You don’t really need anything except a good indoor bike to get into indoor cycling. However, if you want to make sure that you’re getting the cardiovascular workout that you’re meant to, and to push yourself to continuously improve, a good heart rate monitor could be just what you need.
Here, we’re going to look at what makes a great chest heart rate monitor for indoor cycling, as well as some of the best on the market at the moment.
Quick Buying Guide
Before we dive into which heart rate monitors are the best for indoor cycling, let’s make sure we understand what makes them good in the first place. There are plenty of options out there, but you want to make sure you’re choosing one specifically well suited to cycling.
First of all, you want to make sure that it fits and is comfortable. Usually, this will be determined by where you wear it, such as whether it’s on your wrist, chest, or thigh. After all, you don’t want the device to sliding off when you’re mid-cycle.
This type of wireless connectivity can allow your heart rate monitor to sync up with various hardware. After all, the monitor is just a sensor, you typically use something else such as your digital indoor bike display or smartphone app (such as Strava) to display the actual data.
A type of wireless connectivity that has been the predominant choice of heart rate monitors in the past, though Bluetooth is becoming increasingly popular. ANT+ is typically considered more reliable for communicating with multiple devices while Bluetooth typically has stronger one-on-one connectivity.
Accuracy of Measurement
You want to make sure that the data you’re getting is what your heart is actually doing. There are varying levels of accuracy across heart rate monitors of all kinds, but the closest BPM readings typically come from monitors worn over the chest.
Electric HRM (ECG) Vs Optical
These are two forms of measuring your heart rate in BPM (Beats Per Minute). You have Electric HRM which measures electrical impulses through muscle movements over the heart, while Optical uses LED lights to shines light through the skin to read blood flow visually. Typically, Electric HRM is more accurate than LED tends to be.
You would tend to find Optical heart rate monitors on wrist watches.
Benefits Of Wearing A Chest Heart Rate Monitor For Your Indoor Cycling
A chest heart rate monitor isn’t just something that can help you get a little more information on how good you’re doing on your indoor bike. It has real practical use that can improve the way that you cycle, as well. Here are some of the very real benefits worth considering:
Ensure You’re Hitting The Right Intensity
The main reason you will want to know your heart rate is that you will want to make sure you’re getting the right kind of exercise. Exercise intensity is typically measured in heart rate zones.
These are ranges of BPM that effectively tell you whether you’re working out your heart or not. With the right display, heart rate monitors can help you ensure that you’re hitting the right intensity.
If you have any concerns about raising your heart rate too high, you should talk to your doctor. However, heart rate monitors can let you know there and then how much you’re pushing your physical limits, allowing you to exercise more safely.
Get Real-Time Updates On Your Performance
Heart rate monitors continually update their readings based on your current performance. As such, you can see when you need to push a little harder to reach your target, or when you are approaching your limits and should cool down a bit.
Measure & Improve Overtime
As you cycle more, your fitness levels will improve and your body will be able to push new limits. A heart monitor lets you track this progress over time so you can see the fruits of your labours.
The first in our line-up is the Wahoo TICKR, a heart rate monitor that has the benefits of being able to connect to a range of devices via both ANT+ and Bluetooth. This monitor is worn over the chest, attached with the help of an adjustable slot strap. As well as using an electric HRM to measure your heart rate, it also features two LEDs on top to show if it’s connected to a device via a blue light and reading your heart rate via a red light.
Given that it’s attached to the chest, you can be sure that the Wahoo Tickr is going to give relatively accurate readings. It’s also highly comfortable thanks to the adjustable soft band that wraps just beneath the chest.
One very nice feature is that it clearly shows when it’s working via the two LED lights at the very top. Add to that the in-built connectivity with a host of apps, including Strava, Runmeter, and the Wahoo Elemnt App and it’s actually recognised as the main HRM to connect to the app, Zwift!
It’s able to connect up to 3 multiple connections either through Bluetooth or ANT+ to help you get the very best from your cycling. Here you could be connecting to Zwift to display your on-screen data, your cycling computer and also your smartwatch if you wanted.
It’s a great chest heart rate monitor and one that I currently use myself!
You can check out my full review of the Wahoo Tickr here.
Next, we have the Polar H10, which is another heart rate monitor worn on the chest with the benefits of decent elasticity and adjustability. Just like the Wahoo Tickr, this also uses an electric HRM to measure your heart rate. It’s also able to connect to other devices via both Bluetooth and ANT+.
It also has an inbuilt memory that stores a training session, allowing it to return data that directly compares your progress against your last workout.
