Wahoo has a range of heart rate monitors in the TICKR line, all using the standard chest strap. As optical heart rate devices have proliferated on smartwatches, we are also seeing the growth of stand-alone optical HRM units. How has Wahoo tried to differentiate themselves with the Wahoo TICKR fit?
Wahoo TICKR fit Optical Heart Rate Monitor Review
Over the last two years, the smartwatch market has changed such that essentially all devices now have to rock an optical heart rate sensor- just look at the current Garmin and Polar lines if you are in any doubt. Such is the ubiquity of the optical heart rate sensor, that companies are now looking back at their older chest heart rate sensors, and thinking, “We could be missing a trick here” and releasing the optical heart rate sensor stripped from the watch – hence Polar releasing the OH1 at the end of last year, and now Wahoo with the TICKR fit.
In all fairness, an optical heart rate sensor as a standalone bit of kit is nothing new. Scosche was on the market with their Rhythm+ Sportband in 2014, as was Mio with the Mio Velo. However the Polar OH1 and Wahoo TICKRfit signal the start of the big players getting into the separate optical heart rate sensor game.
Classically optical heart rate monitors, when worn on the wrist, can get foxed by certain activities, particularly cycling outdoors. Wahoo has designed the strap so that the TICKR Fit is worn on the forearm, or further up the arm similar to the Polar OH1 – with the aim of reducing vibrations to the device, whilst also making the device easier, in some ways, that to put on compared to classical heart rate sensors. On which note, let’s take a closer look at the Wahoo TICKR fit
Wahoo TICKR Fit Device Design
So what is in the box? Actually a little more than with many similar devices. Wahoo has included two staps, for small arms, such as my scrawny limbs and a larger strap for those who actually have upper body strength. We have the charger, sliced dead tree and the Wahoo TICKR Fit
Not really much to see on the front of the device, just a piano black finish…
Under that finish is an LED which will shine blue for power, red/blue for pairing and green for charging
Speaking of charging, with the Wahoo TICKR fit you get a small cable with a dock on the end, which holds the Wahoo TICKR fit securely via magnets
On the bottom side of the unit is the large Wahoo blue button to activate and pair the unit
On the back, we have the actual heart rate sensor using three LED’s, and the two metal dots used for charging the Wahoo TICKR fit. A Wahoo “in-house” unit… and that was about all I could find out!
Personally, I’m a big fan of rechargeable units, as it means a further reduction in the use of CR2032 batteries. Although that is likely a personal bias as it seems I’m changing batteries every month!
The Wahoo TICKR fit is attached via a velcro strap goes through the loops either side of the unit.
Compared with the Polar OH1 the strap is a little tougher and less resistant to stretch.
The strap has a relatively smooth side and a fluffy velcro side. The fluffy side is supposed to face away from your skin allowing you to position to velcro tabs for your perfect fit. But I go back to my previous point, the Polar OH1 strap has move give to it, and is a little easier to get on and off.
After only a couple of weeks of use, I’ve also noticed something else about the Wahoo TICKR fit strap. The velcro sides seem to be laminated together, and on a few parts of the strap, the sides appear to be coming apart slightly
In terms of size, the Wahoo TICKR fit is broader than the Polar OH1, but still considerably smaller than a regular chest HRM
In term of weight when the small strap is included, the weight is the same as the Polar OH1 with strap
With strap removed the Wahoo TICKR fit is a little more portly at 11g to the Polar OH1’s 5g
That’s it really, externally, a simply HRM, nothing more to see!
Wahoo TICKR fit Specifications
- Battery life: 30+ hours –
- Battery: Rechargeable
- Communications: ANT+, BlueTooth Smart
- Weight: 17g with strap
- Dimensions: 6.5 cm x 4.5 cm (2.55 in. x 1.77 in.)
- Strap Length: Small 260mm x 25.4mm / Large 375mm x 25.4mm
- Waterproof rating: IPX 7
- Activity logging: 65hrs onboard activity storage
- Accuracy: R-R variable tracking
The instructions/manual for the Wahoo TICKR fit can be found here
One thing I will say about the Wahoo TICKR fit battery, whilst I’ve not actually left it running for 30hrs connected to a Garmin, I have noticed that I charge it CONSIDERABLY less than the Polar OH1 which I have been running in tandem during this test.
Once the MAJOR difference of the Wahoo TICKR fit being a dual channel, broadcasting on Bluetooth and ANT+, in all honestly there are not many other spec differences from the Polar OH1. So it makes sense that Wahoo has focused on the battery, and extending how long you need to go between grabbing the charger
Using the Wahoo TICKR fit
The first part of any new kit is downloading the corresponding app, and then checking for updates. In this case, we are needing the Wahoo Fitness app
From the app, select sensors on the bottom LEFT
This will allow you to scan for the new sensor via the add new panel.
