JUMP TO:

How to get and record cadence information on a spin or gym bike

DSC_0561

Tonight, I had an epiphany.  Or at least, I had an improvement upon an idea that I had planned for months.

One question I get a lot is how to measure cadence on an indoor spin bike, or gym stationary bike.  Basically – a bike you don’t own, and can’t mess with.  Hotel, cycling studio, gym, rec center, etc…

For the last few months I’d been carrying around the Wahoo RPM* in my travel suitcase.  And every single time I’d check into a hotel I’d plan to see if I could execute my vision of somehow tweaking the little blue sensor and making it work for a hotel exercise bike to get cadence information.  Initially, I figured I’d have to strap it to the crank arm in some manner.  By default, it comes with zip ties and stickies.  Hardly ideal for a gym bike, but certainly doable.  I figured I’d then perhaps come up with some clever solution involving Velcro.

*Detour – Wahoo RPM Backgrounder: The RPM is a small Bluetooth Smart pod that’s designed to attach to your bike crank arm, and measure cadence without any magnets – using accelerometers instead.  I posted about it when they first announced it back at Interbike.  I haven’t spent any time with it outdoors yet, or on a real bike.  My experience is solely on a hotel gym bike in Helsinki.  At some point between now and the future I’ll put together a full review when I dig more into accuracy outdoors on a bike (things like stability on rough roads, limitations of cadence levels, etc…).  Because of the way it’s designed with the rubber case system, you could actually have it for your regular bike, and then when you head to the gym/hotel trip, simply pop it out of the little rubber case and take it with you.

So tonight, I set out with the standard Wahoo RPM packaging, plopped it on the beach-cruiser seat of the hotel gym bike, and got ready to begin tinkering.

DSC_0513

First, before I dealt with any of the zip ties or sticky tape, I decided to be lazy and just see if setting it on top of my shoe laces would work.  I figured maybe the motion would still somehow work:

DSC_0522

Well, turns out, that answer was bupkis.  I got absolutely nothing actually registered on the phone, while the exercise bike showed RPM:

DSC_0523

It’s at this point that I pondered how to turn it vertical on my shoe-laces, to see if that made a difference.  While doing so, I realized – why not just put it on the side of my sock inside my shoe– and see if that measures:

DSC_0528

DSC_0527

Approximately 1 second after spinning up to speed, I had this:

DSC_0525

Bingo baby!

It turns out, that the simple orientation of it was all that mattered.  And of course, that makes complete sense – as the unit is designed to be vertical when it attaches to your bike crank.

Thus, I could pedal all day long and the Wahoo RPM matched my actual RPM, within about 1-RPM.  I was pretty damn stoked.  Most importantly, this required absolutely zero messing with stuff on the bike.  And even better, didn’t require affixing anything to my shoes either.  And since (almost) everyone has a foot that goes into the shoe, it’s a universal solution.

DSC_0534

The footpod is small enough that you don’t really feel it after about 3 seconds.  It just sits there and hangs out.  I left the rubber case on, but you could just as easily remove it.  Though, I found the rubber case does a good job at keeping it in place – versus the slightly slicker plastic internal pod which might slide under your foot:

DSC_0546

For fun, I made this video; simply recording about 2 minutes worth at varying RPM levels:

Now, as you can see in the video, I did notice that below about 60-65 RPM’s I got some odd drop-outs, and above about 110RPM’s I saw some odd spikes.  It’s unclear why exactly I saw the spikes, though I suspect at least on the higher-RPM spikes it’s because my shoes weren’t clipped in to the bike, so there’s some bouncing and therefore, since it’s accelerometer based, that bounce would be at a higher acceleration than expected.

For me, this is interesting because it makes it easier to capture some of my indoor trainer workouts that I’d normally do on my trainer, and also get that data while indoors on a hotel gym bike – since I travel quite a bit.

The Simple Spin Steps Summarized:

So here, in short is what you need to make this work.

1) You’ll need the Wahoo RPM Bluetooth Smart pod.

2) You’ll need some phone that supports Bluetooth Smart devices.  That could be any iPhone 4s or higher, or any Android 4.3 phone.

3) You’ll need to grab the Wahoo Fitness app (free).  If on Android, then the Android variant from Wahoo’s beta site.

4) Once that’s done, I created a new profile for indoor cycling.  I called it RPM Spin, just so I could remember it.

