During long endurance events like my ride up Haleakala or tour down the California coast, I like to use heart rate as an indicator of how hard I am working in order to keep from blowing up too early. Without some sort of bike computer, this is pretty difficult. So, I was excited to test out the new Mio Alpha heart rate watch as it would not only enable me to ditch the heart rate strap, but a simple glance at my wrist was all that was needed.
The Mio Alpha heart rate watch uses LED lights and an electro-optical cell to sense the volume of blood under your skin. Sophisticated algorithms are applied to the pulse signal so that your heart rate can be detected even while working really hard.
The Mio Alpha uses Bluetooth Smart to connect to your phone in order to deliver heart rate data to all your favorite apps such as Strava, Endomodo, or MapMyRun. You can set up three heart rate zones on the watch for both audible and visual alerts during your workout.
Although I have never been a huge fan of the heart rate strap, its not that awful to wear. For me the big bonus with wearing a watch is the visual clues. Also, you can easily throw the Mio Alpha on first thing in the morning to measure your heart rate for a good indication of your fatigue level.
When comparing the Mio Alpha results with those of my heart rate strap, my average heart rate over the course of a ride or run is pretty much the same. You may notice anomalies at certain moments in time, however.
For example, sometimes I have looked down at the Alpha when sucking air up a steep hill and saw that my heart rate was 114. I don't think so. The rate usually corrects itself pretty quickly, however. My heart rate strap has been known to throw out figures like 220 during rides so it is not much better. It may take a couple of tries to lock on to your heart rate when you first put on the watch. Warming up a little first helps.
The Mio Alpha itself is dead easy to use, with basically two buttons on either side of the watch face. Just don't expect the watch to do anything else but tell you the time when not in use and reading your heart rate during a workout. This means you need to have your phone with you when running, riding, hiking, etc. in order to record all your workout data. For the high price, you would expect a bit more.
Bottom Line: If you are really not a fan of putting on a cold, wet heart rate strap before heading out for your ride or run, and you use a phone app to record all your workout data, the Mio Alpha should be on your holiday wish list.
The Mio Alpha heart rate watch retails for $199 and is available now.
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