Connecting the sensors on your bike to your device and our app is the first step on your journey to the top of Mount Sufferlandria. There are two ways sensors can connect:
- Bluetooth Smart (also called Bluetooth LE or BLE).
Some sensors transmit simultaneously over both protocols, making it easier to connect to a wide variety of devices. ANT+ is by far the most common protocol, so that will be our primary focus here. If, after reading this article, you are having problems getting connected, check out our "Sensors and Connections Troubleshooting Section".
TYPES OF ANT+ RECEIVERS ('DONGLES')
You have speed, cadence, or power sensors transmitting information over ANT+. That means you need a receiver on the other end. Unfortunately, neither PCs, Macs, nor iOS devices have built-in ANT+ receivers. That means you need either a device to convert the ANT+ signal to Bluetooth, or an ANT+ receiver that plugs into your device to let it connect.
What you need for iPhone or iPad
In order to convert ANT+ signals to Bluetooth, you will need the CABLE device built by North Pole Engineering. You can find the purchase information by clicking here. The CABLE Device is just a small sensor/transmitter, you use the NPE "Cable Configuration" app to link your ANT+ sensors and then the device transmits them as Bluetooth 4.0 signals to your Mac or iOS device. More information on setting up the CABLE Device can be found here.
You can also use this little bugger right here. This is The Wahoo Fitness ANT+ key. It plugs into the 30-pin slot that older iPhones and iPads use to connect to the power adapter. If you have an older iOS device with a 30-pin connector, this is all you need. Order information can be found here.
WARNING! There are some 30-pin ANT+ key impostors out there that will not play nicely with iOS devices and The Sufferfest app. The Garmin version is one such impostor. Only get the Wahoo ANT+ key above.
Second, unless you have an iPhone/iPad from before 2012, you're going to need a 30-pin adapter to fit that fancy new lightning plug.
Do Not Use a Lightning to USB Connector
While the Lightning to USB connector may work with other USB devices, the ANT+ USB dongle isn't one of them.
For Mac or Windows, Get an ANT+ USB2 Dongle
Neither Mac nor Windows PCs have built-in ANT+ receivers, but they do have handy USB ports that will accept one. Beware, not all ANT+ USB dongles are created equal. The older versions of USB and USB1, only transmit information on 4 channels.
New and improved USB2 has the ability to transmit data on 8 channels. This is the one you need. Before you purchase an ANT+ USB dongle, make sure it is USB2. How do you tell? The manufacturer's technical specifications should help you. Barring that, you can use the same technique that Sufferlandrian wildebeest herders use to tell if a newborn calf is a boy or a girl: flip it over and take a closer look.
That 'USB2' on the back of the device tells you this is the dongle you're looking for. If the manufacturer doesn't specify, but the device is a "mini USB", you can safely assume it's USB2.
Here are some that have been Minion-tested, Minion-approved.
Garmin ANT+ 2.0 USB
Garmin ANT+ Mini USB
Suunto ANT+ Mini USB
BKool ANT+ USB
TACX ANT+ Antenna
Quarq ANT+ USB
Using Another Training App in Addition to The Sufferfest?
Of course you're not. The very thought would have the Minions sharpening their flogging sticks. When we say, "You Can Never Leave," we meant it. But say, just for the sake of argument, that someone, somewhere, in an alternate universe, sometimes trains with The Sufferfest and sometimes trains with....not The Sufferfest (shudder). USB dongles are monogamous creatures and don't like to be shared between two different apps. If you use one dongle to transmit data to The Sufferfest, you can't use the same one to connect to another app.
HAVING MAC/WINDOWS CONNECTION PROBLEMS? GET A CABLE
Lastly, if you're experiencing connection issues you may need to purchase a USB extension cable. This will get the USB ANT+ dongle farther away from other parts of your computer that may cause signal interference, giving you a more reliable connection. Don't get stuck eating donuts while you wait for the sensors to connect. The Minions demand Holy Water, and they shall have it.
MAKING SURE YOU'RE READY TO CONNECT
- Have a smart trainer or sensors installed on your bike? Check.
- Batteries in those sensors good? Hmm, better check that too.
- ANT+ dongle or ANT+ key plugged into your computer or iOS device? Excellent.
- Enough with the dilly-dallying. Let's get to suffering.
Below you'll see the Ride Check screen from The Sufferfest app. There are few things on this screen that we want to highlight.
