Running Zwift can be as easy as buying the latest Apple TV and a trainer. But what if you have more devices than a trainer? Let's say you'd like to connect your new power meter and your fancy heart rate monitor also. Now you would run into the Bluetooth limitations of Apple TVs of maximum two Bluetooth devices connected at the same time and there is no option to use ANT+. But you've read somewhere that you can connect them through you phone via the Zwift Companion app instead. Sure you can do that, but what if you'd like to listen to music at the same time with your Bluetooth headset? Suddenly you have four Bluetooth devices connected to your phone and you can't switch apps to change a song on your phone while in the middle of a workout.
There are solutions to this. You could bring your gaming computer to the garage and replace your Apple TV or buy a new computer for the purpose of running Zwift. But if you are like me where your hobby has already grown out of proportions and become too expensive already that might not be what is best for your wallet.
Say hi to Steam Link
There is a solution to all of this where you do not have to buy a lot of expensive equipment. The cheapest and, in many ways, better solution is to use a Steam Link. You would need some basic technical understanding to get this up and running. I will make it easy for you by writing this guide on how to get a really great Zwift setup that do not cost much. And the best part: this also work with ANT+.
In 2015 Valve made their own hardware called Steam Link where you could stream any game from your computer to your TV as long as they are on the same network. This tiny device were pretty cheap ($49.99 introduction price). I got mine for around $20 when they ended its life cycle. When the device were discontinued they released the software for anyone to download and use on their own hardware. You can run it on a Raspberry PI where the most expensive one cost no more than $45. I will from now on assume you got your Steam Link up and running. May that be by owning a copy of the discontinued Valve hardware or some other device running the Steam Link software.
- TV or any screen for Zwift
- A computer able to run Zwift
- Steam Link
- ANT+ dongle and trainer for your bike
Lets get to work
Next step is to start your Steam Link. Use Steam Link to connect to your PC from the main menu. Navigate to Zwift and run it. You should get the splash screen where you can sign in to Zwift. Use any connected mouse or gaming controller to navigate (if you use a controller you can change it to control the cursor, I press the "back" or "option" button on mine to select the cursor mode). If Zwift starts up and you're able to navigate the menus you're all good to go.
I had some problems with Zwift not showing the cursor while in game. For this I had to do some settings on my computer running Windows by changing cursor trails as described in this post.
So what about ANT+? Steam Link do not have support for almost any other USB devices than keyboards, mice or headsets. There is a solution to this however called VirtualHere which takes any USB device connected to your Steam Link and transmits the signal back to your computer as if the USB device is connected to your computer.
To enable this you would have to install VirtualHere (11.95€) on your computer via Steam and start the application. Now go back to your Steam Link and connect your ANT+ dongle to it via USB. On the main screen there is a Settings option. Go to that and navigate to VirtualHere. From here you can add your ANT+ dongle as a device.
Lets get started Zwifting
So you've got Steam and VirtualHere running on your computer. Run Steam Link again and start Zwift. When logged in you should see that the ANT+ icon in the top left is activated and you should be able to add your trainer and other ANT+ compatible devices to Zwift.
What about Bluetooth devices?
If you'd like to add Bluetooth devices to your Steam Link it might be possible to buy a Bluetooth USB dongle and attach it to your Steam Link using VirtualHere to transmit the data to your computer. I have not tried this myself but would be happy to hear if anyone else did.
Some additional changes you can make to have an excellent Zwift setup is to use a wired connection. It might work using Wifi but it might also be prone to errors. Since my setup is in my garage where I do not have an ethernet connection available I solved this by using a power-line network adapter. There are also some adjustments you can make to your Steam settings on your computer. Go to your Steam settings and change:
- Remote Play > Advanced Client Options > Limit Bandwidth to: 50 MBit/s
- Remote Play > Advanced Client Options > Limit Resolution to: 1920x1080 (1080p)
- Remote Play > Advanced Client Options > Enable hardware decoding
- Remote Play > Client options streaming to this computer: Beautiful
I use this setup myself having a pretty good gaming PC with Windows 10 in my office running Zwift, Steam and VirtualHere. In my garage I have a Steam Link, a TV, my bike and trainer. All my devices like power meter, heart rate monitor and trainer are all connected by ANT+ to my Steam Link. This works perfectly fine and I'm also able to listen to music on my phone and use Zwift Companion app to control Zwift while riding. Hope this has been of any help for you.