Last year we both a treadmill. This is how I got introduced to the clusterfuck that is bluetooth standards on treadmills and sport watches.
To understand what the problem is, we first have to understand the different BT standards. The two main ones we need to have a look at is
Lets starts with RSCP.
This is the standard that Bluetooth foot pods typically sends out. Stryd, Zwift and even the Garmin Running Dynamics Pod broadcasts this. The standard sends out cadence and estimated running speed.
FTMS “The gold standard”
This is the standard that most stationary running equipment broadcasts. FTMS has a lot of features, it has modes for indoor bike trainers, cross-trainers (elliptical), and a lot more. Another thing that differentiates it from RSCP is the ability to control the training equipment. FTMS make it possible for Zwift to control the resistance of a bike trainer, FTMS also work on newer treadmills to control speed and incline.
External electronic control of the speed of the treadmill is a complicated topic, because it has been discussed that this is dangerous. A software bug can make it go to fast, and you will fall off (or just jump off to the sides).
Sport watches and FTMS
FTMS came much earlier to bike trainers then to treadmill. Cyclists are also more gear-heads then runners, this resulted in early support for FTMS on Bikecomputers. This support on bike computers trickled down to the high end watch units (all tri-labeled watches from Garmin supports FTMS bike mode).
Great, FTMS works on watches then?
Yes and no. Treadmills are still not supported by Garmin (I am not sure about the state on Polar, Apple watch and Wahoo, please send me a mail, or poke me on matrix if you know).
If you try to connect to a FTMS treadmill with a Garmin watch, it will show up as a bike trainer, making it very confusing for the user.
You likely want your runs logged with distance that the treadmill tracks to Strava or other services. There are four ways to handle this (as I know of).
- Use Zwift on a computer or apple TV to control the treadmill and sync to services from there.
- Use a device that broadcasts in RSCP mode. Good candidates are Stryd or NPE RUNN.
- Use an app on the phone that supports FTMS treadmill mode. I have only found one that semi-works, and that is Wahoo Fitness: Workout Tracker. (I am on Android, IOS might have better luck. Please contact me if you have suggestions, so I can update this post).
- Use a device that can intercept the FTMS signal and rebroadcast it to RSCP. I have not found one yet, but it should be possible to make a esp 32 microcontroller for this (again, contact me if you want to collaborate on this).
What treadmills that have Bluetooth only broadcasts in FTMS mode?
Almost all I think. I read somewhere that Woodway was working on a dual-mode that broadcasts in both RSCP and FTMS mode, but I can’t find the site I read it. And as usual about rumors about manufacturers updating hardware after they have been released it seems unlikely.