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Peloton Power Data Broadcaster (DFC) Launches: Hands-on Details

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Way back in December, I started using a tiny red box with my original Peloton Bike. That little red box did exactly one thing: Broadcast my power, cadence, and speed over Bluetooth Smart to 3rd party apps and watches – such as Zwift or a Garmin watch. The DFC unit from Intelligenate is meant to be a set it and forget it type of thing. You simply connect it to your Peloton Bike, and it’ll re-broadcast your power and cadence numbers to anything you want. This is notable because neither the Peloton Bike nor Bike+ have built-in data broadcasting of your power or cadence.

For many families that have a Peloton Bike, this means you couldn’t use it with platforms like Zwift or TrainerRoad, without installing 3rd party power meter pedals – which obviously significantly increases the cost of the bike. Sure, you could load those apps onto the bike, but you couldn’t actually access that power data. But…now you can.

I’ve been using this device for some four months now, and frankly it’s one of the only flawlessly perfect devices I’ve ever tested. It just works. That said, keep in mind the unit I’m testing is technically a prototype, and also slightly different than the final product (which has more ports, notably USB-C ports for the Peloton Bike+).

Now, we’ll keep this post quick, since…well…it should be quick – it’s not complicated.

How it works:

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DFC stands for “Data Fitness Connector”, and the little red box is smaller than a deck of cards. Essentially, the box acts as a middleman, quietly listening to the power data transmitted from the Peloton Bike’s sensor up to the display. Normally this is connected via a simple 3.5mm cable that you plug straight into your display. However, the DFC comes with an extra cable, so you plug your original cable into the red DFC box, and then from there you plug the DFC box into the display. Next, connect the USB cable to your Peloton’s USB port. This is merely for providing power, just like charging your phone.

And with that – you’re done. What’s important about this is that there’s no software to install, or anything changed software-wise (or even hardware-wise) on your Peloton Bike. It’s effectively just like plugging headphones in. Behind the scenes, the DFC box is decoding the power and cadence signals normally sent from the bike to the display, and simply re-broadcasting it out over Bluetooth Smart using the standard Bluetooth Smart power meter profile. This means you can then easily connect it to apps and devices. By using the USB port on the back of the device, you don’t have to worry about battery life, since it remains forever charged.

So, with everything plugged in you’ll be able to search for a Bluetooth power meter and find it. For example, here it is connected on a Garmin FR745:

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And here’s the data streaming. From a user standpoint, this is identical to any other bike power meter. It’s all the same. Simply start your indoor ride on your Garmin/Polar/Wahoo/Suunto/whatever just as you would for any other trainer ride.

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And here’s Zwift on my iPhone connected to it:

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It broadcasts the same data as Peloton itself, though you’ll see very slight 1-3w differences in some cases. Below isn’t actually one of those cases, as my watch is set to 3-second smoothing and the Peloton Bike isn’t.

But looking at the data itself, I recorded a workout both within the Peloton Bike and on my Garmin, and you can see, the data is virtually the same, save some very slight second to second differences by a watt or two:

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This includes both power and cadence data, and speed too, though most cycling training apps will discard/ignore the speed (such as in Zwift or TrainerRoad).  The system supports two concurrent Bluetooth connections, thus you could pair it up to an app like TrainerRoad while concurrently saving the data to your watch.

For Garmin and Polar users, this is notable from a training load standpoint, as previously there wasn’t a way to get power data from a Peloton Bike to your watch for training load and recovery perspectives. And I know, some of you think that “no serious cyclist” would ever use a Peloton Bike, but the reality is the opposite. Far too often people overthink training platforms. As long as you’re applying load (a stimulus) in an organized and structured way, you’re going to get faster. It’s really that simple. Peloton has power zone based training too. You do whatever makes you happy, as long as you’re pedaling it’s all good.

Now, whether or not the Peloton Bike itself is accurate is a different story. In all my testing comparing the Peloton Bike (original) data to power meter pedals, it tends to read high, usually in the 5-7% range. You can technically try and re-calibrate it, but I haven’t found that to fix anything (and honestly, I’ve also done calibration runs that make it far worse – and without power meter pedals on the bike you wouldn’t know which way you made it).

Whereas, the Peloton Bike+ I’ve found to be exceptionally accurate – on par and actually better accuracy-wise than many of the high-end smart bikes that a typical Zwifter or TrainerRoad user would have in their arsenal. Unfortunately, at this time the DFC isn’t compatible with the Peloton Bike+. That said, they did add USB-C ports and other bits in there to potentially make it compatible down the road. But I wouldn’t buy it today until that happens. Whereas if you have a regular Peloton Bike, it’s fully compatible there.

