Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Scosche Rhythm+ Heart Rate Monitor Review

From DC Rainmaker review of the Scosche.
I love tracking my runs. I regularly record heart rate, elevation, distance, time, speed, route, weather, etc. It's easy when you have a Garmin GPS watch that grabs that information and downloads it for you. My only real complaint has been the darn heart rate chest strap. My Garmin straps, three different versions, have never been that comfortable. In fact, one draws blood on a regular basis! Tends to make my runs less enjoyable. At times, I just leave my heart rate strap at home. But I hate missing that data. I needed a new way to measure my HR while running.

Guess what? I found an alternative to the chest strap HR monitor. It's called the Scosche Rhythm+ heart rate monitor. Instead of a chest strap, it's an arm band. And it uses LED lights to optically measure pulse/blood flow beneath your skin (rather than electrical signals from heart). It is strapped to your arm--anywhere from wrist to bicep. The bands (short and long versions) are very supple and comfortable and use velcro to adjust quickly to different arm sizes. The device itself is small and light weight (1.5 x 1.25 inch).

Is this Scosche the new and better way to measure your heart rate while running? Yes and no. It's really convenient and comfortable. It synced to my Garmin watch with no problem. It's also pretty darn cheap (I got mine for $70). I love the idea of not having a huge strap wrapped around my chest...one that often needs extra moisture (spit, water, electro-gel) to work correctly until my sweat starts to get going. Also, it's not affected by power lines or static on a shirt. All good...except for one little thing...it often has erroneous readings during the first part of the run! That is NOT good. In the first few minutes (~5-7 minutes), it often reads very high (160-180) when my "real" heart rate is probably around 120-125. It eventually calms down (becomes calibrated?) during that first 3/4 of a mile and then seems to track the HR ups and downs fairly well. I had one run where it actually tracked fine from start to finish. I'll continue to experiment with different arm placements to see if that helps this issue. Also, I'll try to wear it around the house as I get ready for my run--maybe that will help calibrate it correctly (I tried this once and it didn't help). 

Anyway, I find it so comfortable, I'm going to stick with it for now. Who needs an accurate HR measurement for the first few minutes? Isn't that just easy warm-up time? Well, I'd love to have that accuracy from start to finish, but I'm going to keep plodding along with my new device. I'll post an update after a few more weeks. If it cannot be trusted to deliver accurate results, then it's not worth much. We'll see.

Here are my main pros and cons of this Scosche Rhythm+ heart rate monitor:

  • Very comfortable
  • Rechargeable
  • Light weight
  • ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible
  • Inexpensive (~$75)
  • No spit, electro gel, or sweat needed (to maintain good contact)
  • First few minutes are often erratic (this is the main problem)
  • Battery only lasts 7-8 hours (but is rechargeable)
  • Doesn't store or display any data (it requires compatible watch or cell phone to capture, display, and download data)
For a full review of the Scosche Rhythm+, check out DC Rainmaker's blog post (positive review). For a more negative review of the Scosche, see FellRnr's review.

UPDATE (Oct 5): After experimenting on a few more runs with the Scosche+, the HR monitor seems to work better (from the start) if you really tighten the arm band. Still not perfect, but better.

UPDATE 2 (Dec 31): If I place the HR band on my upper arm (bicep) it seems to be more consistent from start to finish. I also start the HR monitoring about 5 minutes before my actual run. Seems to allow the HR monitor to stabilize its readings. I'm much happier now. Still very comfortable and now accuarate too. 


David Failing said...

Are you still using the Scosche? I'm looking at upgrading a few things in my running arsenal now that I have shoes settled for the time being. I have a lot of trouble with chest strap HRM slipping down, so the idea of an armband that is still accurate is appealing.

I'll be at Clinton Lake in two weeks, so hopefully we'll get a chance to finally meet. I enjoy reading your blog, and have for a few years now.

Chris Ⓥ said...

I am still using the Scosche Rythm+ HR monitor. Very comfortable. It's been more reliable now that I wear it a little tighter and also start it before my run (while getting dressed). I do still occassionally get a high fake reading, but it's more rare now (and I'm fine with it since it does balance out quickly). I'll have it at CL ultra!