Rowing with Zwift on Apple TV

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CJOttawa
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Rowing with Zwift on Apple TV

Post by CJOttawa » November 16th, 2018, 2:00 pm

Hey all!

There have been other discussions of rowing on Zwift but I wanted to focus on using a Concept2 rower with Apple TV for a couple of reasons. FYI: there's a link to an Imgur album at the bottom of this post.
  • per DCRainmaker, (https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/11/zwi ... tv-4k.html) Zwift on an Apple TV (connected to a bike or rower) is the lowest entry cost for those without Zwift-capable computer hardware (raises hand)
  • even owning a Zwift-capable computer, it's wonderful to erg in front of a big screen TV without having to poke and prod a computer and monitor into action - once set-up, it "just works"
For reference, I've got:
  • Model D rower with a PM5 performance monitor (hardware version 633, current firmware, though any PM5 should work)
  • an Apple TV 4K running Zwift (note: buy the 4K over the Gen 4 as it has far more processor horsepower; fully-warranted, refurbished units, likely just open-box-returns, are available from Apple at a hefty discount)
  • an iPod Touch 6
  • a Garmin ANT+ HRM and a Garmin Forerunner sport watch with a "row indoors" sport profile
First off: users have been requesting rowing support in Zwift for years. Zwift has acknowledged this but their focus remains on retaining their existing cycling and running user-base. If you want to see it, keep poking the Zwift forums and submitting suggestions: https://forums.zwift.com/t/zwift-rowing ... ng/13116/9

The PM5 on a Model D is *visible* to Zwift but Zwift doesn't accept the rower data - it either produces a "no-data" message, or "0 Watts" is reported so it's clearly something they *could* offer.

To be clear: Zwift could "flip the switch" at any time and support the Model D. If they decide to do that, the whole point of this hack is moot as there would then be native rowing support.

Until/unless Zwift does that, there are several options for getting your rower to and Zwift to play nice with each-other.

What other people are doing
I'm not the first to row in Zwift, though a lot of people seem to be using computers not an Apple TV.

Check out Eric of Zwift insider's post:
https://zwiftinsider.com/rowing-on-zwift/

In the comments on that page, there's discussion of using a Raspberry Pi running Raspbian and a custom Python script to act as a bridge:
https://diana.bib.uniurb.it/pyRide/pyRide.html

That is way beyond my very out of date IT knowledge to make happen but if someone wants to build and package these, maybe there's a market. Still, I think this starts to approach the hardware cost of the gizmo I finally settled on, and the learning curve is steeper.

First Attempt - 4iiii Viiiiva Hardware
Looking for a hands-off hardware solution that played nice with my existing equipment (Android), I first tried the 4iiii Viiiiva HRM that's noted as being able to act as an ANT+ to BLE bridge for cycling sensors and indoor trainers.

Unfortunately, this was a no-go for rowing - the software doesn't have the smarts to re-transmit the PM5's data in a format Zwift recognizes. Fortunately, 4iiii's has a generous return policy and let me ship it back. Nice product with good cross-platform support though - there are configuration apps for Android and iOS and this gizmo is great if you're a cyclist dealing with ANT+ cycling sensors. (cadence, power, speed etc)

Second Attempt - PainSled Software
Next up, the PainSled iOS app. Run this on an iOS device that has Bluetooth 4.x or better, connect the PM5 via Bluetooth, and enable the "Zwift" toggle in PainSled's settings, and your iOS device will show up in Zwift.

I bought the iPod Touch 6 specifically for this but found connectivity problematic where the iPod would lose connection to the PM5 in anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, requiring the PM5 to "poked" (exit activity, re-enter) resulting in messy activity tracking. It might have come down to RF interference from older cordless phones, microwave ovens or neighbourhood WiFi. I am in no way faulting PainSled here! The app has a bunch of great features, including a "Wattage" conversion that applies a multiplier (something in the neighbourhood of 1.25x) to your rowing power to bring it more in line with what you'd be generating on a bike.

