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Wahoo Tickr Fit armband review

4 Apr 2018

An accurate heart rate monitor for riders who don’t like chest straps

Cyclist Rating: 
Easy to wear and use
Another thing to charge

The Wahoo Tickr Fit’s unique selling point is that it’s a heart rate monitor (HRM) that fits on your arm, rather than around your chest. 

It uses an optical sensor to measure heartbeats using something called photoplethysmography, which is basically a light that shines on your skin and measures changes in blood volume. This is different from the standard chest strap, which uses electrodes to measure the tiny electrical pulses coming from your heart.

So, the first question is: which is more accurate? It would seem that the chest strap version would be likely to offer the most reliable readings, because there is less room for error. And indeed, early versions of optical sensors that were included in wearable tech such as wristbands did have a reputation for being inaccurate.

However, my tests indicate that the Tickr Fit is as accurate as any other HRM I’ve used. Even when I tried to fool it by wearing it on different parts of my arm, loosening the strap, or nudging it during use, it sent back reliable figures. Optical sensors have obviously improved dramatically in recent years.

Buy the Wahoo Tickr Fit from Amazon here

Which leads to the next question: is it better to have your HRM on your arm or your chest? 

To a significant degree, this really is a matter of opinion. In an in-depth survey of three people I asked about chest straps, a full 33.33% of respondents suggested that they didn’t like them, with the main issue being comfort and difficulty of getting them fitted beneath jerseys and bibshort straps.

Personally, I’ve never had much of a problem with chest straps; once fitted I tend to forget about them. But I can understand that some people will find them awkward to wear, especially women who may have to fit them around sports bras.

For those people who don’t get on with chest traps, the Tickr Fit may the solution they’ve been looking for, but I actually found it more fiddly to wear than a chest strap.

In the recent cold weather, I’ve been mainly riding in winter tops, and I found that I struggled to keep the Tickr Fit in place while squeezing my arms into tight long sleeves. It also was tricky to switch the unit on and off under clothes, as I couldn’t see the indicator light.

Where the armband made more sense was during indoor turbo sessions. In this case the Tickr Fit was easy to put on, just by slipping it over my arm, and the fabric strap stayed comfortably in place no matter how sweaty I got (the Tickr Fit comes with two sizes of strap).

Would I wear it out on the roads with a short-sleeved jersey? I don’t think so. It just looks a bit odd, and I would be more likely to switch back to a chest strap hidden discreetly beneath my jersey.

Using the Tickr Fit couldn’t be simpler. It has one button to turn it on or off, and a light indicates whether it is operating or not. 

It uses both ANT+ and Bluetooth as options for connecting to bike computers or phones, and I had no problem pairing the Tickr Fit to my Garmin. I was also impressed by the Wahoo phone app, which has clear, simple screens to display heart rate during indoor training sessions.

The rechargeable battery is claimed to last 30 hours, which matches near enough my experiences of the charge life, but the fact that I have to charge it all is a minus point in my opinion.

The charger is a magnetic disc that snaps into place over the unit, which is very neat, but it means that I have to keep the charger handy alongside all the other chargers that are a side-effect of modern living. 

By the time I’ve charged my phone, tablet, laptop, camera, bike lights, bike computer and all the other gizmos that need constant feeding like newborn babies, adding a heart rate monitor to the list just seems like overload.

I’ve had my chest strap HRM for ages and never had the battery run out on me. That may say something about the amount of training I do, but honestly, I’ve had pets with a shorter lifespan than my heart rate monitor. Which makes it seem odd that I would switch to one that requires occasional recharging.

Also, the chest strap HRM simply switches on when in use and switches off when not, whereas the Tickr Fit requires the user to remember to turn it on and off.

In truth, the Wahoo Tickr Fit is one of those products that is perfect for some people and pointless for others. It does its job very effectively, and if someone else were reviewing it, they may be tempted to give it five stars and call it a gamechanger.

For me, however, it simply doesn’t offer enough benefits over the traditional chest strap HRM to make me want to switch.

Buy the Wahoo Tickr Fit from Amazon here


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