A look at CompuTrainer ANT+ integration via ctANT+

On Wednesday an application developer jumped onto the scene with what is probably the coolest new completed CompuTrainer development in years: The ability to use ANT+ sensors directly with CompuTrainer.  This replaces much of the cabling that is typically required when setting up your bike.  I say ‘completed CompuTrainer development’, because while RacerMate One might also fall into the ‘development’…it’s still not yet completed – a year after it was first announced. So let’s focus on the ctANT+ application, which allows you to connect those ANT+ heart rate straps, cadence sensors and even power meters.  But why would you want to do this you might ask? Well, for many users of the CompuTrainer, they likely have cadence sensors that are already on their bikes, and probably ANT+ ones at that.  The challenge is that each time I want to use the CompuTrainer I have to finagle the wired CompuTrainer cadence sensors (with those 10’ long wires) onto the frame, moving  my other normal ANT+ cadence sensor out of the way (the one I use outdoors).  While this isn’t exactly a show-stopper, it is one of the biggest gripes for most CT users.  Add to that the heart rate strap reliability issues for many users.  And while the latest HR cable that does address some of those issues, this removes the HR cabling altogether. Finally, for users and operators of multi-user CompuTrainer centers (the ones where you go to a location and ride against others), this allows them a much easier setup and pairing process – allowing them to save and setup ANT+ accessories wirelessly.  But we’ll get into that more in a bit. First, let’s get this puppy installed!  To do so, you simply download the application from their site.  You can download a free fully functional trial version that works for 5 minutes before exiting – to test everything out.  Or you can pay for the non-time limited version.  For the purposes of this post, I just used the free trial version.  After downloading, just walk through the steps to install, it takes about 2 minutes: Capture4 During the install it’ll make an educated guess at your COM port configuration.  For most of you, this will be automagic, but for others (like me) it might take a bit of poking to get it all settled out.  Once I realized the trick was to change the two ports it wanted to use initially to something that the CT wasn’t already using (I ultimately selected 15/16) then life was perfect! Capture3 Now’s a good time to mention that this application leverages the usual ANT+ stick that comes with almost all of the more advanced Garmin Forerunner watches (FR310XT/FR610/FR405/FR410).  If you don’t have the stick, no worries, you can pick one up for about $30 off of Amazon. IMG_5120 With that all set, we’ll go ahead and get the ctANT+ application all started up.  Once you’ve done that, you’ll be brought to the main screen, which looks like below: image From here we’ll want to get everything all configured, so I’ll head into preferences: Capture6 This is where I can manually add sensors (though you can also do automatic ANT+ pairing), and adjust settings.  It’s in here that you’ll want to change the last dropdown box listed to be that of the CompuTrainer’s normal COM port.  Essentially your tricking the CompuTrainer software into thinking that the application is the CompuTrainer handlebar unit.  In turn, when you go into the CompuTrainer software (be it Coaching Mode, 3D Mode, Real Courses, etc…) you simply tell it to use the port number listed in the 1st of three port boxes below (15 in my case): Capture16 When it comes to sensors, you can either manually add them if you know the sensor ID, or you can do automatic pairing just like on a normal Garmin head unit.  Since I was in a room with my fiancée as well and her bike and HR sensors were around, I simply added the ANT+ ID’s in manually, which worked great.  I just read these off of my Garmin unit, which lists sensor ID’s. You’ll note that I can name the sensors whatever I want, that way later on if I have different rides with different bikes/sensors I can simply use the drop-down boxes in the application to change the data streams. Capture21Capture8 With all my sensors added, I’m pretty much ready to roll.  In my case I also added my ANT+ power meter into the mix.  There’s really no specific power related reason to do this as the CT itself measures power.  In my case though, I let it use the cadence provided by my power meter (Quarq Cinqo) instead of using a dedicated cadence or cadence combo sensor, such as the GSC-10.  The application supports both dedicated ANT+ cadence sensors, as well as ANT+ combo speed/cadence sensors.  The GSC-10 is considered a combo sensor, as is the Bontrager DuoTrap that works in Trek bikes. Bobs-DuoTrap Note that speed won’t be used from the GSC-10 though, and instead it’ll use the CompuTrainer speed via the resistance unit.  Which makes sense, since that’d be more accurate and absolute anyway. Now that we’re ready, let’s press the Active button to get things cooking – you’ll immediately see my ANT+ data streamed into the application, per below. Capture12 Look ma, no cadence or HR wires! IMG_1734

