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- Wahoo Fitness
- Monitoring your heart rate is a great way to determine the intensity of your training and the completeness of your recovery.
- It’ll work whether you’re exercising in the gym, on your bike, or on a jog.
- We tested Bluetooth heart rate monitors for their comfort, accuracy, and reliability.
- The Garmin HRM-Dual is the best Bluetooth heart rate monitor you can buy. It’s comfortable to wear, stays firmly in place, and never drops the connection.
Heart rate measurement is a reliable way to monitor how hard you’re exercising. But what is not so great is the feeling of a cold plastic strap across your chest on a winter’s morning or the chafe that comes when an inflexible strap is combined with energetic running.
Thankfully, modern heart rate straps have come a long way from the heavy, clumsy, and ice-cold chest straps of a decade ago. Using wireless Bluetooth technology, today’s straps connect to bike computers, gym machines, phones, and smart-watches to allow you to track your training even if you exercise in a variety of different ways. The devices we tested are much smaller than previous-generation monitors, using either a soft chest band or a wristband that feel less intrusive.
We tried a lot of heart rate monitors to find one that reliably connected, didn’t feel uncomfortable, and could stand up to sweaty workouts. We found that many of the devices we tried would stop working under heavy perspiration, or would slip off our chests unless we wore them uncomfortably tight. Our top picks were comfortable, accurate, and reliable.
Here are our top picks for the best Bluetooth heart rate monitors in 2019:
Keep scrolling to read more details about our top picks.
The best Bluetooth heart rate monitor overall
The Garmin HRM-Dual uses a braided chest strap that doesn’t pull at your clothes or skin, yet remains in place for even the most dynamic of workouts. During weeks of testing, it never dropped the connection and we often forgot we were wearing it.
Fifteen years ago I started wearing heart rate chest straps for bike races. I can vividly remember the wince-inducing cold that came from applying a moistened chest strap to my protruding rib cage, in a cold changing room before I headed out to train.
Many of the chest straps I tested for this article reminded me of those plastic straps of old Although most straps are now more flexible, they are often with a stiff, uncomfortable material. Not so with the HRM-Dual, which uses a woven fabric strap to deliver accurate heart rate readings without feeling like a block of ice against your skin.
Another sense memory that I wish I could forget is the revolting stench of my sweat-encrusted heart rate monitor. The HRM-Dual is washable, something that anyone who lives with a teenage athlete will be grateful for. The strap has a simple adjustable buckle on the back that accommodates XS-XXL shirt sizes. The battery in the strap is rated for 3.5 years of use – I can’t verify that yet but saw no issues in several weeks of testing.
The HRM-Dual is able to connect to multiple devices at a time, which is useful if you are running a bike computer and using online training software, like Zwift. As expert tester DC Rainmaker notes, the ANT+ protocol (a wireless technology proprietary to Garmin), which the strap uses alongside Bluetooth, can connect to many devices and is an industry standard for bike and triathlon devices. His testing also confirmed that the HRM-Dual gives highly accurate readings, something I confirmed when running it alongside several other measuring devices.
About the only thing the Garmin strap doesn’t do is save your data, but given that most of us exercise with at least a phone, this was never an issue for me since that data is saved on the phone. If you prefer to exercise without carrying any devices, straps like the Polar H10 might be a better bet.
Although this is our favorite overall, the choice between the Garmin and the Wahoo Tickr Fit (our favorite wrist-based monitor) is more about where you want to measure your heart rate. Both are great and do an excellent job, but the fact that the Garmin monitor has a longer battery life and can be washed is what gave it the edge.
What I really liked about the HRM-Dual was forgetting about it. It connected to my ANT+ and Bluetooth devices every time, it didn’t pull on my skin when I moved my upper body, and it wasn’t prone to slipping down my body either. It can be slightly more expensive than some of the competition, but if you value a no-nonsense, do-it-all heart rate monitor, it’s a great choice.