IMG_4629 IMG_4630

5) In that profile, I disabled GPS, and then I added (paired) the Wahoo RPM sensor.  Once you do that, it’ll automatically change the ‘Speed & Distance’ & ‘Cadence’ fields on the left, to be the Wahoo RPM.  But just validate it just to be sure.

IMG_4632 IMG_4634

6) After saving that, I went out to the main screen and validated that the sensor showed at the top of the page as connected, showing the ‘1’ next to sensors.

IMG_4635

7) Then, I started the workout.  Then I rode.  And that’s all one needs to write.

IMG_4637

8) During the workout, it showed me my cadence on the screen – which, isn’t terribly exciting in itself.  But it would also record heart rate as well, and you can do splits and stuff (such as for different segments of the workout).

9) At the end of the workout, I saved the workout, and then uploaded it to my favorite sites.  Wahoo supports all the majors, from Strava to Training Peaks to Garmin Connect and many more.

IMG_4646 IMG_4645

10) The data is then available on those sites to look at, just like any other ride I’d do:

CadenceSnippet

That’s all there is to it!

Note, down the road when Polar releases their V800 triathlon watch, all these steps would work with that, since that supports the Bluetooth Smart cadence sensor device profile.

With that, I leave you in amazement at my late night hotel gym prowess.  Or at least, my laziness in just deciding to stick it inside my shoe.  Either way – hope this helps.

Thanks for reading!

86 Comments

  1. Frank

    What about distance? would the distance possible to be recorded? tks

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No, unfortunately not, as right now there isn't a way to convert the accelerometer to measure distance because there isn't a translation of resistance (wattage) that would otherwise impact speed.

      Reply
    • Mike replied

      This looks interesting... link to pafers.com. Not sure if it is available yet?

      Reply
    • Graham replied

      @mike - Those are available in my local Apple Store..in Halifax, Canada, so i would expect a few bigger places have them too.

      Reply
    • JR replied

      This is awesome, thank you for sharing.

      Reply
  2. Anders

    Would it be possible to use the RPM on the wheel for measuring distance instead of cadence?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hmm, that'd be interesting on the wheel itself. In that case though, it'd see that as a 'rotation' like cadence, rather than a 'pass' like a wheel magnet. I suspect however that Wahoo could actually program the unit to understand wheel rotations instead and then change around the spec to assume a given wheel circumference and thus a given speed (and thereby distance).

      Reply
  3. Tommies

    Crazy,
    i bought a Spinning bike and i was thinking to do the same thing !!!

    Reply
  4. KeithS

    The 3rd party neoprene ankle things for holding race transponders would work great for this. Very comfortable

    Reply
  5. Dan

    If you had a timing chip band laying around, you could use that to attach to your ankle.

    Reply
  6. Shouldn't this also work with any of the ANT+ cadence sensors? I usually use the FR610 for my spinning sessions and I'd love to get the cadence data as well.
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Stephen Thomas replied

      ANT+ sensors (today) require a magnet as well as a pod. That can be tricky to add to a spin bike

      Reply
  7. I inadvertently left my garmin footpod on and inadvertently went on my MTB and inadvertently had my watch set to run mode. Sure enough up came cadence, it was wrong though.

    Same principle on any bike I guess.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yeah, you tend to see all wonkiness. I've played with it in the past - in general you can get 'patterns' out of it - but usually the correlation is a bit weird.

      Reply
  8. Jak

    Spinning bike is fixie, so cadence value can be use for speed and distance too.

    Reply
  9. pepe

    There is a possibility to use also adidas ant+ SPEED_CELL for cycling cadence.

    The adidas ant+ SPEED_CELL can also measure cadence, but only if you use it with the miCoach mobile app for iphone, and have chosen “cycling” as the activity.

    Reply
  10. Stephen Thomas

    You can also use PowerTap's PowerCal Bluetooth Smart to get heart rate and a rough power estimate. The Wahoo Fitness app doesn't support bluetooth power meters (yet), but RubiTrack for iOS does.

    Reply
    • Bruce Burkhalter replied

      Are you sure about Wahoo Fitness app not supporting bluetooth power meters? Doesn't the Wahoo KICKR talk to devices using bluetooth?

      I'm curious because I'm changing my Powertap power meter hub from ANT+ to bluetooth and assumed it would work with the Wahoo app.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It supports BT power meters. It was the first app to do so. Largely, because Wahoo developed the first BT power meter - both in a trainer as the Kinetic inRide, and then in a on-bike unit, as Stages cycling. They did all the under the hood work on the BT side of the equation and the apps.

