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Old 03-16-08, 12:07 AM   #1
raztaztwo
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Heart Rate Monitors - best one and do we need coded transmitters?

Hi all - We have decided to purchase some heart rate monitors to make sure we are "in the zone" when riding. I have been researching for hours and hours... there is so much info out there and so many heart monitors! I think I am starting to go crazy My first question is, do we need coded transmitters because we are obviously riding so close together...?! Secondly, I don't want to spend a ton of money on this part of our riding gear (maybe about $50 each)... so I have been looking at the Sigma monitors and the Sport Instruments - anyone care to share on either of these? Which heart rate monitors are you using? Liking and/or disliking? Thanks so much!!!
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Old 03-16-08, 10:14 AM   #2
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We have used a variety of basic model Polar HR monitors over the years and have been real happy with them. They have been totally reliable until the internal batteries eventually die. They are nothing fancy just the HR and some clock features and they cost somewhere around $50-$60. While we can get cross feed while standing or sitting too close, we have never had any while riding our C'dale twicer.

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Old 03-16-08, 02:21 PM   #3
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...Which heart rate monitors are you using?...
I know nothing about the brands you are considering. In 2004 before tandem, we both were using the cheapest of the Polar HRM (similar to the current FS1) that was made to wear on the wrist but Polar sold a plastic adaptor to put on the handlebar and then the watch went around that. The display was simple - just the very large size HR number. There were times if we rode close enough together on a hill climb for example that they did interfere with each other. When we started riding the tandem, we just assumed they would interfere all and we didn't even try them.

Last year we did spin classes for the first time and they had HR monitors built in (Lemond stationary bikes) and they provided Polar chest straps - monitor and straps are non-coded. If the stationary bikes were too close together they would interfere so again I just assumed that the tandem would have to use coded monitors.

This past December I bought us a pair of own-code Polar F6 (about $100 each). Of course they don't interfere but the numbers on the display are smaller. Without glasses I can't read it well - same for my wife. We wear it on our wrist since I haven't yet purchased a handelbar adaptor for them. We have used the HR monitors on the tandem but not as much as I thought we would. We are still using the HR monitors in the spin class twice a week and I believe they are very helpful (the class-provided chest straps have been disappearing / walking away over the last year so we just take our own chest straps to class and use them).

The other poster says he has successfully used the inexpensive polars on their tandem so maybe I unnecessarily went to the coded model.

I certainly wouldn't mind having the HR monitor built into the bicycle computer but I have a flitedeck up front and stoker has the Cateye 300 with cadence. We would not give up cadence to get HR - we want it all.

Have fun with your decision and let us know how it works.

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Old 03-16-08, 05:22 PM   #4
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I certainly wouldn't mind having the HR monitor built into the bicycle computer but I have a flitedeck up front and stoker has the Cateye 300 with cadence. We would not give up cadence to get HR - we want it all.

Have fun with your decision and let us know how it works.

BloomingCyclist
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It's interesting to see what's more important to different teams.

I wear the HR monitor, the stoker's not interested in having one. For the most part, I think we put out very similar, if not equal effort, so If we're not in a paceline or group, I'll set our pace more on my HR to measure combined effort rather than than speed. We've learned to sense each other's output without having to talk about it much. My legs tell me when she's starting to get tired or when I'm tired and she's still pushing.

Only occasionaly will she tell me "I'm bouncing". That means I'm spinning too fast for her and she's bouncing on the seatpost. It doesn't happen enough any more to warrant adding a cadence monitor to tell me when I'm screwing up.
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Old 03-16-08, 05:48 PM   #5
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I do not ride a tandem, but I bought a Sigma BC-2006 about six months ago. I chose it over a Polar because the user can change all batteries at home. This Sigma uses digital packets to send information. I like my unit very much. It does not have cadence. The heart rate display numbers are a bit small, but legible. The chest strap pickup works better with a little gel on the sensor than with water only on the skin. At someone's recommendation I use ordinary K-Y Jelly from the drugstore. It is easy to find and economical.

