The Best Heart Rate Monitor for Beginners: Wahoo TICKR Review

 In Endurance Training, Gear
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As an endurance athlete, I’ve gotten great results from heart rate zone training. So today, I’m going to review the Wahoo TICKR, which in my opinion is one of the best heart rate monitors for beginners.

How a Heart Rate Monitor Can Improve Your Training

If there’s anything endurance athletes are short on, it’s time. Most of us have to balance training with work, family, dating, going to the grocery store, and other commitments. So it’s vitally important to make every workout count.

One way to make sure you’re getting the most out of every training session is to exercise at the right heart rate. This can help you make faster progress toward goals like improving your speed and stamina, burning fat, running a marathon, or climbing a mountain.

If you’re just getting started with heart rate training, you’re probably looking for a product that offers great functionality for the price. In my experience, the Wahoo TICKR offers excellent value for your money.

best heart rate monitor

Wahoo TICKR [image courtesy of Amazon.com]

I originally bought the TICKR to upgrade from a $20 Pyle heart rate monitor I bought online. And what a difference!

I use my Wahoo TICKR almost daily for running, hiking, and cross-country skiing workouts. I also used it in 2017 to train for Mt. Rainier, Pico de Orizaba, and Huayna Potosi. I have worn it in extreme hot and cold temperatures, soaked it with rain and sweat, taken very shabby care of it (like throwing it in the corner of the living room after a workout). Overall, I have found it to be incredibly hearty and reliable (with a few exceptions I’ll share).

Wahoo TICKR Specs and Features

The Wahoo TICKR is a chest strap heart rate monitor that uses an elastic strap to hold the device against your skin just above your heart. This ensures you get the most accurate heart rate readings possible.

The TICKR uses ANT+ and Bluetooth technology to connect to any compatible device, including most:

  • Smart phones (iPhone, Android)
  • Smart watches
  • GPS devices
  • Cycling computers
  • Some treadmills and cycle ergometers

Interestingly, it can even connect competitors’ wrist computers! (Garmin, etc.).

An unusual feature of this heart rate monitor is that it transmits ANT+ and Bluetooth at the same time. This means it can talk to multiple devices simultaneously (for example, yours and your coach’s).

Wahoo TICKR is compatible with with Wahoo’s native apps plus 50 third-party apps, including Strava, MyFitnessPal, Map My Run, and Runkeeper. You can see a full list of compatible apps here.

Wahoo TICKR generally retails for $49 and comes with a one-year limited warranty. (Prices may vary by merchant.)

best heart rate monitor, wahoo tickr review

Why I Think Wahoo TICKR Is the Best Heart Rate Monitor for the Money

After two years of almost daily use, here are some things I love about my Wahoo TICKR:

Simplicity

Being a Sagittarius (impulsive), I don’t really do instructions. So when Amazon delivered my Wahoo TICKR, I immediately ripped it out of the box, strapped it on, synced it to Strava, and went out the door for a run. It literally had no setup, other than pairing the heart rate monitor with the app (which generally just requires a few touches).

Reliability

It always sucks when your heart rate monitor goes haywire in the middle of a workout and starts transmitting the wrong heart rate. And compared to other heart rate monitors I’ve used (or watched friends use), Wahoo TICKR has relatively few transmission hiccups. It works well (better, actually) without conducting gel and is not affected by extreme heat or cold.

Like all heart rate monitors, it will eventually get glitchy if you don’t wipe off the electrodes after workouts. But in my experience, it has to get REALLY dirty before it hiccups. (As in, a few months without any cleaning.)

Third-party app compatibility

One of the best features of the Wahoo TICKR (and Wahoo’s entire heart rate monitor line) is that it plays nice with all my favorite apps. As a multi-sport athlete, I love being able to use different apps for cross-country skiing, hiking, and running. For example, when hiking, I can connect to Strava or Map My Hike to see elevation gain, loss, and profile.

I’m also looking at joining an online coaching program, and Wahoo TICKR is compatible with the coach’s platform as well (TrainingPeaks).

Wahoo TICKR also syncs with MyFitnessPal so I can make sure I’m eating enough and Apple Health so I can track my fitness metrics over time.

Battery life

The packaging says that the Wahoo TICKR battery should last 12 months, but mine was still running after 16 months of almost daily use.

