Noob in HRMs, what do I need?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Noob in HRMs, what do I need?

    Fairly simple but I still don't quite get how it works.

    I need a HR monitor with decent accuracy that lets me monitor in real time my HR while on the bike and syncronize it to Strava so I know where was I going in X zone. I know there are some variations and apparently the chest strap ones are preferable if the fit is good.
    Now, how do I read it while on the bike? Bike computers? Any kind will work? I don't want to put my phone in the bars so it has to be something else.
    And for connection, is that what the ANT+ thing or bluetooth is for? Is that how it works?

    What should I get? I want something budget friendly so If I can save money avoiding cadence speed etc etc features in the computer I'd go that way. All I really want to know is my HR accurately.

    Any recommendations? Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    Garmin Edge 25 and any Ant+ HR chest strap, or Wahoo TickrFit arm strap.

    Tiny unit on the bars, can do speed and cadence if you want, but showing the HR and Zone on one screen is the main feature.
    USB connection to PC, or bluetooth to phone to upload to Garmin Connect and then to Strava.
    Full GPS too, so will have that info too.

  3. #3
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    You'll need some sort of head unit to display the info you want. There are lots of choices. NordieBoy's suggestion is near the bottom of the price scale for a separate dedicated display. That said, the model he mentions has been discontinued. IMO, it's not up to snuff when it comes to the GPS track recording accuracy for mtb use. Being discontinued and a less desirable model, you can probably find it for particularly cheap, though. There really is a wide range of possible devices you can choose from that will accomplish this, though. Not quite "any device will work" but there are quite a few. It'll definitely help you, I think, if you set some hard budget numbers on such a thing so you can direct your search a bit better.

    That said, having a high quality recording capability with regards to the GPS side of things gives you better analysis capabilities of your HR related to the terrain. It also gives you a pretty solid platform to build on if you find that you like that side of things and wish to expand your use of fitness sensors and training.

    The main selection criteria you need to consider, though (after budget), is whether you want a watch-style head unit (with many offering multisport capability if you do other activities where you want to monitor HR, or if you simply prefer a watch form factor), or a bike-only bar/stem mount head unit. A watch can be worn on the wrist while riding, and there are various mounts that will allow you to put the watch on your bars (they will vary to some extent depending on which watch you're looking at). Most devices will also allow you to set up audio alerts for HR zones and such, so you don't necessarily have to be watching it like a hawk. Some of the better ones will give you the ability to set up a pretty detailed "workout" with intervals and all sorts of good functions. It can be hard to follow those plans on a mtb (since so much of your output depends on the terrain), but they can work well on a road bike.

    ANT+ is just the wireless transmission protocol. In some respects, it's a competitor to Bluetooth, but there are major differences. ANT+ is slower, so it's not as good for larger data transfers. But it's also lower on the power consumption side of things, and there are also differences with pairing that make it better for simple sensors. At this point, it's not a bad idea, though, to get sensors that can do both ANT+ and Bluetooth. It gives you a few more options with devices to read/display the information.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by NordieBoy View Post
    Garmin Edge 25 and any Ant+ HR chest strap, or Wahoo TickrFit arm strap.

    Tiny unit on the bars, can do speed and cadence if you want, but showing the HR and Zone on one screen is the main feature.
    USB connection to PC, or bluetooth to phone to upload to Garmin Connect and then to Strava.
    Full GPS too, so will have that info too.
    Nice little unit, but the 520 is worth the extra $$$.
    Surly Krampus
    All City MMD
    Kona Unit

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcd46 View Post
    Nice little unit, but the 520 is worth the extra $$$.
    Not if HR display/recording is your main aim.

    A 2nd hand 25 would be a great little gateway drug into the world of head units

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by NordieBoy View Post
    Not if HR display/recording is your main aim.

    A 2nd hand 25 would be a great little gateway drug into the world of head units
    I stand corrected.
    Surly Krampus
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  7. #7
    since 4/10/2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by NordieBoy View Post
    Not if HR display/recording is your main aim.
    why not?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by NordieBoy View Post
    Garmin Edge 25 and any Ant+ HR chest strap, or Wahoo TickrFit arm strap.

