Heart Rate Monitors

Odette’s Heart Rate Monitor

When we are biking or backpacking Odette often laggs behind me.  When I push her to go faster she complains that her heart is already beating too fast and that she needs to let it slow down.  I have observed this even on the stroll back home from Green Lake!

Last fall, after riding the tandem a lot, Odette said that she wanted to keep in shape over the winter and asked for a trainer to use during the rainy season.  She also said that a heart rate monitor would be a good Christmas present.

I saw a used CycleOps fluid trainer at Recycled Cycles for about $50.  I needed a stand for the Tandem (the regular Park repair stand isn’t very stable with the longer bike) and I figured that even if the fluid had all leaked out of the CycleOps the price would be worth it just for the stand.  I also ordered a Polar F4 in ice blue through one of the Amazon stores.  It came with an unsolicited analog bathroom scale.

I set Odette’s bike up on the trainer in the guest bedroom.  It didn’t offer much resistance.  Odette commented on that but I told her it was how it was supposed to be.  She loaded her iPod up with episodes of “This American Life” and actually used it pretty consistently once a week.  Sometime in January I bought a magnetic trainer (branded Trek) at Greggs Greenlake.  It feels much better to me.  At that point I traded her regular bike for her mountain bike.  (I traded the skewer in the mountain bike for the Trek one but I kind of wonder if I needed to.)  The Trek trainer came with a training video which kind of gave away the fact that I’d bought something new.  I stuck the stand (minus the roller) from the old one down next to the Park stand.

The surprise of the deal was how quickly Odette took to the heart rate monitor.  She really got into the exercise ranges and set up a training schedule for the STP and wore her monitor religiously while on the trainer and while walking around Green Lake.  She entered her stats into the Polar website and  structured her exercise schedule along their guidelines for slow days, fast days, etc.

The only downside to all of this was that it became much more difficult to ride with her on single bikes.  She set her monitor to sound an audible alarm when her heart beat too fast and it didn’t take much set it off.  It would also sound on the flats when a conversation got too emotional.  Slow days were the worst since the lower range meant the alarm would start beeping on even a slight incline.  I only saw her ignore the thing once.  That was a slow day when we had been biking in the rain for a couple of hours and she decided that she just wanted to get back to the car.  She pointed out that I’d gotten her a cheap monitor and that the rate would have been individualized (and thus much more accurate) if she had an expensive one with some more features.

Over spring break Odette and Will went to visit colleges and Odette took her monitor thinking that she’d at least walk while they were on the trip.  She evidently left the transmitter in the trunk of a rental car.  She was heartbroken!

We went back and forth over what to do for a replacement (new strap, new monitor with the “own zone” features she wanted, new top-of-the-line monitor) and I finally ordered a CS200cad.  This monitor had all of the functions of a cyclometer and I was interested to see how she did with it.

UPDATE:  neither one of us realized that the CS200cad was a handlebar mounted cyclometer instead of a wristwatch style heart monitor.  (I’d had a bad experience with a wireless cyclometer so I would have hesitated if I’d understood that.)  I took the cateye cyclometer off of Odette’s bike and installed the Polar.  My impression is that the cadence functionality was a bolt-on – the manual doesn’t explain how to display cadence and they forgot the cadence magnet.  I think that we’re going to want to get a replacement for her transmitter….

FURTHER UPDATE:  Polar says that the Polar F4 works with a coded transmitter.  On the trainer as she was initializing the “own zone” the watch definitely worked and gave the same heart rate as the cyclometer.  On her first ride she took both and the watch seemed to give a rate about twice as fast as the other one.  We’ll see…