Mio Velo Proves Wrist-Mounted Heart Rate Monitoring Has Come of Age

    Mio Velo Proves Wrist-Mounted Heart Rate Monitoring Has Come of Age

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    Technology curmudgeons unite—and officially bid farewell to your conventional heart-rate-transmitter strap. Finally, courtesy of Mio’s Velo wrist-mounted heart-rate band (among some others of its ilk), you are now forever liberated from chest-transmitter bondage. No more suffering from cruel chest-strap antics. You know—restricted breathing one day, fighting a saggy fit the next; or the electrodes peel, the battery dies, or the buckles make you feel stupid with every attempt to adjust strap length.

    I put up with all of this, you say, and I’m a technology curmudgeon?

    Hold that thought.

    The Velo is no longer brand-spanking new, but it’s worth celebrating because its success represents a coming-of-age for new heart-rate monitor technology. The Mio is sophisticated, and it represents a good buy. Just so you know, you’re a curmudgeon because early adopters first slipped on wrist-mounted heart-rate transmitters, from Mio and many other companies, three years ago. But, it turns out, you’re certainly a wise curmudgeon.

    At its essence, the Mio Velo, which is faceless, is a heart-rate transmitter strap that wears like a watch. Put it on, ask your heart-rate monitoring watch or bike computer to “discover” a heart-rate transmitter in its usual fashion, and after everything connects you experience the familiar. Your heart-rate data pops up on a screen or watch face.

    The Velo itself has an LED indicator that changes between steady illumination and flashing modes, and also changes color, to indicate info like battery strength, your level of effort, and whether the device has successfully paired to a smartphone.

    The Velo can be further programmed via Mio’s proprietary “Go” fitness-tracking app—software that has become de rigueur in the tracker hardware industry. But for me, fitness apps have begun to gather on my phone like flotsam and jetsam. How many programs does one need to be kept apprised of their recent miles run or ridden? Frankly, I liked the Velo because soon after strapping it on and powering it up, the device went about its work invisibly.

    What’s to dislike? The hit on wrist-mounted technology has long been imprecision—that the sensors on the devices’ undersides, which use light to track blood flow optically through your blood vessels, deliver inconsistent and sometimes inaccurate data. Critics claim that chest straps, and their tried and true electromagnetic technology, work better.

    I’m not so sure anymore. The Velo, worn snug on my wrist just above my beloved Garmin fenix 3 watch/heart-rate monitor/cycling computer, repeatedly delivered consistent data. (I later reviewed it on my Strava account.)

    No doubt, you can find dissenting opinions on the Web, but you might also notice snowballing support for the technology. The optical sensors continue to improve, as do the algorithms that work behind the scenes.

    Yes, the technology occasionally disappoints with a hyperbolic reading—especially if the sensors aren’t snugged up against your arm (while riding, per Mio’s recommendation, I wear mine “facing out” on the inside of my wrist). Chest-straps, however, also occasionally (and literally) slip. Or they’re too dry to properly detect heart-rate. Or they conk out, without warning, midway through a workout. The water-resistant Mio recharges via USB, runs about eight hours per charge, and bridges between devices that might only communicate via Bluetooth (like an iPhone) or ANT+ (like many cycling sensors).

    One more argument for the Velo, and its less cycling-centric sibling, the Mio Link: They currently list for between $79 and $99, which makes them more affordable than Garmin’s high-end chest-transmitter straps. How about that: Today you can buy comfier, cheaper, and increasingly streamlined transmitter technology.

    Nobody will call you funny names for making such a smart purchase.

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