Thoughts on HRMs?

A light bike doesn't replace good fitness.

Moderator: Moderator Team

Post Reply
Posts: 736
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2007 6:56 pm

by drainyoo

I'm thinking about purchasing a heart rate monitor because I'm looking to lose more weight, and I would like to know when I'm in my target zone. I'd like to hear from some folks who use them on if they consider them vital or overkill. Also, I've read that to benefit from a HRM the most, you need to know how to use it properly. Not really sure what this means. If anyone can shed some light on that as well. Thanks.

Posts: 1400
Joined: Tue Sep 11, 2012 6:07 pm
Location: The Lone Star State

by FIJIGabe

I hate riding riding without my HRM. It definitely gives you more complete data about your ride. That being said, if you are going to drop $100 on a monitor, might as well get the Cycleops PowerCal, so you can get some idea of the power you are outputting. DCRainmaker gave it a pretty good review, given that it is a less expensive power measuring device, and for someone looking to lose weight, it definitely works.
Madone 9
Madone 5

Madone 4, Cobia. I own a lot of Treks.

Posts: 736
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2007 6:56 pm

by drainyoo

I will check that one out, but I was thinking of getting the Wahoo TICKR. It's $60 and seems to work well with the Strava app.

Posts: 1191
Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 9:39 pm

by kode54

FIJIGabe wrote:I hate riding riding without my HRM. It definitely gives you more complete data about your ride. That being said, if you are going to drop $100 on a monitor, might as well get the Cycleops PowerCal, so you can get some idea of the power you are outputting. DCRainmaker gave it a pretty good review, given that it is a less expensive power measuring device, and for someone looking to lose weight, it definitely works.

totally agree. i replaced my Garmin HR with the PowerCal...although not as accurate as a dedicated PM, it fine for my purposes.
- AX Lightness Vial EVO D + DA9150 + Enve SES 3.4 carbon hubs
- Parlee Altum + DA9150 + Enve SES 4.5 carbon hubs
- Parlee ESX + DA9150 + THM SRM PM + Enve SES 6.7 CK hubs
- Independent Fabrication Ti FLW + DA9100 + Enve 3.4 CK hubs

Posts: 160
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:21 pm

by jpanspac

What target zone are you thinking of? Intervals have been shown to be the best workout for losing weight, because they keep your metabolism elevated longer after the workout ends than lower-intensity workouts. Unfortunately, HR monitors are less useful during intervals because your heart rate takes so long to adapt to the different intensities.
My favorite components are the ones I never have to think about.

Posts: 736
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2007 6:56 pm

by drainyoo

My target zone is 93-157.

User avatar
Posts: 2585
Joined: Thu May 03, 2007 10:39 am

by Tapeworm

HR monitors can and have been used successfully for many years.

Here's the TrainingPeaks breakdown of zones/levels and the respective percentages and what adaptations they yield. ... ing-levels

Personally and professionally I have seen that the PowerCalc is a monumental waste of time. If you can't work off power then a hideously inaccurate estimation of power isn't going to help you.

As mentioned one of the issues of HR vs power is for short duration intervals. Having compared both HR and power for these type of brutally short intervals the HR is slow to rise (comparatively) and then just stays high, thus not not providing any sort of objective feedback to the amount of effort.

For example a 30 sec on/off protocol putting out 500 watts vs 450 may yield an average HR of 97-99% of max yet the physiological demands and adaptations will be better with the 500 watts. But both show a similar how do you know?

Given the availability and choice of power meters means that the second market is well flooded with cheap and reliable options. Seriously look into it.
"Physiology is all just propaganda and lies... all waiting to be disproven by the next study."
"I'm not a real doctor; But I am a real worm; I am an actual worm." - TMBG

Posts: 1439
Joined: Mon Oct 15, 2007 9:28 pm

by boots2000

Yes- get a heartrate monitor.
That is a pretty broad zone.
What are you trying to target?

Posts: 736
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2007 6:56 pm

by drainyoo

Not sure what you mean by what am I trying to target. I got that range from a calculator I found online.

Posts: 1106
Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 4:33 am

by 11.4

Before you spend money, you should make a preliminary decision: If you are interested simply in reducing weight, you really only need a rough indication of your output level (and thus your caloric consumption) to help guide your exercise level, and a HRM is just fine for that. A power meter can do it too, even a cheap one, and they inevitably measure HR anyway, but you are getting information you have to learn to use if it's going to be of any assistance to you and at that point you are probably wasting money. Either device substitutes numbers for a subjective feeling of "I'm gutting myself today" or "I'm not."

So ... you're in a forum here with a bunch of people who count tenths of grams and tenths of watts. Obviously you don't have to be so .. weight weenie, if we dare use the word ... to improve and become a superb rider. However, is that even your objective? If you just want to ride above a certain threshold so you can burn fat most efficiently (hence the question about target range, and about it being narrower than what you cited), a HRM can do it reasonably well (say +/-10%). For a rider who wants to measure his performance in a racing context, that 10% means you may be overdoing it and wearing yourself down half of the time and may not be working as hard as you need to half of the time -- not by much, but enough that you aren't going to become your very best. If you are riding at your aerobic limit, +/- 10% is the difference between gasping and burning out on a ride, versus riding at a conversational pace and not burning quite as many calories.

