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Zwift Rolls Out Wahoo Direct Connect Ethernet Adapter Support

Today is apparently the day of ‘Finally!’ in the sports tech world. First, there was Suunto with ‘finally’ adding structured workout support. Then there was Wahoo with ‘finally’ adding some sort of climbing feature, and now we’ve got Zwift with ‘finally’ supporting Direct Connect. At this rate, we might even get Garmin to add a bike computer USB-C port by bedtime.

As you might remember, some 14 months ago, Wahoo started shipping their Direct Connect dongle/accessory, which adds an ethernet port to your Wahoo trainer, sidestepping any wireless connectivity issues your cycling pain cave might have. This would eliminate things like interference-induced dropouts that wrecked your Zwift Race. Except…Zwift wasn’t supported at launch. Virtually every other major cycling app was, but not Zwift. Instead, there were promises of “later in the year” (2021), which never happened.

Well, never say never. Or I guess, just redefine never.

As of today, Zwift has rolled out support for connecting to Wahoo trainers via Direct Connect on all platforms except Windows/PC, which the company says is coming shortly. This means as of today it’s supported on: iOS, Android, Apple TV, and Mac. As long as you’re on game version 1.23.3 on those platforms, it should be available.

Quick Overview:

The way Direct Connect works is that the Wahoo Direct Connect (aka Dircon) adapter is plugged into the side of your Wahoo trainer. At present, only the Wahoo KICKR V5, and Wahoo KICKR ROLLR trainers have the adapter connector port. That port on those trainers looks like an RJ45 telephone jack, but is slightly different internally in terms of wiring.

Then from there, you take your Wahoo Direct Connect adapter, stick it in said port, and then plug in an ethernet cable, which connects to your local ethernet hub/switch/router.

In a scenario where you’re trying to eliminate all wireless connectivity, then you might even connect your computer or Apple TV via ethernet, but practically speaking, the dropouts most people are concerned with aren’t WiFi ones, but instead ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart dropouts. Further, if you really want to, you can actually directly connect the Wahoo Direct Connect adapter to your computer (Mac/PC, once the PC is supported) on a spare ethernet port, assuming your computer has either WiFi or another ethernet port.

In any case, with everything plugged in, simply go into the Zwift pairing menu, and search for your trainer like normal. You’ll now see a new ethernet port icon, showing the Wahoo KICKR trainer listed there:

vlcsnap-2022-03-29-17h23m36s393

And this is true of all the connection types, so that includes both the cadence from the trainer, as well as the controllable side – everything would be via the ethernet connection:

vlcsnap-2022-03-29-17h23m45s295

Note that, technically speaking, your computer needs to have Bluetooth installed under the covers, as Wahoo leverages that behind the scenes for the protocol, but not the connectivity. Meaning, it leverages the language of Bluetooth, which your computer must know how to speak – even if it isn’t doing it wirelessly. Practically speaking, none of this matters unless your computer is crazy old and doesn’t have any Bluetooth installed. Also note, thanks to Des of DesFit for grabbing these screenshots for me while I’m traveling this week.

I haven’t had a chance to dive into this in-depth on Zwift, but I’ll do so now that I finally have a reason to complete my full in-depth review that’s been sitting on the pending shelf for a year. I previously used it with other apps, and it worked quite well. Though, I don’t tend to have many dropout issues.

Wrap-Up:

It’s good to see Zwift wrap this up. I was growing concerned that Zwift was basically going to let this die on the vine, and then magically it’ll be supported for the Zwift Trainer/Bike once announced – especially since Zwift asked these companies to implement this. And as useful as it may be for some riders on other platforms, realistically, the key one people wanted it for was Zwift and specifically racing.

Now that Zwift has implemented it, I’d like to see everyone just agree this is the protocol to use for wired trainer connectivity. Meaning, Wahoo has previously said other companies could leverage this in their own trainers as basically an open-source library. In roughly the same way all the other trainer app companies implemented it quickly (despite technically being competitors to Wahoo’s own SYSTEM, then called The Sufferfest). Given that trainer companies are somewhat running out of ways to innovate in this space, I suspect wired connectivity will become a bit of a selling point moving forward. It’d be nice to see the market not get fragmented on different standards here.

But hey, in the meantime, I’ll just be happy that Zwift finally implemented it. See, Tuesdays aren’t all that bad after all!

With that, thanks for reading!

