February 3, 2008

New HRM? Not yet...

It is that time of the year. Performance review is behind me and the company is doing real well so I'm expecting fair compensation for the work I've done last year. As every year around this time I get the urge to check out the latest and greatest gadgets. Until few years ago I used to select a computer or some other electronics gadget and drool over it until I spent the cash and got it. Things changed two years ago when I started to look at the top of the line heart rate monitors. Currently I use Polar RS800 with foot pod and also GPS module which is a very good HRM. My backup HRM and bike computer is the S625X with the power unit installed on the bike.

Now what leads me to search for something else when I have the best unit that is in the market? No offense Garmin, Suunto and other users, but RS800 is hands down the best computer out there. Well I want to find a HRM that offers me in one unit what the existing two units do for me now. Ideally the HRM would allow me to monitor my cadence, speed, pace and distance during the run and also speed, distance, cadence, power during the bike. The HR would work under water and the monitor would record R-R intervals just as the RS800 does. It would be possible to use it during the triathlon and the unit would automatically or manually switch from swim to bike to run and use the appropriate sensor. If I found such monitor I would be happy to make the switch especially if the unit was from Polar as I already have 2 years worth of workouts recorded in the PPT.

I looked at some reviews of the Suunto T6 and although it looks like a solid HRM it lacks some very important features the RS800 has - like the ability to plan workouts any time you want. The flexibility I have in design of my workouts in the PPT (Polar software) is almost insane. I love it especially for interval sessions that combine various interval distances and paces as prescribed in the FIRST training plans. It is no problem to program ladder interval or mix of 800 and 1200 intervals in one workout. The RS800 then guides me through the interval. I can even specify the duration of the segment based on time, distance, heart rate increase (e.g. until I reach 120 beats keep doing this), heart rate decrease or as manual that lets me control the length of the segment manually. For each interval I can specify what heart rate range, HR sport zone, pace or speed range I want to be in. And then specify the repeat which can either repeat one segment or a set of segments. So by clever design it is easy to setup workout like this: 15 minutes warm-up, 2 x 1200m (2min RI) followed by 4 x 800m (2:00 RI) followed by 10 minutes cool down. Then on the day when I need to do the workout the watch prompts me with the beep any time I need to change the pace. I can setup the workout with HR range for each segment that indicate where I need to get my HR. I also mark each segment with keyword or pace I need to run - that way when the watch beeps it shows me the text.


It is easy to manage my workouts and based on my research this is the only watch that offers this level of control and does all the other stuff I wrote above. Only if Polar integrated the power / bike sensor with this unit I would be so happy. Until then I'll keep looking around and stick with the Polar RS800. I guess I'll save my money now as nothing better is currently out there. That includes the new Garmin 405 that looks like a good running computer, but does not fit my needs and the waterproofing rating is laughable - not recommended for triathletes (direct quite from Garmin site).


Who is SLB+? said...

Yeah the Polar GUI is excelent, Garmin could do a lot of learning from them, I think that Polar have got the harder of the two HRM in the HRM vs.GPS battle nailed and with their GPS unit they've a winner, it's just so damned expensive!

Have you thought about a Powertap system yet, I bet it's right up your street.

kxux said...

Yeah I looked at Powertap, but it is still quite expensive. 1500 is way beyond what I wanted to spend. I may just stick with the S625X for power, speed and cadence. It is all setup and the only investment will be the new batteries.