By tapping on your found Wahoo TICKR fit, you can go into the sensor, change the name, set the profiles you want it to be used for, and update to any new firmware. The device arrived using the latest firmware, but I am waiting to see what drops in the next updates
With everything set up, in the app, you are good to go. It is worthwhile noting that you don’t NEED the Wahoo Fitness app, the Wahoo TICKR fit is good to go as soon as you are charged.
Wahoo TICKR fit Zwifting
Obviously, an optical heart rate monitor like this needs to be put through its paces on Zwift – which in many ways is the baseline activity for optical heart rate monitors, as on Zwift you are able to push your heart rate, without the confounding issue of vibrations coming up through your arms.
To give things a proper test, and to get the blood pumping, I set off to hack up what I consider one of the harder sections in the whole of Zwift’s Watopia course – The Radio Mast climb.
One of the things I like about the Radio Mast climb is that allows me to t
ake a break afterwards test out how well the Wahoo TICKR fit tracks my heart rate returning less painful heart rate zones
As you can see, the Wahoo TICKR Fit in black (I’m changing how I produce my product graphs, the device on the test will now always be in black, so hopefully making the traces more clearly visible) tracks very well right along the course. As I ramp up quickly with the start of the steep incline, the Wahoo TICKR fit responds in line with the other HRM’s, and crucially doesn’t over shoot, as we can see with the Suunto SpartanI think is fair to say that with this first “steady state” the Wahoo TICKR Fit seems reliable, and crucially compares favourably with the Polar OH1
Having spun round Zwift, it seems far to take the bike of the turbo and head outside *brrrrr*
Wahoo TICKR fit Cycling
So we know that the vibrations from cycling on the road can cause issues with wrist-mounted optical heart rate sensors. For this, I mounted the Wahoo TICKR fit and the Polar OH1 on opposite arms, but at the same height to make a fair test.
Oddly when cycling the Wahoo TICKR fit seems to be the sensor with the most variation. All the optical units took about 8mins to get my pulse dialled in, but that is more likely the result of a 4C chill. After that first 8 minutes, everything settled down, however. The Suunto Spartan through a few spikes, but nothing major until about 25mins in when the Wahoo TICKR fit clearly lost my heart rate. A further 4 mins to find the heart rate again , but then overcompensates afterwards, before finally getting back in line. Worthwhile noticing that there are four optical heart rate sensors on test here, and I think it is fair to say the Wahoo TICKR fit showed the most deviation from the mean.
Cycle done, a quick change over into running shoes
Wahoo TICKR fit Running
Having come straight off the bike and onto the run – well I say straight on, I fussed the cat a little, and put some food in his bowl – the point is that the various watches and heart rate sensors had warmed up and didn’t get removed beforehand.
So what did we see on the run? Well firstly the massive hole at one point was my fault, the 4iiii battery clearly needed to be changed, but as the rest of the trace was fine, I decided not to repeat.
Wahoo TICKR fit Conclusion
You cant talk about the Wahoo TICKR fit without directly comparing to the Polar OH1 released barely a month before, so let’s just address things head on.
Polar has two Achilles heels with the Polar OH1 – 10hr battery life (I seem to charge it a lot!), and you can only use the OH1 with Bluetooth devices – which as far as I’m concerned this is the biggest problem
The Wahoo TICKR fit by comparison vaults the competition with a longer battery life (10hrs to +30hrs) and dual channel communications, but drops the ability to record internally, which is quite useful for the swim – which the Wahoo TICKR fit is unable to do.
The Wahoo TICKR fit also has a negative in that personally I prefer the strap on the Polar OH1, and as mentioned above do have a slight question over the Wahoo strap durability, but only time will tell if that is well founded
Given the Polar OH1 is so similar, it surprises me is that Wahoo has gone further to differentiate their optical HRM offering. Adding in some of the running metrics from their TICKR range would have made the Wahoo TICKR fit an absolute home run. However as I have mentioned above, the Wahoo TICKR fit is not insignificantly larger than the Polar OH1. This may all be for the larger battery, but I’m also hoping Wahoo has some additional functionality we might see in spring firmware updates? THIS IS PURE CONJECTURE ON MY PART
One thing I will throw out for discussion is this: I wonder if the Wahoo TICKR fit might the first component in a still “on the drawing board” Wahoo multisport watch? Something along the lines of the Elemnt cycle computer series – Stranger things have happened, and it would be interesting to see what Wahoo could bring to the segment – PLEASE GIVE ME ELEMNT STYLE INDICATOR LIGHTS
As it stands, the Wahoo TICKR fit is the better of the two units, simply for the battery life and dual channel comms, BUT I must say, there is an element of feeling like a ‘me too’ device currently. The Wahoo TICKR fit earns a stable 4/5 stars, and a wistful thought of what more this device could be, But I’ll be happy to revise this up to 5/5 if Wahoo has some additional functionality hidden up it’s sleeve.