ANT+ vs Bluetooth for Indoor Cycling

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Written By James Quilter

Passionate cyclist and content creator

“Increasingly, indoor cycling apps have become an essential component of training for cyclists. These apps provide the ability to monitor performance, receive immediate feedback, and connect with fellow cyclists.”

But while these apps are great – there’s nothing more annoying than a workout ending with a connection failure.

In this article, we’ll discuss two types of connectivity, ANT+ vs Bluetooth. What makes each type of connection reliable, weaknesses, strengths, and what might cause them to fail?

How is ANT+ used in indoor cycling

ANT+ is a wireless technology used by many devices to connect to each other. Besides cycling apps, this includes computers, smartphones, tablets, fitness trackers, etc. 

ANT+ uses the same frequency range as Wi-Fi and BlueTooth (2.4GHz) but has a slower transmission speed than either one. ANT+ works within shorter ranges, usually no greater than 5 feet.

Unlike Bluetooth, you will need a dongle to connect ANT+ to your device. See below for more or tap here for our round up review of the best ANT+ dongle.

Connect-Zwift-to-AppleTV-infographic ANT+ vs Bluetooth for Indoor Cycling
There are a number of ways to connect with either BLE or ANT+

You can connect multiple devices at once so you don’t need one device for each function. 

Multiple ANT+ enabled devices can operate within the same band, there shouldn’t be any issues with interference between them. 

Advantages of ANT+

In addition to interoperability, ANT+ offers several advantages over competing technologies, such as Bluetooth. These include:

• Speed – ANT+ is much faster than Bluetooth because it uses less power.

• Range – ANT+ operates at longer distances than Bluetooth.

• Security – ANT+ has built-in security features that make it difficult for unauthorized users to access the network.

Disadvantages of ANT+

The disadvantages of using the ANT+ protocol there is no standardization for the protocol andit can be used in a variety of devices, even though they are from different companies.

The price of ANT+ equipment is higher than that of Bluetooth equipment. However, this may be offset by the fact that ANT+ technology is easier to implement.

ANT+ Connection Problems 

ANT+ is great for connecting lots of hardware but it can be a bit cranky. Here’s a quick run through on what to do if you’re connection keeps dropping off. 

1. Check other devices are not interfering

Wifi is usually the guilty culprit. But check other devices are not interfering with your ANT+ dongle. 

2. Close programs and processes

Each one could interfere with the USB port your ANT+ dongle is in. 

3. Get a powered USB hub

USB ports suck power. A powered USB removes this issue.

How is Bluetooth used in indoor cycling

Bluetooth technology has been widely adopted for use in fitness devices such as heart rate monitors, pedometers, wristbands, and other types of wearable sensors.

There are two types of Bluetooth technology: Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Bluetooth Classic. BLE is designed to conserve battery life on mobile devices while still providing fast data transfer speeds.

Bluetooth Classic provides faster data transfers but requires more power than BLE.

Advantages of Bluetooth

Bluetooth’s biggest advantage is its low cost. Because there are no expensive hardware components involved, Bluetooth technology costs much less than wired solutions like USB or serial ports.

Another benefit is that it technology works with no cables or usb dongles.

Also, it’s safer to provide a connecton. Bluetooth signals travel at such high frequencies that they’re not affected by interference from walls, floors, or ceilings.

Devices designed for use with multiple simultaneous Bluetooth connections may support up to four different connections at once. BLE technology allows for transmission speeds up to 16 times faster than ANT+.

Disadvantages of Bluetooth

While Bluetooth has many advantages, it has some drawbacks. One major drawback is that Bluetooth connections aren’t as secure as wired connections. 

Bluetooth-enabled devices cannot always connect with multiple devices at once. You could only pair your heart rate monitor to another device like Zwift or a head unit, rather than two devices at once. 

Cycling applications and connecting 

Zwift supports a lot of trainers. Many of these broadcast in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE); ANT+; or both.

The latest hardware supports the up-to-date ANT+ and BLE protocols. According to Zwift, BLE gives you a stronger signal. 

Zwift says BLE is the preferred pairing option for most devices. As BLE signals don’t adhere to any specific devices, they’re unlikely to interfere with other’ transmissions. You need to ensure Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) support for both of your trainer and laptop/ smart device.

ANT+ supports the use and connection (or pairing) of multiple ANT+ supported devices at the same time. That means that you can measure a variety of metrics on the indoor trainer.

It also allows you to connect and measure various types of sensors with no kind of interference, and without needing multiple cables or devices to connect them together.

What is Bluetooth FE-C

All smart trainers use ANT+ and Bluetooth FE-C (Fitness Equipment-Control) technology speak to the device with the indoor cycling app.

The FE-C is a protocol created by the ANT+ organisation for smart trainers and controllers. ANT+ grants certain products the “FE-C” label if their performance fits a criteria for training apps like Zwift and Trainerroad. 

Use an ANT+ dongle to connect to a PC

You will need a USB ANT+ dongle receives the signals sent by your smart trainer sensor. Most USB 2.0 ANT+ dongle should work with any cycling app.

Zwift suggests using the USB-M because it has proved to be the most reliable device during testing. You need an extra USB extension cord if you want to use the adapter close to your computer for a better reception. 

ANT+ vs Bluetooth

So what one is best – ANT+  or Bluetooth. It depends on the setup, but I would go for Bluetooth BLE. It gives you a stronger signal, and it is more likely to keep you connected. 

However, nothing is infallible. Your connection we fail sometime or other. Often it will be nothing to do with the signal, but will be down to other process going on in your smart device.