(Only the handlebar to PC wire and the trainer wire is connected)

Now that we’ve ctANT+ working, we simply launch the CompuTrainer application that you want to use.  Typically, I hang out in Coaching Mode – so I launched that.  For the purposes of this screen shot I placed the ctANT+ application onto the Coaching Software application, normally it’s hidden. Capture17 You can see above that the HR (left pink) on the CS application (in background) matches that of my ANT+ driven HR in the ctANT+ application.  Same goes for cadence (left yellow number) and power (upper left green).  The lower green power (180) is the load the CT was generating at that exact second – basically what I set via the handlebar unit.  Btw, the handlebar unit functions work just like normal (Stop/Start, Increase/Decrease, etc…). Finally, along the bottom you’ll notice a little pop-up that shows the ANT+ data values as well.  You can turn this on or off if you’d like.  I like it as it’s a nice little reminder that everything is happy. image If you happen to use other apps – like the 3D application (chasing the little man!) or the Real Course Videos, it works flawlessly as well: CT11 Essentially the ctANT+ works by simply putting itself in between the handlebar unit and the standard CompuTrainer software acting as a middleman (which btw, also works with Erg Videos).  So it feeds in the ANT+ data in a way that makes the CompuTrainer software application believe that it’s just regular sensor data.  The developer has also noted that once RacerMate One comes out, if it requires any changes, they’ll release an update for free. All in all this is a sweet application. Though to be frank, it’s also functionality that I’ve long since said that RacerMate should have added quite some time ago.  Also note that one caveat is that Spinscan won’t work with the application, though I suspect that’s probably not a huge deal for most users.  Outside of that, everything else works just as normal. As for the future of the application – I think there’s lots of cool potential.  In talking with the developer, he notes that he’s working on a variant that will work with larger CompuTrainer multirider setups for large facilities, allowing you to do an all ANT+ configuration and avoid the messiness of cadence and HR sensor wires. IMG_1733 If you want to give it a whirl you can download the free trial version, steal a neighbors USB ANT+ stick (if you don’t have one), and be up in running in a few minutes.  Once you validate it works, it’ll cost you $50 to buy the application long term.  A bit pricey, though compared to the cost of the CompuTrainer at $1,400+, somewhat a drop in the (big) bucket.  For me though, I’m happy to pay the $50 for this functionality (and just did after writing all this up) – just wish I had it years ago! Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

38 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Absolutely Brilliant - note to Racermate... we have been asking for years for this and now someone else is going to make coin out it. Fantastic!!

    Reply
  2. I am guessing I missed it but would this be a separate product that only integrates ant+ technology or is it a Computrainer type product for much cheaper?

    Reply
  3. Racermate should look into hiring this fellow or buying his application. It would be a great addition to the standard issue software.

    Reply
  4. Racermate really don't have a clue. They're so convinced that their SpinScan technology is required to use their software and load generator, that they continually overlook the obvious.

    You shouldn't buy a CompuTrainer to ride 3d, or do their distance-based videos. You buy a CompuTrainer to improve your p/w ratio over different and varying or specific periods of time. Their inaction on updating both their software and hardware is inexcusable, and it takes people like this to show them that they are almost useless.

    There are over 30,000 CT owners out there, and I bet you a dollar that over 25,000 of them don't know how to properly use the system, and have experienced levels of frustration with equipment, software, and customer service that led them to mothball the thing. Those who DO know how to use it, get something good out of it, but right now, the company is dealing with a 20-year old product that they continue to duct-tape together.

