Heart Rate Monitor Accuracy Test

Heart Rate Monitor Accuracy Test

– Morning, Trainiacs. So, as I’ve been training recently, I’ve bounced around a little bit between the Wahoo Tickr,
the Wahoo Tickr Fit that goes on the armband,
and then in a pinch, when I forget either one of these, I’ve used the heart rate
monitor on my Garmin 935. And I’ve noticed some very
serious discrepancies. That, combined with the fact
that everyone’s always asking, what heart rate monitor do you use, I am about to do a
two-hour ride, followed by a 24-minute run, and I’m
going to track my heart rate with each of these for
all of them and show you the differences that I’ve been noticing. Hopefully, there are differences. Otherwise, gonna have to
scrap this video idea. Let’s do it. (energetic music) (groovy music) (door squeaks) Okay, all right, all right. That took a lot of
fiddling, so much fiddling to get that and (grunts)
this communicating, and this communicating
with the bike computer. I forgot to take GoPro fancy
montage footage of the run. But I swear I did it. I swear. I think once I dive into the data, I think we’ve got some interesting stuff. Even just before I started running, I was looking at all the
phones and the watch, and they were all reading differently. Same heart. So, all right. Trainiacs, let’s dive into some data comparing the Wahoo Tickr
chest heart rate monitor with the Wahoo Tickr Fit, and this is what people put right there, apparently, with the Garmin wrist HR. That flashing green light
in there, that, yeah. That monitors your heart rate all day. Now, I recognize that anyone that has done any sort of looking into
heart rate monitor devices knows that the chest heart rate strap is going to be the most reliable. And then these two are kinda in behind. But I wanna show you how and why, so that if you do end up
just being able to use this or this or that, what you’re
getting yourself in for. All right, so what I’ve done here is I’ve overlaid the three
heart rate files from the bike. So what I’ve got is the
Garmin wrist HR in green, because it flashes green, I
have the Wahoo Tickr chest heart rate monitor in blue, because blue, and then I have the Tickr Fit in red. Don’t really have any
reason for it to be red. What you can see looking at
this, is that they’re largely the same. So we’ll just go through the
entire two-hour bike ride. And they’re basically the same. What I wanna do here is hide one of them and show you the differences, the little nuances between them. So let’s just say, right off the bat, a chest heart rate monitor
is going to be your best bet. This is the gold standard. So I wanna zoom in here
and compare the Wahoo chest heart rate monitor with the Garmin. And what you can see is that
they’re largely the same, but I’ve tried to line them
up as much as I possibly can. And the thing that you’re gonna notice, that I wanna point out, is
that there are points where the Garmin ends up being higher. So here at the start of the ride, it shows as if it’s higher. You might think, well Taren,
you didn’t quite line these up very well. Well, if you move forward,
they’re basically matched up along here, a little bit higher,
but then we get to a point that it’s lower. We get to a point that it’s bang-on, it’s higher again here. But then we get to a point
here where it’s lower. Another situation where it’s
significantly lower right here. And that’s kinda what you’ll
find in the best case scenario. What I was doing during this ride, is I was actually looking down
at the Wahoo bike computer, which was paired to the chest strap, and then I was looking at my watch, and I was seeing that
they were largely in line with each other, give or
take about a beat per minute, as long as you aren’t jostling around. So in the case of a bike,
the wrist heart rate monitor was basically accurate,
to within a beat or two. So, totally doable for the
case of a bike workout. Now, let’s compare the
Tickr to the chest strap by hiding the green and
bringing in the red. Now, what you see in this case is, it’s even a little bit more variable. So there are instances where the Tickr is actually a little bit higher. There’s instances where
it’s a little bit lower. Can probably line them
up just a tad better. But the big thing that
