Unbricking A $2,000 Exercise Bike With A Raspberry Pi Zero And Bluetooth Hacks

Really, how did we get the point in this world where an exercise bike can be bricked? Such was the pickle that [ptx2] was in when their $2,000 bike by Flywheel Home Sports was left without the essential feature of participating in virtual rides after Peloton bought the company. The solution? Reverse engineer the bike to get it working with another online cycling simulator.

Sniffing Flywheel Bluetotooth packets with Bluetility

We have to admit we weren’t aware of the array of choices that the virtual biking markets offers. [ptx2] went with Zwift, which like most of these platforms, lets you pilot a smart bike through virtual landscapes along with the avatars of hundreds of other virtual riders. A little Bluetooth snooping with Bluetility let [ptx2] identify the bytes in the Flywheel bike’s packets encoding both the rider’s cadence and the power exerted, which Zwift would need, along with the current resistance setting of the magnetic brake.

Integration into Zwift was a matter of emulating one of the smart bikes already supported by the program. This required some hacking on the Cycling Power Service, a Bluetooth service that Zwift uses to talk to the bike. The final configuration has a Raspberry Pi Zero W between the Flywheel bike and the Zwift app, and has logged about 2,000 miles of daily use. It still needs a motor to control the resistance along the virtual hills and valleys, but that’s a job for another day.

Hats off to [ptx2] for salvaging a $2,000 bike for the price of a Pi and some quality hacking time, and for sticking it to The Man a bit. We have to say that most bike hacks we see around here have to do with making less work for the rider, not more. This project was a refreshing change.

[Featured images: Zwift, Flywheel Sports]

[via r/gadgets]

17 thoughts on “Unbricking A $2,000 Exercise Bike With A Raspberry Pi Zero And Bluetooth Hacks

        1. Yeah that borked me a bit, not two years after I bought my Pebble Steel Black did FitBit screw up everything – from what I can tell of the acquisition they’ve learned nothing from it and dumped all that expertise, only did it for anti-competitive reasons.

          £130 nearly down the drain, the most I’d ever paid for any timepiece.

          Thank science for these guys – rebble.io

          Thanks to them I still wear my Pebble with pride, it’s a real piece of smart engineering, powerful system albeit only mono transflective display, which is quite cool in its own way. Most critically, which nobody else seems to have cracked, is the battery life outlasts ANY graphic smartwatch of today, easily see a weeks battery life.

          1. It’s like a Palm PDA VS a smartphone. They could run for DAYS between charges. When the Tungsten E2 was new, one reviewer gave up waiting for it to die after 12 hours playing MP3s.

    1. You sell exercise bikes and you bought another company that also makes exercise bikes and you have the ability to brick the bikes people didn’t buy from you so they will have to drop a couple of grand on a new bike from you and the company bricked the bikes? Shocking, who would had thunk it!

  1. Nothing was bricked. You didn’t need firmware fixes or to break out the JTAG programmer. You bought a internet of crap device that relied on the manufacturer to keep their end running.

  2. My ex wife 20 + years ago used to set her bike up in the lounge room on a $50 mag trainer and ride along with the Tour de France highlights – no subscription necessary.

    They rode a lot faster than she did …

    1. And with the endless number of videos on youtube it practically pays for itself. I never really understood the ‘simulator’ bikes. A good trainer with resistance is more than enough.

      1. I thought so as well.
        But apparently the motivation is a lot better when you’re riding in the swift world. Gamification is a nice thing.
        And in comparison to Peloton you can nearly use anything you have at home to join.
        You just pay for the usage of the system. 25 km per month is free.
        I’m currently working on enabling my “stupid” exercise bike to go online :-)

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