    I make no secret about this: If anyone with $6m laying around wants to either buy this company and turn it in to a real paradigm shifter, or instead go solo and build something better, faster, more modern, and cheaper, well, I have the business model and would love to talk with you about it. There's no reason why we couldn't take the device to 12 or 15,000 units per year.

    Kevin has done a great service, and I hope to work with him on further development in multirider settings. Chapeau!

    Reply
  5. Whareagle said "You shouldn't buy a CompuTrainer to ride 3d, or do their distance-based videos. You buy a CompuTrainer to improve your p/w ratio over different and varying or specific periods of time"

    I'll agree with this totally for the hardcore rider always in training mode.
    For me, I enjoy the ability to do specific training too, but also like to ride 3D courses either to test myself against a previous performance or to "get some time in" without getting very bored.
    The remainder of your comments about Racermate are accurate. It's somewhat surprising they've lasted other than there is no great alternative.
    PS - while I understand the premise of the software discussed in the blog, I'm surprised most people don't have a dedicated bike to mount permanently on the Computrainer. Once the wires are in place, what's the problem?

    Reply
  6. Corey

    I wonder how RacerMate is going to take this? A lot of companies would just send a cease and desist. If I remember right ErgVideo is the only one licensed to write software for the computrainer.

    It may not be a bad idea to buy the software now rather than later...

    Reply
  7. Quix

    This is awesome. I love my Computrainer but agree that the setup is my least favorite part of the whole deal. I also wish that Computrainer had spent more R&D in keeping inovation in both their hardware and software.

    Still a good product, just not as great/revolutionary as it once was.

    Reply
  8. I wonder why CT don´t license their software for those who don´t feel the need to buy the whole CT unit (my case). Instead, using a Garmin or any other ANT+ device, use ANY trainer, plug this ctANT+ in, you get a very good training system without having to spend tons of money with CT.

    Something like IBM and Microsoft idea, you don´t need the hardware, only the software with 3rd party hardware.

    They have also the real time videos, which would compensate for the loss of the eventual CT units not sold.

    My bet is that they would sell a lot more with SW than CT units. But I think they know what they are doing, right?

    Reply
  9. Just a couple comments from the thread, and the comments, if I may,

    1) DC commented on the lateness of RacerMate One. Yes, we are almost a year from its announcement. We had no choice but to announce it because we knew it was a huge undertaking (larger than even we thought) and we would have to devote 100% of our resources to it - and then some. We announced it to off-set any idea in peoples minds that we were not doing anything (that they could see), when in fact we were.

    2) As for this ctANT+ product... it appears to work with RacerMate One as far as we can tell and I will push for it to stay around - as is - as long as the support for it stays with him.

    3) I have no power to make #2 happen, but I will try (like I always do).

    4) For all our faults... as seen by some... true or not... people are still kicking some a$$ by using a product that was developed 25 years ago and is still, at that-level-of-development, better than any attempt by many others (some spending far more than 6MIL) to better it.

    5) I am just about to contact DC to test and review the RC of RacerMate One software. Stay tuned.

    Reply
  10. Hmmm sounds realy good .
    I was just thinking to buy the computrainer but did i understand right there is as well a harware change ongoing or is it just software

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    Great innovation DC Rainmaker. Folks just take a look at GoldenCheetah an open source software that runs the computrainer on Mac (natively) or PC or Linux.
    Yes that is right also the alpha release of 3.0 does have ANT support. Oh yea open source=free . Amazing what can happen when you get outside or Redmond Washington. Yes Computrainer Hardware is GREAT but it takes hours of studying and planning to design the best workout because the company didn't try to innovate all along

    Reply
  12. Whareagle, where did the 6m number come from? Just curious.

    Reply
  13. @Roger, shouldn't you be working? Maybe on some software and hardware issues that have been known know for, oh, A DECADE? These are no longer suggestions, they're demands.