I’ve found with the Tickr is that if you look into this, you’ll see that there’s just
more minute little spikes up and down with the
chest, the blue lines. There’s more precise ups and downs. And what I’ve found with the Tickr Fit, is that it’s just smoothed out a lot more. So while it is accurate, in a sense, it’s not nearly as precise. And if you want the exact heart rate data, you’re gonna have to
go with a chest strap. But that said, like, wrist,
Tickr Fit, both adequate. Let’s talk about the run, however. That’s where things change a fair bit. So we’re gonna get into the run data, but what I found between
the Wahoo chest strap and the Wahoo Tickr is,
regardless of whether it’s bike or run, it’s largely the same. This is going to be very precise, this is going to be very close, but it’s going to be smoothed
out a little bit more and not nearly as down
to the second accurate. I think there’s probably
just more averaging. Instead of like, maybe
a one-second average, this might be a three-second average. I don’t really know if that’s the case. Why this even exists is because
Wahoo was hearing feedback that some people get really bad chafing with the chest strap, so
they came out with this, which just sits on the forearm like that. So, for the purpose of biking, I found it to be totally manageable. For the purpose of running,
same sort of thing. Not the case when we compare
chest strap to wrist strap, particularly with running. Now unfortunately, this didn’t even save when I went for that run,
so we’re gonna have to kinda fudge it a little bit, but we
don’t have to fudge it a lot. What I’m showing you here
is two different runs, two separate weeks, that
were the exact same run. My target heart rate was to
be in between 130 and 135 beats a minute, and the red
line is when I was just using the watch, here. The blue line is when I
was using the chest strap. And what you can see is that
the chest strap starts off, gets up to close to into
that 125s, that 130s, and it is fairly precise. We’re seeing small little
dips and things like that. But what I’ve found with
the beats per minute on the watch, is that it very quickly actually loses an
accurate beats per minute and gets to a point that we had here, that I was running so easy. I was running like, six-minute kilometers, and it was still reading
156 beats a minute. And I was able to breathe,
I was able to talk. I know I wasn’t at 156 beats a minute, ’cause I could just feel it. That’s how off this was. Don’t believe me? Check this out. What I’ll show you just over here is a clip from me running on
the treadmill earlier today, where on my watch, I was
getting my heart rate from the watch, but on Zwift,
I was getting my heart rate from the chest strap. And you can see that it
was as much as, at times, about 20 beats per minute difference. So, that’s kind of what
I’m finding with the watch, is that as long as you’re on
the bike, fairly accurate. If you are running, however,
not accurate whatsoever. So what does all this mean? Well, obviously this shouldn’t
be really a spoiler alert, the Wahoo Tickr chest heart rate monitor, and I’ll open this up to
Garmin heart rate monitors with a chest strap, and
particularly Polar chest strap heart rate monitors, if you
want a really precise monitor, apparently those are
like, the gold standard that a lot of scientists use, this is what you’re going to want. If you find that they chafe you, this is going to be more accurate
for the run and the bike. It’s actually going to get you some data that you can potentially use. If you are strapped for cash and all you can afford is
a wrist heart rate monitor, it’s gonna be fine for the bike, it’s gonna be fine for your
overnight resting heart rate, things that aren’t very jostling around. But once you get to the
run, it’s gonna let you down time and time again. So, be weary of it. So that’s it, Trainiacs. Go out and do your heart rate training. If you aren’t already subscribed, hit that subscribe button below. If you are subscribed, tell
me in the comments below what your heart rate monitoring device is. I’m interested to hear. I like Wahoo, just for
the standpoint that like, it’s not all black. I like their branding, that’s all. Later.

