Rearward sensors for road bikes are important accessories that increase safety when cycling. The following is a summary of their advantages and disadvantages and a comparison of specifications of major products.
Table of contents
What is ANT+?
“ANT is a wireless communication solution and protocol developed by Dynastream Innovations, a subsidiary of Garmin.
ANT is not just a protocol for bicycles. There are also exercise profiles such as,
- Heart rate, step count, etc. (HRM, SPD, STP)
- Profiles for bicycles (CAD, SPD, PWR)
- Fitness Equipment Profile (FIT)
Advantages of ANT+ sensors
ANT+ sensors only emit the ANT+ signal, so there is no need for pairing ANT+ sensors with the cyclocomputer. ANT+ sensors can be used in multiple devices simultaneously.
In addition, many of the newer models of cyclocomputers connect to the sensor via ANT+, so even if you start out using a cyclocomputer with a Bluetooth connection to your smartphone, when you want more functions and want to use a full-fledged cyclocomputer, you can use a sensor that supports both Bluetooth and ANT+.
What is the difference between Bluetooth Smart and ANT+?
ANT+ is a protocol for sensors, while Bluetooth Smart is a separate Blueooth standard that allows for “low energy wireless”.
Bluetooth Smart is used for all “low energy wireless” Bluetooth devices developed to the Bluetooth 4.0 specification. It is not a standard for fitness sensors such as those used in bicycles. It is also used for mice and keyboards.
Bluetooth Smart includes
- Bluetooth Smart
- Bluetooth Smart Ready
Bluetooth Smart Smart Ready
Bluetooth Smart is a standard for “low energy wireless devices” and is often used for sensors, not just for bicycles.
Bluetooth Smart Ready is a standard that can be used for both Bluetooth Smart devices and conventional Bluetooth devices, and is used for smartphones and cycling controllers.
How to find Bluetooth / ANT+ sensors and apps
How to find a Bluetooth / ANT+ sensor
Bluetooth / ANT+ sensors are available from a variety of manufacturers, from major players such as Germin, Polar, CATEYE, and Wahoo, to emerging players such as XOSS.
Sensors from major manufacturers tend to be more expensive, but the advantage is that they have good connectivity with official apps, and you can find out from user reviews how well they work with apps.
On the other hand, sensors from inexpensive emerging manufacturers may not have good connectivity or measure data properly depending on the app, so check beforehand if the app is compatible.
How to find a Bluetooth ANT+ compatible smartphone app
There are some major apps that support Bluetooth and ANT+, such as “Wahoo Fitness” and “Garmin COnnect” that are specifically for bicycles, and you can easily get them by searching for “ANT+” in the app store.
If you can receive “CAD (Cadence), SPD (Speed), and PWR (Power)” data for your bike from the sensor side, you will be able to record and display various data on your phone.
In the case of smartphone apps, most of the time, the sensors are connected via Bluetooth.
ANT+ Bluetooth, which one should I support?
Many recently released sensors are compatible with both.
Like the Wahoo Blue SC and XOSS sensors I mentioned earlier, many recent bicycle sensors are compatible with both ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart, the ultra power-saving standard for Bluetooth.
However, some sensors are “Bluetooth only” or “ANT+ only”, so make sure you check the connection method properly.
Most smartphones do not support ANT+.
On the other hand, as for the smartphone that will be the receiver, most of the recent smartphones support Bluetooth Smart, but many of them do not support ANT+, so in principle, you will have to connect via Bluetooth.
It is important to note that if you buy a Bluetooth-only sensor because you only need to connect it to your smartphone, you may end up needing an ANT+ sensor later when you switch to a high-end cycling controller.
For the sake of versatility, it is better to buy a sensor that supports both Bluetooth and ANT+ even if you want to connect it to your phone.
Be careful when connecting to a cycling controller
What you need to pay attention to is the connection to the cycling controller.
There are some products that only support ANT+ and some that support both Bluetooth and ANT+, so check the specs of the sensor connection method of the cycling controller.
Also, even if a product supports both Bluetooth and ANT+, there are some cyclocomputers that use Bluetooth for pairing with a smartphone and use ANT+ to connect the cyclocomputer to the sensor, so check which method is used to connect the cyclocomputer to the sensor before purchasing.
We have been looking at Bluetooth Ant+ sensors that can turn your smartphone into a cycling controller.
It’s a standard that hasn’t gained much momentum due to the lack of compatible sensors, but it’s great for users with limited budgets to be able to turn their smartphone into a cycling controller as long as they have a sensor. We hope you will give it a try.