Because I thought I could
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Wash DC Metro
Bikes: November, Trek OCLV, Bianchi Castro Valley commuter
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Get a cheap HRM, figure out what you don't like about it, and upgrade when the end-of-season sales hit. If ALL you're trying to do is zone-based training, you want current HR and average HR. The bike computer will give you total time, miles and speed data. An HRM with a "lap" function can (depending on how it's implemented) can give you HR average for each lap; handy if you are trying to monitor riding in different zones during a ride. An advantage of wrist-watch style HRMs is you can use them during other activities; a bike-only one (combo cyclecomputer and HRM with permanent bike mount) is only useful on the bike.
I have a Polar 150 and a 720. I started with the 150 (it was on sale); upgraded to the 720 (also on sale) after 2 seasons: digital-coded HR sensor is less susceptible to power line interference (a big problem for me - much of my riding is on a bike trail with overhead transmission wires), wanted more detailed data recorded for each lap (speed, distance, time, HR and averages), altitude capture (barometric), and data transfer and logging. You don't need this to get started. The 120 or 150 (cycling functions) are good units, too.
The Astrale is a great computer; I use one on my road bike with the 720 (I am a data geek) so I can display HR, speed, distance, cadence, and lap or elapsed time all at once.
For books, there are a couple by Sally Edwards and Sally Reed: The Heart Rate Monitor Book for Outdoor and Indoor Cyclists: A Heart Zone Training Program (Heart Zone Training Program Series) (Paperback) by Sally Edwards, Sally Reed . It also looks like they have a brand new book (or a new edition of an old book) out this month: Heart Zones Cycling : The Avid Cyclist's Guide to Riding Faster and Farther (Paperback), Publisher: VeloPress; 3.00 edition (June 28, 2006). Friel, Burke, and Pruitt all discuss HR-based training extensively in their cycling training books.