Pros: Washable, comfortable, accurate
Cons: No data saved on the device
The best budget Bluetooth heart rate monitor
Lezyne’s Heart Rate Flow sensor does what it says on the box without any unnecessary bells or whistles, for an excellent price.
By the time you pay entry fees, buy sports nutrition products, and keep your bike, running shoes, and swimming gear in good shape, endurance sport isn’t cheap. If your gym membership is making your credit card wince, it makes sense to save money where you can and this heart rate strap is a great area to do just that.
Lezyne’s HR Flow sensor measures your heart rate and connects via Bluetooth to your phone, watch, or bike computer. The included coin-sized (CR2032) battery should last you years. It won’t save your data, but the phone that it’s paired to will. It might need you to moisten the strap a little to get a good reading, but that takes seconds. Lezyne advises washing the strap under running water and hanging it to dry rather than using a washing machine, but that really shouldn’t take more than a minute every week or so.
Customers liked the use of a standard battery (it can be found at most stores) and the long battery life of the unit. The sizing seemed to work for everyone we tried it on, and in several weeks of use, we haven’t seen a dropped connection. We did have to turn off Bluetooth on a ph0ne once, as it seemed to prevent the monitor from connecting to a bike computer, but that was a simple fix.
Considering the Lezyne strap is less than $50, it is a great budget option.
Pros: Great value, reliable data, affordable
Cons: Not ANT+ compatible
The best wrist-based Bluetooth heart rate monitor
- Wahoo Fitness
Wahoo’s Tickr Fit is a great choice if you don’t enjoy the feeling of a tight heart rate strap on your chest. It reliably and accurately recorded heart rate using a forearm strap and we have no complaints about comfort or performance.
The first generation of heart rate chest straps relied on a huge plastic connector that covered the entire rib cage and was uncomfortable to wear and virtually incompatible with a sports bra.
Modern chest straps are much improved, but some people will still find them an annoyance – not least when you get all dressed up to go training and realize you have forgotten the damn thing, forcing you to pick between spending 10 minutes undressing or forgoing valuable training data. Wahoo offers a great alternative with its Tickr Fit, which offers a reliable heart rate tracking on your forearm.
The Tickr Fit uses a breathable strap to hold an optical heart rate monitor on your forearm, similar to the optical sensors used in smart-watches. I have relatively small arms and found the smaller of the two supplied straps worked well in holding the monitor two-thirds of the way from my wrist to my elbow. Users with even smaller arms may want to try before they buy, or run the unit on their bicep as the strap isn’t made of a stretchable material.
I found the connection to be incredibly reliable when used with a Wahoo bike computer and my phone. The Tickr uses Bluetooth and ANT+ so it should connect to just about anything you’d want to use to measure heart rate and, as with all Wahoo devices I’ve tested, it has proven extremely reliable and easy to set up.
The Tickr Fit charges with a proprietary magnetic charging station, which isn’t convenient for travel but handy for quickly charging the device. The listed battery life is about 30 hours and I was able to get about that much during testing. For most people, this will be more than enough for even the longest ultramarathon.
Amazon buyers who found that their sweat was particularly damaging to chest straps loved the Tickr, while others praised its durability and accuracy compared to other wrist-mounted optical monitors. The only objection I have is that it gave me a spectacular tan line after weeks of cycling in the sun, but that is probably more of a reflection on my fair skin than the product itself.
I found it flawless in its Bluetooth and ANT+ connections and noticed that it rarely deviated more than three beats from a chest strap when used at the same time. The only reason this is not the top pick is that it is a little more expensive than chest straps that do the same thing, but if I were buying a strap this is likely the one I would pick.
Pros: More comfortable than chest straps, reliable and easy to connect it with other devices
Cons: Has to be recharged, a bit costly, leaves a weird tan line
The best Bluetooth heart rate monitor for cycling
For only a few dollars more than our value pick, the Sigma R1 offers ANT+ connectivity as well as Bluetooth.