I first noticed Sigmas after someone posted about changing batteries in HRMs. Then Bike Nashbar had an analog unit on a super sale price. After reading a little more, I spent more than twice as much money and got a newer digital unit to avoid interference with other electrical sources.
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Old 03-18-08, 11:44 AM   #6
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I have a Garmin Edge 305 and have used the heartrate monitor out of curiosity only. I have been jogging and/or cycling for over 30 years and in the past tried following heart rate recommendations, but long ago come to the conclusion - and I know that I'm going to get flamed for this - that there are no such things as "heart rate training zones". Every individual is different and no formula or chart is going to tell you what your optimum heart rate is - if there is such a thing. I can tell if I'm pushing too hard or too easy without knowing my heartrate. Besides, on a tandem there are two people involved- Is it possible to tune the effort so that both of you are in your "optimum training zone" at the same time?

(As an aside: I used to believe that there was such a thing as "cardiovascular fitness", but I've changed my mind on that one too.)
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Old 03-18-08, 11:59 AM   #7
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In our experience, you need coded HRMs if your going to both use them on the tandem. For a long time, I'd ask my stoker what her heart rate was, and it would be the same or within a beat or two of mine.

We'd be doing hard intervals, or climibing a hill, and I'd be dying. She'd be chatting along, reporting that her heart rate was in the 170's (which would be about 8-10 beats above LTHR). I knew that had to be inaccurate.

So I made her take her strap off, and her heart rate continued to be read the same or within a beat or 2 of mine, obviously reading off my strap.

Then when I took my strap off, an she put hers back on, the same efforts that were reading in the 170's produced HR's in the 120-130 range. Explaining why I was dying and she could chat away with a HR supposedly well above LT.

So yeah you need coded.
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Old 03-18-08, 12:17 PM   #8
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At least one of the HRMs needs to be coded, but not both.

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Originally Posted by swc7916 View Post
...there are no such things as "heart rate training zones". Every individual is different and no formula or chart is going to tell you what your optimum heart rate is.
True, but a heart rate monitor will allow you to see where you 'redline" and other normal heart rates seem to fall and from that you can establish target training zones.

For example, I'm about 50 and conventional wisdom says subtract your age from 220 to come up with your max heart rate, e.g., about 180 bpm. There are other variations that account for different levels of fitness, e.g., age x .8 for more fit than average or age x .5 for very fit, etc.. I'm in good shape, but not great shape. All that said, my actual cardio redline is 198 bpm: been there, done that and that's as high as it'll go. It's quite interesting to see on the HRM because it accurately reflects how I feel at that point: tapped out and unable to generate any greater power production. My resting heart rate is down in the 50's; however, the minute I sit on a bike my heart rate jumps to 120 bpm. Moderate effort puts me at 135 bpm and I usually average about 165 bpm on most rides, a bit higher when we're chasing all day.

It's the combination of this empirical data with other information that allows you to tailor your training or manage your heart rate / riding intensity in a meaningful way and without a lot of analysis or assumptions about lap times, loop times, or max wattage, etc... It's quite simply useful information about YOUR engine and it's absolutely going to be different for everyone. For example, we ride with a very fit cyclist who gets concerned when his heart rate climbs to where my average seems to fall and his redline is much lower.

Here's a pretty simple HR calculator: http://www.stevenscreek.com/goodies/hr.shtml

This is also pretty useful: http://www.howtobefit.com/heart-rate-training-zones.htm

I do tend to agree that most couples will have a hard time getting their heart rate training zones aligned. However, as already noted, a HRM can help either rider learn a lot more about themselves and how their heart behaves under a variety of different conditions.
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Old 03-18-08, 12:58 PM   #9
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True, but a heart rate monitor will allow you to see where you 'redline" and other normal heart rates seem to fall and from that you can establish target training zones.
I'm not sure what you're trying to say here, but I already know where I "redline" from a treadmill test at the doctor's office. I also know what level of exertion it takes to get there (i.e.: how hard I am working.) I just don't believe that there are any hard-and-fast rules to determine heartrate "training zones".

