How To Use Your Concept2 Rower on Zwift

How To Use Your Concept2 Rower on Zwift

I want to be clear here: I’m not an experienced rower. I’m also not an experienced software or hardware hacker. But I do enjoy rowing workouts (although I’ve found them rather boring compared to Zwift’s indoor experience.) And I do enjoy a useful tech hack (but if if requires much research or testing, I usually don’t have the time to complete the project.)

So when I first heard of a few Zwifters who had figured out how to row in game (that is, use their rower to power their Zwift cycling avatar) I was intrigued. This was early in my Zwift life, and I spent some time poking around online, tried to get myself hooked up… and gave up after a couple hours. It was all doable with little or no extra hardware/software needed–but it would require too much time and learning on my part to implement. Not worth it.

Fast forward a couple years, and astute Zwift Insider reader Victor Bastiaansen emails me with news about a new feature in the PainSled app which makes it easy to connect your Concept2 to Zwift. It got my attention, so I headed down to the garage and spent 15 minutes setting it up. Viola! I was rowing on Zwift.

What You Need

  • A Concept2 rower with the PM5 head unit
  • An iOS device (iPhone or iPad) to run the PainSled app
  • A device to run Zwift. This device must either support Bluetooth in Zwift (so you are limited to iOS devices, Apple TV, and Mac) OR you can use the Zwift Companion app to pick up the Bluetooth power signal and send it to your Zwift session, so you can Zwift on a PC or other device.

Getting Started

  1. Make sure your PM5’s firmware is up to date. (If you’re like me, you never updated it after purchasing the rower.) I connected the PM5 to my Windows laptop via USB, downloaded the Concept2 Utility, and updated the firmware. It’s a simple process.
  2. Install the PainSled app on your iOS device, then enable the ZWIFT option in the PainSled Log Settings page. (Click on the log icon, then “Settings” in the upper-left corner of the display.)
  3. Connect PainSled to your Concept2’s PM5. To do this, click More Options > Turn Wireless On on your PM5. Make sure Bluetooth is enabled on your iOS device, then your PM5 should quickly connect to PainSled. If you start rowing, you will see your wattage on the iOS device.
  4. On your Zwift device, connect to your PainSled iOS device as your power meter. You can also pair other sensors on your Zwift device (such as your HR monitor).
  5. Get Zwifting!

And that’s all there is to it. For me, I’m running PainSled on my iPhone, and Zwift on my iPad. It’s quick and easy to jump on whenever I’d like… faster than signing into Zwift on my PC, in fact.

Note: there are other ways of hooking this up (via Zwift Companion, the CABLE ANT to Bluetooth bridge, etc): see comments below for some of these ideas.

The Future of Rowing on Zwift

While rowers have had “Zwift-like” software available for years, bringing rowing into Zwift would surely take virtual rowing to a new level. ZwiftHQ has been toying with rowing since its early days, but chose (wisely) to concentrate on cyclists and runners first.

My hope is that we’ll see actual rowing avatars in Zwift within the next 3 years. But until that happens, rowing my bike up a hill is quite fun anyway. And while I can’t pull 1000 watts to win a sprint, I can sustain decent power (130-210w) for a good 30-60 minute workout which includes my upper body and keeps my avatar putting along nicely. And that’s a win in my book.

Row on!

 

Rowing on Zwift, in my messy garage.

About The Author

Eric Schlange

Eric runs Zwift Insider in his spare time when he isn't on the bike or managing various business interests. He lives in Northern California with his beautiful wife, two kids and dog. Follow on Strava

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Mike Price
Mike Price
1 year ago

By the way, I discovered you can do this with a PM3 as well. You just need a cable to connect the PM3 to your phone. The iPad picks up the power data from the phone/PainSled. No luck with a PC so far, though.

Andrew
Andrew
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Price

What cable do you need and where can we purchase? I have a PM4 and would love to try this too. Tks

James Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew

Hey Andrew, PainSled iOS works with the LiveRowing cable. I’m the developer, BTW.

Christoph Krieger
Christoph Krieger
1 year ago
Reply to  James Terrell

Any chance to get an Android Version?

ExerScreen
11 months ago

Christoph, yes there is an Android version on both the Play Store and the Amazon App Store. The app how-to with all of the app and connection options is here.

James Lewis
James Lewis
3 months ago
Reply to  James Terrell

I have a Concept II Model C with a PM4. The LiveRowing cable is no longer available and the PM5 upgrade is $230+. Trying to find something cheaper to work with my PM4. Will this work with a standard USB Type B to lightning cable?

Jay Labuschagne
Jay Labuschagne
1 year ago

Hey Eric,
Thanks for the post. There also seems to be this option for folks on the iOS system: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/rowedbiker/id1435730481#?platform=ipad & https://apps.apple.com/us/app/rowedbiker/id1435730481#?platform=iphone

I haven’t had a chance to check if it works, it also claims to have an internal power bias to scale the erg’s power to your bike FTP (not sure how that will work).

Worth investigating.

J

Karen Cormier
Karen Cormier
1 year ago

Worked perfectly, thanks Eric!

Vince Mackie
Vince Mackie
1 year ago

I recently got a SkiErg at home but prior to that have only ever managed short workouts on it in the gym. Staring at the PM5 just ain’t that exciting! For motivation last night I tried Rowedbiker running on an iPhone and Zwift on my iPad. Installation and connecting up was straightforward. After some tinkering with the FTP boost setting in Rowedbiker I was able to complete Emily’s Short Mix workout with the Zwift visuals really helping the 30 minutes to pass quickly. I haven’t cycled or done much cardio work lately so I set the FTP boost in Rowedbiker… Read more »

Tim
Tim
1 year ago

Does anyone know of an android solution for this problem?

Jay Labuschagne
Jay Labuschagne
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim

Hi Tim,

There is a “RowedBike” app on the gogle play store that does this (I used it thus morning) still needs two devices (one to bridge and one to game) but it works.

jason perez
jason perez
1 year ago

So to be clear I can’t use my iphone XS to run both Zwift and the Pain-sled app? I’ll need two devices, one to run each app?

ExerScreen
11 months ago
Reply to  jason perez

That is correct, neither iOS or Android will allow an app that is receiving Bluetooth (Zwift, in this case) to connect to an app on the same device that is transmitting Bluetooth (RowedBiker or PainSled). Likely to keep apps from spying on each other or communicating outside of the OS. I recommend running RowedBiker Android on a Amazon Fire 7 tablet. It’s only $50 new or $20 used plus some cables. Stick it on the rower with some velcro and leave it there. More details on all of the connection options are here.

CD Riches
CD Riches
1 year ago

This is a Godsend fix -many thanks! Monitor packed up on my Wattbike yesterday and I went into Zwifty cold turkey – But with this fix my ski season has come early -works a treat on skierg.

Barkingmad
Barkingmad (@david)
10 months ago

Any other rowers you know that support this or just the Concept 2 (with PM5) so far?

PETER BROWN
PETER BROWN
3 months ago

I find the RowedBiker app works much better than PainSled.

Peter Paker
Peter Paker
1 month ago

Nice. It kills Zwift at it was a long time before. But now you can be the fastest rider on alpe without having a bike. Very very nice.

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