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If you feel like you’ve hit a plateau in your training, a heart rate monitor can help take you to the next level. It helps you get the most out of your fitness trackers and apps, pushes you a little harder to increase your VO2 max, and improves your overall performance.
We wanted to find the best heart rate monitor for cycling to help you get the most bang for your buck.
If you’re in a hurry to get out for a ride, these are the best heart rate monitors for cycling right now.
- Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor – Our Overall Top Pick
- Garmin HRM – Best Battery Life
- Wahoo TICKR – Most Comfortable
- Powr Labs HRM – Best On A Budget
- Mo-Fit HRM – Lightest Model
- Scosche HRM Armband – Best Armband Heart Rate Monitor
What To Look For In A Heart Rate Monitor for Cycling
A heart rate monitor (HRM) is an excellent addition to any cyclist’s toolkit. They help you push yourself a little harder, or on the contrary, avoid overtraining. But picking the right one for your needs can be tough if you’re new to the game and don’t know what to look for.
These are some of the things you should pay attention to when buying a new HRM.
While many use a smartwatch or fitness band to keep track of their workouts, using a HRM makes the reading more accurate. They usually take the measurement from your chest instead of your wrist, so there’s no lag.
A study conducted by the American College of Cardiology found that wrist-worn heart rate monitors were less accurate than standard chest straps. They found that a standard chest strap was the “most accurate regardless of the intensity of the workout or whether someone was using the treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike”.
Granted this research is a couple years old and technology is continuing to improve, but at this stage, a chest HRM is still the closest to an electrocardiogram (EKG), which is the gold standard for measuring your heart rate.
Most HRMs come with a Bluetooth connection that syncs the data with an app on your phone. Some also include ANT+ connectivity, which means you’ll be able to sync the HRM with certain pieces of gym equipment.
The best heart rate monitors for cycling have the option of multiple connections at the same time; this means you can pass the data to your Peloton bike at the same time as you’re tracking it on the Health app of your iPhone.
The most important thing is that your HRM can be paired with your specific phone or fitness watch. If you’re not sure whether your fitness tracker is compatible, have a read of the company’s website or contact them before you make your purchase.
If you have a Garmin or Polar fitness watch, it’s always best to go with the same brand for your HRM. It will make your life a helluva lot easier as they’ll always pair and sync seamlessly when combined with the same manufacturer. In fact, the Garmin HRM only syncs with other Garmin devices.
Another thing to note is that we all have our preferences with the fitness apps (Strava, MapMyRide etc) that we use to review our data. Most of the HRM models we included in this list sync with a wide selection of apps. But if the one you’re using is not that common, make sure it’s compatible before buying.
Fitting an HRM is easier for cyclists than many other athletes. The strap doesn’t slide off as easily as in fitness classes or running, or other sports with lots of up-and-down movement. Still, make sure you’ve got the right fit for the strap when you’re buying, or you might notice it sliding off when you’re out on the road!
Some of the models can be too big for smaller chests, especially women. If that’s your case, the Scosche HRM Armband can be the right option, as it takes your heart rate from your forearm.
HRMs can be a pricey addition to your cycling gear, but they do come for all budgets. A pricier model may have a better quality build so it lasts you longer than a cheap one, but today you can find decent quality at half the price of more expensive brands.
Any HRM will need to be at least water-resistant to handle sweat or a possible storm surprising you on your rides. Some of them are waterproof for submersion or a shower; others can even track your data when swimming!
Think about what use you’re planning to give your HRM and whether you’ll need it for multiple sports (i.e triathletes).
Since you’ll be wearing your heart rate monitor on your chest for possibly hours when riding, it’s important that it’s comfortable. The material is relevant, especially for women, as some bands can dig deep into the skin of your chest when moving.
Reviews of the Best Heart Rate Monitors for Cycling in 2020
Polar is a leader and pioneer in the HRM market, and while their products aren’t cheap, they’re certainly of long-lasting quality. This model from the Finnish company is no different. It’s a top athletes’ pick because of its accuracy and durability and covers a wide variety of sports.
This model works with all major fitness watches, smartphones and all HRM-compatible cardio equipment, including Peloton bikes. You can sync the information with your fitness app of choice, and Polar’s app will calculate your calorie burn together with your heart rate.
The band has internal memory for one session at a time. It has the widest range of connection options via Bluetooth, ANT+, and 5kHz, and allows for multiple connections simultaneously.
It’s fully waterproof, so you can use it while swimming. This band is known to be very accurate for swimming use, and the electrodes actually work better when your skin is slightly moist.
