Wahoo's TICKR heart rate monitor strap is not a perfect product. It is, however, generally reliable and a great value, which is why it's typically the heart rate monitor strap I recommend for riders who want to start measuring heart rate for the first time.
The TICKR heart rate monitor offers both Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity, the two common standards in use for connecting to cyclecomputers / GPS, mobile phones, and gym equipment. That means it can also be used to replace lost or damaged heart rate straps from competing brands like Garmin - no matter what head unit you use.
Let's do a quick overview of the features, and some tips and tricks that will help you get the most out of the TICKR heart rate monitor.
Why I recommend the Wahoo TICKR
Put simply, the Wahoo TICKR is inexpensive and full featured. Most competitor products are either more expensive or lack features. Garmin's similar product, the HRM-Dual, for example, is $69.99 with almost identical specs, and many others (Polar) are even more.
Wahoo TICKR key features:
- It carries a list price of just $49.99 (as of this writing) and is often available for less.
- It offers both Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity, with those two modes you can connect to essentially all modern mobile phones including apps like Strava, GPS-based cyclecomputers, and compatible gym equipment.
- It uses common CR2032 coin-style batteries, which last a very long time and are inexpensive to replace.
- It's IPX7 rated, and waterproof to a claimed depth of 5 feet. I haven't tested that, but I do know it's proven to be reliable when riding and running, even in heavy rain.
I also like the built-in indicator lights, which are missing from some competing devices. Two LEDs provide status at a glance: a slow, blue blinking light means searching for connections, a fast blue blinking light means connecting, and finally red blinking indicates that heart rate monitoring is up and running. If the TICKR fails to connect for some reason, these LEDs make it easy to see why at a glance.
Common problems with the Wahoo TICKR
Although the TICKR has proven to be generally reliable, it isn't foolproof. Let's review some of the most common issues that athletes have reported:
Heart rate monitor connects to your device, but no heart rate is reported
As with any heart rate monitor that uses a chest strap, the electrodes must touch your skin and receive an electrical signal to work. Generally, if the TICKR connects to my Garmin Edge 530, but no heart rate is shown, one of two things has happened:
- First, especially in dry conditions, you may need to moisten the electrodes before use. A little warm water from the sink does the trick.
- Heart rate is too low to produce a signal, for example, if I put on the strap while resting. A few jumping jacks before rolling out will typically get it going. I find this occurs sometimes when I wear multiple layers, like a base layer, cycling jersey, and rain jacket. Unzipping the outer layer until the device connects can help.
Heart rate monitor doesn't connect
The Wahoo TICKR has a timeout feature that helps save battery. If you put it on, but then don't immediately connect to your cyclecomputer or mobile phone, the TICKR may "fall asleep" - unbuttoning the strap temporarily, then re-buttoning, starts that process over. Power up your head unit (or start your mobile phone app, like Strava) and it will likely connect.
Other tips and tricks
The make and model of CR2023 batteries matters
Over the past few years some brands of begun adding a coating to their CR2032 batteries. It's a bitter flavor designed to discourage small children from swallowing them.
Unfortunately, that coating seems to have created some problems in some devices, and the Wahoo TICKR is one of them. Wahoo specifically warns not to use coated CR2032 batteries in the TICKR. If you're experiencing some unexplained problems, swapping to a battery that doesn't have this coating may fix it.
Update the firmware
Wahoo releases periodic firmware updates for the TICKR. If you purchased recently you probably already have the latest available firmware, but if you happen to have an older strap, it might be worthwhile to update. You can do so using the Wahoo app on your mobile phone.
Reset the TICKR
If all else fails, you can "reboot" the TICKR:
- Open the battery door with a coin and remove the battery
- Flip the battery upside down, reversing the "+" and "-" sides and reinstall
- Wait 3 seconds
- Remove the battery again and re-install it, this time with the correct orientation
- Put the battery cover back on
I've been using various iterations of the TICKR for about 5 years. Once a year or so, the heart rate number gets "stuck", and won't budge no matter how much harder or easier I work. In those instances, temporarily removing the battery as above fixed it immediately.
Don't store the TICKR with the strap buttons both connected
The TICKR uses a battery save mode which turns the device off when you disconnect the strap buttons. If you're in the habit of re-connecting those strap buttons even when you aren't wearing the strap, you could be prematurely draining the battery, because connect them "wakes up" the device. Store it with at least half the strap disconnected.
Other TICKR models
My comments above are regarding the plain, "TICKR" model. Wahoo offers two other models that may be worth your consideration:
First, the TICKR FIT, which offers most of the same feature set as the plain TICKR, except it's an armband instead of a chest strap. TICKR FIT uses a 30 hour rechargeable battery, instead of the disposable batteries in the TICKR. Unless you have a compelling reason or just can't tolerate chest straps, the TICKR seems like a better value.
The TICKR X has a built in memory so you can record your heart rate data. The base TICKR has no such memory, it only broadcasts your current heart rate, and relies on another device - like a Garmin or Wahoo cycle computer GPS, or a mobile phone, to actually record the data. The TICKR X is probably mostly interesting to runners... most cyclists will probably just want the plain TICKR model.