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- Monitoring your heart rate is a great way to determine the intensity of your training and the completeness of your recovery.
- It’ll work whether you’re exercising in the gym, on your bike, or on a jog.
- We tested Bluetooth heart rate monitors for their comfort, accuracy, and reliability.
- The Garmin HRM-Dual is the best Bluetooth heart rate monitor you can buy. It’s comfortable to wear, stays firmly in place, and never drops the connection.
Heart rate measurement is a reliable way to monitor how hard you’re exercising. But what is not so great is the feeling of a cold plastic strap across your chest on a winter’s morning or the chafe that comes when an inflexible strap is combined with energetic running.
Thankfully, modern heart rate straps have come a long way from the heavy, clumsy, and ice-cold chest straps of a decade ago. Using wireless Bluetooth technology, today’s straps connect to bike computers, gym machines, phones, and smart-watches to allow you to track your training even if you exercise in a variety of different ways. The devices we tested are much smaller than previous-generation monitors, using either a soft chest band or a wristband that feel less intrusive.
We tried a lot of heart rate monitors to find one that reliably connected, didn’t feel uncomfortable, and could stand up to sweaty workouts. We found that many of the devices we tried would stop working under heavy perspiration, or would slip off our chests unless we wore them uncomfortably tight. Our top picks were comfortable, accurate, and reliable.
Here are our top picks for the best Bluetooth heart rate monitors in 2019:
- Best Bluetooth heart rate monitor overall: Garmin HRM Dual
- Best budget Bluetooth heart rate monitor: Lezyne Heart Rate Flow Sensor
- Best wrist-based Bluetooth heart rate monitor: Wahoo Tickr Fit
- Best Bluetooth heart rate monitor for cycling: Sigma R1
- Best Bluetooth heart rate monitor with internal memory: Polar OH1
Keep scrolling to read more details about our top picks.
The best Bluetooth heart rate monitor overall
The Garmin HRM-Dual uses a braided chest strap that doesn’t pull at your clothes or skin, yet remains in place for even the most dynamic of workouts. During weeks of testing, it never dropped the connection and we often forgot we were wearing it.
Fifteen years ago I started wearing heart rate chest straps for bike races. I can vividly remember the wince-inducing cold that came from applying a moistened chest strap to my protruding rib cage, in a cold changing room before I headed out to train.
Many of the chest straps I tested for this article reminded me of those plastic straps of old Although most straps are now more flexible, they are often with a stiff, uncomfortable material. Not so with the HRM-Dual, which uses a woven fabric strap to deliver accurate heart rate readings without feeling like a block of ice against your skin.
Another sense memory that I wish I could forget is the revolting stench of my sweat-encrusted heart rate monitor. The HRM-Dual is washable, something that anyone who lives with a teenage athlete will be grateful for. The strap has a simple adjustable buckle on the back that accommodates XS-XXL shirt sizes. The battery in the strap is rated for 3.5 years of use — I can’t verify that yet but saw no issues in several weeks of testing.
The HRM-Dual is able to connect to multiple devices at a time, which is useful if you are running a bike computer and using online training software, like Zwift. As expert tester DC Rainmaker notes, the ANT+ protocol (a wireless technology proprietary to Garmin), which the strap uses alongside Bluetooth, can connect to many devices and is an industry standard for bike and triathlon devices. His testing also confirmed that the HRM-Dual gives highly accurate readings, something I confirmed when running it alongside several other measuring devices.
About the only thing the Garmin strap doesn’t do is save your data, but given that most of us exercise with at least a phone, this was never an issue for me since that data is saved on the phone. If you prefer to exercise without carrying any devices, straps like the Polar H10 might be a better bet.
Although this is our favorite overall, the choice between the Garmin and the Wahoo Tickr Fit (our favorite wrist-based monitor) is more about where you want to measure your heart rate. Both are great and do an excellent job, but the fact that the Garmin monitor has a longer battery life and can be washed is what gave it the edge.
What I really liked about the HRM-Dual was forgetting about it. It connected to my ANT+ and Bluetooth devices every time, it didn’t pull on my skin when I moved my upper body, and it wasn’t prone to slipping down my body either. It can be slightly more expensive than some of the competition, but if you value a no-nonsense, do-it-all heart rate monitor, it’s a great choice.
