Best heart rate monitors for cycling 2022: best models and what to look for

Looking for the best heart rate monitors for cycling? We round up some of the best options out there on the market and explain what to look for

Best heart rate monitors
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

The best heart rate monitors are a near-essential piece of kit for any rider who wants to track their cycling fitness.

A heart rate monitor can be used to ensure that structured intervals (opens in new tab) are ridden at the correct intensity, to chart training volume and intensity over time, and the data can also indicate when it's time to take a break.

When choosing the best heart rate monitor for cycling, the key things to consider are where you want to wear it and how it talks to the device recording your rides (cycling computer, (opens in new tab) smartwatch (opens in new tab) or phone (opens in new tab)). We've detailed all you need to know when deciding what's best for you below, but first we’ve listed a few of the best heart rate monitors at different prices.

Some of the best heart rate monitors for cycling

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Image shows Garmin HRM Pro heart rate monitor

(Image credit: Future)
Best for multi sport use

Reasons to buy

+
Reliable and accurate
+
No dropouts
+
Waterproof for swimming

Reasons to avoid

-
You're paying a premium for functionality offered at a lower price by other brands

Garmin Edge cycling computers are some of the most widely used, with even the most basic models providing heart rate data. The HRM-Pro is Garmin's pinnacle heart rate monitor, rolling all of its sport specific models into one, as well as linking to Garmin Connect IQ, making it compatible with a large range of, currently free, data specific tracking apps on the Garmin Connect website, Garmin's equivalent of Strava.

It delivers all your heart rate data needs and adds other functionality like counting steps and analysing gait as you run. It can store data when it's not possible to use a wearable and then automatically download, which is useful for swimming and running, but less so for all except track cycling, as you'll usually have a bike computer with you when riding.

Like the HRM-Dual, see below, the Pro also uses ANT+ and Bluetooth transmission, meaning it's perfect for indoor and outdoor use, as well as at the gym.

The Garmin HRM-Pro takes a standard CR2032 battery, which going on experience should last about a year. You can check battery status over Garmin Connect. But it's twice the price of the HRM-Dual, so if you're just interested in cycling stats you're paying a premium for features you don't need.

Read more: Garmin HRM Pro review


Image shows Garmin HRM

(Image credit: Future)
A better value workhorse

Reasons to buy

+
ANT+ and Bluetooth so works with all head units
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Long battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Need to unscrew back to replace battery
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Not the cheapest option

The Garmin HRM-Dual gets its name from its compatibility with Bluetooth as well as ANT+, and transmits over a 3m range - although that's a trick that pretty much every HRM has these days. Like Garmin's premium HRM-Pro heart rate monitor the unit takes a CR2032 battery that can be replaced by the user - although this needs a screwdriver rather than using the side of a coin, it only needs to be done roughly every 3.5 years.

The monitor comes fitted to an adjustable strap, with a length range of 63.5cm to 132cm, so this should provide a secure, close fit for the majority of riders. It hooks up on the side of your chest. 

As you are likely to get hot and sweaty while wearing a heart rate monitor, it'll come as a relief that the strap on the HRM-Dual is also easily detachable from the electronics and is washable.

Read more: Garmin HRM Dual review


Image shows Wahoo TickrX heart rate monitor

(Image credit: Future)
Best value for multisport use

Specifications

Connectivity: Bluetooth and ANT+
Battery: Coin Cell (CR2032) / 500hrs
Water rating: IPX7 (waterproof up to 5ft)
Internal memory: Yes

Reasons to buy

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Superb fit, smooth fit
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On device storage
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Seamless app connectivity
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Free Wahoo app for those without other devices

Reasons to avoid

-
Using the 'poppers' every time can wear them out

There are two chest strap heart rate monitor' in Wahoo's line up: the Tickr and TickrX - the former coming with an RRP of £39.99 / $49.99, as opposed to £64.99 / $79.99 for the more advanced option. 

It was the TickrX that we had on test here. In addition to tracking your heart rate, this unit is also able to measures additional extra metrics, such as indoor cycling cadence  and running analytics. 

The TickrX hear rate monitor is also able to record all this data itself, so I was able to just chuck it on and complete my workouts without thinking about – or connecting to – anything else. All the my data was then simply just one quick sync away.

Admittedly, this function was only really useful when cross-training with running, bouldering and yoga – and shorter rides at HR zone 2 or below. For more longer rides and high intensity sessions, I'd be connecting it up to a head unit anyway – either for the routing functionality or to track my power data.

Rather than having a separate hook in the strap to fix it around your body, the Tickr uses the poppers that connect to the electronic pod, which makes getting it on and off slightly easier and eliminating the possibility of irritation that a hook might cause (although I personally don't tend to have an issue with that).

It's a neat design feature – and the strap certainly is comfortable – however, with previous generation devices I have had those poppers wear to the point of breaking before. That's not to say that this model will suffer the same fate (I haven't used it for the years+ required to find out) – and I've had other HRMs die in a similar period for other reasons – but it's still something that's worth bearing in mind.

