The Polar Loop is one of the most stylish ‘fit bands’ available, but only really works for biking when you add a compatible heart rate monitor.
The Loop’s a particularly stylish version with a ‘hidden’ calorie, activity level and clock display that triggers when you brush the touch sensitive button. The stainless steel clasp on the bracelet is secure but light enough for mountain biking, but because it needs trimming to length it works best for a single user. It’s waterproof thanks to a sealed magnetic dock for the USB cable link. It syncs with the free – and equally easy to use – Polar Flow app for smartphones or tablets.
The downside is that the step/shock-based data is so approximate it’s only useful in the broadest sense. The daily activity tracker is good for spotting when you’ve been sitting at the computer too long without moving (you can even set an alert) but it’s very much designed around walking/running. That meant we genuinely had bigger activity spikes from walking the dog than from three hours of flat-out mountain biking. Even a lengthy bout of washing up was hard to distinguish from a short hill sprint interval session.
This all changes if you pair it with Polar’s excellent H6 or H7 heart rate belts, which give you a proper indication of how hard you’re working and add that to the scrollable and downloadable data. That also gives you enough data to use the excellent free www.polarpersonaltrainer.com site, which is great for mapping progress and even automatically tracks current training load so you can judge how hard, and when to train next. Once you add the strap overall price compares with full-on HRM and strap setups that are much more comprehensive in terms of data collection (you could get a GPS at this price) and are easier to use on the bike.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.