The difference between Suunto cadence and bike pods

I spent way too much time trying to figure this out today, so I’m blogging it in hopes that the intertubez will make it easy for future generations to find the answer to this question: what’s the difference between a cadence pod and a bike pod according to Suunto?

See, the Suunto Ambit series of watches can pair with a wide range of sensors that use the ANT+ standard. You can mix and match ANT+ devices from different manufacturers, so a Garmin sensor will work with a Suunto watch, or a Wahoo heart-rate belt will work with a Specialized bike computer. I wanted to get a speed and cadence sensor for my bike. These sensors measure two parameters: how fast you’re going and how rapidly you’re pedaling. (This is a great explanation of what these sensors really measure and how they work.) Ideally you want a nice, steady cadence of 75-90 rpm. I knew I had a variable cadence, and I wanted to measure it to get a sense for where I was at.

I ordered a Wahoo combined cadence/speed sensor from Amazon and installed it on the bike, which was pretty straightforward. Then I paired it with the watch using the “bike POD” option. (Suunto, for some reason, calls sensors “PODs”). That seemed to work fine, except that I wasn’t getting any cadence or speed data. But I knew the sensor was working because the watch paired with it. I tried changing the sensor battery, moving the sensor and its magnets around, and creating a new tracking activity that didn’t use GPS to see if I got speed data from the sensor. Then I thought “maybe it’s because I didn’t pair a cadence pod”, so I tried that, but no matter what I did, the watch refused to see the Wahoo sensor as a cadence sensor.

Here’s why: to Suunto, a “bike POD” is a combined speed/cadence sensor. A “cadence pod” is for cadence only. Like Bluetooth devices, each ANT+ device emits a profile that tells the host device what it is. That’s why the watch wouldn’t see the sensor, which reported itself as a combined cadence/speed unit, when I tried to pair a cadence pod. After I figured that out, I quit trying to pair the cadence pod… but I still didn’t get speed or cadence data.

The solution turned out to be simple. For some reason, in the cycling sport activity, the “Bike POD” sensor was unchecked, so the watch wasn’t reading its data stream during the activity. I don’t remember unchecking the box, but maybe I did. In any event, once I checked the “Bike POD” box and updated the watch, I immediately started getting cadence and speed data, so I set out for a ride.


Hint: if you uncheck any of these boxes the watch will never, ever pay attention to that sensor

I thought it was a pretty good ride from a speed perspective, even though I took a new route that had a number of hills– I had some trouble with that. But look at my cadence… you can see that it definitely needs work. Sigh. One of the nifty things about Suunto’s web site is that it shows vertical speed when you point at cadence data, so I could see where I was struggling to get up hills (meaning I needed to change gears) or loafing when going downhill. Just one more thing to put on my to-fix list…



Filed under Fitness, General Tech Stuff, HOWTO

36 responses to “The difference between Suunto cadence and bike pods

  1. Scott

    Extremely helpful – Thanks!

  2. George

    Thanks. I had the same problem and this information saved me a lot of trouble. My Wahoo now works with my Suunto Ambit when riding my bike.

  3. Donovan

    Thanks for the article. Where does the watch get its speed data from? The GPS or the cadence sensor? I read somewhere that when a bike-pod is used it overrides the GPS which (if true) kind of sucks.

    • robichaux

      It depends on the watch. In the case of the Suunto, it uses the pod instead of the GPS, which isn’t my favorite either.

      • Donovan

        Ok thanks. I read that on the DC Rain Maker review and it sounded too bad to be true (i.e. that the pod provides the speed data). I just wanted to confirm. I bought a sigma cadence sensor to pair with my Ambit2, it works well. Had to take the battery out to get it to pair.

  4. Hsu

    thanks for the information. I need some further help here. Likewise, I bought myself a Wahoo cycling cadence/speed sensor and I was trying to pair it with Suunto quest. I’ve done whatever you’ve suggested to do, ie ticking the PODs boxes. However, I wasn’t even able to pair my suunto with the wahoo device. I even took the battery out to get it paired and it still didn’t work. Any ideas why?

  5. Christia

    Anybody has tried the ambi3 with speed cadence sensors?

  6. matt anderson

    which watch was this for? Sunto ambit3 or ambit2?

  7. shannon

    Bike Pod is ticked. But I still cant get my cadence reading. Currently using Garmin’s magnet-less Cadence & speed

  8. ERic the Viking

    in movescount setup your cycling profile to look for a Bike pod, then you need to pair your bike pod to your watch. Go to “Pair” menu in watch. then follow watches instructions.

  9. Arman

    Thanks for your explanation. I search the Suunto official website and it’s mentioned that the bike pod DOES not measure Cadence while your experiment shows otherwise. I want to buy the bike pod as well. Thanks for confirming.

  10. hawker

    Hi All,

    I think i have the reverse as a problem? I have a Ambit 3 and bought a kayak cadence unit to measure strokes.

    When I tick the cadence block in movescount my watch does not give me a list to chose a cadence when pairing.

    So i have tried using a bike POD which pairs and works essentially but gives me RPM, I just want strokes per min.

    Does any one know how to update the list on the watch after a cadence that is not a Bike, Foot, HR Belt or Power sensor has been added????

