Legendary American cyclist John Howard (three-time Olympian; rode a bike at over 150 miles per hour) once admitted that he’d had sex while wearing a heart-rate monitor and its accompanying chest transmitter. That notion is all sorts of wrong. Chest transmitters are never welcome accoutrements. Not on a run, on a ride, or, Lordy, in the sack. No matter how plush or minimalist it is, a chest strap often binds, and feels clammy against your skin. Or it slips. Then, mid-workout, you’re preoccupied with trying to inch it back into position.
Wahoo’s new TICKR Fit ($79) is, thankfully, the right kind of forgettable heart-rate transmitter. The device is fabulously simple. A stretchy strap with hook-and-loop closure material anchors to either side of an optical transmitter that’s no bigger than a matchbook.
The Fit lays flat against the inside of your upper forearm, and its weight is negligible. Seconds into a workout, the Fit virtually disappears.
However, it does work. Three flashing green LEDs on the Fit’s underside peer into your flesh, and flowing blood absorbs some of the generated light. The Fit captures heart-rate data based on the amount of light that bounces back. Sounds cool and like something out of Tron, and the technology continues to improve. While optical sensing of heart-rate has, historically, been less accurate than electrical sensing (the technology used by chest transmitters), the gap is narrowing. My repeated testing showed that the Fit’s data generally tracked my efforts, even when heart-rate pinballed during some interval work performed on a bike. Overall, the gear blogosphere has been equally impressed by the Wahoo sensor’s data-capturing abilities.
So why is it so inexpensive? First, remember that it’s only a transmitter. You still have to pair it with a bike computer or a fitness watch. Also the Fit, unlike the many watches, fitness trackers, and other wearable-type gizmos that incorporate optical transmitter technology, doesn’t calculate trivia like running cadence and ground-contact time. The Fit relays heart-rate (and approximate calories burned).
Here at TMA, we’re less preoccupied with esoteric metrics, and more focused on capturing big-picture data whenever we can squeeze in a workout. For me, the Fit is great: It easily syncs with almost any modern fitness watch or bike computer (the Fit communicates via either ANT+ or Bluetooth Low Energy wireless technologies). It turns on and off with a simple button, displays its status via straightforward, colored LEDs, and claims to run for an epic 30 hours between charges (via USB). The Fit certainly outlasted me on every workout.
The device’s band never slipped (I used the Fit while exercising both inside and out), and the fabric dries quickly after washing. I do sometimes wish I had a third hand for threading the strap through the transmitter’s narrow anchoring point. But that’s about seven seconds lost to fiddling, and a lot subsequently gained by having a heart-rate transmitter that I’m actually happy to wear.