Best Heart Rate Monitors for Cycling : Top Picks for 2021

We are a reader supported site. We earn commissions when you buy through links on our site. Learn more.

One of the most important pieces, yet often overlooked cycling accessories is the heart rate, monitor. Sometimes, it’s referred to as the HRM. 

The heart rate monitor provides you with valuable data you can use to measure your progress toward your goals.

So which one is the best for cycling?

Editor’s Pick : Wahoo Tickr
“Arguably the most popular dual-band HRM in the market today.”

Budget Pick : Powr Labs
“Affordably priced and has all the features you expect from a premium HRM.”

Best Sensitivity : Hammerhead
“Uses silver instead of polymer electrodes which is more sensitive and gentler to the skin.”

Most Comfortable Strap : Garmin Premium HRM
“Uses silver instead of polymer electrodes which is more sensitive and gentler to the skin.”

How We Pick Heart Rate Monitors

There are many options out there for a heart rate monitor these days. In order to pick the ones that are truly good, we turned to online cycling forums, asked around in bunch rides, and also looked at what the pros are using.

So, in picking our favorite cycling heart rate monitors, we paid attention to the criteria below :

  • HRM Type. We only picked chest straps heart rate monitors. There are other types that are worn around the wrist or arms. In our opinion, these don’t work that well for cycling.
  • Accuracy. There are 2 technologies used in heart rate monitors. Electrocardiography (ECG) is used in chest straps and photoplethysmography (PPG). We picked only those that use ECG as they’re more practical (chest straps) for cycling and have better accuracy.
  • Connectivity. All our picks support ANT+ and/or Bluetooth. You’ll need these to connect to your bike computers to display your heart rate reading.

You can read more in our cycling heart rate monitors buying guide here.

Wahoo Tickr Heart Rate Monitor

Wahoo Tickr HRM
Photo Credit : Wahoo Fitness

Wahoo offers high-tech products for cyclists and runners. The Wahoo Tickr is currently the most popular heart rate monitor that supports dual-band technology.

That’s ANT+ and Bluetooth compatibility. You can easily tell if it’s working with the LED lights. It lights up blue when it’s connected and red when it’s detecting your heart rate.

And best of all, it’s one of the few heart rate monitors that are waterproof with a rating of IPX7 (up to 5 feet deep).

  • Pros : Dual-band ANT+ and Bluetooth is compatible with all bike computer models, regardless of the brand.
  • Cons : Expect to pay more over the other models.

Powr Labs Heart Rate Monitor

Powr Labs Heart Rate Monitor
Photo Credit : Powr Labs

The Powr Labs has all of the features you need from a heart rate monitor at affordable pricing. With dual ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity, the Powr Labs works comfortably with smartwatches, smartphones, head units, and training apps. 

The 2032 coin cell battery can reliably power it for at least 6 months (or Powr Labs will send you fresh batteries within 12 months) reliably. You’ll be able to complete dozens of rides and training sessions while enjoying the 30 to 230 bpm sensor range. 

  • Pros : Very long battery life with a single coin battery.
  • Cons : A relatively unknown brand.

Hammerhead Heart Rate Monitor

Hammerhead Heart Rate Monitor
Photo Credit : Hammerhead

Launched without much coverage compared to the Karoo 2, the heart rate monitor is Hammerhead’s latest addition to their product lineup. There is no doubt that Hammerhead will continue to expand its product lineup aggressively after successful recent funding that includes 4x Tour de France winner Chris Froome the CEO of Zipp wheels.

This heart rate monitor is both Bluetooth and ANT+ capable. It can connect to the Karoo 2 on either method, but the ANT+ method will significantly increase the CR2032 battery lifespan.

The good news? You can get it for 50% off when purchased with a Karoo 2.

  • Pros : Very sensitive electrodes. Made of silver instead of polymer in other brands.
  • Cons : Premium pricing if bought individually.

Garmin Premium Heart Rate Monitor

Garmin Softstrap HRM
Photo Credit : Garmin

The Garmin Premium HRM comes together with all Garmin Edge devices if you buy them in the bundle.

You’ll probably notice that there are several variants of the heart rate monitor. This model is specific for cycling and if you’re into other sports such as running and swimming, consider getting the HRM-Tri instead.

Connectivity-wise, only ANT+ is supported and it’ll work with all head units that support ANT+.

  • Pros : Comfortable chest strap made from soft fabrics.
  • Cons : Not Bluetooth compatible.

Polar H10 HRM

Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor
Photo Credit : Polar

For exceptional accuracy, near-total compatibility, and universal acclaim, the Polar H10 is hard to top.

Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity allow it to work smoothly with hardware from Garmin, Apple, Suunto, and of course, other Polar products. It also connects seamlessly to fitness tracking apps like Strava and all cardio devices with heart-rate monitor compatibility.

The comfortable synthetic strap can withstand temperatures up to 122°F and as low as 14°F, all while staying firmly in place without interference in your ride. Extras include onboard memory good for one full training session and reliable waterproofing.

  • Pros : Comfortable chest straps that don’t dig in your chest.
  • Cons : Expect to pay more.

CooSpo Fitness HRM

CooSpo Cycling Heart Rate Monitor
Photo Credit : CooSpo

Want a quality heart rate monitor at a price that won’t break the bank?

Check out this Fitness Tracker from CooSpo, a company that develops devices for monitoring all kinds of workouts. 

This Bluetooth 4.0 and ANT+ compatible heart rate monitor will give you real-time heart rate data at a budget price. The CooSpo Fitness heart rate monitor is compatible with all ANT+ and Bluetooth-enabled bike computers. 

In addition to heart rate data, the monitor allows you to view training zones and calories burned. The CooSpo comes with a one-size-fits-all adjustable strap. 

And it’s water and sweatproof.

  • Pros : Excellent value for money at almost half the price of its peers.
  • Cons : CooSpo brand is relatively new and might not instill confidence in some.

FAQ

Are the heart rate monitor straps replaceable?

Most heart rate straps are replaceable since the sensor unit can be easily removed.

When you’re buying a replacement chest strap, make sure to check that it’s compatible with your sensor unit. Sizing wise, it’s adjustable, and one size fits all. So, you don’t have to worry about that.

Some generic ones are compatible with all the major heart rate monitor brands.

Are heart rate monitors waterproof?

It depends on the model.

It’s best to read the manufacturer’s exact specifications. But in general, all heart rate monitors are water-resistant at the minimum.

Those which are waterproof cannot transmit real-time heart rate readings due to how the technology works. ANT+ and Bluetooth use the 2.4Ghz microwave frequency band for transmission, and these radio signals are easily absorbed by water.

Can I use a wrist based heart rate monitor for cycling?

Yes, you can. But I wouldn’t recommend you to do that for the reasons I’ll explain below.

  • Fit. A wrist-based heart rate monitor doesn’t fit as snugly as a chest strap. Your hand movements will cause it to move around and hence affecting the reading.
  • Real-time display. While the wrist-based heart rate monitor collects readings, they typically don’t sync with your GPS unit. Hence, you’ll need to keep glancing on your wrist to see your heart rate, which can be dangerous, especially if you’re riding in a group.
Chris Ireland

Chris Ireland

Chris Ireland is a staff writer covering everything road cycling. He has been writing about cycling as a freelance journalist since 2017. In his spare time, Chris loves to ride his gravel and mountain bikes.