Image shows 4iiii Viiiiva HRM

(Image credit: Future)

4iiii Viiiiva heart rate monitor

Best for connectivity

Specifications

Connectivity: Bluetooth and ANT+
Battery: Coin Cell (CR2032) / 160hrs
Water rating: IPX7 (waterproof up to 5ft)
Internal memory: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Can act as an ANT+ to Bluetooth bridge
+
On-device data storage
+
Comfy strap

Reasons to avoid

-
Poppers are a longevity concern
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Quoted battery life lower than competitors''

4iiii might be best known for its power meters, but it also offers a line in heart rate monitors for this other mainstay of performance tracking.

Similar to other top-end heart rate monitors, such as those from Wahoo and Garmin, the Viiiiva is able to record up to 65 hours of data directly onto the device - so you don't need to pair up a device when cross-training in different sports. 

Again similar to Wahoo, the Viiiiva forgoes a 'hook and loop' system of attachment in favour of using poppers. This means eliminates a potential source of irritation – and, sure enough, the Viiiiva does feel very comfortable – but it does introduce a potential point of failure, as poppers do wear faster than a simple hook. Still, I've had no troubles so far.

Where the Viiiiva does stand out from the crowd is that it can act as a 'data bridge', connecting with your ANT+ only devices and then transmitting that data to a your phone, computer or other Bluetooth-only device. It's not a feature I found especially useful, as pretty much all my devices also transmit over Bluetooth – but if that's not your situation, then this does stand to be an incredibly helpful feature. 

The battery life isn't as long as the Wahoo Tickr X, though, and it doesn't have the same range of extra tracking features. So, although the Viiiiva has proved a robust, reliable and reasonably priced unit itself, unless you really need the bridge function or have found it on a very good discount, you might be best off going for the Wahoo Tickr X instead.

Image shows Lifeline heart rate monitor

(Image credit: Future)

LifeLine HRM

Best on a budget

Specifications

Connectivity: Bluetooth and ANT+
Battery: Coin Cell (CR2032) / "up to" 900hrs
Water rating: Water resistant up to 30m
Internal memory: No

Reasons to buy

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Budget option
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ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity
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Water resistant to 30m

Reasons to avoid

-
No internal memory 

The LifeLine HRM strap doesn't offer the internal memory or the fancy connectivity features that the likes of Wahoo, Garmin and 4iiii can boast.

But if you're after an inexpensive heart rate monitor that simply monitors your heart rate, the LifeLine HRM ticks the bill. Although it uses a hook and loop fasting system, I've found it perfectly comfortable and haven't had a problem with connectivity – however, a quick glance on Wiggle's website shows that the connectivity is an area that some other people have had issues with.

The 'up to 900 hours' of battery life does sound more aspirational than indicative of it's real world performance – although I'm still yet to put in a tenth of that duration into this monitor, so I can't say that it definitely won't last that long.

It's worth bearing in mind that although the water rating is that the strap is 'resistant up to 30m', it's not rated for swimming. But as a basic heart rate monitor for riding, and maybe a little running, LifeLine HRM has displayed a solid performance at a reasonable price.

Some of the best heart rate wristband monitors for cycling

If you don't like the idea of using a chest strap heart rate monitor, there are a number of other options available. Wrist based devices use optical heart rate measurement, rather than the electrical signals from your heart that a chest strap will detect.

You might find a wrist-based heart rate monitor more comfortable, although it may not be quite as accurate as a strap. That's particularly true when you get hot and move around a lot - so most of the time when you're exercising. 

The best smartwatches for cycling will also usually include optical heart rate measurement and like wrist-based monitors have the advantage that they're comfortable to wear 24/7, so you can capture your resting heart rate and its rate during off-bike activities and while you sleep. 

Whoop 4.0

(Image credit: Whoop)

Whoop Band 4.0

Reasons to buy

+
Measures HRV and other parameters
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Comprehensive fitness analysis via mobile app

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires subscription

Whoop doesn't just measure your heart rate as you exercise, it's designed to provide comprehensive fitness monitoring via its 4.0 band, worn on the wrist 24:7. This tracks your heart rate, but also other parameters like heart rate variability, blood oxygenation and breathing rate. It uses this to assess the effect of exercise, monitor sleep patterns and track recovery status, recommending the level of exercise you should take on a given day and when you should rest up via its app.

You need to sign up to Whoop's service for a minimum period of a year, although Whoop is designed to provide all you need without outside tools, and the data can be paired with third party apps such as Strava. 

Scosche Rhythm+

(Image credit: Scosche)

Scosche Rhythm+

Reasons to buy

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ANT+ and BLE connectivity to a wide range of devices and apps
+
Available as an armband or for the wrist
+
Short battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
You're not getting a watch face or other data

If you like the idea of an optical HR wristband, but don't want all of the extra bells and whistles, the Scosche Rhythm+ might be the ticket. It's ANT+ and Bluetooth enabled to transmit data to your watch, head unit, and 200+ smartphone apps.