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For example, I'm about 50 and conventional wisdom says subtract your age from 220 to come up with your max heart rate, e.g., about 180 bpm. There are other variations that account for different levels of fitness, e.g., age x .8 for more fit than average or age x .5 for very fit, etc.. I'm in good shape, but not great shape. All that said, my actual cardio redline is 198 bpm: been there, done that and that's as high as it'll go. It's quite interesting to see on the HRM because it accurately reflects how I feel at that point: tapped out and unable to generate any greater power production. My resting heart rate is down in the 50's; however, the minute I sit on a bike my heart rate jumps to 120 bpm. Moderate effort puts me at 135 bpm and I usually average about 165 bpm on most rides, a bit higher when we're chasing all day.
What you say here is exactly what I have experienced and why I don't think tracking your heartrate matters. 135 bpm is probably within your "training zone", 165 bpm is probably 'way outside it; but it works for you. I found this out years ago; my target training zone was supposed to be about 150 bpm, but it felt like I was hardly working. A comfortable pace brought my heartrate up to about 165-170 bpm.

You are about 50 and your actual cardio redline is 198 bpm? AND you average 165 bpm on most rides? That's amazing. I will turn 60 at the end of the month and my resting heartrate ranges from the mid 50's to the low 60's, but my max heartrate (treadmill test at the dr's office) is just over 160 - which corresponds to the 220 minus my age formula.

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I do tend to agree that most couples will have a hard time getting their heart rate training zones aligned. However, as already noted, a HRM can help either rider learn a lot more about themselves and how their heart behaves under a variety of different conditions.
I guess my point is that while knowing how your heart behaves under a variety of different conditions is interesting, trying to manage your heartrate while riding is pointless. If you can ride all day at 165 bpm without dying, your heartrate returns to normal fairly quickly afterwards, and you are not chronically fatigued, then why follow someone's generic "heartrate zone" formula?
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Old 03-18-08, 01:14 PM   #10
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I just don't believe that there are any hard-and-fast rules to determine heartrate "training zones"....
I'd agree that there aen't any hard and fast rules or formulas that are going to work very well.

However there are tests that allow you set up Zones for training.

The key to a heart rate based training program is knowing your Lactate Threshold Heart Rate. (LTHR).
LTHR can be determined by lab test (drawing blood gases as you exercise.) or by a field test procedure.
(see the 2x20 sticky in the Training forum.) In my personal experience my LTHR as predicted by a field test is almost exactly the same as shown by the Lab test method.

Once you know your LTHR, then your whole training program falls around that number, with different intervals and workouts being done at different percentages of that number, depending on what your targeting with that particular workout.


A number of people including a guy named Armstrong, have been quite successful with HR based programs keyed off of LTHR.

So, yes I'd agree that just using a formula derived from a percentage of your age is not going to be very helpful.. However a true HR based training rpogram baed on either lab, or field, tests can dramatically enhance your training.
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Old 03-18-08, 02:12 PM   #11
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Once you know your LTHR, then your whole training program falls around that number, with different intervals and workouts being done at different percentages of that number, depending on what your targeting with that particular workout.

A number of people including a guy named Armstrong, have been quite successful with HR based programs keyed off of LTHR.
A lot of heartrate monitors (most, I bet) are purchased by people who have read that they need to stay within a "heartrate zone" while exercising. They buy the monitor, input their age or whatever, and happily stay within the zone that was preset in the monitor.

Armstrong did this for a living; he trained full-time and his pay was based on his performance. Of course he took advantage of the latest research and cutting-edge coaching.

For most of us non-competitive folks, I believe that a common-sense seat-of-the-pants approach is adequate. If I want to ride further, I need to spend more time in the saddle. If I want to ride faster, then I need to push the speed once in a while. If I want to climb hills better, then I have to climb hills. There's no secret to this. Knowing your heartrate is of no use if you don't know what it is supposed to be - if you're on an individualized scientifically-based program then you need a heartrate monitor, otherwise it is just for curiousity, or worse, it holds you back.
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Old 03-18-08, 02:33 PM   #12
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I'm not sure what you're trying to say here... why follow someone's generic "heartrate zone" formula?
You don't: you build your own set of training targets based on your own physiology.

Managing fitness by heart rate is simply one way of quantifying performance. If you're not trying to change your performance through focused training methods or monitoring your heart rate for medical reasons then, yes, paying any attention to your heart rate is rather pointless and a waste of time and money.