    Please Help

    • hawker

      Hi All

      Well i have done some research and the new ambit 3 does not cater for cadence POD’s unless they are Bike, foot, HR or Power ones.

      however the movesount exercise still allows for a cadence POD to be ticked, as does the previous Gen watch Ambit 2.

      Either Suunto forgot about it or it was some harder to program issue due to new bluetooth only.

      I wait and hope for new Suunto ambit 3 software update.

      the Bike POD is working BTW, just not as it is supposed to i guess.

  11. Petter

    Thanks that sorted allot of things for me

  12. If anybody is interested: I have an Ambit 3 Peak (Sapphire w/ HR belt) and Wahoo BlueSC speed/cadence combo sensor works great with it. Wheel size calibration is done in Movescount and you can pair up to three bike PODs.

    Also, Wahoo sensor is dual BT/ANT+, meaning I can pair, for example, my watch via BT and my Galaxy S5 via ANT+ which allows me to have a bigger display for cadence/speed/distance and still record everything with my watch.

    • Darren

      Hello Raducanmihai, where you able to pair it under Bike pods ? As I’ve also the Suunto Ambit 3 & I’m also looking for a cadence sensor that works. So I can track my training, thanks in advance

  13. Darren

    Hello Raducanmihai, you say in your comment that your using the Wahoo Blue SC, does this pair with the Suunto Ambit 3 or just when it’s on an exercise ? As I read the Bontrager Combo Sensor did the same thing & I’m looking for one that works.

  14. Frank

    Thank you for showing this issue. This is a copy cut of what happen to my suunto watch.!I check both bike pod and cadence but im getting only speed only but not cadence. I will check up my setting tonite. I will let you know if it works.

    • Each function of the sensor will need to be paired to a separate Bike POD number; speed to Bike POD 1 & cadence to Bike POD 2, for example. It’s highly inconvenient if you’ve multiple bikes/sensors per bike, but it manages to get the job.

    • As far as I know you can’t add a cadence POD and a speed POD at the same time to a biking profile. You can have speed and cadence only if you have a combo POD (speed and cadence, like the Wahoo one) and if you check Bike POD. I have this setup and it works, I get speed and cadence.

      • Just to be clear on my previous comment: it’s very probable that they fixed this issue in an update. I don’t have separate speed and cadence PODs, so I can’t check it.
        Wahoo SC (combo speed and cadence) works great and can be paired with the Ambit 3 in Settings, under Pair/Bike POD. You just have to activate it, meaning to “wake it up” by spinning the crank or pass the magnet near the sensor. After some time of inactivity, the sensor shuts itself off to save battery, so if you just bought it, take it out of the box and try pairing it, it won’t work because it is “asleep”.

  15. Adam


    I also cant get my Wahoo Blue SC to display on my Suunto Ambit 3 Sport. The 2 devices will pair and show as connected, but there is no read out on the watch. I have the BikePOD box checked in the settings and still nothing.
    Bit disappointed by this as when i read the reviews, they said it was compatible. Suunto have been less than helpful with this. Has anybody else found the solution?

    • Haven’t tried the Wahoo devices; only Scosche & Topeak. Personally, I prefer the Topeak as it has a more svelte, streamlined look to it; battery life is purported to be better, too.

  16. mo

    hi, can anyone confirm they have the wahoo RPM cadence & speed working on a ambit 3, want to add that unit to mine

    • I can vouch for Wahoo Blue SC (Ant & BT) working with Ambit 3, as I already stated above.

      • The Wahoo sensor works best with the Ambit 3 line, taking up only a single bike POD slot. The TICKR HR sensor will also pair with the Ambit via BLE while also transmitting ANT+ to other make/model head units—just like the speed/cadence sensor.

  17. Hi. I just got myself a Suunto distance/cadence/speed sensor. Paired it with my Sunnto Ambit3 Sports watch and true enough I do not see any cadence reading. Speed yes. I saw the screen capture where you ticked the options . Is that from the Suunto movement app ?

    This is a great informative post which is not too technical for a non-technical person like me to understand.


    • robichaux

      Yep, that was from the Suunto Movescount web app. They’ve updated their app several times since I wrote this, and I would imagine they’ve updated the firmware in the Ambit3 also so I’m not sure if my original instructions are still relevant.

  18. Mike

    I was just given an old Garmin Speed/Cadence sensor… I just wanted to measure cadence but keep speed via GPS. From what is being read that is not possible. Please can someone confirm? Also if it takes speed from the sensor; how does it record your route on Movescount/Strava? May thanks in advance

    • I think the way it works now it’s perfect: it records the cadence/speed via sensor and it also records the route via GPS.

      There is no way of recording speed via GPS if you have a speed sensor installed. If you want that, you can take out the magnet for speed recording and leave only the cadence sensor/magnet.

  19. dave

    thank you for the information. i was having problems pairing until i seen this info.the lights on the suunto bike sensor only come on for 10 seconds after initially fitting to the bike , i found this confusing and thought it wasnt picking up the sensors but it was, i then ticked the boxes in moves count for bike pods and heart rate and re connected the watch to the computer that then updated the infomation to the watch.

  20. Andrej Drobež

    Hi, do you have any expirience conecting Bluetooth Power/Cadence sensor to Suunto Spartan. I can pair it as Power Pod, but there is no Cadence data on the watch. Thx Andrej

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