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Poll: How many of you ride/train with heart rate monitors?(26 posts)

Poll: How many of you ride/train with heart rate monitors?boy nigel
Jun 27, 2001 1:15 PM
I got a Sigma Sport PC-14 recently ($69 at, and it's changed the way I ride and train. I still love "just riding" (and I don't HAVE to look at it--or even wear it if I don't want to), but the HRM has given me a fresh, new outlook on training. Turns out, I haven't done a REAL "recovery" ride in who knows how long. I tend to ride near or over my anaerobic threshold and towards my max a lot, not paying enough attention to the fat-burning/recovery aspects of the lower heart rate zones. The PC-14 also tells me how many calories I've burned (or a very close approximation, anyway). THAT'S motivation!

Who else out there uses them, and have you gone the HRM-book route and really learned to use them (I have), or do you just use them as "speedometers"?

I use one occasionally ...Humma Hah
Jun 27, 2001 1:22 PM
... I do ride with my basic economy model occasionally, especially if I'm doing a personal "time trial" kind of ride, where I WANT to stay right at AT most of the time.

I also have used mine in the gym, especially for VO2-max intervals.

I prefer NOT to use a HRM on longer rides, over about 25-30 miles, due to comfort issues and not feeling it is worth running down the batteries. After 20 miles or so, I pretty much know what my heart is up to and would rather just enjoy the ride.
Polar M52MikeC
Jun 27, 2001 1:31 PM
I use the Polar M52 nearly every ride because it varies my zone according to what my physiological status is right before my ride (it monitors you, then sets targets according to the new baseline). That enables me to train at an exertion "percentage" I select, instead of one that's thrown off by what I did the night before, what I ate for breakfast, etc.
My wife uses the same monitor (it handles two users) on the treadmill, and it's enabled her to really improve her fitness faster than anyone expected.
re: Poll: How many of you ride/train with heart rate monitors?Akirasho
Jun 27, 2001 1:47 PM
... rode my last TT with just the HRM... that is, no speedometer... worked out quite well...

I ran at approximately 95% my MAX HR and posted 58 seconds faster than my previous outing (course I had a new set of aero wheelz too).

I believe that they are an underutilized tool (myself included) that has applications on most levels of cycling... not just racing.

I'm currently using a Polar Accurex + (I download TT results for future analysis) and am considering a S710... if such a thing really exists.

Be the bike.
re: Poll: How many of you ride/train with heart rate monitors?Marcy S
Jun 27, 2001 2:05 PM
I have the Nashbar Gen5 heart rate monitor, which I can either strap to my wrist when running, or on the bike mount when I'm obviously biking. I have had mine for almost 1 year now and I am still using it on most, if not all of my bike rides. I keep a log of each ride and in that, I record my ODO, TIM, DIST, MAX, AVG, AVG. HRT, and CALORIES. I find it to be a fantastic training tool, plus if you loose your odometer miles which has happened to me twice, I know exactly where I am!!!
It is great to look back and compare your average mph with your average heart rate on the same ride.
re: Poll: How many of you ride/train with heart rate monitors?Lone Gunman
Jun 27, 2001 2:17 PM
I use the HR monitor, early season to keep me training in a certain specified zone and now mid season when I do a hard effort to be consistant and stay in that higher zone for longer periods of time building stamina to stay in the higher chosen zone without redlining and having to back off too much. It's the bodies tachometer. It is also nice to look down and gauge effort or watch how quickly you recover from a hard effort, another gauge of fitness.
Every RideDCP
Jun 27, 2001 2:22 PM
I use mine every ride. I'm not training for anything so its really just to make sure I'm at a pace where I won't bonk before the end. I'm sure there is benefit to zone training, but I don't get to ride on a consistent schedule, and so I use it to just stay near my AT.

Besides, if you are riding for three hours, you need some distractions. HRM and Flightdeck are my toys for the ride.
hrm & altim.: the only things between me now and techno-weenieHaiku d'état
Jun 27, 2001 2:28 PM
can't see where's i'd use an altimeter 'round here (now, that's alot of apostrophies!), since it's pretty well flat as cottage cheese in the container.

hrm: well, i feel i'm making pretty decent progress so far, and still in the early stages of getting miles versus really seriously concentraing on performance. i listen to my body and do what it says, and know when i'm about to push past the edge of what i can handle, and that's when i back off a little.

eventually i'd like to have one for shorter rides (<70) and for winter gym work and running, but i can't see spending the cash for a good one right now when it can be spent on other stuff like a new pair of cycling shorts, or--even better--handlbar wrap, a new pair of conti 2000s, a chain whip, and a 12 pack of cheap beer.

seriously, i'm targeting new pedals (2 pair) and lights before anything else. i can use pedals, lights, AND an hrm, but i need lights.
I did until....Thioderek
Jun 27, 2001 2:28 PM
I did until the battery ran out last month, and I had it replaced in a non Polar sanctioned place. The seal never got set back in the watch correctly and I have been dealing with the misting display ever since. I have to send it off soon.
Never leave home without it...Bruno S
Jun 27, 2001 2:50 PM
It is the most important piece of equiment I have. I never train without it and keep a detail log of the time spent in each training zone. I usually train in certain zones (z2, z3) during the week because I know I'll be spending a lot of time in zones 4 and 5 during the training rides with the racing club on weekends.