    You're still pushing a product that loves 800x600, requires that you UNPLUG THE COMPUTER CONNECTION to calibrate in multirider mode, continues to push slope and distance workouts and pretty pictures and uses really obsolete interfaces? Are Wilifiried or Chuck actually listening, or are you blocking them from the thousands of irate customers who have all but given up and gone back to Ptap or on to TACX? Hubris.

    @KML5, email me directly and we'll talk. Roger is feeling threatened.

    Ray - keep being HONEST about your reviews. Expose ALL of it. Good, Bad, and Ugly. It's the only objective way to get the market to wake up some times.

    Reply
  14. Thanks all for the comments - glad to see everyone is excited about the innovation, and glad to see that RacerMate doesn't plan to try and block it. I think that's good for everyone.

    Anon (RE: GC):

    Yeah, I've been following the Golden Cheetah developments for some time (on that DistroList). And have featured it in the past in various stages (including ANT+ sensor realtime back it was shown nearly 18 months ago as a side add-on project). I think it has some amazing potential.

    Thanks all!

    Reply
  15. Ray, I appreciate you letting me anti-rant. That is truly fair of you.

    To be clear... I am not feeling threatened at all. But if it makes [some of] you feel better to think so, go for it. I am just making sure there is a balance made to comments posted out in the universe - some of them true, part truth, and some wholly untrue.

    For instance, a wholly untruth is that we have "thousands of irate customers [who] have all but given up and gone back to Ptap or on to TACX?". All I can say to that is if they exist, they must only be communicating with whareagle. Where is this in evidence that you can make this statement?

    Sure, truth is we have requests for improvements. I am not sitting here trying to say we don't need them. Some are really needed, but to be clear with the reader - 95% of requests on any given day has been for new software - not new hardware. I have tried to get every known request for improvements into the new software.

    On that note, the latest software has not one restriction mentioned in whareagle's rant. The new software includes no duct tape, but will probably see lots of patches as we [can now] add a lot of cool new features now that the foundation for it has been rebuilt.

    @DC - I did not say RacerMate will or won't do anything about ctANT+ -- I only said I will not push for anything. I set no policies for RacerMate.

    I will say that it does circumnavigate key software "we" would have to include if "we" were to do it, which runs in our controller. So don't think it is doing what we would do - because it isn't. You can't say, "Oh, I can use my ANT device now and that is all that matters." Well, maybe "you" can say that, but "we" can't. You have to find that distinction. This is why I've held my ground on why we have not done it yet. We can't do it just in software. Simple as that.

    @Marc - the only hardware change we are doing is an easy key-pad swap to allow more control in the new software.

    Thanks for your time.

    Reply
  16. I'm scared for your computer monitor.

    Reply
  17. DD

    Hmm... CT Ant's website has been down for about 24 hours now... wonder what's going on?

    Reply
  18. DD - It works fine for me (and has been for the past 24 hours). May be something with your Internet, try using a proxy site, like link to proxify.com.

    Reply
  19. Any chance you are going to test the Cycle-Ops PowerBeam Pro trainer? I believe it has built in ANT+ and am curious as to the pros/cons of the ProBeam vs Computrainer.

    Reply
  20. Anonymous

    This is worth it just to be able to use a HRM that actually works for once!

    Reply
  21. Hello i was woundering why the spinnscan does not work..
    Ray o ou hav any explication and might it be possile to integrte it later with ant+ or is this something special?

    Reply
  22. I've been told it's due to the additional sensitivities that the CT-provided cadence sensor has that the ANT+ cadence sensor doesn't have, specifically around sub-second recording intervals.

    Reply
  23. I know its late but - Ray and Roger, if either of you are still monitoring this thread - why not hook up Garmin and RacerMate and build a GSC-10CT that's exactly the same as the current model, but with a little plug covering a jack for the CompuTrainer unit (or anything else) to plug into and receive actual-time pulses?

    No annoying duplicate sensors, no velcro, and leave it unplugged if you don't want SpinScan but attach it if you do. Price it at $70 and sell it to every one of those 30,000 users - and it'd only cost an extra nickel or two to build!