Geeky Stuff:

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For those that are a bit more geeky, the company has done quite a bit to allow 3rd parties to expand upon it. So, for historical sake, here’s the tech specs from the company’s listing:

  • Built around the Nordic NRF52840
    • ARM Cortex-M4 32-bit processor
    • 2.4 GHz Bluetooth 5 transceiver
  • 11 exposed GPIO pins in a breadboard- and IDC-compatible layout
    • 4 analog or digital pins
    • 7 digital-only pins
  • 16 M-Bit QSPI external flash memory
  • Two channels of bi-directional RS-232-to-TTL/CMOS conversion via MAX3222 IC
  • I²C JST connector compatible with SparkFun’s Qwiic or Adafruit STEMMA QT Connect System
  • SWD connections on the front and back of the board via Tag Connect footprints
  • 20 V max to 3.3 V voltage regulator
  • Two 3.5 mm stereo jacks connected to one another and to the RS-232 driver/receiver IC.
    • An off-by-default jumper allows the transmission of RS-232 data through the jacks
  • Two USB Type-C connectors that allow DFC to be placed in-line with a USB cable operating at up to 20 V
    • This experimental, use-at-your-own-risk configuration allows you to branch off signals present in the USB cable—such as those used by the Peloton Bike+—and connect them to the processor
    • Configurable routes via jumper headers and solder pads for USB D+/- and SBU1/2

The idea being that down the road this can be expanded both by the company itself, as well as 3rd parties.

Notably, this unit doesn’t have ANT+ enabled at this point, though, the NRF52 chipset from Nordic that they are using would allow that upgrade if they wanted to. It’s a software upgrade that the company would need to pay for (perhaps they already did).

Practically speaking, all Garmin devices from roughly 2017ish and beyond have supported Bluetooth Smart power meters. So any Fenix 5 or above, as well as Garmin FR935 or above supports it. And all Polar and Suunto devices support Bluetooth power meters. Still, ANT+ is useful and often preferred in desktop computers for Zwift and other 3rd party apps, plus of course older watches and bike computers.

Wrap-Up:

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Frequent readers know that I really like devices that ‘just work’, and this one takes the cake on that. I haven’t had to touch it since hooking it up back in December, and it just works every time – always there, always ready. My watch automatically connects to it when I start pedaling, and I need only start a workout on the watch. I’m not sure what else I could ask for.

The unit is priced at $109, which seems pretty fair given the alternative is buying power meter pedals from roughly $500+ (and more if you want total power ones). Certainly, using the Peloton Bike data stream isn’t as accurate as buying a set of power meter pedals for other apps, so that’s one consideration. For those worried this will somehow lead to an explosion of inaccurate data on Zwift, the accuracy level here is really no different than most wheel-on trainers I’ve tested over the years (which spec +/- 5%, but are often closer to 5-10%, especially in sprints).

The company is taking orders on their crowd funding site now, for delivery in early August. Given the shortage and long backlogs for computer chipsets right now, they (like every other tech company) have identified that as a risk. The other risk is that Peloton could update the data stream on their bikes to specifically break this. The DFC unit is software upgradeable in the event something changes. That said, I’d be extremely skeptical if Peloton actually has the ability to do this on the original Peloton Bike. It definitely would have this capability on the Bike+, but having taken apart the original Bike, the sensor system is only connected by an analog 3.5mm cable, which is highly unlikely to allow firmware updates. Further, that would be a massive risk for Peloton to upgrade that component on 1.5 million bikes merely to ‘break’ a few boxes out there.

Thus, given the fact that it’s working great for me today on the original Bike, I went ahead and placed a pre-order for that already. In the event they work out Bike+ compatibility, then I’ll buy another one for my Bike+ too.

With that – thanks for reading!

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29 Comments

  1. Jim Hansen

    Welp…

    I just sold a Peloton Bike that I bought for my SO (and she only used once) and bought a Stages SB20 that I’m not terribly impressed with.

    I actually kinda liked the Peloton bike, and only sold it because i wanted to ride in Zwift with friends.

    Kinda regretting that decision now. 🙃

    • John B.

      What don’t you like about the SB20? I’ve mulled over Peloton vs SB20 for a while myself. Since I couldn’t decide, I opted for the SC3 while the smart bike scene matures. I’m sorta happy with it, but it has its quirks too.

    • funkright

      I’d be interested in your thoughts as well. I ride a Keiser M3i. A. Lot. And have wondered about the SB20 and that it might better suite my needs (more akin to my road bike). Any insight would be great!

  2. Jake

    Can you load Zwift on the Peloton screen and use the data from the DFC unit so that the Peloton operates like a smart trainer that Id normally use with Zwift?

  3. Keep us up to date on Bike+ integration. This is a much more sophisticated solution than using RunGap to sync to TP from Strava.

  4. acousticbiker

    Thanks, Ray! For Garmin watch users, would using this be a significantly better input into FirstBeat training load / recovery algorithms vs just manually inputting avg/max power, cadence, and speed values in Garmin Connect after finishing the activity?

    • Definitely for sure. Though, I’ve never tried putting in the manual values straight up. But I don’t think that’ll calculate all of the impacts of something like an interval workout with higher short duration bits.

    • acousticbiker

      Now that I think of it, my recovery time is set once I complete my Peloton ride (as an indoor bike activity) and before I manually enter power/cadence/speed (and recovery time doesn’t change after that) so it must be just using duration and HR (which I broadcast from my Fenix)

    • Justin

      I’m pretty sure that Garmin’s license with FirstBeat is such that they calculate metrics (like training effect) only from live data, not data entered after the fact. So, to answer your question: yes, infinitely 🙂

  5. Dan

    Nifty little device! I’d but that in a heartbeat if it was available for Nordictrack devices!