Its not only that you learn how to use it but you learn how much time you can spend in each zone. This is important during a training ride, especially a group ride, since regardless of speed or hills you can tell if you are working too hard or not enough. It also helps you to "budget" your efforts. If you are at z4 - z5 25 min. into the ride you better ease up because you will not last for much longer.
I feel lost without mine sometimes.(nm)WCC
Jun 27, 2001 3:10 PM
re: Poll: How many of you ride/train with heart rate monitors?STEELYeyed
Jun 27, 2001 3:25 PM
I use my Polar Target HRM on the trainer,and when jogging,but on the road I use cadance and speedometer,and I listen to what my body tells me,we know each other pretty well now.
Thanks for askin'!Kristin
Jun 27, 2001 3:35 PM
The answers are quite helpful. I've been considering a monitor and a computer. Currently, I go by physical indications--breathing, muscle burn, etc... Also, my HR is pretty erratic at this stage. It sky rockets on a hill resulting in a tendancy, I think, to over-recover. I thought it might help me along to actually see the numbers. Then again, I'm wondering if I just shouldn't worry about these things yet. Would investing in an HRM be valuable at this time, or should I ride a couple years without thinking about numbers or training and the like? Opinions?
Worth itDCP
Jun 27, 2001 4:38 PM
Kristin: I think you would benefit with one. It really is an enlightening experience to know how hard you are going vs. your max and your AT. A HRM does not have to be real expensive. I bought one on EBay for about $50.

It probably of greater benefit to a beginner than someone who has trained for years.

It is not, however, an essential piece of equipment and you can do a lot just judging perceived workload.
Here's what I think: (you asked...!)look271
Jun 27, 2001 4:52 PM
It would be a good idea to get one because:1) you'll improve quicker than without one
2) it could prevent you from over-training and burning out, which would be no fun at all. :-)
It's good, but...mr_spin
Jun 27, 2001 5:13 PM
Get some base miles in before trying to peg the meter! Stabilize your system, so to speak, before you start stressing it. Don't start TRAINING with one until you have say, 500 miles under your belt. Or your skirt. Whatever.
coool....I'll get one tomorrow!Kristin
Jun 28, 2001 5:45 AM
I'll be rolling over 1000 mile mark within 3 weeks! WooHoo!
A tough call, K-girl, but ultimately I'd say to get one.boy nigel
Jun 28, 2001 8:28 AM
When really thinking about it, I'd say Sure, go get one. It's tough for me to say, though, since I've been riding for years now (Including a few years off for other athletic--ice hockey--pursuits) without an HRM. When I was training really hard and racing about ten years ago, I never used one. This is most likely why I didn't win any races, though I put in high mileage. Quantity rather than QUALITY. We live and learn. :(

Part of me wants to say, "You're still starting in cycling. Be concerned with riding, enjoying it, focusing on form and technique rather than numbers for quantification." The other part of me says, "I sure wished I'D used one years ago--I would've been a totally different rider." I still believe that one needs to be really solid in the "rudiments," as we say in musical circles. Get the basics down--and really down. Learn proper climbing technique (sitting and standing), when to spin, when to big-ring it, how to be really comfortable, SMOOTH, and flexible on your bike. Be a part of the bike, and be able to do a lot on the bike (like eating, drinking, stretching, feeling like you're one with the bike).

Once these are down, and you feel smooth and confident on the bike, then I'd say you're ready for an HRM if that's what you'd like to do. Since you (Kristin) have almost 1,000 miles on your new steed (Congrats, and WAY TO GO!), I'd suppose you're feeling pretty comfortable on it. That you've ridden in all sorts of weather helps a LOT, too.

After all this: I do suggest getting one. You're going on group rides, doing some training, and looking to improve (most importantly) and get faster and more fit, so you'd certainly benefit big-time from one. Again, I have the Sigma Sport PC-14. $70 from Colorado Cyclist. Polars with less than half the functions are more expensive. It took a couple of days to get fully familiar with the thing (and a call to Sigma for better English instructions, which they emailed me PRONTO, and which I'd gladly email to you--or anyone--who buys this model), but it's been working very nicely. Give me audible high/low alarms, time, date, calories expended, avg. HR, max HR, % of max HR currently riding at (VERY useful--takes the guesswork and math out of working in zones), a stopwatch, infinite lap counters (for later recollection), a very cool BLUE backlight (which stays on as long as you're scrolling through the functions or setting the computer--very thoughtful), and it comes with a handlebar mount.