    Tiny unit on the bars, can do speed and cadence if you want, but showing the HR and Zone on one screen is the main feature.
    USB connection to PC, or bluetooth to phone to upload to Garmin Connect and then to Strava.
    Full GPS too, so will have that info too.
    I like that one. That's probably the lowest I can get something of quality right? It shows up at $139 on Amazon. $109 for a renewed unit. Wouldn't mind that price getting lower though, I still need to get the chest strap.
    And about that, I see a bunch of Wahoo recommendations on other sites. Are there any other brands that are worth it or a Wahoo will be the best choice?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    You'll need some sort of head unit to display the info you want. There are lots of choices. NordieBoy's suggestion is near the bottom of the price scale for a separate dedicated display. That said, the model he mentions has been discontinued. IMO, it's not up to snuff when it comes to the GPS track recording accuracy for mtb use. Being discontinued and a less desirable model, you can probably find it for particularly cheap, though. There really is a wide range of possible devices you can choose from that will accomplish this, though. Not quite "any device will work" but there are quite a few. It'll definitely help you, I think, if you set some hard budget numbers on such a thing so you can direct your search a bit better.

    That said, having a high quality recording capability with regards to the GPS side of things gives you better analysis capabilities of your HR related to the terrain. It also gives you a pretty solid platform to build on if you find that you like that side of things and wish to expand your use of fitness sensors and training.

    The main selection criteria you need to consider, though (after budget), is whether you want a watch-style head unit (with many offering multisport capability if you do other activities where you want to monitor HR, or if you simply prefer a watch form factor), or a bike-only bar/stem mount head unit. A watch can be worn on the wrist while riding, and there are various mounts that will allow you to put the watch on your bars (they will vary to some extent depending on which watch you're looking at). Most devices will also allow you to set up audio alerts for HR zones and such, so you don't necessarily have to be watching it like a hawk. Some of the better ones will give you the ability to set up a pretty detailed "workout" with intervals and all sorts of good functions. It can be hard to follow those plans on a mtb (since so much of your output depends on the terrain), but they can work well on a road bike.

    ANT+ is just the wireless transmission protocol. In some respects, it's a competitor to Bluetooth, but there are major differences. ANT+ is slower, so it's not as good for larger data transfers. But it's also lower on the power consumption side of things, and there are also differences with pairing that make it better for simple sensors. At this point, it's not a bad idea, though, to get sensors that can do both ANT+ and Bluetooth. It gives you a few more options with devices to read/display the information.
    I'm pretty much an eternally in debt student keeping up with my bike's needs and my college's needs so when I want to add something I usually try to go for the cheapest possible way. However, I understand that this could be the best tool yet to add to my bike's and will help me train in a more structured way, so I'm willing to pay anything as long as it makes sense and will be useful in the future. But, for example, I'll never get a powermeter, at least not on my actual budget, so if an unit has that feature (being able to read power), I totally not need that.

    I want to know my HR, and have features associated with that, but I could be OK with just the HR. And maybe a "lap" button or so. And a stopwatch perhaps? I don't know, I figure out that sounds basic enough and it's really all I need right now.

    I'd definitely prefer something bar mounted, but the watch idea sounds pretty convenient if it mounts easily on the bar or stem. Any recommendations on that?

  10. #10
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    I'll read on the differences between the Edge 25 and the 520. I get the feeling I have heard about the 520 countless times before locally, so If the features justify the price, i might just save an extra month and get that one.

    But should I stick with Garmin? Seems reputable enough. Another brand that a bunch of cyclist here have is Bryton, but have never heard about it on the internet.

  11. #11
    since 4/10/2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deartist7 View Post
    I'll read on the differences between the Edge 25 and the 520. I get the feeling I have heard about the 520 countless times before locally, so If the features justify the price, i might just save an extra month and get that one.