55 comments on “Heart Rate Monitor Accuracy Test

  1. Kevin Gilleece Post author

    Wahoo have seriously good customer support. I've had one or two issues and without batting an eye they sent me a new unit.

  2. Niels Brand Post author

    My 735xt chests trap VS watch… Have the watch tight enough and bit sweaty wrist and its actually very accurate.
    " loose" /moves and its no good at all for bike or run

  3. Terence David Post author

    Your watch and forearm strap didn't look like they were tight enough. DC rainmaker gives top marks to forearm straps.

  4. Andrew Brambilla Post author

    I have a Wahoo Tickr X and a Garmin Fenix 5S. I pair them for bike/run and get a much more accurate HR tracking

  5. Denning76 Post author

    In many ways HRMs are very much like power meters. They may differ from one another by a little, but what matters most of all is that the one you have is consistent and reliable.

  6. Alexander Borisov Post author

    I have a stock chest strap for Garmin 920, and it is quite inaccurate. Especially when it is 10-15 C or colder. For example, today it showed 160 in the warmup for 2 K (140-145 should be real HR), then suddenly dropped to actual 140-145, then on 4K intervals, smth like 162 with a sudden jump to 170 at the last km (the tempo was steady, no speedup and I was not breaking up). Sometimes it shows 160 when I have 130 by hand counting actual beats per 10 sec. Also seen glitches on the bike, like doing tempo ride on 160 HR and then it jumps to 180 for 10-20 mins and then jumps back (180 is well above my FTP HR so definitely not possible). Changing batteries does not help, as well as moistening it. And also the Garmin Vector PM has a lot of random glitches. The Garmin 920 itself often shows 2.00 for 500m when I run steady 4.50-5.00 per km. Or the track goes through the houses 100 m away from actual road – all of this is quite random and rarely happens in the open (no buildings around). I found those gadgets to be very unreliable, you lose so much time buying them and writing complaints but most of the time they are still glitchy. And I looking at Strava of my friend athletes I see nearly all of them have the same problems with HR straps and powermeters.

  7. Riley Stringer Post author

    I use earbud heart rate from the bose soundsport pulse earbuds. They seem to be very accurate for running and biking.

  8. HoldMyBeerAndWatch Post author

    Try to make test on lower temperature. All HRMsfrom watches are useless, only from the chest has reliable data.
    Try to test them in rain, same situation.
    In this conditions there is nothing challenging for them, so they are almost te same.

  9. jobbi925 Post author

    Polar is best for heart rate. Garmin watches have a better setup and GPS. BUT you can use a Polar cheststrap with a Garmin I think. So do that.

  10. Travis Heidebrink Post author

    any idea WHY the watch would be pretty accurate on the bike but not very accurate on the run?

  11. xmonox50 Post author

    Great timing on this video!!! I use a Garmin Fenix 5x and wear the Wahoo TickrX HR strap and I'm glad to see it is not just my watch. I forgot my HRM on 1 run in the past and was baffled at how high my HR was. Today, I ran the Pittsburgh Kids Marathon (1 mile distance) with my 6 year old daughter and decided to not wear my TickrX and just rely on the Fenix5x. Well after the run, which we ran in 14:38, It showed my max HR at 165 which was ridiculous. Hopefully in the future watches these issues can be resolved, if possible.

  12. Mister Ray Post author

    I have found the Apple Watch series 4 HR monitor tracks perfect with my Wahoo TICKR Fit for cycling. Unfortunately the Apple Watch has no support for Garmin Edge or Wahoo Element units. I can however use the Apple Watch with Zwift just fine.

  13. Tom S Post author

    Fenix 5s plus here with tri hr strap. When not using the strap (empty on holiday) I notice that the wrist position is hugely important for accurate readings. In some cases my HR seemed to drop to the 90-100 range when climbing over 1000m vertical/hr. This changed to my normal 160ish HR when I put my hands on the handlebars in stead of on the hoods.

  14. jeff cottrell Post author

    You should check out DC Rainmkers Analysis tool if you haven't already. it takes all the data, allows you to label it and zoom in and auto compares values at any specific point in the timeline.

  15. lexington476 Post author

    i like my Tickr X and Garmin 735xt. In this sport stuff you don't really need medical grade heart rate information, some variance is going to happen which to me is totally fine. Your charts look close enough to me.

  16. Rick Martin Post author

    Runner, HIIT and still got my tiny little Garmin Forerunner 35. I'm waiting for the bank to approve my loan to buy something new. I get some bad artifact readings usually too high for what I'm experiencing. Very rarely a lower than usual rate (90s) when running.