Pros: Washable, comfortable, accurate
Cons: No data saved on the device
Buy the Garmin HRM Dual on Amazon for $68.69
The best budget Bluetooth heart rate monitor
Lezyne’s Heart Rate Flow sensor does what it says on the box without any unnecessary bells or whistles, for an excellent price.
By the time you pay entry fees, buy sports nutrition products, and keep your bike, running shoes, and swimming gear in good shape, endurance sport isn’t cheap. If your gym membership is making your credit card wince, it makes sense to save money where you can and this heart rate strap is a great area to do just that.
Lezyne’s HR Flow sensor measures your heart rate and connects via Bluetooth to your phone, watch, or bike computer. The included coin-sized (CR2032) battery should last you years. It won’t save your data, but the phone that it’s paired to will. It might need you to moisten the strap a little to get a good reading, but that takes seconds. Lezyne advises washing the strap under running water and hanging it to dry rather than using a washing machine, but that really shouldn’t take more than a minute every week or so.
Customers liked the use of a standard battery (it can be found at most stores) and the long battery life of the unit. The sizing seemed to work for everyone we tried it on, and in several weeks of use, we haven’t seen a dropped connection. We did have to turn off Bluetooth on a ph0ne once, as it seemed to prevent the monitor from connecting to a bike computer, but that was a simple fix.
Considering the Lezyne strap is less than $50, it is a great budget option.
Pros: Great value, reliable data, affordable
Cons: Not ANT+ compatible
Buy the Lezyne HR Flow Sensor on Amazon for $44.99
The best wrist-based Bluetooth heart rate monitor
Wahoo’s Tickr Fit is a great choice if you don’t enjoy the feeling of a tight heart rate strap on your chest. It reliably and accurately recorded heart rate using a forearm strap and we have no complaints about comfort or performance.
The first generation of heart rate chest straps relied on a huge plastic connector that covered the entire rib cage and was uncomfortable to wear and virtually incompatible with a sports bra.
Modern chest straps are much improved, but some people will still find them an annoyance — not least when you get all dressed up to go training and realize you have forgotten the damn thing, forcing you to pick between spending 10 minutes undressing or forgoing valuable training data. Wahoo offers a great alternative with its Tickr Fit, which offers a reliable heart rate tracking on your forearm.
The Tickr Fit uses a breathable strap to hold an optical heart rate monitor on your forearm, similar to the optical sensors used in smart-watches. I have relatively small arms and found the smaller of the two supplied straps worked well in holding the monitor two-thirds of the way from my wrist to my elbow. Users with even smaller arms may want to try before they buy, or run the unit on their bicep as the strap isn’t made of a stretchable material.
I found the connection to be incredibly reliable when used with a Wahoo bike computer and my phone. The Tickr uses Bluetooth and ANT+ so it should connect to just about anything you’d want to use to measure heart rate and, as with all Wahoo devices I’ve tested, it has proven extremely reliable and easy to set up.
The Tickr Fit charges with a proprietary magnetic charging station, which isn’t convenient for travel but handy for quickly charging the device. The listed battery life is about 30 hours and I was able to get about that much during testing. For most people, this will be more than enough for even the longest ultramarathon.
Amazon buyers who found that their sweat was particularly damaging to chest straps loved the Tickr, while others praised its durability and accuracy compared to other wrist-mounted optical monitors. The only objection I have is that it gave me a spectacular tan line after weeks of cycling in the sun, but that is probably more of a reflection on my fair skin than the product itself.
I found it flawless in its Bluetooth and ANT+ connections and noticed that it rarely deviated more than three beats from a chest strap when used at the same time. The only reason this is not the top pick is that it is a little more expensive than chest straps that do the same thing, but if I were buying a strap this is likely the one I would pick.
Pros: More comfortable than chest straps, reliable and easy to connect it with other devices
Cons: Has to be recharged, a bit costly, leaves a weird tan line
Buy the Wahoo Tickr Fit at Amazon for $80
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