Friday, November 14, 2014

Product Review: Mio Link Heart Rate Monitor

As I was riding up The Wall on the Morgul Bismark loop in Superior, CO, I did not need to know what my heart rate was to know that I was suffering. To add to that, I felt like I could barely breath due to the constrictive heart rate monitor strap that I was wearing around my chest which had just come with my new Garmin 305. For something that is supposed to aid in training and performance, this feeling of not being able to breathe felt like more of a hindrance than a competitive advantage.

I tried to utilize the chest strap a couple more times, but eventually gave up as I could not manage to wear something around my chest that made me feel like I could not get a full breath in. That was about 10 years ago, and I have been riding without a heart rate monitor ever since, until recently.

I realized that as I wanted to take the next step in my training and eventually get a coach, they were going to want to see some metrics from me for which to gauge my efforts. I soon stumbled across the Mio Link, which is a heart rate monitor strap worn around your wrist. I was skeptical at first, thinking it was too good to be true, so I read a number of reviews online and the consensus was that it was a great, albeit relatively new, product that worked. One individual ended up using both the Mio Link and his chest strap for a number of tests and found that the data coming from them was very similar, which made me feel better about it.

On Mio's website, they explain the technology behind their Mio Link as "LED lights and an electro-optical cell which “sense” the volume of blood under the skin. From there, sophisticated algorithms are applied to the pulse signal so that the heart’s true rhythm can be detected, even while running [cycling] at performance speeds". Mio claims that it performs with 99% EKG accuracy, which is plenty accurate for the purposes of training and racing. This also appears to be the same technology behind the new Apple Watch which will be released next year.

The Mio Link utilizes ANT+ and Bluetooth technology so that it can work with just about any of your devices - whether it be your trusty Garmin, your iPhone, or juts about any other head unit or phone. It can also be used by itself as it is easy to program it with up to five heart rate zones, displaying different colored lights on the front based on the zone you are in. This can be handy if you are running/riding, not carrying a phone, and just want to stay within certain zones. I have primarily used it, aside from playing around with it when I first got it, with my Garmin unit to display my exact heart rate.

I have to comment on the strap as it is very nice and comfortable. They use a great silicon material for the band with a smart clasp design which even secures the extra bit of strap that comes out. On top of the fact that the heart rate monitor is not on your chest, it really is nice and comfortable.

Sometimes while riding, I would notice that my heart rate was reading much much lower than I thought it should be reading - sometimes by as much as 80 or so BPM. I found that this was due to wearing the Mio Link too low on my arm and too close to my wrist. It seems that if worn too low it will not get a proper reading. I suggest always wearing it slightly higher on your arm (higher than you would normally wear a watch) - on the meatier part as opposed to right on your wrist bones. If you are wearing Garmin GPS watch or something, wearing the Mio Link right above it would be ideal. Below is a picture of where I have found is an ideal position to wear it:

I highly recommend the Mio Link, and at a price point of $99 is a pretty good deal. Mio also offers the Mio Alpha, which is their sport watch with built-in heart rate, at a price of $199. The Mio Alpha also offers other features such as a timer, but it only offers three heart rate zones and, most importantly, only connects with Bluetooth, so it will not work with many ANT+ head units. In my opinion, the awards the Mio Link has won are well deserved.

Here is a link to Mio's website:

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