Notes on using Stages LR and using ANT+ vs Bluetooth LE

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OK, I’ve used the PowerTap P1 for quite a while now and it was mostly just automatic, the Garmin Edge 810 just picked it up and it displayed right and left balance no problem. Because the 810 is older, it just uses ANT+ for connectivity and this worked flawlessly with the Wahoo Speed Cadence, PowerTap P1
However, when I moved over to the Stages LR and the Garmin Edge 1030, I lost the balance information. It kept reporting zero.
The reason why is pretty subtle. First is that the Stages and the Garmin both support ANT+ and Bluetooth Low Energy. Turns out that ANT+ although older has way more parameters, so you definitely prefer it. On a modern bicycle, it can definitely feel like you have a computer on your hands. Here’s a sample of the various products on a bicycle and how it communicates. It is really confusing because in the Settings/Sensors screen you will see pretty identical icons but they are using different protocols.
So for example over Bluetooth on Stages LR you get the following. Note that when you use a power meter, you don’t need the Cadence anymore since it provides it, you just need speed sensor. Also note that you get Torque and smoothness in addition to balance.

ANT+ Power (total)
ANT+ Power Balance (left/right)
ANT+ Cadence
ANT+ Pedal Smoothness
ANT+ Torque Effectiveness
Bluetooth Smart Power
Bluetooth Smart Power Balance
Bluetooth Smart Cadence

In general, you want to pick the ANT+ ones, that is those without alphabetic characters Stages LR. It reports as Stages 12345 and 12345 where the digits are the serial number. You want to select the digits.
The other confusing thing about the Stages LR is that there are actually two Bluetooth transmitters, the right sensor is also visible, but you only want to pair with the left one. Took a while to figure that out.
In short on a typical bicycle you want to bias towards ANT+ as much as you can:

  1. Stages LR. Use the Stages ANT+ and get all the information above.
  2. Wahoo Blue SC Cadence and Speed. Uses ANT+ and supports Bluetooth LE and note you can just get away with a speed sensor if you like. But the magnet less Wahoo RPM Speed doesn’t have any magnet and is easier to install, you just put it on the axle and it works. It weighs just 7 grams and has it’s own year long battery (compared with 36 grams for the Blue SC)
  3. Shimano Di2 d-Fly. Have to use Bluetooth for this to talk with Smart phones and has a private ANT+ protocol as well. The 1030 can read gear position and battery as a result so favor ANT+ when connecting. You should also be theoretically be able to change the buttons so that you can make the Di2 work in Semiautomatic mode freeing up two buttons to use for controlling your Garmin.
  4. Garmin Varia Light Network. If you are worried about really long rides, then get the Garmin radar rear and front light. Then you can use your Garmin 1030 over ANT+  to turn them on and you will see cars coming up behind you on the display.

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