The battery is USB rechargeable and claimed to last for 8 hours. The neoprene band is plenty adjustable and comes in two sizes and a range of colours.  The Scosche Rhythm is available as an armband as well as the wrist-worn option and like Wahoo's HRMs comes with an LED for battery status, plus it adds LEDs to show your current heart rate zone.

On the minus side, unlike a smartwatch you're not getting any data other than heart rate and don't have a watch face to tell the time.

Garmin Vivofit 5

(Image credit: Garmin)

Garmin Vivosmart 5 Wrist Watch

Reasons to buy

+
Lots of other metrics and data, including time of day
+
Connectivity to Garmin Connect 

Reasons to avoid

-
Need to carry a phone for the full suite of functionality

The Garmin Vivosmart is a budget smartwatch/fitness tracker option that provides a lot of functionality for not much more than a premium HRM. It includes optical heart rate monitoring and connects up via BLE and ANT+ with other devices and to Garmin Connect for comprehensive fitness tracking.

Since it can be worn 24/7 you can get metrics like sleep duration and quality as well as ride data. Its slimline format means that it shouldn't get in the way when you're riding.

Wahoo Tickr Fit

(Image credit: Wahoo)

Wahoo Tickr Fit

Reasons to buy

+
Works with Apple Watch and Wahoo's own app as well as cycling computers and other devices
+
Rechargeable battery

Reasons to avoid

-
May not be as comfortable as a wrist-based unit

Okay so it's not wrist-based, but the Wahoo Tickr Fit is worn on the forearm, so it's out of the way and you might find it more comfortable than a chest strap. It comes with two straps to suit your arm circumference.

Unlike many heart rate monitors, it has a rechargeable battery with a claimed 30 hours of battery life, so you're not going to need to keep a supply of coin cells around. There are LEDs built in to show when it's getting a reading and when it's connected up to a receiving device. As usual you get both BLE and ANT+ support and you can hook up to Apple Watch and Wahoo's own smartphone app.

What is a heart rate monitor?

Your heart is your body's blood delivery agent: it pumps oxygenated blood full of nutrients to your limbs, and when you exercise it has to work harder and faster to meet the needs of the body.

A heart rate monitor measures how fast your heart is beating in BPM: beats per minute, and provides an insight into how hard your body is working. That's usually partitioned into heart rate training zones, letting you analyse the different ways in which your exercise is improving your cardiovascular fitness.

How can cyclists use heart rate monitors?

The most common use for a heart rate monitor is to record intervals. Interval training means riding short efforts at high intensity, interspersed with rest intervals of easy pedalling. In time, this forces the body to adapt so that the intensity can be held for longer or can be increased.

Intervals can be ridden based on RPE (rate of perceived exertion), power (which measures the actual output of the body in watts) or heart rate (which measures the effect that the effort has on the body).

In an ideal world, power and heart rate are combined to show how much stress is required for the body to produce a given output - but power meters are expensive and heart rate monitors allow a rider to know that they're riding the efforts hard enough and the recoveries easy enough.

The intensity required during each interval will vary depending upon its length, but will usually be expressed in a 'zone' which is based on a calculation of the rider's max or threshold heart rate. So when training with a heart rate monitor, the rider just needs to know what BPM they need to hold for each interval to have the best chance at completing the training correctly.

best heart rate monitors cycling

Using heart rate data can help you better understand how your body is performing

(Image credit: chris catchpole)

Heart rate 'zones' are very individual. The baseline starting point for one rider might be a threshold heart rate of 180bpm whilst it could be 160bpm for another.

However, training forces the heart muscle to become stronger. A well-trained athlete will see their resting heart rate (which is usually measured in the morning on waking up) drop, so tracking this can show your fitness improvements during the year.

Not only that, your resting heart rate often increases during periods of overtraining, or when you're sick. An increased resting heart rate is therefore a red flag which can indicate it's time to take a few days off training.

What types of heart rate monitors are there?

Most cyclists opt for a chest strap heart rate monitor. A chest strap heart rate monitor measures small electrical signals given when your heart constricts. By contrast, wrist and headphone heart rate monitors usually use optical technology which shines a light into the skin and reads how much is reflected back. As your heart beats, the volume of blood flowing through your arteries changes, causing different amounts of light to return back to the sensor against your skin. The HRM then uses an algorithm to determine pulse rate.

As techy and scientific as the latter might sound, electrical technology is generally considered more accurate - sample rates are higher and the chest doesn't move around as much as the wrist, resulting in fewer fluctuations in info.

best heart rate monitors cycling

A wrist-based heart rate monitor, however, can be handy if you want to keep an eye on your activity levels off the bike, and track your resting heart rate.

The other thing to check when buying a heart rate monitor is the type of connection it uses. Most can transmit data to a cycling computer or phone app via both ANT+ and Bluetooth. However, some will only use one or the other, so it's important to check the unit you're looking at is compatible with what you've already got.