  6. Alex

    Hey DCR,

    Thanks, I’m interested in this but the 1.000.000$ question is: will this work without Peloton subscription?

    Even more: side-loading Zwift and using it on the bike screen?

    • Hmm, I’ll check and circle back.

      Sideloading is trickier with a sub, but not impossible. It’s just messier.

    • Mike Warren

      Check the comments out on this DC post for all things ‘Zwift on Peloton’: link to dcrainmaker.com

      As someone who was able to get it running via DC’s instructions and updated instructions from the community, only to have Peloton force updates and mess my whole setup, I’m anxiously anticipating this device getting here and having it broadcast data to my iPad. Having Zwift on the big Peloton screen was nice, but the stress outweighs the good IMHO.

  7. John B

    I’m assuming the market for this would be way bigger on the Bike+, right? People who’d buy this are data nerds (like me), and people who are data nerds are more likely to have the Peloton with accurate power. Granted, the Bike+ is new, but a lot of people bought these during COVID lockdown.

    • Sorta. It’s probably a numbers game. My guess would be that out of the 1.3M or whatever bikes (too lazy to look it up right now), probably 1M of them are Bike, not Bike+.

      But more than that, the transmission on Bike is analog, whereas Bike+ is full digital over USB-C and likely far tougher to sort out.

    • Kaveh

      I’m one of them and hence why I went for the Bike+ just as John B described. Was ready to buy a DFC right away until I got to that sad part of the post.

      These guys seem like a perfect pairing to work with SHIFT which Ray highlighted a little while back (link to kickstarter.com). Sad to see they didn’t reach their funding goal but seems like they will utilize other avenues to come to market.

      Count me in when this works on Bike+. Thanks for the post!

  8. Chris

    Let me know when you have one for the bike +

  9. Brad

    Really interesting tech, currently I have an original Peloton Bike, I use Garmin Vector 3 pedals for power + cadence to get my workouts into the Garmin ecosystem (12+ years of activities in the data base, you might have me forever Garmin, well done).

    The challenge I have with set up is distance (annoyance vs problem) – sure you manually enter the distance covered from the bike post your work out in Garmin, but I’ve found that doesn’t update on my Garmin watch (735 or MARQ) if you enter it after the fact, thus no credit when you glance at your wrist later that day for miles cycled.

    I’ve tried using the Garmin speed sensor attached to the fly wheel, issue there is it seems Peloton uses a function of power & cadence to solve for distance, not turns of the fly wheel. If you ride slowly at high watts, or slowly at low watts, the fly wheel spins the same amount of times, different distances for peloton vs distance for Garmin speed (Garmin speed may be more like going up and down hills in the real world vs Peloton equal to riding on a track).

    Presume this gadget doesn’t also pick up the distance reading from Peloton, just power and cadence?

  10. Grover

    I love the Peloton+ and it talks to STRAVA flawlessly. I also found a little script that allows me to sync with Training Peaks and Garmin Connect, including power. I actually even like the classes/instructors so I just do my TP workout of the day using a workout timer on my phone. This box would let me ride in Sufferlandria or with the Zwifties, but if, like me, your wife brought a Peloton+ into your life and you want a simple way to use power readings from the bike use this script on your desktop. It fetches Peloton workouts and converts to TCX files you can then upload. And it works great. link to github.com

  11. Owen

    Given there’s no Bike+ support yet, what’s the easiest way to sync the Peloton workout/power data back into Garmin today? Ideally, a set it and forget.

    I currently record and broadcast heart on my Fenix 5 to the Bike+ and sync the workout to Strava but, as mentioned, lose the data and training load in Garmin connect.

  12. Nark

    After fiddling with a lot of other apps, I found that sync my tracks does a really good job of transferring my peloton data through Strava to Garmin connect. That information comes along with average and max power, normalized power and total work as well as cadence and calories.
    What would this device do to add to that?

    • acousticbiker

      Do those activities contribute to training load and recovery status algorithms? I believe only activities initiated on a Garmin device do (not those imported, even if they have more data)

    • Mark Rosing

      Good question, I am not sure. I don’t particularly pay attention to those metrics. How would I check to let you know?

  13. Hello

    There are some bridge like this one for other bikes.
    I am the author of this one : link to github.com
    But you’ll be able to find the same piece of software for Daum

    Basically, you need a raspberry and some technical competences.
    It provides data and control in ERG mode.

  14. Chris One

    It’s all gone quiet in here. Does anyone know if there is a Bike+ version of this coming? Or an alternative?

    • Brad Wolfe

      They’re on track to deliver the current version in October – probably focused on that before upgrading to a Bike+ version (although Bike+ may be a whole new protocol).

      I ended up ordering to try it out on my Original Peloton bike (non Bike+) as it should be easier than swapping my Garmin pedals and sensor I’m using right now. Think it’s a better “real time solution” than a backend through 3rd party activity trackers etc.