My last recommendation. Get a book on using HRMs, learn the heart rate zones and what they'll do for your performance (and why they're all necessary). I'd been "recovering" and riding "easy" in a heart rate range not close to where I should've been riding. Funny: I know an old maxim from a local (and late) cycling coach, but I've never REALLY done it correctly until NOW--and using my HRM: "Ride harder than you think you COULD or easier than you think you SHOULD." I've been doing "easy" rides at about 75-80% of max (since I'd been doing most of my rides in the 85-100% range, really going hard most of the time--counterproductive). I should have been (and now am) doing "easy" rides at 55-70% of my max. Big difference in speed and effort. HRMs tell you that you're working too hard or not hard enough--much better than perceived exertion ever can.

I recently got "The Heart Rate Monitor Book for Outdoor and Indoor Cyclists," by Sally Edwards & Sally Reed. Seems to be a good, cycling-specific book. There are others out there, though. Browse through one or two before buying to see which you like best. Books make as much difference as the HRM does, since they tell you HOW TO USE THE HRM TO THE FULLEST BENEFIT, and not just as a speedometer.

Sorry for the l-e-n-g-t-h of my post. Just figured I'd give out as much info as I could on this important topic. I hope it helps you (anyone who's reading).

Have fun, get stronger, and enjoy the ride--and seeing your progress!
It's good, but..., Disagree...WheelSuker
Jun 28, 2001 6:43 AM
With all due respect, I disagree with this comment. I feel that you definately need an HRM in the early season. The beauty of a HRM is that it helps you keep the HR down on easy days, and high on hard days. I think the tendancy is to go to hard on easy days and too easy on hard days. The first 500 miles (or as Mike Walden of Wolverine Fame) used to say, 1000 miles, is all easy, little ring. THe HRM will keep you from getting anaerobic. On hard days, Max HR Test days, the HRM lets you know that you are doing the work, and, more importantly, lets you know when you are not!! When doing intervals, it is important to recover between them, HRM lets you know. And finally, as if I haven't been on the soapbox long enough, an HRM will let you know the days that you want to go hard, but your body is too tired, for whatever reason. Before having my HRM,I would give myself grief on those days that I wanted to go hard but didn't feel good. On those overfatigued days you know it. The HR jumps up quickly, but then won't go as high as you would like......tired body. OK....sorry, I am done.
Yes, but...mr_spin
Jun 28, 2001 9:04 AM
Yes, you are technically right. But I'm speaking more psychologically.
For a first time HRM user, I think it is best to get a good base before going nuts. Otherwise, the numbers don't mean much, and if they are really fluctuating wildly, chances are, the HRM will be considered unreliable and not used anymore. NEXT season, after you've figured out how to use it, what hard is, what easy is, etc., start out your year with the HRM.
CardioSport Club, every ride (nm)Elefantino
Jun 27, 2001 4:53 PM
Only for specific events...Stampertje
Jun 27, 2001 5:31 PM my team's 120k TT. That's what I bought it for. It kept me from blowing up last year, as I did the first time (20 more miles... should be about an hour... 15 more miles... should be... oh, about an hour... 10 more miles... I'll be home in... sh*)

I'll wear it for my TT training, but not on group or touring rides. I just ride for fun. Any other training I currently do is mostly sprint-oriented, so HR is not as important.
HRMs are the BEST!!SimpleGreen
Jun 27, 2001 8:30 PM
After reading the posts in this thread and from personal experience with other riders, I find that the HRM is not used well by most.

I've noticed:

1.) Many cyclists just ride hard all the time--meaning they ride near their lactate threshold whenever they go for a ride.

2.) Long, SLOOOOOOOW, endurance rides are under-valued. Many people feel they need leg-searing lactic acid to have a good workout. Aerobic endurance workouts won't do that so some people feel as if going slow is either not macho enough or not a "good" workout.

3.) Going too hard on recovery rides. Some people complain that recovery rides don't work--well that's usually because they are either going too fast or they are not in good enough shape for a slow ride to be a recovery ride. Not only should your HR be low, but the gears should be small (like 39x19 for us mortals).

4.) Intervals are done at lactate threshold, which is ok if you are trying to improve your power at LT. But some intervals should be done over and some just under or both, depending.

5.) Blowing up on climbs...using a HRM will help you know just how hard you can go before you cross the redline into Lactate build up.

The HRM is a tool that can be useful. I ride less than many people I know, yet I improve faster than they do. Part of our differences is that I use the HRM and the usual books and they don't.

Training right for fun or racing can make cycling more enjoyable, since you can reach highers levels faster and avoid injury, overtraining, and undertraining!

I still only use a HRM--No speedometer. It's the engine that matters not the MPH.

HRMs are the BEST!!steeveo
Jun 28, 2001 7:20 AM
re: Poll: How many of you ride/train with heart rate monitors?Lardog
Jun 28, 2001 10:14 AM
I ride with a monitor only sometimes. I train (non-riding training) with a monitor all the time. I teach "Spinning" and wear a Polar all the time.
Sports Instruments HR90 is my choice...WadeOmatic
Jun 28, 2001 9:58 PM
It is also a cyclo-puter. I love it, works great and just like you say--slows me down so that I can recover properly. I was riding way to hard without it. After a season or two of use I might not find it so necessary. But for now I don't leave home without it.