PRO member Kay asked a very good question about ANT+

... I'm also wondering about Heart Rate.  If the bikes are ANT+, will they only pick up ANT+ Heart Rate Monitors?  I noticed that the new Schwinn did not pick up my Polar HRM
Thank you for your comments!

The short answer is; No. Indoor Cycles with or without ANT+ consoles will detect and display most Heart Rate straps.

It all comes down to the type of HR strap you are using, but it can get confusing. I'll try to explain.

First let's identify the three players:

  • Analog (Low Frequency) HR Monitor straps
  • Digital/ANT+ (High Frequency) HR Monitor straps
  • Hybrid HR Straps that offer both High and Low Frequencies

Analog HR straps & monitors have been around for years. I guess you could say they are the generic version and any inexpensive HR monitor is Analog. For many people they work just fine but they have two problems:

  1. They will "Cross Talk" with other monitors as they are indiscriminate in which signal they will choose to display.
  2. Battery life of the strap can be relatively short (measured in months of use) due to the amount of power they consume broadcasting their low frequency (5000Hz) signal. It takes comparably more energy to generate low frequencies  vs. high frequencies - think how much work a Tuba Player expends vs. the Piccolo Player in a marching band  and I'm not referring to the weight of the instrument.

To solve these two problems HR manufactures introduced Digital HR straps and monitors using a very high frequency 2.4gHz or 2,400,000,000Hz which is what is referred to as ANT+ or some like Polar describe it as "Coded".

  1. ANT+ receivers will lock onto the source - commonly known as "Pairing", they will reject other competing signals once they have been successfully paired.
  2. Battery life is measured in years - Garmin says their strap's battery will last over 5 years, operating one hour a day.

ANT+ has another ability that Analog doesn't, the ability to transmit and receive multiple data sets over multiple channels. Where your Analog monitor can only understand; Beat...Beat...Beat, ANT+ can transmit an incredible amount of information that's really limited to the engineer's imagination. I'll bet that that CycleOps PowerCal Power Meter that uses only heart rate data from the users chest strap to estimate Power Output is transmitting a lot more than just Beat...Beat...Beat

Examples of ANT+ HR straps are:

So ANT+ looks like the perfect solution, except for one little problem... every piece of fitness equipment on the planet is designed to receive and display Analog signals. But this is changing and Garmin as an article here that lists the change with more and more pieces of equipment adding ANT+ technology.

Enter Hybrid HR straps that transmit in both the high ANT+ and Low Analog frequencies. This give the user the option to display their HR on a club's treadmill, while at the same time only pairing with a compatible ANT+ device.

Hybrid HR Straps include.

So back to your question about not being able to see your HR on the Schwinn AC, Kay. Either the Schwinn AC MPower Console or FreeMotion's should display your HR, regardless of what strap you were wearing. I have a Hybrid Polar strap which works just fine on the Schwinn, but not an exclusively ANT+ strap - so I don't have first hand experience.

I've asked the question to both companies and will update this post when I know more.

UPDATE: Schwinn Master Instructor Julz Arney got back to me with:

Yes, the wireless technology used by the MPower console is ANT+ (owned by Garmin.) Any HR strap using ANT+ should connect. There are a few hints to make it easier:

-Have HR strap on and functioning before turning on console
-Be on the bike saddle (i.e. in close range of the console)
The console looks for a HR signal for approximately 30 seconds from when it's turned on. If it doesn't find a signal it will stop looking. The rider will then need to turn off the console and turn it back on.)

I hope this helps!

Both the Schwinn AC and FreeMotion have a limited time for the rider to pair to the console. The S1.9 will only connect during when the console shows Warm Up.


Sally Edwards has a great article you can read that adds additional detail on choosing a digital or analog Heart Rate monitor here.

Originally posted 2012-10-17 10:09:58.

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