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24 Comments

  1. No-MicroUSB-Garmin-BAD!

    > we might even get Garmin to add a bike computer USB-C port by bedtime

    Don’t tease me like that Ray! I’ve held off on buying a Garmin Edge because of my intense loathing of micro-USB.

    • GLT

      Fenix-style connector would not be that surprising.

    • Dear god no. All the no.

      Equally, please no wireless charging. Nobody wants that in a bike computer. They just want ultrafast “oh crap, I need just enough juice for this ride while my buddies impatiently wait outside” charging.

    • Gee

      Im 50/50 on this.

      On one hand awesome, they finally got a fix on the drop out issues, but also I feel that this should be heavily discounted for people like me who have long suffered because of the drop outs.

      They also need to improve on the Zwift Run (unless this improves it as well). I can barely run a KM on my Garmin Epix. Ive tried all the possible solutions to no avail

    • PeterF

      Amen!

      Though I would love to see a VivoActive watch that charges wirelessly (as long as it uses an existing charging standard and not something Garmin specific). My 2 year old 4s often DIScharges (rapidly, like 20% in half an hour) when connected to a charger, I blame the badly fitting connector.

  2. Brian

    Can you plug the direct connect directly into the Apple TV?

  3. Nicolas Restrepo

    “At this rate, we might even get Garmin to add a bike computer USB-C port by bedtime.”

    you’re foreshadowing something you’re testing, huh?

  4. Ken Jensen

    FYI: My ToW stage 5 ride survives brief internet outage! Many ride ons to @gozwift! With just about 5 km left a power surge happened while hanging on to a nice blob. Using a laptop Zwift app continues running but app tells me connectivity is lost.

    All other riders disappear. I also lose Wahoo Kickr trainer power briefly. With trainer power back in seconds i continue riding. I am now wondering if i get my badge for stage 5. I continue out of curiosity.

    Internet is restored within a minute or two. And then other riders appear again. I finish ToW stage 5, get my badge. Ride on. Literally.

  5. Stan

    It’s funny how at one point everything was all about going wireless and now the new product brings wired connection back…

  6. GeorgeK

    For the love of all that is holy, please, Stages, do the same thing. Says the man that has had to dork with setting on each use of his SB20 over the last two weeks. Oh, and Garmin… can we just get a phone level touch screen? Thanks.

  7. Heinrich Hurtz

    Why isn’t this “Dirct Connct”?

  8. Bailie

    The thing about wired connections is you need drivers, and ANT+ is always ANT. A wired Ethernet connection could reduce cheating, by sending bike data to zwift before it can be altered in a users computer. But this could go bad in a gym situation where the bike is wired and users are using 5g, or public wifi is a different subnet.

    Either way I have no doubt zwift will screw it up with the 10:1 marketing: developer ratio. And the devs are probably outsourced from 3rd world countries.

  9. Tristan Matthews

    In the age of wireless technology, it seems as though everything old is new again 😉
    If this is now going to be the ‘gold standard’ for trainer connections, it seems to make sense to go the whole hog and add a USB-C port to the trainer to allow a direct USB connection to a laptop or device.
    All hail the spaghetti wiring…

  10. Paul

    So does this finally enable the Apple TV to connect to more than 2 devices directly?

    • Joe

      Yes it does not count as a Bluetooth connection in terms of the ATV device limit, so you can have the Dircon and two wireless BT devices

  11. Kris

    Curious how this would work with my Quarq being my power source, but using the direct connect for my KICKR? Would my Quarq still need the ANT+ (and therefore have the risk of dropouts)? Guess I could just bite the bullet and use my KICKR as my power source now.

  12. Daniel

    Doesnt work on Android either mate.

  13. M

    I understand that its BLE over TCP/IP so does this mean that it also supports Steering as well via the direct connect?

  14. Derek

    Still no Windows/PC support yet for the Direct Connect? My laptop is hardwired and I’ve never had a drop out, but am for some reason getting the occasional two to three second lag/delay in my sprints — cost me a victory in yesterday’s race, and I’m wondering if the DC would take care of this … anomaly.

  15. Michael Holm

    Is there any indications that “response time” from putting more or less power into the pedals is recognized faster by Zwift when using Wahoo Direct connection ?
    Reasons for question: I have experienced that “lag” in this area makes it really difficult to line up well in a Team Timetrial. The faster Zwift recognizes that you are putting more or less power into the pedals, the easier it is to control your relative position in the line of riders. I am currently taking power data from Wahoo Kickr over BT, and is responding somewhat OK. But getting even faster communication would of cause be really nice…