My trusty bike computer finally died a few months back and I have been contemplating on whether to replace it with another bike computer or whether I should buy the latest craze, a heart rate monitor.
I already use the android app Strava for keeping track of my mountain and road biking activities. This was one reason why I was wishy washy on whether I wanted another device that can also do the same thing. Although for me, the bike computer would be visible on my wrist, whereas, I keep my phone in my back shirt pocket or backpack so my mileage and other topics aren’t readily available. My previous bike computer was placed right on my handlebars, so all the readouts were easily viewable.
I used the bike computers visual readout of speed to gauge how I was riding and feeling on a particular day. It certainly was not scientific, but I became pretty good at gauging if I was riding well or lagging. I was able to do this even on trails and roads that I had not ridden before, just by referencing my speed and what my body was telling me.
I decided to take the plunge and purchase a heart rate monitor with a watch. I did not want anything that had a singular purpose, so all the HRM only models (FitBit, etc) were out. Additionally, any HRM and watch combo that needed frequent charging were out as well. Some of the advanced HRM’s have Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone, so they need frequent charging and also drain your smartphone as well, since it is also using its Bluetooth. I have enough gadgets that need to be plugged in and nope, I did not want another.
So in my efforts to choose a simple device, my final pair of choices came down to the Polar FT7 and the Timex Ironman Heart Rate Monitor. The features on both the Polar and Timex were very similar, except that the Timex had more features for runners.
Not only did the Timex have more features for runners, it was more aesthetically pleasing as well. The shape and the colors seemed more current. Whereas, looking at the Polar reminds me of an old digital watch from the early 1980’s.
As much as I tried to like the Timex more, I ended up purchasing the Polar FT7. In this case function over form won out. Through all of the forums and the online feedback I read, plus the friends I spoke with I came away with that for cycling, the Polar would be the way to go. They are highly recommended in the biking community and when it came down to it, looks be darned, I just wanted something easy and something that worked.
The Polar FT7 is quite light and hardly noticeable on my wrist. I wear a watch everyday and this is the lightest watch that I own at about 9oz. So if you are not a regular watch wearing person, you may feel otherwise. The strap is a basic plastic strap. It has plenty of detents, so finding a comfortable tightness on your wrist should not be a problem.
As for the dimensions, the FT7 was a little chubbier than I thought it would be, But it actually “wears thin” and I haven’t noticed the thickness of it as it is probably about 13mm. This may be because the band the watch face meet flush and so there are no exposed corners to catch on.
On the back of the watch is the battery compartment, which a coin can be used to unscrew it. You don’t have to take this watch in to a watch repair store as you can easily change the battery yourself.
As for the performance, I have been very pleased with it. I turned it on, input my age, weight, set the time and clicked the button to link with the monitor around my chest and off I went on my first ride.
It has been working flawlessly since day one. The interface is easy to learn and firing up the heart rate monitor for a ride is a three step process:
1) Put the HRM around your chest
2) Push the Start button on the watch to link with HRM
3) Push the Start button again to start recording
It even keeps up to 99 training files in memory and it shows you how long you spent in each zone in the workout. Additionally, you can purchase a linking device so you can upload your stats to the Polar website.
As for me athletically, I am still in the process of learning how to use more the FT7 more effectively as a heart rate monitor for myself (not the functions of the device). What I can tell you is that I know when I am having a good day, bad day or an average day already. I know exactly what heart rate zone I am in and can then decide what is the best pace for me given the section of road or trail that I am on.
The real benefit I see is not on my days where I feel great, its on the days when I feel a little lackluster. It helps to keep me on a pace and not slack off. Whereas before, I may say to myself that I am not feeling great, so I will ease up. Now, I know exactly what zone I am in, so I can at least get my heart rate up to a certain level and then maintain it in the necessary zone.
For me, the Polar FT7 was a good buy as it does everything I need at a fair price, performs well and easy to use.