  17. Jnae damon Post author

    I totally agree with your assessment of the watch – at times it's had me in hi zone 3 when I am walking! Chest strap is much more accurate (and for garmin devices, you cant get changes in lactate threshold information from the watch).

  18. Connor Hewitson Post author

    Currently have an old Garmin ant+ chest strap that pairs with my Garmin 310xt. Have a real problem with it slipping down while I'm running. Working on that…

  19. David McIlmoyl Post author

    I use the TickrX chest strap and have a Fenix 5x watch. Found exactly what you did. At times on the runs the Fenix would have my heart rate up to 20 BPM over what the chest strap was reporting. But I could tell from how I felt the chest strap was accurate and the watch wasn’t. I found putting the wrist strap very very tight helped a bit but it was still off on more strenuous workouts like track run, or tempo runs. So I always use the chest strap myself, it’s a worthwhile investment if you’re focusing on running at certain heart rate zones.

  20. Brett Laplante Post author

    I have noticed similar things. Curiously, I often find my FR935 seems to match my HR to my cadence…. Wonder if I wear my watch too loose? The Tickr does not have that problem

  21. Yahya Baali Post author

    Thank you for the video. I was using my Apple Watch for the run and I also felt my HR was inaccurate. Im looking at getting a Polar H10 strap. Keep the great videos 🙂

  22. Mohamed Yateem Post author

    I am using Garmin HRM tri and Garmin HRM run dual (because it has bluetooth and makes it easy for zwift). Both are very accurate. My watch is the Garmin Fenix 3 since 3.5 years. I do agree with you that chest straps are the best

  23. Adventure Quest (UK) Post author

    Interesting topic. A few months ago I carried out an experiment. I have a tacx heart rate strap and a polar m600 watch. I monitored my activity, walking, cycling, jogging, resting and sleeping for 24hrs. The watch was almost identical to the strap, 1bpm lower but only on the odd occasion. Maybe because my watch is made by Polar rather than your garmin who are experts in mapping and GPS rather than cardio-tech.

  24. Plinio Ferraz Post author

    I use Garmin Fenix 3HR, when I bike or run without the Garmin strap, it always register about 15 beats lower.

  25. Dennis Zamora Post author

    I just bought an FR935 and use it with my trusty first generation Garmin HRM which is still fairly accurate. I also have an HRM Run from my 920XT bundle. The original Garmin soft strap went haywire in less than a year and I got a third party strap replacement.

  26. Kevin JUDD Post author

    Since Christmas I've been using my new Apple Watch 4 Nike+ and to be honest I love it.
    It syncs with Zwift, Strava, Nike+ etc. and no issues with run, bike or swim, measures HRV…
    and when I'm not training I have Mickey Mouse, Woody or Buzz Lightyear to tell me the time :0)

  27. Cynthia Koke Post author

    Thank you Taren for this; I have the Garmin 935 w/ chest strap; was nice to see you’ve confirmed my observations. I train with chest strap but it can feel restrictive for my breathing. Do you wear when you’re racing?

  28. Nah Wenbin Post author

    I use a garmin 735xt. I own a garmin chest strap but don’t bother using it due to the inconvenience factor of using an additional chest strap.

  29. Evan MacDougall Post author

    I use my FitBit for my HR. I want to get a chest strap for more accuracy and to link to more devices/apps, but am strapped for cash and my HR isn't important enough to spend the money on right now.

  30. Derek Kumagai Post author

    While I use a chest strap now, wrist monitors can be very accurate. The caveat is that these sensors require firm contact with the skin, and have other limitations due to being optical. I've found that for best results, you really have to wear the device pretty tightly. What also helps is wearing the sensor on the palm side of your wrist.

  31. Iron Will Post author

    Maybe it depends on the model… My wrist HRM is terrible!! FR935. I've cycled up a 5% incline, getting out of the saddle and everything, an my wrist HRM says I'm at 90 BPM!