    Reply
  24. Hi Richard-

    That would be pretty cool, especially given there are plenty of OEM'able variants on the GSC-10 that could be used as a baseline.

    I'd have to defer to Roger if they've looked at such an option though.

    Reply
  25. Awesome. Thanks for your review

    Reply
  26. Ray, you just made my day AGAIN! We have a new Computrainer that won't pick up HR from coded or non-coded straps and despite the horrendously clunky old-school software and awful UI, it's an amazing tool (the CT) that I forsee not being able to live without. Being able to use Ant+? Total win. Thanks for your reviews!

    Reply
  27. FYI/Random Note: The latest version now allows you to transmit ANT+ as well, thus you can transmit out the CompuTrainer power meter/speed/cadence/HR as ANT+ signals that any ANT+ device (like a Garmin) can pickup. That way you can easily just record it on your existing devices.

    Reply
  28. Ron

    Good, a recent comment. have you found ctAnt to work with Racermate One?

    Reply
  29. I haven't tried it yet (RM1).

    I'd guess it might work, only because ctANT+ is just emulating the serial port and sitting in between. Meaning that RM1 in theory never knows about it.

    I'll see if I can get a test copy from the RM1 guys in two weeks at Interbike. I'm just really not terribly excited about spending $200 of my own cash to buy something I'm not a big fan of.

    Reply
  30. I've decided on getting a dedicated PC for my cycling.

    Any recommendations? This is to run the Computrainer software.

    Reply
  31. TB

    Revisiting an older discussion... CT Ant+ does work with MR1.

    Note: Turn off the Garmin Ant+ Agent before launching CT Ant_

    Also... unplug the HR receiver from the handlebar controller. Otherwise CT Ant+ data won't reach the CT. Seem obvious in retrospect.

    The good news, CT finally has a way to monitor heart rate consistently. (The new cable is useless...)

    Ray - Thanks for making this solution known.

    Reply
  32. Carlos

    Anyone knows if the company behind Ct-Ant+ is still in business? I've tried contacting them but there's no reply
    If they are still in business can't understand their lack of support. They had no problem accepting my money.

    Reply
  33. Jim

    I've gotten responses from ctANT+ recently. We may be just talking about a very small company (ala one guy who wrote some cool code)

    Reply
  34. Chris

    just stumbled acros this in a search for ANT+ integration with CompuTrainer data. Great article. I've never used ANT+ devices before so I'm not familiar with the stick. Does the stick communicate with only one ANT+ device. For example, my wife has a PowerTap and would prefer to use the cadence from it since it's wireless and reliable just as you mentioned. If she also had an ANT+ heart rate strap, like a Garmin, would she need 2 sticks or only one? If the answer is only 1, then would it also work for me with another HR monitor (we have 2 CT's and often ride at the same time) or would that require a 2nd stick. Again, thanks for the great article.

    Reply
  35. JPMJR

    Hey DC,
    Just figured I’d let you know when using hte Suunto Movestick Mini with ctANT+ (HR and Cadence) my cadence keeps fluctuating from accurate to 50% accurate. I swapped out the suunto for a garmin unit and the problem went away. I’m still testing to see if I can figure out exactly what the issue is.

    Reply
  36. It doesn't appear that this software is being supported any longer. I had problems getting it to work and wrote three times to the developer (over a period of a couple of weeks) and never received a reply.

    I don't know if I'd even recommend trying it because if it doesn't work then you've wasted all that time installing and testing. If it does work and you buy it but then later encounter a problem, then you're out of luck and you've lost your money as the developer does not respond to support requests.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      That sucks. My recommendation at this point is using Trainer Road's Power Relay option, it's what I've been using the last few months for getting the CompuTrainer to ANT+. Works great.

      Reply
  37. kb

    I have not been able to integrate ctAnt+ HR/RPM into RacerMateOne. The ctAnt+ displays HR and RPM correctly, but the RacerMateOne window does not show it. Any suggestions how I can get these two to talk to each other?

    thank you.

    Reply

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