      Reply
    • Bruce Burkhalter replied

      Thanks, Ray. That is interesting insight. From what I understand, pretty much every iOS app uses their library so I would assume Cyclemeter, Strava, etc. support BT power meters as well.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Correct, more or less. The challenge is whether said app has updated all the interfaces to support Bluetooth pairing. So there's a few steps that each app developer has to make to enable that.

      Reply
  11. Joe Salani

    I have been trying to think of a way to get some additional data while on a spin bike.... I have been using my Garmin 800 for heart rate, but I will assume the garmin won't pick up the Wahoo RPM??... if not how to i get my iPhone to pick up heart rate from the Garmin or Polar chest strap?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Correct, at this time the Wahoo RPM doesn't transmit ANT+ (which is what the Garmin unit understands). Now, Wahoo has stated that they expect to update/make all sensors dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart by the end of the year, so, I'd assume this would fall in that same camp as well.

      Reply
  12. MikeWillis

    My only questions is; why does Ray Maker, man of technology, own an iPhone?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      As opposed to...?

      (Side note: I actually own lots of phones: iPhone 5s, 4s, Android Samsung S3, Nexus 7, Nokia 820 and 920 Windows Phone...).

      Reply
    • Turn The Damn Cranks replied

      Because it "just works" and has a superior app ecosystem?

      Reply
    • Mitch replied

      Ray,
      Keen to see more on Windows Phone connectivity and any apps you might recommend.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Without question the best fitness app these days on Windows Phone is the Adidas one. I believe it's got another BLE related update coming along as well here shortly (the app), to fix a few outstanding issues.

      Reply
  13. Joe Salani

    thanks..... can I get my garmin or polar chest strap to talk to my iPhone in the Wahoo app?? or do I have to buy their strap as well?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      If you have a Garmin strap, you'll need the ANT+ adapter from Wahoo Fitness - which works on a hundred or two hundred applications today (Strava/MapMyFitness/billion more).

      On the Polar straps, if you have a Polar H6/H7, then those are Bluetooth Smart, and would work with an iPhone 4s or later. Otherwise, no, no way to get the Polar straps onto your unit.

      If you have neither, then you can pickup any Bluetooth Smart strap (doesn't have to be Wahoo). Of note is the 4iiii's Viiiiva strap, which does both Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ (so Garmin) at the same time, so you can use it for both. Wahoo has a similar strap coming out in a few months.

      Reply
  14. Joe Salani

    think I got it... need a ANT+ adapter for my garmin strap to talk with iPhone... then Wahoo Cadence uses bluetooth to talk with iPhone, but will the both work together in the Wahoo app?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      The app can consolidate information from both ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart at the same time. So yup, no problems there.

      Reply
  15. Captain Chris

    It sure would be nice if my FR620 could capture this data.... Only 3 more months with this 4.1.3 Android.

    Reply
  16. Euro

    Swell, but what's the point of knowing your RPM? Anyone who has ridden more than a year or two should know what their cadence is within a few RPM without a sensor telling them.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No different than sensors on a outdoor bicycle really. And having a cadence sensor on a bike is pretty much the norm.

      Reply
    • ojvindegg replied

      I would say mainly for post-exercise analyzing. As you ride you'll feel the cadence, but it is interesting afterwards to see how your cadence, watts and pulse correlates. Eg. you're riding a hill, and want's to compare your rides; given the same pulse and cadence, does your speed/power increase?

      Reply
  17. philipp

    is it already available to order somewhere?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      At the moment, the RPM shows up on the US Wahoo site, but not the EU/Asia sites. I asked why, they said it'll show up next week.

      Reply
  18. philipp

    thanks Ray!

    Reply
  19. Simon

    Hi, Does any one know where can I buy the wahoo RPM buy itself. I am in Australia and the wahoo Australian website doesn't even mention it, I have been checking Amazon, ebay... but no luck
    Thanks
    Simon

    Reply
    • Simon replied

      Please ignore, just saw the previous post...

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It should show up next week on the Wahoo international websites. Kinda strange, I didn't realize it when I initially wrote it, but when back and checked with them.

      Reply
    • Simon replied

      Thanks Ray

      Reply
  20. Richard Kaufmann

    I can confirm that this trick works with the Adidas BLE footpod speed cell on an exercise bike. I tried it on an elliptical, but it doesn't appear to work reliably.

    And it's too easy to loose the footpad, by the way. That rubber sleeve trick is key.

