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Has anyone a description or, better, a picture of a:

Senechalle counter or
A star-wheel counter?

These have been mentioned in historical documents but I've never seen one.

In the late 1940's I had a bike odometer counter which used a five-pointed star wheel on its shaft. Each time the spoke-mounted pin hit the star wheel, the counter would rotate 1/5 revolution. I don't remember what the display did in response to this.
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Electronic counting requires spoke-counting or marking the rim. This was a feature of bicycle measurement before the Jones counter was invented. I wanted to get some information about two of the precursors of the Jones counter, notably the Senechalle counter and the Veeder-Root star-wheel counter. Remembering that Rick Recker has been a spoke-counter for many years, I asked him for a photo of his counter.

He replied that his bike was in storage awaiting the departure of the zero degree weather in his Minneapolis home, but he sent pictures of his counter. He said:

A fellow measurer, that was quite handy in the workshop, made one for me in 1983, and again in 1986. The one you see is 23 yrs old, and hasn't missed a count. The one from 1983 was smashed when I was hit by a speeding taxi. His name is Dale Mattson, and I can still find him. I was impressed by his ingenuity.

The counter is mounted on the left side, and a spoke-mounted striker hits the lever each revolutiom, advancing the revolution count by one digit. From there on, spokes are counted to get the fractional revolution.

This counter style is identical to that on my Rolatape measuring wheel. Note that Rick's counter is resettable.
Last edited by peteriegel
The “Senechalle Counter” was likely never an actual product which could be bought and used by a prospective measurer. It exists as the subject of an article by mathematician David C. Senechalle. The article describes, in detail, how one can purchase various components, assemble them, mark the front wheel, and use the resulting assembly to measure race courses.

The parts described in the article are likely unavailable, but it’s a nice how-to article.

The two page article is entitled “The Senechalle Assembly – a Cable-Driven Bicycle Odometer by David C. Senechalle” and appears to have been typed by Ted Corbitt in the mid 1970’s.

A Google search for David Senechalle produces several references to his existence as a mathematician and runner.

This article, and others, is now online. See
Last edited by peteriegel
While my wife and I were visiting our son Clain and, incidently, our new granddaughter in Bozeman, MT, we visited the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. The Museum is most notable for its displays of dinosaur fossils. Right now they have a display of machines designed by Leonardo daVinci. Very few of his machines were ever built in his lifetime. The machines on display were made in recent years from the designs in daVinci's notebooks.

A number of his designs involved war machines because his salary was being paid by counts who were often at war.

The machine that caught my eye was Leonardo's machine for measuring distance. I think you'll get a kick out of it. It kept track of distance by dropping marbles (or pebbles) into a box as the mechanism moved along.

It doesn't mention how often one would have to reload the marbles but it would seem like it would have to be very often.

When the exhibit in Bozeman is over, maybe they would loan the device to someone to measure a Marathon!

Here are some photos: Leonardo's measuring machine


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