    But should I stick with Garmin? Seems reputable enough. Another brand that a bunch of cyclist here have is Bryton, but have never heard about it on the internet.
    Wahoo makes some decent computers, but IMO, they haven't quite figured out a solid feature set just yet. IMO, they miss out on certain things that are kinda important. Bryton is the absolute last brand I'd recommend. I've emphatically described why in other posts. Lezyne is a better option if you're looking for a budget computer with lots of functionality for the price. There are some good threads about those.

    I've been using a plain 'ol Edge 520 for a few years now. My wife has one, too. IMO, it hits a really solid spot with good features with enough to "grow into" as you get more comfortable with it, yet not so many that you're wasting money on something big and flashy when your use is more minimal. The screens are pretty customizable, so you can set one up to show exactly the HR metrics you want, in an arrangement that works for you. The process of customizing screens can be a tad fiddly, though. You might consider the Edge 130, though. Seems like it'd fit your needs with fewer extras.

    https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/p/596828

    As to your comment about power meter compatibility being unnecessary, I think that no matter what you buy, there will be features you don't use. Put in an ANT+ radio for HRM functionality, and chances are, it'll be compatible with a bunch of other sensors, too. Sometimes power meters will be one of them. But sometimes not. I wouldn't call it a waste if you're using some external sensor of some kind, because at this point, adding power meter support is just a software thing. When you're looking at bike computers with HRM support, you are pretty much going to get a core set of functions that are going to be more than what you're asking for, since the HRM support is usually packaged with a bunch of other stuff.

  12. #12
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    For a decent cheap bike GPS I like the Lezyne's (I have a Super and recently got my wife a Macro). On sale they're around $100 (Super a bit more, Macro a bit less) and they both work well with my Wahoo TickR - displaying HR during ride and logging it along with ride data for later viewing.

    What they're not good at is displaying maps. If you want that get a Garmin 520/30 or 820/30 or Wahoo Elemnt series for significantly more money. But if you just want data displayed and are happy enough to look at maps after your ride I think the Lezyne's work well without breaking the bank.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    why not?
    The 520 is an excellent, but just to display HR?
    In the Garmin line, I'd go 25, 135 then 520/820 style the more I'd want from the device.
    As you say, the 135 is a brilliant little unit with every feature bar mapping.
    After selling (almost all) my Garmins and going to the Stages Dash, I've kept the 935 watch and 135 head unit.

    You can get 2nd hand 25's over here for about $70us.

    I do like the Wahoo TickrFit too.
    Very consistent HR reading compared to Garmin HRM-Run or PowerTap PowerCal chest belts.
    I don't mind chest belts, but the arm based optical (I wear above the bicep, below the delt) is just not there when you're riding.

  14. #14
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    At the simpler end of the spectrum (HR, time, stopwatch, GPS, Strava'able) just about any of the models from any of the brands will do the job.
    The good thing with Ant+ sensors is when you upgrade the head unit, the sensors will work on the new one no problem.

    Mapping, routing, battery life and power meter compatibility/features are where things start getting more complex and $$$

  15. #15
    since 4/10/2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by NordieBoy View Post
    The 520 is an excellent, but just to display HR?
    I wasn't necessarily recommending the Edge 520 for OP as what I think will suit his needs best. It's what I use and I like it a lot. It's also a very solid model with mature firmware (every new model, esp from Garmin, takes awhile to get to that point, and some never quite get there). What I'm saying is that I think there's a good chance that he's going to want more from the device than just display HR, once he gets into it and starts getting comfortable with using the device. Your earlier statement made it sound like the Edge 520 is WORSE for displaying just HR data than the Edge 25. That not it, though. Sure, it's got a lot more features than OP is asking for, but it's got a nice collection of features that OP can grow into and experiment with. The Edge 25 doesn't really offer much more for OP to grow into as it were.

    That said, even with OP only being interested in HR metrics, a more advanced model (even if he stops with the 130) gives the ability to set alerts based on HR metrics to help target training efforts. Such a device will also let OP look at other HR-derived metrics that the Edge 25 won't give the option to display. Even the inexpensive Lezyne models offer more in that regard than the Edge 25.