  32. Andre Allore Post author

    Thanks for this. I use the Garmin Tri HRM. It seems to be accurate but I haven't compared. Sometimes it has trouble syncing with 910 (yes I checked battery) but I have to reset battery in order to sync (sometimes). I never wear it in pool cus I honestly don't believe it is waterproof.

  33. Rohrertech Post author

    Garmin recommends that you wear the watch fairly tight, and higher up on the wrist.(to keep the sensor in constant contact with skin) I had problems with mine until I figured out the fit. It is much more reliable now that I put it on as recommended. Might be worth a try. My (older )polar chest strap monitor was a piece of garbage. It regularly doubled my heart rate, and was generally unreliable. Have had issues with the garmin chest strap as well, most likely due to static issues, but those are much less common now that it's not winter.

  34. Mark Cotgrove Post author

    I use an apple watch and have noticed that unless I tighten the strap it's wildly inconsistent, however with the strap tight it seems ok. Although I don't compare it with anything else, a sense check with RPE tells me that it's not far off I think. The learning is for apple watch you need to tighten the strap for your run; I have 2 settings, one for normal wear and a tighter one for exercise. I'd imagine that's also the same for any wrist based HR monitor as the top of the wrist frankly isn't a great place to be taking pulse rates from.

  35. quasidafa Post author

    Suunto has never skipped a beat (no pun intended) both with the HRM and the watch itself. Although at the moment they are transitioning Mobile apps and online communities so have been having the technical glitch/bugs but they are getting on top of it quickly enough. All in all a great watch manufacturer.

  36. Jason Girvan Post author

    Hi taren
    I use tomtom spark
    I’ve never had a problem with it’s accuracy and I do know with wrist hrm how you wear it is extremely important and I noticed you just lifted the side of the watch to show the lights, well if that’s the way you wear it then absolutely it’s inaccurate on the run, on the run the strap must be tight and should not be able to lift, shift or rotate it
    Watches take a while to get use to for this very reason and mine has been as accurate as my doctors hrm

  37. Mr B Post author

    My Wahoo Tickr sometimes takes 20 minutes before I get accurate readings on a cold day despite using conductive gel. Until then it just sits on one number and doesn't budge.

  38. Mi Hr Post author

    With Mi Band you can also measure your heart rate constantly (continuously) using Mi HR app

  39. lifeisgood070 Post author

    What's the best HR monitor chest strap? I do interval exercises and my vivosmart hr isn't fast enough to catch the jumps to 195bpm in real time. I have years of data with garmin so I'd like to stick with it, but trying to stay on a budget a little bit.
    Looks like most options point toward –> vivoactive 3 and hrm-dual….. :/

  40. Rafal Z Post author

    I just bought Garmin Forerunner 35. HRM is absolute joke, it makes up result in software based on exercise you are doing! I had it on my hand and moved it up and down to simulate exercise – HR went up steadily up to 130 bpm. Then I stopped moving my hand – it went down steadily (as I were resting). My actual HR was 75 bpm all the time! I can't believe it, it's ridiculous.

  41. Smitty Werbenjagermanjensen he was #1 Post author

    Thank You so much! I've been wondering this for so long now.

  42. Paul DeVos Post author

    How did you get the heart rate data from your Tickr X to your computer? A certain app perhaps?

  43. element4element4 Post author

    You should have plotted the difference to better visualise and analyse the accuracy. If we assume that the chest strap is 100% accurate, then you can try to fit this difference to a gaussian normal distribution and compute the variance, as a quantitative measure of accuracy. I would be curious to see how that would come out.

    Personally I feel that my fenix 5 optical HR is too inaccurate for most sports I do, therefore I always couple it to a garmin chest strap for activities.

  44. Nono Bonono Post author

    Guess I will get a Polar H10 , instead of a smartwatch and continue using my smartphone on the bike.


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