Despite reports of its demise, the chest strap is far from dead. While the focus over the last year has seen a move to wrist based fitness trackers and heart rate monitors, worries over accuracy has meant that the maligned chest strap still has a job to do.
The beef with chest straps is fairly simple: most runners and sports people are migrating to wearing a watch, so a chest strap is an extra accessory, and not a comfortable one at that. They're a burden.
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However, the benefits are indeed numerous. Chest straps are better at sensing heart rates than optical wrist sensors. Secondly, their position on the body is more useful than the wrist. They can monitor data on your running or cycling cadence, body position and form, offering more data that something just on your arm. The final upside: they're cheaper. A decent wrist-based heart rate sensor will cost around of $200, the Wahoo Tickr X retails for just £79.99.
But is the Wahoo Tickr X worth strapping to your chest? And can it compete with the Fitbits and Garmins of the world? Read our full review to find out.
Wahoo Tickr X: Design and Features
Like most chest strap accessories, the Tickr X is a fairly simple device. You strap it round your torso, pair it with the app and start exercising. In terms of design, there's not a lot to say. The plastic unit is solid, and comes with a watch-style battery already embedded, which should last for over a year. It's easy to fit (just clip to the strap using the poppers) and easy to clean.
The Tickr X will monitor a number of workouts: running and cycling is the main staple, and the chest strap keeps tabs on your vital, while your phone does all the GPS tracking gubbins. What's more, it packs enough memory to store 16 hours of workouts, so you can go out without a phone and see your data (without GPS tracking of course) when you return.
You also don't have to limit yourself to just the Wahoo app. The band will sync with most running watches, except Garmin, which closes out opposition bands in favour of its own. That means that you can get the benefits of Wahoo, and see your stats mid-run, too.
Two surprise additions are static cycling and spin class: much the same thing, but a sport rarely found on fitness tracking devices and even more rarely properly implemented.
The problem for those who enjoy a spin class, or just jumping on an exercise bike at home or in the gym, is that watches have very little data to use. Your arms rarely move while cycling, and while watches like the Garmin Fenix 2 and apps like RunKeeper will track the session with an attached heart rate monitor, the lack out outside movements means GPS is useless, so the end result is little more than a record of your heart rate. Dedicated cadence and RPM data for this type of workout makes the Tickr X a key choice for spin fiends.
The second major Tickr X feature is the 7 Minute Workout tracking, which incorporates the ever popular workout with the wearable. Done through a separate app, the chest strap keeps tabs on your short fat-burn workout, counting reps of sit ups, push ups, jumping jacks and more.
Wahoo Tickr X: Activity tracking
The Wahoo Tickr X keeps track of five distinct activities: running, treadmill, cycling, static cycling and spin class, and each of the metrics tracked is slightly different.
For running, the Tickr X logs your heart rate, steps per minute (cadence), and distance/time/pace via your smartphone. For the treadmill you lose the GPS and location data.
When you're on the bike, the band again keeps track of heart rate, and cadence (measured through the rpm of the bike's wheel). If you're outdoors you get a breakdown of your route and maps, and if you opt for a spin class, you just get the data for your session.
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All in all the data is excellent, and the graphs and feedback is as well presented as we've seen on any app. What's more, it's accurate too, and often, more accurate than the spin bikes we tried compared it to. While our LiveStrong spin bike fed back near identical average cadence and RPM data, during the workout we loved the instantaneous data of the Wahoo, which was often ten seconds ahead of the on-bike computer.
The Wahoo Tickr X is also capable of helping you train within heart rate zones, and you can set burn and burst heart rate levels (calculated by the device). That means you can head out the door and have the Tickr X bully you into working out at the correct levels, meaning no workout is wasted.
It's a simple feature that's actually useful to anybody – amateur runners to hardcore athletes – and one that's often missing on high profile devices. For all its emphasis on heart rate monitoring, the Fitbit Charge and Surge pair offer no such useful training modes.
Wahoo Tickr X: The app
Far from the most comprehensive running app out there, the Wahoo Fitness app is clean, functional and easy. There are four options: Sensor, which pairs the strap to the app, which for the record is scarily easy; History, which is a list of your workouts; Settings, which is actually extremely comprehensive, and allows control of almost any aspect, and Workout – which is where you start a session.
The experience is extremely customisable, from the level of audio announcements mid-workout, to the action associated with a double tap of the strap unit. You can choose to pause, resume or even skip tracks using a double tap. We loved the latter, but unfortunately it doesn't work with Spotify.
You can also add extra non-Wahoo sensors to the data mix too, so you could use a wrist based heart rate tracker in the Wahoo app, if you wish.
- Accurate tracking
- Can workout without your phone
- Spinning tracking
- Chest straps aren't for everyone
- Could use more sports
- Skip tracks doesn't work with Spotify