Getting the sensors on your bike or trainer to talk nicely with your devices is the first step on your journey to the top of Mount Sufferlandria. Misery should happen when you're deep into the ninth interval of Revolver, not when you're trying to start your workout. To help you navigate the sometimes murky waters of device connection, the Minions have created this handy reference. Before we get to the nitty-gritty, let's talk a bit about the different ways your speed, power, heart rate, and cadence sensors communicate with the device on which The Sufferfest app is installed.
If you want The Sufferfest app to record and display information, you need to get it from your bike or trainer to the device. There are two types of low-energy wireless communication protocols commonly used by sensors to send information:
- 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. For information on connecting your sensors via Bluetooth LE to an iOS device, like an iPad or iPhone, shift into the big ring and head over here.
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 an additional piece that plugs into your device to let it hear the full force and agony of your suffering. The flavor of this additional piece depends upon what device you're connecting it to.
Let us look at iOS devices first.
Have an iPhone or iPad?
You need 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. Seriously. Why are you still reading? Order it now and start suffering. Time's a-wasting.
Have a Newer iPad or iPhone?
In late 2012, Apple did away with the 30-pin connector on iOS devices in favor of the Lightning dock. If you have a newer iPad, iPhone, or iPod, in addition to the Wahoo ANT+ key, you'll also need a 30-pin adapter.
Simply plug those into your iOS device and - boom! - you're ready to Suffer.
WORD OF CAUTION!
There are some very sneaky 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.
THE GARMIN 30-PIN ANT+ KEY WILL NOT WORK!
If you see this Garmin 30-pin ANT+ key beckoning you from the shadows, resist its siren song. It was sent by Couchlandrian operatives to thwart your suffering.
What About That Fancy Lightning to USB Adapter? Can't I Use an ANT+ USB With My iPad?
If only it were that easy. But nothing ever is, and we like it that way. While the Lightning to USB connector may work with other USB devices, the ANT+ USB dongle isn't one of them. Currently the only way to get iOS devices to communicate via ANT+ is with the Wahoo 30-pin ANT+ key.
Have a Mac or Windows PC? Meet the 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 version of USB, USB1, only transmits information on 4 channels. New and improved USB2 has the ability to transmit data on 8 channels. This is the one you need. How many Sufferlandrians are content to soft pedal with 4 when they could go 8? My point exactly. 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 (Confirmed to work by Sufferlandrians)
TACX ANT+ Antenna (Confirmed to work by Sufferlandrians)
Quarq ANT+ USB (Confirmed to work by Sufferlandrians)
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.
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.
Understanding Device Connections in The Sufferfest App
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. This is the launching pad, the final countdown before you blast off into the stratosphere of PAIN, MISERY and AGONY. There are few things on this screen that we want to highlight. First, make sure that ANT+ is set to "ON". If you're using Bluetooth for one or more of your sensors, make sure that Bluetooth is also set to "ON".
If they aren't, check your computer or device settings. You can usually enable Bluetooth by clicking the icon on the toolbar, or by swiping up on iOS devices and tapping the Bluetooth icon. If ANT+ is showing as "OFF", check the connection of the ANT+ USB dongle. Unplug it and then plug it back in. 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. 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. Both of these can hijack your ANT+ device like a Couchlandrian hijacks the butt-groove of a well-used sofa and prevent the Garmin USB dongle from connecting to The Sufferfest app.
To Close Garmin Express or FitBit, simply double-click or right click the icon and select 'Quit'.
You have two options when setting up devices. You can scan for all devices or select your devices individually. To scan for devices, select the "Scan Devices" button. If your devices aren't listed, then enter the menu for a particular sensor (cadence, heart rate, or power) by clicking or tapping on the icon.
The first device we will set up is power. This can be a smart trainer like the Wahoo KICKR, a power meter like the Stages crank arm, or a standard resistance trainer like the Kurt Kinetic trainer--assuming you are using a speed sensor to calculate virtual power. (If you are setting up a power meter and are having trouble with cadence readings, please read our Power Meter Article.)
Compatible smart trainers will show up on this menu, along with the protocol they are using to communicate with your device (either ANT+ or Bluetooth). If they are not showing up, please restart your trainer or turn the cranks to wake up your power meter. After that, it is just a matter of selecting the device you want to use.
NOTE FOR WAHOO KICKR / KICKR SNAP USERS: Because the Wahoo KICKR series of smart trainers transmits on both Bluetooth and ANT+ FE-C (a version of ANT+ that allows apps to control the trainer), your trainer will show up three times: Once as Wahoo KICKR on ANT+, once as Wahoo KICKR on Bluetooth, and once as FE-C Bike Trainer. If you want to allow the app to control the resistance and power of your trainer automatically without you having to shift (also known as "ERG mode"), you must select FE-C Bike Trainer. Even though "Wahoo KICKR" is not part of the device description, the FE-C Bike Trainer you see listed is the option you want. Selecting Wahoo KICKR on ANT+ will only transmit power information from your KICKR to The Sufferfest app.
After you select your trainer, you can complete a spin down test, which calibrates the power meter. You'll then be given the option to select either ERG mode or a standard resistance setting. ERG mode, also know 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. All (all?) you have to do is suffer. All suffering, without giving a shift. Sign us up.
If you don't have a smart trainer 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 power'. 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 Power)
If your trainer is not listed, never fear. We have a general trainer built into the The Sufferfest app that you can use. Select the type of trainer you are using and then select the ANT+ speed sensor installed on your bike. You may have to move the wheel or pedal to wake up your sensor and allow the app to detect it. If the trainer you are using for virtual power is not listed, email TheMinions@TheSufferfest.com and we will add it to our database.
We know, cadence sensors for Sufferlandrians seem moot. The only reading they display is "blindingly fast". That said, nothing beats low cadence work for building raw power. 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, select 'Continue'.
The last sensor is the heart rate monitor. Attach your monitor and wait for the display to detect it. Once you see your heart rate displayed, select continue.
What is that I hear? A Sufferlandrian screaming? And not from The Long Scream? If you've followed the steps in this connection guide and are still experiencing issues, fear not. The Minions at Sufferlandrian Services hear your cries for help. There are additional steps you can take to troubleshoot your device connections:
- For MAC/Windows App users Troubleshooting Sensor/PowerMeter Connections
- For iPhone/iPad users Troubleshooting Sensor/PowerMeter Connections
And of course you can always email us with questions or concerns at:TheMinions@TheSufferfest.com