Give this a shot and see if it works for you - maybe there's less RF-interference in your home and you won't get disconnected. The support page has some other suggestions: https://painsledsupport.com/

Third Attempt - NPE-CABLE ANT+ to BLE bridge hardware
Next up, the North Pole Engineering "CABLE" ANT+ to BLE bridging pod.

An iOS device is required to run the CABLE-Config app for initial setup of the CABLE pod. Once you've configured it, provided you don't change the sensors or devices you're pairing with it, you don't need to run the app on a regular basis. If you don't own an iOS device, you could borrow one temporarily for config, or buy a cheap old device - it'll run on devices from the iPhone 4s and iPod Touch 5 or later. (it requires BlueTooth 4.x which earlier models didn't have) NPE has hinted they're exploring the idea of a TV-OS app for Apple TV, which seems like an easy one for them give they've already developed the for iOS. Android seems less likely.

Where my iPod Touch 6 running PainSled would disconnect from the PM5 randomly from 5 to 20 minutes into a workout, the NPE-CABLE stayed connected and fed the paired Apple TV with data for a full 50 minutes, without hiccups.
  • My ANT+ HRM connected to both my Garmin Forerunner watch, and to the Concept2 PM5 (advantage of ANT+ sensors: they can connect to multiple devices at a time where Bluetooth is limited to being paired with a single device).
  • * My PM5 wireless is turned on and set to transmit over ANT+ using the "FE-C" protocol
  • * The NPE-CABLE is connected to the PM5 and receives power, cadence, and heart-rate data all from the PM5.
Note: I could have connected the NPE-CABLE to my ANT+ HR monitor separately since ANT+ does multipoint connections but the above approach minimizes the number of incoming datastreams to the NPE-CABLE (recommended for reliability) while still giving me HR "everywhere" - on the PM5, on Zwift, and recorded by Garmin to update my activity "Training Effect", and weekly "Training Load" data.

I do NOT sync my Zwift account with Garmin as the kilometers would be way off - instead using the "Row Indoors" activity on my watch and manually enter kilometers from the PM5 into the Garmin activity.

TL;DR: NPE-CABLE perfectly bridges the PM5 and Zwift for Apple TV, passing along power in Watts, SPM as cadence, and heart rate (if connected).

Wattage Caveat
One thing to be aware of: rowing Wattage isn't cycling wattage. Software like PainSled has the option to apply a correction factor, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1.33x. With the NPE-CABLE, as you'll see in the photos I took showing the PM5 and Zwift screens, if you're pulling 165Watts on the erg, you get 165Watts in Zwift.

I'm not row-Zwifting to "compete" - this is a fun way to see some virtual scenery while it's -40 outside. I've selected the name "...on a C2 rower" in game and I see other people with rowing identifiers, many with "hand-bike" as well. If it's weren't clear from the name though, if you're pulling 200Watts at 22 RPM it's probably a safe bet you aren't on bike.

An advantage of the Raspberry Pi solution I mention above is it's easy enough to apply a correction factor. For RPM, the author uses a correction of 3.3. (my 22RPM spin up EpicKOM would become a more realistic 76RPM)
For Wattage, the author of that setup is using a correction of 1.25x. Is this "virtual doping?" Does it matter? Using, say, a 4x correction would clearly be over the line but 1.25 seems similar to what PainSled was applying.

Untested Wildcard Option
OK, so I have the NPE-CABLE wireless bridge up and running but there's another option I'm considering just to see if it would work: "LiveRowing Connect" to link a PM3, PM4, or PM5 to an iOS device via Lighting connector. https://liverowing.com/store/

I have no idea if that cable supports PainSled or solely the "LiveRowing" app so i'm loathe to spend the money to find out. Does anyone own one of these and want to test it? (connect it, open PainSled and see if the app sees the rower data)

This option still doesn't negate the possibility the PainSled connectivity issues weren't with the PM5 but rather between the iOS device and AppleTV but I imagine we'd find out in a hurry. (and you could test it by going wirelessly, waiting for a dropped connection, then going wired and repeating the row)

SUMMARY
Well, there you have it - rowing (albeit slowly) in Zwift!