Some of us, the undersigned included, like to work out at the limit. Many people can do that without a power meter and frankly, once you've used a power meter for a while, you have a pretty good sense of how your body is feeling and whether you are riding at so many watts or not. I may put away the power meter part of the year if my goal is not to tune that last 10% right then (and you can't really expect to ride that very top 10% or closer all the time, or you do just wear yourself down). But that's about race training or about fine tuning a fitness plan that you have assessed and experimented with and refined.

I don't sense you're there. So my recommendation is basically to read some literature on power meters and threshold testing and all the other jargon -- there are a couple paperbacks on power meters, plus a number of websites (Google's Wattage forum is there if you are at the point of tattooing your wattage numbers up the side of your cheek), and so on. To use a power meter or really to understand target ranges and thresholds in any refined way, you have a lot of learning to do. Until you have that commitment and level of interest, a HRM is more than enough. If you can measure HR, miles, and perhaps cadence, you are going to be pretty happy with your results because you will push yourself onwards -- not necessarily to what you could be capable of, but enough to lose weight and enjoy the process. Any of the Garmin bike units works well for that and they're pretty much indestructible, plus the recent versions tend to be compatible with just about everything. Wahoo is coming on strong but you want your display to be on your handlebars, not in your pocket, so just getting a sensor that feeds your iPhone isn't as useful unless the iPhone goes on your bars. There are other brands like Suunto and Polar, and they work well enough but my only proviso is that they often aren't compatible with the major trends in HRMs and power meters. So why buy something that doesn't have a future as you improve and want more? Remember, yes, this is weight weenies (now I've gone and said it) and if you're here, you're about to become an addict to bike equipment. You'll end up with that power meter. And probably an expensive one. You'll sell a kidney for it, or your oldest child if you are truly serious (though losing the kidney does save weight on the bike). But for now, for you, I'd just learn and start simple. You'll lose weight and be able to decide what you really want before you start spending a lot of money. Make the power meter a reward for losing 20 lbs. If I had done that enough, I'd float by now.

Posts: 2292
Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:08 am
Location: Pedal Square

by HillRPete

+1 to what others have said, Tape and 11 in particular.

But if it's really primarily about weight loss, the most important thing is to get the hours done. To that end, what helps most, is to find joy in the workout. If you like to work by numbers, by all means, do it. If you find pleasure riding in the early morning, being on the road when the sun comes out, do it. All out group ride, let's go. Heck even a long ride in the rain can be very satisfying. Love the ride, vary the efforts.

Also, there is a lot of wrong information out there, with regards to heart rate, exercise intensity, and burning fat. Often times the old recommendations of low intensity for burning fat are repeated blindly. Do not make that mistake. That's not to say one should only ever ride all out. But there's nothing wrong with hitting a climb (too) hard every once in a while, and if you have a HRM, have an eye on it. You will learn how to pace yourself.

Posts: 736
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2007 6:56 pm

by drainyoo

Thanks folks. A ton of great info here. Gotta process it all. I went ahead and purchased a Wahoo HRM and so far it's been helpful. Pairing it with Strava paints a better picture of my activity during a ride. I definitely know when I'm not pushing it hard enough, and when I am.

Posts: 1632
Joined: Wed Mar 28, 2007 12:49 pm
Location: Near Horgen, Switzerland

by mrfish

Measuring the cycling is good, but is worth nothing if you're not applying the same precision to the eating side of the equation. Key concept is energy balance: Weight loss requires energy from food in < energy out from base metabolism + energy out from exercise.

Simple approach:
- Graph your weight and miles or hours per week. Look at trends over 4-6 weeks and adjust food / rides accordingly to get weight loss

Measurement-led approach:
- Eat standard meals or weigh ingredients and use meal planning services to calculate calories in with some accuracy
- Use a PM to measure your exercise output. Estimate efficiency of 25%, so that KJ on bike = Calories expended.
- Record input energy, output energy and weight over a few weeks. Assuming all weight loss is from fat, use the fact that 1g fat = 9 cals to solve the energy balance equation to find your base metabolic rate.
- Adjust food and riding to create imbalance of up to 500cals per day

- Lab test for bodily efficiency by measuring O2 versus power output
- Lab tests on body composition to avoid assumption that weight losses are from fat

Other thought:
Don't ignore fuelling your longer rides to increase calorific deficit. Riding at 20kph after an hour because your body has nothing in the tank is both miserable and won't help fitness. Your stomach can intake about 300 cals per hour, so taking a sports drink and some solid food will help you maintain the quality of your rides and thus fitness.

Posts: 3510
Joined: Fri May 25, 2007 6:43 pm
Location: The Grim North.

by mattr

Worth bearing in mind that unless you have a measured max and min heart rate (properly measured, not just "that hill was hard, this is my max heart rate", and at the other end of course) most of the calculators are next to useless, garbage in, garbage out sort of thing.

And if you've used 220-age for your maximum, it'll be even worse. That's around 30 bpm out for me. And most people i ride with find it (at best) to be 10 or so bpm out. The only person i know who relies on that little gem is always asking how he can so easily exceed his maximum heartrate. Then worries that he is damaging himself.

93-157 for a "zone" actually looks more like two or three zones. Or a really badly put together calculator.

Post Reply
  • Similar Topics
    Last post