That inbuilt memory function is another key benefit to it. While a lot of workout apps will use data from heart rate monitors to track your progress across workouts, the fact that this feature is built into the Polar H10 means it can update you in real-time on how you’re performing compared to your last session. This can be used with the inbuilt Polar Beat app, as well as a host of apps that have inbuilt compatibility.
It’s comfortable and accurate, as well as being extremely unobtrusive to wear thanks to how simple the set-up is. One minor complaint is that it can be a little more complex to pair with devices for the first time, thanks to a five-step set-up process that does make it a little less immediately accessible than some of the other options.
However, once you get it paired that first time, it should read a-okay the rest of the time.
Garmin HRM Duel
Garmin is one of the best-known names when it comes to the heart rate monitor market, in large part thanks to the fact that they are also the manufacturers that popularized the use of ANT+ connections.
However, the HRM Duel can use both ANT+ and Bluetooth concurrently, so don’t assume it’s limited to just one. This chest strap monitor has an advertised battery life of 3.5 years with an hour of use per day. The adjustable strap is designed to fit just below the chest with a removable heart rate module to make it easier to put on and take off.
That adjustability and removability do make it particularly easy to find what way of wearing it is most comfortable for you and most accurate in its readings. The reliability, in terms of not just the battery life but also the waterproof and sweatproof nature of the removable and washable module, is another strong point in favour of the HRM Duel.
Otherwise, it’s a perfectly comfortable, easy-to-wear, and accurate piece of equipment.
The fact that the Garmin HRM Duel doesn’t have the LED displays on top to signal that it is successfully reading your heart rate and connected to a device like the Wahoo Tickr is a slight downside by comparison.
However, when it comes to measuring personal performance and reading your body stats – Garmin is definitely one of the brands you can reply on!
The CooSpo is another great and affordable chest heart rate monitor. Like many of the other options here, it allows you to connect to devices via both Bluetooth and ANT+ pairing and has inbuilt compatibility with Wahoo, Peloton, Zwift, and other fitness apps.
The chest strap is made of a soft textile that ensures a snug fit while conforming to the shape of your body, allowing you to be as mobile and agile as you like during training.
Ease of use is a big factor in the CooSpo as it is relatively small, making it easy to take on and pull off, while the adjustment buckle makes it easy to fit to your body, too. It has compatibility with a wide range of smartphones, tablets, GPS’s and computers, as well as various workout apps meaning it makes it easy to transmit workout data to whatever method you’re tracking it by.
It typically has a significantly lower price point than some of the others listed here, too, making it a great budget buy.
However, there have been people who have noted that the battery does die a great degree sooner than other heart rate monitors and the light nature and manufacturing does feel relatively weak compared to others.
But if you’re looking for an inexpensive, entry-level monitor to help you get started, this could be the right option for you.
The last heart rate monitor we’re looking at is the LifeLine, also Bluetooth and ANT+ compatible which is worn via an adjustable chest strap made of a soft, comfortable fabric.
This is the most affordable option out of them all.
It features an ultra-lightweight chest pod, designed to stay out of your way, as well as a battery life of up to 900 hours of use.
While 900 hours isn’t quite as much as is offered by some of the other options, like the Garmin HRM Duel, it’s still a very impressive length of time and while the lightweight nature of the pod might make you worry about the manufacturing integrity, the LifeLine feels solid and reliable, meaning you’re not going to worry about moving so much it does any damage to it.
This device offers the kind of connectivity you would expect from a high-end heart rate monitor, using not just ANT+, but the upgraded Bluetooth Smart, which offers even strong connections with your devices. The connectivity is improved even further by a noise rejection feature that makes sure that other devices don’t get in the way as easily.
If there are any downsides to this device it’s the lack of features it has in comparison to some others, such as it’s lack of appeal as it has a certain cheaper look to it compared to the others discussed here.
Apart from this though, it’s a perfectly good heart rate monitor.
Which of the devices above best suits your needs will depend on a range of things, one of them being your budget. The Polar H10 & Wahoo Tickr offers possibly the most accurate readings out of the lot, but the LED display of the Wahoo Tickr allows for super easy troubleshooting, while the LifeLine has enhanced connectivity with a range of devices but you may feel it’s not the most stylish of them all.
Get to know what you’re looking for in your heart rate monitor and what your budget is. From there, the opinions featured above can help you hone down your choices but, if it’s accuracy alone that decides it for you, you might want to choose either the Polar H10 or Wahoo Tickr.
If you’re after something just that bit more affordable then the CooSpo or LifeLine HRM is what you’re after.
If you’re looking for a HRM with a longer battery life then you’ll want the Garmin HRM Duel.