    Reply
    • Richard Kaufmann replied

      I tried it (Adidas BLE speedcell in my sock, oriented vertically) again on the Precor elliptical. It works, but only going forwards (if you pedal in reverse, nothing good happens...). It's a little touchy, though.

      Reply
  21. Steven Vander Elst

    Ray,
    Any idea were to buy in Europe? I live in Brussels and I'm very interested in this gadget, especially tracking rpm while on a spinning bike (winter training)
    Thanks for the excellent post
    Regards, Steven

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      You can buy directly from Wahoo's site (which ships from within Europe). Apparently it's going live Monday in the EU store.

      Reply
  22. Tom Dineen

    I'm going to order this device - thanks!

    Reply
  23. Kenni Lund

    Hey Ray.
    Do you Think that the Wahoo RPM Will work with the tomtom multisport and the polar V800?
    PS: thanks for a great site.

    Kind regards
    Kenni

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yes, it will. The Wahoo RPM is a standard Bluetooth Smart Cadence sensor, that both the V800 and V650 support.

      Reply
    • Kenni Lund replied

      Thank you Ray. You really are a great help to many people, including me.

      Kind regards from snowy Denmark.

      Reply
  24. Tobias

    Hi Ray,
    looking at post 14, I still wonder if I understood well. Using the Garmin Footpod in the same way you used the Wahoo Pod and connected to my FR310XT will have the same result (cadence) as the Wahoo Pod linked to a BT device, or not? Isn't t the Technik of both pods quite similar??

    Cheers and greetings from Hamburg/Germany
    Tobi

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No, you can't use it in the same way - been there, tried that. It's not designed to measure in that orientation and/or type of cadence. No doubt Dynastream could likely easily re-program it do measure that, but definitely not for existing units.

      Reply
    • Tobias replied

      Thanks a lot Ray

      Reply
  25. AlisiaV

    Interesting -- and maybe I will try this. Like others, I am wanting distance, which is more important based on my level of training. I have the FR310 and love that I can wear it on treadmill (via footpod) and use the heart rate monitor on spin bike -- but then when connecting to garmin connect, I have to manuall input my distance, based on my bike monitor stats.And, sometimes I jump off the bike, and get side tracked and hours later when I connect to GC, oops -- my bike screen has turned off -- was that 7 miles today? 8, 5, 10?

    So, looking for better solution -- would LOVE to know of one. My treadmill and spin bike (le tour de france) both come with the IFIT website application, but I have stopped using that -- while cool at first, if I run outside, or do a cardio class or other activity, it doesn't show all activity, where as when using my FR310, all my acitivity is pushed to GC, and even though there is some need for manual input -- at least my activity and HR is captured.

    To others that might be interested, I found the following while searching for a Garmin FR option on spinner, it won't work for me since the LTDF has a back spin wheel -- not front spin wheel -- but found this quite creative:
    link to dmc360.com

    Reply
  26. MaverickNH

    So I can use a Viiiiva Bluetooth SMART strap to talk to my Polar Loop and Garmin 910XT, and my Samsung Galaxy S4 running the Wahoo Fitness Android beta to talk to the Wahoo RPM. Sweet. I don't really need to record RPM, as that only guides my spin cadence while the 910XT guides my %HRmax effort.

    Plenty of time w/o rideable roads left in this Winter...

    Reply
  27. bill feiges

    having used the cadence sensor for a few months now it is very reliable below 100 rpm above that it appears to get lost after watching your video when you sped up it failed to track well the time I need good cadence info is when I do speed drills trying to work with wahoo not getting very far although they are trying sent me a replacement same thing happened your thoughts thanks

    Reply
  28. Andrew Bucknill

    I use my RPM all the time for this - thanks for paving the way! I find it gets pretty jumpy above 100 rpm when it's in my shoe so I made a little Velcro sleeve for the crank ATM - it's definitely better but still some jumps at higher cadences.

    Reply
  29. AAG

    I have been using the Wahoo RPM as mentioned in the post for my last couple spin classes. I put it vertically in my sock. I find that the data jumps all over the place, especially when I get into 'climbs' where my cadence may drop down closer to 60 RPM (for example jumping rapidly between 15 and 60 RPM while I know I am maintaining a steady pace).

    Have you tried it since your original post and run into any of these issues? Do I possibly have the sensor setup incorrectly (I just linked it using the new Add Sensor functionality in the updated app)?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I could see it jumping temporarily when you change into climbing position (due to accelerometer shifts). The other question is how 'snug' it is. Any loose-ness at all will definitely affect it.