    Its ability to record tracks is hampered by its inability to record GPS data at 1s intervals. On straighter trails and on roads, one won't notice much. But that shortcoming will become really glaring on twisty trails, especially faster twisty trails. I ride both types of trails, and am very dissatisfied with the performance of "smart" recording on the twisty ones. So I will always set my device to 1sec recording. This is one feature you have to spend some money to get, and IMO, it's an important one for mountain biking. Garmin has experimented multiple times with putting out devices that don't record at 1sec intervals, and every time has been a failure. The Edge 500 didn't allow it at first release, and Garmin fixed it with a firmware update that made the device better for mtb use. The 20 and 25 never got such a firmware update because they were supposed to be super basic. Problem is, people who want super basic are more likely to use a phone app than buy a dedicated device for $100 or so that really isn't functionally any better (however, since the Strava app stopped accepting external sensors, the 25 has that advantage, which is minimal).

  16. #16
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    I'll just mention optical HRMs as an option. A smart-watch based optical HRM can measure, display and record HR. These do tend to have greater variability in reading HR due to motion on the wrist, and some are better than others. Wearing them slightly snug helps.
    What, me worry?

  17. #17
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    Why not use your phone and Bluetooth HR strap?

  18. #18
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    Harold is right about the fact that I might end up needing or wanting more once I get familiar with the whole thing. However, it still sounds like I can get around not having the extra features of the 520. Too nice for my needs really.

    I haven't found anything about the 135, just the 130. Looks like a better option than the 520 for me. I'll read around on the specifics but it's still at the top of my budget.

    In that regard, sounds like Lezyne should be a better option. I usually ride know routes and segments and when I'm riding a new trail there's usually someone showing me the way, so quality map displaying isnt necessary. I got so used to checking later on my phone that i dont think it will be necessary.
    Never thought about the interval recording of the GPS. I do ride a lot of twisty trails. Seems like the 25 would be identical to my phone in that regard, so if the Lezyne computers are better then that's another point for them. I'm liking the Macro Plus model.

    I'll get a Wahoo Tickr chest HRM first, and will play around with my phone only while I save a little for the computer. I'll go Lezyne if the reviews convince me, otherwise, 130.

    Been thinking about a watch style and can't think of how my boxy hairy sweaty wrist will get along with one so I think I'll pass on that one. Maybe If I find a convicing unit that I can try.

  19. #19
    since 4/10/2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deartist7 View Post
    I'll get a Wahoo Tickr chest HRM first, and will play around with my phone only while I save a little for the computer. I'll go Lezyne if the reviews convince me, otherwise, 130.
    This sounds like a pretty reasonable plan to me. I got the Edge 520 mostly because I wanted the ability to put basic trail/topo maps on it. The regular 520 doesn't make that process easy, so I don't change them much (if I travel to a new place, I kinda have to since it doesn't have much memory to store larger areas) but the 520+ and the 530 both have more memory to work with.

    The 130 just shows a super basic map showing your track or any planned routes you're trying to follow, which you've loaded beforehand, but no topos or anything. Fine if you ride familiar places most of the time. In fact, it'd work for me for most riding I do, also. The 130 simply didn't exist when I bought my 520, though.

    On the side of recording twisty trails as well as possible, even if you get a passably decent map recording of the twisty trails you rode, the GPS will still record the ride short. How much shorter will depend on how twisty it is, but generally speaking, the twistier it is, the greater the discrepancy between the recorded distance and the actual distance you rode. I use wheel sensors on my mountain bikes because of this. The wheel distance (which you can calibrate to a pretty high accuracy) will override the distance calculated by drawing straight lines between the recorded GPS points.

    It can affect any number of metrics that are calculated based on distance. Things like grade, speed, calories burned, and so on. I don't much care about those things, but what I do care about is keeping track of my cumulative miles ridden in a year. It gives me an idea for how much exercise I've been getting throughout the year, along with climbing distance, and time ridden (elevation is a tough one to measure, so I have to really push myself to avoid getting nitpicky about small differences in elevation, and time isn't always a good one to look at for exercise, because I often ride places and then sit and relax in places with a good view or whatever). I look at all 3 together to kinda give myself a report on how well I've been sticking to riding goals.

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