In fact, if you know where you're going and where to turn you don't need a cycling computer or GPS device on a bicycle either. In fact, there are a lot of things that most bicycles and tandems don't need for cyclists who have very modest goals.
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Old 03-18-08, 06:01 PM   #13
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For most of us non-competitive folks, I believe that a common-sense seat-of-the-pants approach is adequate.

Absolutely. If you want to ride your bike for the fun of it. Then an HRM is certainly not necessary. Maybe not even desireable, (unless you're a gadget junkie and it adds to your fun.)

If you want to train to be faster, its a useful tool, but you do need to know how to use it.
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Old 03-18-08, 06:33 PM   #14
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Stoker has an uncoded Polar. I use a coded Polar 720i. We are almost always within 3 beats of each other. Information transfers through the pedals. Every once in a while one of us needs to make an effort correction to match the other partner, but very seldom.

And you bet your bippies an HRM is useful. I don't know about the "training zones" thing, but I do know for sure that I need to tune my HR into different zones on different days for different reasons. I was pulling a string of moderates up a long climb on Sunday. They'd hang on my wheel at a 128HR and I'd drop them at 130. I didn't really notice the difference, but they sure did.

If I want to do LT intervals, I have to know my LT and put out the effort to get the HR up to 154-158. Otherwise I don't get the desired training effect. It's very noticeable. And doing long tempo intervals on the trainer. Big difference between going at 139 and 142. Not noticeable at first, but it adds up over an hour's time. These are just my numbers. Everyone's will be different. Which is where the fun is.
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Old 03-19-08, 09:56 AM   #15
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Without a proper LT test to determine what YOUR training zones are - a HR monitor won't be as useful a training tool as it could be. That being said both my wife and I have Polar 720's. The straps are coded and we use them on our Road bikes, MTB's and Tandem. It's nice not having to deal with separate bike computers and HR monitors on all those bikes. We have separate sensors for speed and cadence on the tandem and never have any problems with mixed or crossed signals.
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Old 03-19-08, 11:53 AM   #16
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Both of us use HRM's but we used to get interference- My cheap unit packed up so I got a coded unit. That was fine for me- but Stuart still got interefence- (One coded-One non coded). Just recently- I got a Garmin 305 Edge. Stuart can safely keep his cheap non- coded HRM as the garmin transmits on a different frequency.

And a big advantage- We now have a wireless cadence sensor- and computer as well as my heart monitor-all in the one unit.
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Old 03-23-08, 05:52 PM   #17
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We do not use HR monitor(s). When our heart is beating, we can ride, when it quits . . . hey, our bodies are donated to science!
Seriously, a while back, the U of A did testing of folks that were at least 60 years old (yipes, that was 15 years ago). Volunteered and had sensors all over me and doing treadmill tests, etc. Maxed out at 183 bpm. Was told to lay down and relax while needles were shoved in my legs and they played soothing music. A few minutes of that and the grad student nudged me and said "are you awake?" Answered in afirmative. He then said " . . . but your heart rate dropped to 48" . . . my answer "well, you did tell me to relax!"
Oh, they paid me $15 an hour for my time!
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Old 03-24-08, 03:49 PM   #18
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Hi,

I have the 710i Polar model, probably 5-6 years old. It has worked great and I have sent it in for a new battery and replaced the chest strap with a new one (it is coded). I use it for race trash training and tracking workouts. I also have the power unit, given to me a few years back as a gift, since I already had the 710i. It is rewarding to down load files to the computer and have it all there in a calendar format view.

When I purchased the 710i Polar was the industry leader but other brands have arrived now.
Sigma, Garmin.

I do not use it much on the tandem, in fact hardly ever. I usually just try to relax a little more and not worry about performance while on the tandem. I may wear it some this year as I am curious about my heart rate (compared to a single bike effort) on one of the hill climbs we did quite a few times last year.

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Old 03-31-08, 10:34 AM   #19
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Bought Polars...

Hi all! Thanks for the great advice! We ended up buying coded Polar Monitors...We figured we may as well both go coded so we wouldn't have any issues. I think the ones we ended up with are the F6 and so far so good. It is great to see where we are at when we are riding and if we are not pushing it hard enough! Thanks again =
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