      I haven't played with it too much in a spin scenario since then. I have started using it outdoors on a bike, but only casually (not yet doing detailed comparison tests).

      Reply
  30. Jocke

    Hi.

    Would it work with polar beat?

    Reply
  31. Denise

    I used the Wahoo RPM in an indoor cycling class. While It was pretty accuractwhen it displayed the cadence, i was unable to have the HR display--the cadence displayed but cannot find setting to what to use to have the HR display as well. Is there another app besides wahoo fitness that i need?

    Thanks very much!!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      You would need to pair your HR strap to the Wahoo app as well in the sensors menu.

      Reply
  32. Hristo

    Is it possible to pair this sensor with my TOMTOM multi sport gps watch and measure the cadence?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No, unfortunately the TomTom units don't support cadence-only sensors. But rather just combo sensors.

      Reply
  33. Alessandro

    Unfortunately, wahoo fitness no longer sells the sensor alone, is there any alternative?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hmm, I suspect you're getting the EU site. For whatever reason Wahoo's EU site always lags behind, and is usually incorrect on some random item until pointed out. I'd e-mail Wahoo and find out when the EU site will be updated to show the RPM.

      Reply
    • Alessandro replied

      Correct, i'm writing from Italy. In eu site RPM is present only in bundle version...

      Reply
  34. Max

    Same Problem, the "cadence only" sensor is not available any more in europe: They just sell the dual sensor (speed & cadence) which is hard to mount on a spinning bike. Is there any alternative to the sensor ?

    And one more question: The sensors should also work with the runtastic Software, correct ?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Wahoo noted somewhere in a comment the last few days that it'll show back up on the EU site in about 2-3 weeks.

      Reply
    • Max replied

      Thank you, I now got also the comfirmation by garmin

      Reply
    • Max replied

      Actually it's still not available in Europe but the bundle with the PROTKT Bike Case & Mount for iPhone 5/5S is available. As I already planned to buy a case for the iPhone I bought this bundle for just 20 € more than the Cadence Sensor itsself and it was delivered 48h after I took the order
      link to eu.wahoofitness.com

      Reply
    • Kenni replied

      The RPM is now available in Europe.
      But I don't know if it is v1 or v2.
      And can someone help me with the difference?
      KR Kenni

      Reply
    • Kenni replied
      Reply
  35. Max

    First of all a BIG „Thank You“ to Wahoo who send me the newest version V2 of the sensor which supports Bluetooth LE and ANT+ similar. And also again a „Thank You” to DCR for this great Idea.

    Meanwhile I tried the Cadence-Sensor with three different Spinning bikes and everything works fine. Sometimes the signal is a bit delayed (2-3s), but this is just in case of a huge change of the cadence. I fixed the senor on my training shoe so all I have to do is to step into the pedal and start Spinning.

    I use the sensor together with the iCardio-App(Digifit) and it’s a perfect solution for Spinning. It’s a good motivation to see, how effective you train and to set a goal during the workout.

    For me Spinning makes much more fun now.

    Reply
  36. Garry Curley

    Hi Ray,

    Now the V800 is released and available, I wondered if you had a chance to play with this again. I have the V800 and with winter drawing in, plan on attending more gym "Spin" sessions and would like to capture more than just my HR alone. Do you think this is a suitable option?

    Kind Regards

    Garry

    Reply
    • Ray Maker replied

      Starting in the firmware later this month, the V800 will support this sensor. Today, it does not.

      Reply
    • Garry Curley replied

      Perfect!

      Thanks Ray, keep up the awesome work :)

      Reply
    • Ales Susnik replied

      +1 for this, with the combination with V800 :-)

      Reply
  37. Brian

    I have a similar idea... I've been using my Edge 500 for cycling for a couple years. I recently started running with the 500 on the old Forerunner wrist strap (I think this was another of your tips and tricks.). It works great, but I could totally geek out by adding run cadence. Do you think you could test this out?

    Reply
    • Brian replied

      May not have been clear. If you run with the Wahoo accelerometer-based bike cadence sensor in your shoe, will it register as cadence on my Edge 500 bike computer (which I use for running).

      Reply
  38. Tony

    It'd be pretty slick if they would make a special indoor training panel in the fitness app for if you just have cadence and time, you could input the distance traveled (obtainable from many stationary bikes) and then it could calculate average mph, and for those of us that also sync with fitness pal things like calories burned, etc.

    Reply

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
If you would like a profile picture, simply register at Gravatar, which works here on DCR and across the web.

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>