I posted a photo album of the process, here:
https://imgur.com/a/r7UCNKL

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Carl Watts
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Re: Rowing with Zwift on Apple TV

Post by Carl Watts » November 17th, 2018, 12:16 am

I'm interested in why people are rowing with Zwift and not RowPro ?

The Online rowing community is incredibly small as it is so divided across a number of platforms means its next to non existent.
Carl Watts.
Age:52 Weight: 104kg Height:183cm
Concept 2 Monitor Service Technician & indoor rower.
http://log.concept2.com/profile/863525/log

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Re: Rowing with Zwift on Apple TV

Post by Slothful1 » November 17th, 2018, 7:44 am

I've had RowPro since 2004, and used to like it for the stroke-by-stroke data, racing against past rows offline, uploading my results to the C2 logbook and doing the occasional online event. I wasn't that interested in the online element, but enjoyed it for variety now and then.

I only rowed occasionally between 2011 and 2017, and when I picked things up again I upgraded my PM3 to a PM5, and started using ErgData more regularly. At the same time I also bought the upgrade from RowPro 4 to 5. ErgData seems to have replaced the functionality I was most interested in (stroke data, easy uploading to logbook). RowPro only gets pulled out when I want to go for an age group PB, and I'd like to pull up a past row to row against. (Another disappointment with the RP4 to 5 upgrade was that none of the old rows seem available to race against even though they're in the RP logbook with stroke data still.)

In the past few months I've also been using Zwift with a BikeErg, and it is a huge motivator to get onto the bike. I hardly look at the distance on the PM5, but am more focused on what is happening in the Zwift virtual world.

Obviously Zwift have more resources and a bigger target market, but I suspect RowPro has fallen too far behind to make a comeback even if they still had 2 years or more warning of Zwift entering.

The variety of scenery and routes is a big plus for Zwift, but I also like the fact that I can drop in on the course and just ride, with others of various paces moving around me. I don't have to plan ahead and schedule times to row, and then wait for others to join for the start like with RP.

Personally I wouldn't mind if RowPro didn't spend resources on changing the artwork and virtual scenery. All they should do in my opinion is find some way to create a "Just Row" non stop virtual world that everyone is part of at the same time. I think more people will dip in and out while doing training sessions, and possibly start supporting online events. For me though, at the moment there is too much friction to row my regular training sessions as RP sessions, so I just set them up on the PM5 and let ErgData record all.

Dave

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Carl Watts
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Re: Rowing with Zwift on Apple TV

Post by Carl Watts » November 17th, 2018, 4:17 pm

Hi Dave,

Thanks for your feedback. Yes the Cycling community is much bigger, I suspect about 100 times bigger so it makes a huge difference. Also it would appear that many rowers also have a bike and thus just slip into the cycling community software option.

I agree, Digital rowing spent too much time on large chunks of the software that doesn't get used. Even more mystifying is that they developed graphics that I actually used at a OTW event years ago that then never got integrated into the production version as an optional course to row.

The online rowing is good, you don't need fantastic graphics but you do need the numbers rowing and until you start to fill the 16 lanes to capacity, it really doesn't come into its own.

Sadly the "Group" rowing mentality is not the same as the Cyclists "Peloton" mentality so thats where I feel that RowPro has fallen short.
Carl Watts.
Age:52 Weight: 104kg Height:183cm
Concept 2 Monitor Service Technician & indoor rower.
http://log.concept2.com/profile/863525/log

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Re: Rowing with Zwift on Apple TV

Post by FRiC » November 27th, 2018, 12:11 pm

CJOttawa wrote:
November 16th, 2018, 2:00 pm
Hey all!
Thanks for writing this. Very detailed and very helpful. I'm using Paolo's Raspberry Pi solution since I have a lot of RPi's lying around. Unfortunately I don't have a bike so I'm not sure if it's worth it to get a membership for Zwift with a hacked rowing solution. (Although I just got a gym membership and a Stryd so I might reconsider...) If Zwift officially supported the Concept 2 I would sign up in a second. :shock:

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Re: Rowing with Zwift on Apple TV

