Monitoring heart rate is essential for tracking your fatigue, training intensity, and performance. Everyone who rides or runs needs a heart rate monitor. Heart rate is an essential metric, and so the big question becomes...which heart rate monitor do I get?
I like tracking power and heart rate across my rides no matter how short they might be. Heart rate and power are the two metrics that I need to see on a ride no matter the distance. Cadence, balance, and everything else is simply not that useful to me. Being able to track HR and power over time and efforts is a training cyclist’s bread and butter. Those who espouse that power is the most important metric are simply WRONG. It is the relationship between power and heart rate that matters. But enough about training philosophy, what about the gadgets?
I have had several heart rate straps over the years. My old faithful Wahoo HRM worked for years before it finally died and was replaced by a Garmin Premium strap. When I got an iPhone and was forced to look for something with Bluetooth compatibility, I opted to pick up the new Wahoo TICKR strap which has turned out to be an excellent heart rate monitor. I have used it almost daily for the last four months with my phone, and I track not only my rides but also heart rate variability using the Elite HRV app. It works great, and the TICKR is one of the best straps out there. Actually, all three of these straps worked great, it was simply that only the TICKR had Bluetooth compatibility. So, why in the hell would I buy another heart rate monitor?
I like riding. I like numbers. Weather aside, I try not to drive anywhere that I can ride to, and I try not to ride anywhere short enough to walk to. I take a lot of mile or two mile trips to shop, drop of packages, or pick up prescriptions. I sometimes feel dumb for untucking my shirt to throw on a heart rate strap.
Simply put, wearing a chest strap is a pain. They pull tightly around your chest. They smell bad after a sweaty weak of workouts. They take a minute or more to put on under clothing. For a while now, my wife has had a Garmin vivoactive HR that utilizes an optical heart rate sensor to monitor her heart rate as she runs and works out. I remember buying it for her full well knowing that she would never ever wear a heart rate monitor in the form of a chest strap. This got me to thinking...was there a simple solution for quick rides and commutes to work? I really did not want a new watch, and using the vivoactive HR for cycling had rather poor reviews for a unit that costs as much as most cycling head units.
Enter the Scosche Rhythm+ optical heart rate monitor. It utilizes an optical sensor and pairs to smart phones and head units using either Ant+ or Bluetooth protocols. Like many of the available wrist worn units, the Rhythm+ takes hundreds of measurements a minute and is extremely accurate. The LED technology is pretty cutting edge.
The Rhythm+ can be worn on the bicep, tricep, or forearm. I have found the forearm to be a perfect spot. Others like the bicep/tricep placement so they can pull even short sleeves down over it. The measurements have been on par with my TICKR, and most reviews that I have seen have rated it as high as the Polar HRM strap, considered by most to be the best unit available to consumers.
The Rhythm+ comes in four colors (I opted for black), and it has two straps for various sized arms. The one out of the box worked perfectly for my non-Popeye like forearms. The Velcro straps are comfortable and are easy to get one and off. I loosen one side, holding the edge to keep the strap from sliding through the clip, and I slide it over my wrist before securing it tightly to my arm.
As the weather heats up, I have found the Rhythm+ to be a lot more comfortable on bare arms than having to wear a chest strap. It also seems to attract a lot less sweat than a chest strap would. You also do not need to wet or lick the unit like you do for most heart rate chest straps.
The only mild disappointment (and I knew this before purchase) is that the Rhythm+ arm band cannot be used for heart rate variability readings. It would be great to be able to pull this on for a quick morning reading, but it is not recommended you do this except when using a chest strap. So, the Wahoo TICKR has been pretty much relegated to HRV readings and to use on rides when I am forced to wear arm warmers. It is not that you could not pull arm warmers over the Rhythm+, but I just don’t.
The device easily pairs with phone/head unit by long pressing the button. It becomes instantly discoverable to any Bluetooth or ANT+ device. It pairs with my iPhone and Wahoo Bolt flawlessly every time. The unit has not failed me yet, and so far seems consistent with the 8 hour battery life that Scosche claims. The unit is charged with a clip that attaches to the unit, much like that Garmin vivoactive HR my wife has.
The Rhythm+ is reasonably priced at around $80, and it provides a quick, reliable, easy to wear solution for those looking to add heart rate metrics to their runs and rides. I have been using it almost exclusively for commutes, training, and races on hot days. It has been a good pick up, and I highly recommend it.