Heart-rate monitors – armband vs chest strap. TickrFit

For many years the chest-strap heart rate monitor has been the default choice for cyclists. From the early days when Polar was big, to nowadays where Wahoo and Garmin rule the market. All have chest-strap sensors.

For context , I have been wearing heart rate Chest-Strap’s for over 10years, using them to monitor training and fitness. Wrist or arm worn sensors are a relatively new thing to market. Recently I got a hold of a Wahoo Tickr Fit to test. This is a heart rate measuring arm strap. Yeah it goes on the arm just below or above your elbow. It pairs to Garmin or Wahoo cycling computers and replaces the chest-strap.

The first to market were wrist monitors like Garmin, Fit Bit or Apple make. Thees have been proven inaccurate. A move to a different body location proved for more reliable, repeatable results – thus the armband.

Technology differences.

The tech is different from a chest strap which uses electrical impulses from your heart. Tickr Fit armband uses an optical sensor to track your blood flow and calculate your heart rate. (a technique called photoplethysmography). We have seen a similar type of sensor used on the wrist in the case of FitBits and Apple Watches. When researched, one of the major tech differences between brands is the quality and accuracy of the optical sensors used. The one in the Wahoo unit is made by Wahoo and not a common off the shelf unit. This is supposed to provide more accuracy. The Wahoo unit is also located further up the arm, not on the wrist. More bloodflow in the upper arm location to improve accuracy.

The green areas are the optical sensors.

Wahoo Tickr Fit Features

  • 30hr recharagable Battery
  • Waterproof
  • Physical On / Off switch , blue button
  • Ant+ and Bluetooth pairs directly with Strava on a smartphone, cycling headunits, and computers with training software.

Testing on the body

I tested the product for just over 3 months, running and cycling and in conjunction with a Wahoo chest strap.

Since the Tickr Fit goes on the arm, it removes one big chest strap sensation – what I call the “soggy strap”. This normally happens in summer or on an indoor trainer where the band gets fully saturated and you feel it. So this is nice not to have that.

In cycling, I did find that under conditions where my arms got sweaty the Tickr Fit would provide inaccurate results or drop heart rate readings. This seamed to be only an issue on the bike, running my arms don’t get sweaty.

  • Benefits
  • No soggy chest band feel from sweating
  • Can be put on after clothes (unlike a heart rate strap)
  • No need to wet the sensor like on a chest strap
  • Can be used for running activities.
  • Drawbacks
  • Odd summer tan marks?
  • Needs charging every 30hrs
  • More expensive
  • Tricky under tight fitting long sleeve clothing. Harder in winter.
  • Sweat on arms can affect the hr reading

I experimented with positions of the unit on my arm. The best result was as Wahoo recommended , just below the elbow. And for me it felt the best on the inside of the arm. I also tried it above on the bicep, which sensed well but felt restrictive, as you feel you bicep pulse.

The Verdict

For Cycling – the Chest strap is better. (I really like the one called Tickr by Wahoo.)
For Running the Armband is better.

If you are a mainly a cyclist have to buy one, I would by a chest strap for cycling and not bother with one for running, as I found that my heart rate running was consistent and high. If you really want one then yes a Armband will work for both but you will be disappointed if you buy a chest strap for running, you will find the motion will make the strap like down your abdomen.

The Deets

Wahoo heart rate stuff : https://www.wahoofitness.com/devices/heart-rate-monitors

Arm Strap Version : $79 Tickr Fit
Chest Strap Version : $49 TickR

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