The Cycleplan Blog

Is a heart rate monitor a worthy investment?

Many cyclists and trainers have hailed the heart rate monitor as one of the most significant training advances of the last 15 years.

Cyclists are becoming increasingly interested in not only what their bodies are doing on the outside but also what they are doing on the inside, which has contributed to the boom.

Of course, they aren’t for everybody. Ask around and you’ll find many who advocate them, stressing the importance of monitoring progress and recording qualitative data, allowing them to train to specific zones, while some believe they are nothing more than a distraction and another set of results and data to over analyse.


Heart rate data made easy

Technology has evolved massively over the last decade. The majority of GPS devices now have heart rate monitoring hardware and we’re now starting to see the development of wristbands such as the Fitbit and the Nike+ Fuel Band, which record heart rate.

Recording your heart rate has never been easier, but it’s all pretty pointless if you don’t know what the data means or how to use your heart rate to improve your training.

British Cycling has devised specific training zones, which reflect different riding intensities and the varying physiological systems that fuel these efforts. According to BC, accurate and personalised training zones are essential in the planning, execution and analysis of one’s training. It’s also worth noting that the majority of junior, academy, and podium GB Cycling Team riders use heart rate monitors in conjunction with analysis software to track performance.

For more info on BC’s training zones go to


Things to know in order to use training zones

  1. Maximum HR: 220 – Age is the easiest way to measure Max HR and was always thought of as the best way. However, this model has been accused of overestimating Max HR; there are now many models to record this reading.
  2. Resting HR: Measure you pulse first thing in the morning. Count how many beats occur in 20 seconds and multiply by 3. Record this for several days to get a more reliable reading.


Love them or loathe them

If you’re a casual cyclist, the need for such in-depth technology isn’t massively necessary. And it’s true that it can become a distraction. However, for those of you who take your cycling seriously and want to improve, then a heart rate monitor will certainly help. While it won’t magically make you a faster, fitter or stronger cyclist, it will create structure to your training routine – an issue many amateur cyclists struggle with.

A lot of cyclists will head out on a ‘training ride’ and won’t target any specific area they want to improve. With training zones using heart rate, you can tackle specific weaknesses in performance that need improving such as your aerobic endurance or anaerobic capacity. Working to heart rate gives you a clear indication and a guide to work to, as opposed to working simply to ‘feel.’

Remember, your heart is the most important muscle in your body and is good gauge of how you are feeling. Whether you’re pushing too hard or not enough, your heart rate won’t lie and will let you know if you need to back off or put more effort in.

A heart rate monitor is a worthy investment.


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