- First, make sure that ANT+ is set to "ON." If ANT+ is showing as "OFF", check the connection of the ANT+ USB dongle. Unplug it and then plug it back in.
- If you're using Bluetooth for one or more of your sensors, make sure that Bluetooth is also set to "ON." You can usually enable Bluetooth by clicking the icon on the toolbar, or by swiping up on iOS devices and tapping the Bluetooth icon. *Please note that the Windows version of The Sufferfest Training System is not Bluetooth compatible*
- Make sure nothing else is hijacking your ANT+ connection. If you have a Mac or PC, are using a Garmin USB stick, and have the Garmin Express software installed on your computer, make sure you close the Garmin Express application. While you're at it, you should also close out that pesky FitBit application if you're using it. In the image below, the dark triangle in the toolbar means that Garmin Express is working in the background. The icon to the right of the triangle is the FitBit application.
To Close Garmin Express or FitBit, simply double-click or right-click the icon and select 'Quit'.
SETTING UP YOUR DEVICES THROUGH ANT+
You have two options when setting up devices. You can:
- Scan for all devices. To scan for devices, select the "Scan Devices" button.
- Select your devices individually. If your devices aren't connecting when you scan for all of them, then enter the menu for an individual sensor (cadence, heart rate, or power) by clicking on the icon.
Connecting Your Power Meter/Smart Trainer
This can be a smart trainer like the Wahoo KICKR, a power meter like the Stages crank arm, or -if you're using virtual watts - a speed sensor with a standard resistance trainer. (If you're setting up a power meter and are having trouble with cadence readings, please read our Power Meter Article.)
There are three ways your smart trainer can connect with the app.
- The best way: If you see a connection for 'FE-C Bike Trainer,' then select that one. It will allow the app to control your smart trainer resistance.
- 2nd best way: You may see the actual name of your smart trainer listed. If you select this, then the app will receive information from your trainer, but will not be able to control it.
- You can also check the Smart Trainer Compatibility article to find a list compatible smart trainers and to see which ones can be controlled over Bluetooth on iOS and Mac devices.
If your smart trainer does not show up, restart your trainer or turn the cranks to wake up your power meter.
RUNNING A SPIN DOWN TEST & ERG/LEVEL MODE
After you select your trainer, you'll then be given the option to select either ERG mode or a standard resistance setting. ERG mode, also known as 'AAARGH!' Mode, allows the Minions in the Machine to control the resistance of your trainer to match the power targets of the workout. That means no cheating. If you need to hit 270 watts for a given interval, the Minions in the Machine will make sure that's exactly what you do. No shifting or manually adjusting the resistance of your trainer is required.
SETTING UP VIRTUAL WATTS CONNECTIONS
If you don't have a smart trainer or power meter but still want the benefits of training with power, the Minions have your covered. By using an ANT+ speed sensor on your bike, The Sufferfest app can calculate what is known as 'Virtual Watts'. To setup up virtual power simply click on "Estimate Power From Speed", select the make and model of your trainer and connect your speed sensor. (More Information on Virtual Watts)
If your trainer is not listed, never fear. We have a general trainer built into The Sufferfest app that you can use. Select 'Generic' as the brand and either 'fluid' or 'mag' as the model (depending on whether you have a fluid or mag trainer). You may have to move the wheel or pedal to wake up your sensor and allow the app to detect it.
CONNECTING CADENCE SENSORS
If you have an ANT+ cadence sensor, you should see it displayed once you click on the cadence icon. If the cadence sensor is not displaying, you may have to wake it up by turning your pedals or wheel. Once your setup is complete, click the red X in the upper left corner.
CONNECTING HEART RATE MONITORS
The last sensor is the heart rate monitor. HR monitors, including watches, that transmit a standard ANT+ signal, will connect to the app (Beware of watches, in particular, that say they are ANT+, but use their own protocol...which will not connect to our app). Attach your monitor and wait for the display to detect it. Once you see your heart rate displayed, select continue.
STILL HAVING ISSUES?
The Minions at Sufferlandrian Services hear your cries for help. There are additional steps you can take to troubleshoot your device connections. Head over to the "Sensor and Connections" section to see if your problem shows up there, or type it in the search box at the top to see what comes up.
And of course, you can always email us with questions or concerns at:TheMinions@TheSufferfest.com