Post by mdpfirrman » November 29th, 2018, 2:59 pm

This is really interesting to me. Was looking into Zwift for my daughter. For the reasons mentioned (lack or real strong online rowing community and lack of wanting to wait on organized rows), I've put off getting RowPro. I might look into this hack for next year for me. Might wait until after I move as I'm moving from OH to AZ in a couple of months. Tons of things to get done that are higher priority than this right now but I plan on setting up the home gym in the new house and this might make it in.
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OnetimeLightweight
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Re: Rowing with Zwift on Apple TV

Post by OnetimeLightweight » December 15th, 2018, 4:16 pm

Thanks for posting this. Your post and a couple of others inspired me to dust off the C2 and try it with Zwift.

To answer others' questions: never thought erging the most fun form of exercise even when in my prime; now that I'm old and decrepit, anything that centers on speed (whether staring at the C2's native monitor or a third-party app) is plain depressing. Keep finding myself focused on what I could do at age 21...But I'm already on Zwift for biking, enjoy the distraction and scenery (and earning more points!), and haven't yet figured out how to berate myself for my performance vs. cyclists.

Connected via PainSled on iphone and experienced the same intermittent drops as you. Had forgotten your mention of the ANT+ bridge, so just ordered the LiveRowing cable to replace the bluetooth connection from my PM5. Will try to remember to post on how that works.

Meantime, though, wanted to highlight a comment I'd not originally noticed from the PainSled support page you link to "According to Concept2, these errors occur when your iPhone or iPad runs out of Bluetooth bandwidth due to having multiple active connections. You may need to disable some of your other Bluetooth devices while rowing to solve this issue. Note: PainSled 1.1.2 has a new setting to disable the Stroke Scope. This can reduce or eliminate these types of errors as the Stroke Scope requires a lot of Bluetooth bandwidth."

Though their comment was specific to "PM5 22291-37 Monitor Errors", suspect bluetooth bandwidth may explain the Zwift issues also. Just disabled Stroke Scope and am hoping that solves the problem. And I have other connected devices I can pull from the phone as needed (e.g., am running Zwift on my iPad, and can listen to music on that vs. from iPhone). Obviously, the cable should solve the bluetooth connection issue entirely.

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Re: Rowing with Zwift on Apple TV

Post by OnetimeLightweight » December 19th, 2018, 2:24 pm

Update to my prior post: disconnecting all other bluetooth connections improved stability, but bluetooth connection from PM5 to PainSled still eventually dropped out each time. Not sure where to assign blame, but will try cable solution next.

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Re: Rowing with Zwift on Apple TV

Post by exerscreen » December 30th, 2018, 3:07 pm

OnetimeLightweight wrote:
December 19th, 2018, 2:24 pm
Update to my prior post: disconnecting all other bluetooth connections improved stability, but bluetooth connection from PM5 to PainSled still eventually dropped out each time. Not sure where to assign blame, but will try cable solution next.
Hey, I'm the PainSled developer. If you haven't pinged me at support@exerscreen.com already, please do. I'd like to see if I can help sort out your comms issues. I'm guessing it will be the Garmin and ANT+ at the same time as BLE to PainSled, which seems to be a common problem. Bluetooth headphones are the other big challenge. I'm able to row indefinitely without dropouts with my Apple TV and Zwift, but I don't allow any connections to the PM5 other than PainSled or my new app RowedBiker. I know that's not acceptable for everyone, but perhaps we can come up with a combination that works for you.

Cheers, James (aka Rick) Terrell.

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Re: Rowing with Zwift on Apple TV

Post by apple2 » January 15th, 2019, 12:23 pm

Hi Exerscreen,

in that case how do you track heart rate?
In Zwift I use my Apple Watch as HRM thanks to the Zwift Companion app. I'll test to see if that works well with the rower as well otherwise I was planning to get a Wahoo Tickr as HRM so that heart rate can also show up on the PM5 and rowpro. In that case there would be two bluetooth connections to the PM5... Is that an issue?

P.S. has anyone tried the Zwift training programs on the rower and which ones would be more suitable?