Bike computers developed wireless connectivity before Bluetooth became the norm and as a result, they often only communicate using the ANT+ protocol. ANT+ allows for communication between devices made by different companies and, although it transmits data more slowly than Bluetooth, it is still plenty fast enough to let your bike computer know how often your ticker is thumping.
Sigma’s R1 heart rate strap transmits both Bluetooth and ANT+ data, which is useful if you ride bikes and work out at the gym, if you want to pair to multiple devices for your indoor training, or perhaps because you want to track all your workouts on your phone and some on your bike computer. We tested connectivity with an iPhone, a Sigma ROX12.0 bike computer, and an ANT+ bike head unit and found that the Sigma paired without issue. Amazon purchasers reported the same results and were impressed with the strap’s sturdy construction.
I did find the Sigma strap tended to pull on my chest a little more than other chest straps here, so readers with less-than-smooth chests might want to be wary. I found the data to be extremely accurate compared with other monitors and never had any issues with connecting to devices ranging from Sigma’s own excellent ROX 12.0 bike computer to smartphones and other brands’ watches and bike head units.
The Sigma R1 is one of the cheaper units we reviewed. It works well and unobtrusively and doesn’t need charging, interaction with an app, turning on and off, or any of the other frustrating things that other sensors require. If you prefer monitoring heart rate on your arm, or have sensitive skin, it might be a little painful but otherwise, the Sigma is a great choice for a variety of sports and activities.
Pros: Pairs with everything, great value, ANT+ and Bluetooth
Cons: Can be painful against the skin
The best Bluetooth heart rate monitor with internal memory
The Polar OH1 allows you to exercise without carrying a Bluetooth device and stores that data for later. This is perfect if you want to know your heart rate at the gym and then keep track of your training long-term on your phone or computer.
When exercising intensely, you may not want your thousand-dollar phone in your pocket as you flip tires or climb walls. If this is you, the Polar OH1 is the best heart rate monitor.
Unlike other monitors here, the OH1 has internal memory, meaning you don’t need a watch, phone, or bike computer to store your heart rate data. In events like obstacle racing, it’s useful to have a record of your exertion – especially if you track your training carefully – but any phone or watch is not going to survive the first 10 minutes of a muddy assault course.
The OH1 is the perfect solution: It’s lightweight, arm mounted, and perfectly capable of connecting to a phone or other device if you want to use it like any of the other straps here. At $79.99 it isn’t much of an upcharge for having the ability to store 200 hours of workout data on this tiny strap.
Like the Wahoo, the Polar sensor uses optical monitoring to measure heart rate on your arm. It uses a soft strap that, I found, best stayed in place when secured snugly on my upper arm. As with most of the optical systems I tested, I did have to use a bit of trial and error to find a place where the sensor stayed put and recorded accurately.
The bundled app is required to start the sensor for the first time and features a lot of interesting data-analysis tools, such as quantifying training load and calorie burn. The sensor itself is small and unobtrusive – far less bothersome than some other data storing monitors I tested. It’s easy to set up the OH1 to either record and transmit or just transmit. Amazon buyers loved the accuracy and ease of use of the OH1.
All this data storage and connectivity do come at a cost: The OH1 delivers only 12 hours of use per battery charge. Most of us aren’t exercising for that long, but it means that if you travel or simply tend to forget to charge your strap, you might find yourself missing the data you want. As DC Rainmaker noted, the Polar charger, which plugs directly into a USB power adapter, can be a bit fiddly to use; it is very compact, so you can travel with it.
The OH1 also doesn’t support ANT+, which won’t be an issue for most but if you use a bike computer and want to pick up heart rate, you should check that the computer has Bluetooth compatibility.
Is the OH1 for you? If you do obstacle course racing or prefer to keep your workout and your phone apart, then absolutely. But if you can’t think of why you’d want your strap to store data when you just want to see your heart rate on your phone or bike computer, then you’d be better served with a strap with longer battery life.
Pros: Unobtrusive and accurate, stores up to 200 hours of data
Cons: Battery life, charger a bit awkward to use