are back to spoke counting like Ted Corbitt did or marking the rim. I think the simplicity of the Jones where you just record counts is still an advantage. Also, the Veedr-Root counters you are going to evaluate will probably have the forward/backward problem when overshooting a mark.

Posts: 85 | Location: Endwell, NY, USA | Registered: 25 October 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Picture of Neville
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I should have made it clear that my intention is that these commercial counters be used as I have described for the Protégé with a precisely synchronized marked rim. Readings are then more accurate than for the Jones, although this only really matters for perhaps calibration courses.
Some of the counters I intend to evaluate have decrement ability and these should work better than for the Jones in reversing meter reading to correct for overshoot.
The only remaining advantage of the Jones is that accidentally rolling the wheel backwards does not create a problem. With the electronic method, it is just conceivable that by bad luck an unalert measurer who is not following correct procedure could roll backwards through the zero point on each of his two rides. This would may lead to a slightly short course. Rick Recker uses a mechanical whole revolution counter that would be destroyed or at least damaged if he accidentally rolled back through a certain point on the rim. However, he tells me that this has never happened in 20 years and over 600 courses!
Posts: 304 | Registered: 01 November 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Picture of Pete Riegel
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That MicroMITE 799984-322 counter could turn out to be a real winner. At first I thought that four digits wasn’t enough, as the Jones has 5 or 6, but since it counts complete revs, four is enough. It will “roll over” every half-marathon or so.

The counter does not have a reset button, but in the specifications it says “Remote reset can be accommodated.” It does not go on to explain this.

As the thing stands, though, it appears to be a non-reset counter, dear to my heart as a data reviewer, if not as a measurer.

As far as marking the rim goes, I believe it is short-sighted to mark the spoke positions. It is true that this can be done more quickly than dividing the rim into 20 equal parts, but you only do it once. With the rim divided into 20 parts, each 0.05 rev, all your data is in complete digital form.

It is a lot easier to comprehend 372.72 revs than 372 26/36 revs. Saving time on the rim layout is short-sighted, and will cost time and confusion in the long run.

The best part about the counter is that it requires no setup by the user, and eliminates the programming confusion many encounter using cyclocomputers. It’s not completely idiot-proof, but is getting close.

Still to be considered is the multiple-count mistake when the bike is halted with the magnet near the sensor. This problem can be minimized but not eliminated. A way to detect when it has happened would be a good thing.

As for the inability to roll backwards, I agree that doing this is less accurate than riding forward, but I do it for short distances when I overrun, and it is handy, saving a stop and calculation. But looking at all the advantages and disadvantages, the MicroMITE may be a good thing.

Remaining problems to be solved include a waterproof casing and mount, and a waterproof and robust sensor/magnet combo.

Pete Riegel
Posts: 1745 | Location: Columbus, Ohio, USA | Registered: 23 October 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Picture of Neville
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I plan to review four different models of Veeder-Root counters. I like the simplicity and cheapness of the 799984-322 but it may not turn out to be the best. For instance its digits are only a little bigger (6 mm) than those of the Jones (5 mm), and the battery only lasts four years. It does not have a reset button like others but is resetable.
Posts: 304 | Registered: 01 November 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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