Every cyclist out there loooove to talk about power meter accuracy, but heart rate monitor accuracy is actually as important, if not more
What’s up guys my name is charles and welcome back to my cycling youtube channel, in today’s video, we will take a deeper look at the full line up of heart rate monitors from Polar. We will unbox them, see what are their benefits and test it. I’ll finish my video with my recommendations if you should consider their HRM as your next go to sensor.
Before going into the products, let’s discuss why it is important to monitor your heart rate.
Heart rate monitors are a good guide to help you gauge your level of exercise intensity. It defines which zone you can train at. For example, when doing base miles early in the season, you want to stay in zone 1 or 2 for long periods of time and when doing high intensity and sprinting, you want zone 4 or 5. I will not go deep into heart rate data science, but here is a nice graph that explains the zones.
I personally use my HR data on every single ride, and it's the one metric I’m always looking at for planning my next move in the group ride or the race. It tells me if I can go for a hard pull, it tells me if I should skip a pull, it tells me if I can attack or if I should play it safe.
Something I usually do in fast group rides is when I do my pull in the front, I will go at X amount of watts until my HR reaches 170. At that exact number I throw the elbow. Why 170? well it’s a number that I know I still have gas in the tank in the event there is a surprise attack or a climb. If I pull until 185 and then throw the elbow while someones attacking, well there are good chances that I won’t make it. So heart rate accuracy is a huge asset for me, way more than a power meter when it comes to strategy and racing. Power is great for training but I personally NEVER look at my power output during a race unlike my heart race.
Let’s now have a look at the full line up of the heart rate monitor from polar starting by the H10. This is their new top of the line chest strap for cyclists, and all the other sports. The heart rate is measured by ECG, or electrocardiogram. By using electrodes, they can detect small electrical changes that are a consequence of cardiac muscle depolarization followed by repolarization during each cardiac cycle. It can then accurately calculate every heartbeat with a proprietary algorithm. Polar claims the H10 is the most accurate on the market due to using a third electrode while other brands use only two. The claimed accuracy is within plus and minus one millisecond, The battery life will last 400h of training, which is definitely a long time and can be replaced by a CR2025 battery once it’s dead. It's waterproof up to 30m and uses both ANT+ or bluetooth low energy connectivity.
A great feature of the H10 is that you can pair it to two simultaneous bluetooth connections, I’m not too sure what would be the best use case for road cyclists, I personally only pair my HRM to either directly with zwift when riding indoor and directly with my head unit when riding outdoors. But it’s a cool future proof feature to have. Maybe tri athletes who want to pair the strap with both their watch and head unit at the same time can do it. An other great feature is that the H10 is also updatable, so it will keep improving from software updates over time. The sensor has build-in memory for 1 training session, but I don’t think there is a use case for using the features for road cycling.
For the straps construction, I’m really surprised at how comfortable the Pro strap it is. Comfort is a must for chest straps, you have to put it and forget it. It’s soft textile material feels nice on the skin, with enough slip-preventing silicone dots to really keep the straps in place. At first I wasn’t too sure about the buckle system, it’s definitely a bit awkward to clip because it’s around the back, but you can always buckle in front and slide the strap up and around. Retailing at 129.99$, this HRM is definitely on the more expensive side, but for top of the line accuracy and reliability, which in my opinion is totally worth it if you are serious about cycling or other sports.
Moving on to the little brother the H9. It offers most of the similar features of the h10 such as 400h hours of use and ECG measurement method but removes for the dual simultaneous bluetooth connection and no built-in memory, two features we don’t need as road cyclists. The strap is also scaled down from the pro strap. Slightly less flexible and slightly thicker, it still feels fine and comfortable. The buckle is also replaced by a hook system which I find fine. One less part that can break over time.
At 79.99, it’s definitely well priced along other HRM on the market.
Let’s now take a look at a completely different heart rate monitor product, the verity sense. Released in 2021, this new arm and temple monitor offers a lot of great features for triathletes, but not much real world usage for road cycling. It uses optical monitoring, so by shining light from an LED through the skin, it is able to measure how it scatters off blood vessels. With their proprietary algorithm, it can then detect a heartbeat and transmit it over ANT+ or bluetooth. The verity sense has a battery of only 20h, but is rechargeable over USB. It also packs internal memory of up to 600 hours of training, so you can record your workout and sync the data afterwards. The verity sense is also great for swimming with water resistance up to 50 meters, and also packs an updatable firmware. The retail price is 129.99
So right off the bad, I don’t really see why a road cyclist would use the verity sense. We already have enough things to charge that the 20h battery life just doesn't cut it for me. Also for outdoor usage on long 3 hours rides in the sun, having an arm band is a great way to have funny looking tan lines. The optical LED monitoring is supposedly less accurate than ECG, so for me there is no point to use this other than on the indoor trainer during the winter time. Putting on the armband is easier to slap on than a chest strap, but it’s not a big deal. The Verity sense is still a great device for literally any other sports as you can mount it anywhere on your body, it only needs a firm grip to your skin. I just don’t think us road cyclists are the right demographic for this tool because we use a GPS head unit and record all our rides directly through Strava, we don't need to go through the Polar Flow app.
Now debating between the H9 and H10. Well they are extremely similar products simply some minor improvement on the H10 for an extra 50$. is it worth the extra money? I don’t think so. I feel the basic H9 gets the job done and does it well.