The smart band is machine washable and much more comfortable than many other bands. It doesn’t cut into your skin, something especially important for women and on long bike rides.
The negative is that on some occasions, this band has had problems with syncing with some smartphones.
Garmin is another top name in the industry and often a guarantee of good quality. One important positive is that the battery life of this band is amazing, lasting up to 3.5 years. Its connectivity is via Bluetooth and ANT+ and covers a 10-foot range.
The band and monitor weigh just 1.9oz altogether, so it shouldn’t get in the way of your workouts. The design is slim, and the band is soft, washable and comfortable to wear.
Do note that this HRM only works with Garmin devices, meaning that it will not sync the information directly with your phone. You need a Garmin smart watch, such as the Garmin Forerunner, to upload your data to an app. If you do have this kind of Garmin combo, the syncing process is seamless.
Some runners have noted that the band can start sliding off slowly when you’re using it, but with cycling, this is not as big of an issue.
It’s water-resistant, but the transmitter won’t work when the band is underwater, so it’s not recommended for swimming.
The Wahoo TICKR is a good mid-priced option for those looking for a small, light HRM on a budget. It’s very comfortable to wear and weighs only 1.7 ounces. The fit is slim, and the bands feel comfortable against the skin. You likely won’t notice this on your rides.
This model is compatible with more than 50 different apps, including Peloton and Strava, and connects through both Bluetooth and ANT+.
The HRM pairs with your computer or smartphone very well and mostly syncs your data without effort. This model also has LED indicator lights, so you’ll know when the band is connected and recording your data.
One negative is that over time, this model can grow less accurate with measurements.
This heart rate monitor for cycling from Powr Labs comes with Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity. It’s compatible with popular apps used by cyclists, such as Strava, Garmin, Polar, and Peloton bikes. For iPhone Health app users, though, note that you’ll need an iWatch to sync the information.
The band is sweatproof and waterproof for full submersion, but the manufacturer doesn’t recommend it for swimming. If you get the band wet, it’s best to clean and dry it well, so it lasts longer.
You can adjust the chest strap from 26 to 38 inches, but it can be hard to get a tight fit if you have a smaller chest circumference. The band is soft and comfortable to wear, and there are no hard plastic parts against your skin.
This model comes with a full 12-month warranty, and the company offers a free battery replacement for the first 12 months, no questions asked. The battery life is about 6 months, so you’ll likely need to contact the company for your replacement during that first year.
Overall, this is a good product that takes an accurate reading and pairs easily with your devices. It’s also half the price of the Polar model, so it’s definitely an interesting alternative to the big-name heart rate monitors.
This budget-friendly heart rate monitor from Mo-Fit is compatible with multiple apps, fitness trackers, and smartphones.
The Mo-Fit HRM is waterproof for submersion but not recommended for swimming. The casing is impact-resistant, so it’s a good option for clumsy cyclists! It also comes with a full 24-month warranty, so your investment is guaranteed for some time.
It’s the most lightweight option in our review at only 1.6 ounces, but the design feels a little bulky compared to the other models. The elastic strap is soft but not the most durable, especially for everyday use.
For those who don’t like the sensation of a chest band HRM, this model from Scosche has a comfortable neoprene armband. It also comes with an additional armband if you lose or wear out the first one.
This band has dual connectivity through Bluetooth with a 100-foot range and ANT+ to use with your gym equipment. The HRM syncs well with your phone, smartwatch or tablet, and works with most popular fitness apps.
The band is waterproof, up to 3 feet (1 meter). You don’t have to worry about protecting it on a rainy day or sweating during a tough ride in the summer heat. You can also take it out on a swim with you, but the accuracy may suffer in the water.
Note that the armband design is functional while cycling, but the velcro attachment can be problematic with other sports. It can be a bit hard to find the correct tightness level where it doesn’t bother your muscles when moving.
The Top Choice for Cyclists
The best heart rate monitor for cycling is the Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor. It’s not the newest and most exciting product on the market, but it’s been the favorite of everyday users and pro athletes for years because of its robust quality.
Polar’s measurements are accurate, and the connectivity options with Bluetooth, ANT+, and 5kHz are the best on the market. It’s also compatible with most fitness apps, trackers, and smartphones.
As for the fit, this model has an amazingly comfortable band that doesn’t dig into your skin, which is especially important on long rides.
Overall, it’s a top-quality product that’s definitely worth your investment.
Please drop us a comment below if you have any questions. Thanks for reading!