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Re: Rowing with Zwift on Apple TV

Post by keith7747 » February 12th, 2019, 11:58 am

I have been rowing on Zwift for a good while. Using the Iphone 5s for the PainSled app, BT to my PM5 unit, and my iPhone 7+ for Zwift.
I TRIED RowPro (two weeks). . . . VERY boring!
Where on Zwift, you can go all over the place see other people biking, and running (which I also have a treadmill). I use Zwift for Cycling, Rowing and Running. Why go with another app.
I have 3 different workouts in 1 app, for 1 price.
(oop's, sorry, I"m not using Apple TV, but wanted to put a word in using Zwift.
Aspire to Ride Higher, Ride a High Wheel

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Re: Rowing with Zwift on Apple TV

Post by exerscreen » March 2nd, 2019, 10:41 pm

apple2 wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 12:23 pm
Hi Exerscreen,

in that case how do you track heart rate?
In Zwift I use my Apple Watch as HRM thanks to the Zwift Companion app. I'll test to see if that works well with the rower as well otherwise I was planning to get a Wahoo Tickr as HRM so that heart rate can also show up on the PM5 and rowpro. In that case there would be two bluetooth connections to the PM5... Is that an issue?

P.S. has anyone tried the Zwift training programs on the rower and which ones would be more suitable?
The BLE HRMs don't seem to be a huge problem compared to audio devices. I HAVE had at least one user who seemed to have a lot of trouble with using the Apple Watch as an HRM. I suspect, but cannot prove, that it wasn't the HRM function that caused the issue but, more likely, the fact that the AW has other BLE traffic to the iOS device that might be using up BLE bandwidth. If you have additional input I'd love to hear it.

I personally use the Zwift group rides and training programs fairly frequently, especially with erg mode enabled in RowedBiker. I have also made a few custom workouts in the editor that match some of the common rowing workouts like pyramids and Tabatas.

Cheers, James "Rick" Terrell, PainSled/RowedBiker maker.

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Re: Rowing with Zwift on Apple TV

Post by Torsinadoc » March 3rd, 2019, 2:26 pm

apple2 wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 12:23 pm
Hi Exerscreen,

in that case how do you track heart rate?
In Zwift I use my Apple Watch as HRM thanks to the Zwift Companion app. I'll test to see if that works well with the rower as well otherwise I was planning to get a Wahoo Tickr as HRM so that heart rate can also show up on the PM5 and rowpro. In that case there would be two bluetooth connections to the PM5... Is that an issue?

P.S. has anyone tried the Zwift training programs on the rower and which ones would be more suitable?
I have no issues with painsled or rowed biker and appleTV. I connect my HRM to the app or PM5 and it shows up. I had a few issues with spotty connection last workout but non today. Currently I am doing Fondo training to build base (Im a new rower). There are several programs that look interesting (TT (time trial) builder). I completed a FTP test yesterday. I forgot how much I hated those on a bike.

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Re: Rowing with Zwift on Apple TV

Post by exerscreen » April 13th, 2019, 7:32 am

Torsinadoc wrote:
March 3rd, 2019, 2:26 pm
I have no issues with painsled or rowed biker and appleTV. I connect my HRM to the app or PM5 and it shows up. I had a few issues with spotty connection last workout but non today. Currently I am doing Fondo training to build base (Im a new rower). There are several programs that look interesting (TT (time trial) builder). I completed a FTP test yesterday. I forgot how much I hated those on a bike.
I have been cowardly avoiding the Zwift FTP test. I will continue to do so going forward! As penance I do the Alpe Du Zwift climb every week or two and I usually get an FTP boost out of it. I have a couple of rowing-ish training plans I built in the Zwift workout editor. Pyramids etc. At some point I will get those collected in a Google docs folder and share them.

Row on!

James

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Re: Rowing with Zwift on Apple TV

Post by toddlikesbikes » April 24th, 2019, 4:47 pm

I can confirm that painsled appears to work with the USB/iPhone cable. It's my only option since I have a PM3.

While painsled shows all the correct data, currently when I connect Zwift (via either companion app or Win 10 bluetooth stack (beta)) it only reports 0 watts. I just emailed Rick and I'll update if I get it solved.

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