Status lights

Have you ever had trouble figuring out whether your heart rate monitor battery was dead — or whether it was just a connectivity glitch? Well, the Wahoo TICKR makes it easy to check the status of your heart rate monitor. LEDs on the chest pod flash to let you know when its on, pairing, and paired to your device.

best heart rate monitor, wahoo tickr review

Wahoo TICKR Downsides

While I really believe the Wahoo TICKR is one of the best heart rate monitors out there, nothing’s perfect. Here are a few downsides of this device:

Limited features

Gear heads take note: Wahoo TICKR is NOT the all-singing, all-dancing shit of the heart rate monitor world. For example, it won’t measure the ground contact time of your foot or sync with your GoPro to overlay your heart rate data with video footage. From TICKR, you get heart rate data — and only heart rate data.

No integrated memory

For the TICKR to work, you have to exercise with a device of some sort to record and save your data. Carrying your phone can be a pain during high-intensity workouts. And even a watch can get in the way during sports where you have to flex your wrists (rowing, court sports).

And no, you can’t just leave your heart rate monitor running in your locker while you go work out. (I point this out because someone actually asked about it on Amazon.)

If you love the Wahoo Fitness features but need a heart rate monitor with integrated memory, check out the Wahoo TICKR X ($79).

Reliability

I hate to mention this one because I am absolute murder on gear and wear many things out in a few months. But I did have one of the snaps that connects the Wahoo TICKR electrode pod to the chest strap fall off after 16 months of very heavy use.

I’m not sure if this is a common issue, but I recommend being very gentle when unsnapping the device from the strap. With my second TICKR, I’m also wiping off after the snaps after workouts to minimize corrosion.

Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Monitor FAQs

I don’t want to wear a chest strap. Can’t I just get a monitor that goes on my arm?

It’s true that heart rate wrist monitors are more comfortable. Another big benefit is that you don’t have to remember to put them on! (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run out the door and left my chest strap in the apartment.)

However, while wrist heart rate monitor technology has come a long way, you’ll still get greater accuracy from a chest heart rate monitor.

In my experience, the Wahoo TICKR strap is pretty comfy and adjusts for a wide range of sizes. To give you an idea, I’m a bra size 36B, and I can cinch it all the way down with no problem! So there’s plenty of play left in there for larger torso sizes.

If you like Wahoo’s features (third-party app compatibility, etc.) but really hate the idea of a chest strap, check out the Wahoo TICKR FIT armband heart rate monitor ($79).

Isn’t $49 a bit expensive for a heart rate monitor? I see cheaper models for sale online.

As someone who suffered for a year with a $20 off-brand heart rate monitor, I can assure you that when it comes to these devices, you get what you pay for.

My inexpensive Pyle heart rate monitor didn’t connect to my smart phone, and I had to tie knots in the enormous chest strap to keep it in place. Also, there was no way to reset the stats, so my max heart rate was forever 264 (definitely a glitch). And when I banged the watch face against a rock after three weeks, the chintzy plastic face sustained deep scratches, making it impossible to read.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you. My opinion: $50 is a relatively small price to pay to get more out of your workouts!

Final Analysis

In my opinion, Wahoo TICKR is the best heart rate monitor for:

  • Beginners who want a starter heart rate monitor that offers good value for the money.
  • Athletes performing general cardio training who don’t mind carrying a phone or wearing a watch during exercise.
  • Multisport athletes, dabblers, and anyone who uses multiple training apps.

And not so great for:

  • Athletes who want to measure their heart rate while rowing, playing court sports, or other activities that don’t lend themselves to wearing a watch or carrying a phone.
  • Gear heads who want the latest and greatest thing on the market.
  • Competitive athletes who want detailed data on their form and movement (TICKR X).
  • Daily users and habitual gear thrashers, who may want something a bit more durable.

Where to buy Wahoo TICKR online

Order your Wahoo TICKR heart rate monitor from Backcountry.com. New customers can subscribe to email updates to get 15% off your entire first order. You’ll also enjoy free shipping on orders over $50.

Have an Amazon Prime account? Order your Wahoo TICKR heart rate monitor on Amazon and get free 2-day shipping.

So there you have it. A review of the best heart rate monitor for beginners (in my opinion).

Happy heart rate zone training! And if you have questions, be sure to hop into the Facebook Group to ask.

Miss Adventure Pants is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Originally published Sept. 18, 2018.

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