Oh Mio My!
I cannot wear a heart rate chest strap without some form of chafing, rawness, blood, and/or pain. I just don’t have the desire to torture myself to make it work. Yet there are no other options out there THAT WORK if you want to train with heart rate. And yes, I’ve tried the bra with the built in sensors in the bra band. Epic fail.
Training with heart rate is essential for me because I suck. No really, I have a HORRIBLE cardio vascular system. You’d think I was a smoker. I’m not, never have been. But I grew up in a family of smokers, in Illinois where 9 months out of the year the house is closed up tight from the cold and you just suck in that smoke. All. Year. Long. So now, I just have to see a hill and my heart rate goes up. Granted, all this triathlon training has dramatically improved my cardio system! And I’d only know that if I trained with heart rate.
So I do.
It started with the Garmin soft strap v.1 many, many years ago. It was fine for a 3 mile jog here or a 15 mile bike ride there. But it would spike or drop out quite a bit. Then Garmin released their soft strap v.2 around the time I upgraded to the 910 and started training for half marathons and longer distances. That’s when things started to get bad. As in bloody. I thought it was because it wasn’t tight enough. I thought it was because it was too hot here. I tried wrapping it in KT Tape, I tried band aids, I tried vaseline, Body Glide and even KY Jelly! I tried wearing it on my back! I worked directly with Garmin in hopes that they could maybe dig up a v.1 soft strap (they discontinued them!) that didn’t bother me as much. They suggested I try the hard strap.
And that is the torture device that I’ve been fighting with for the last few years. If it’s not tight enough, it slides down my torso and I have to constantly re-adjust it. If it’s too tight, I can’t breathe. If it’s just right, it won’t be for long.
Oh and it rubs me raw if it’s on for more than a few hours. And all those drop outs and spikes? Still there. But now you get the bonus scar on your chest too.
I know there are men out there that have issues with these things. But I know far more women that have suffered extreme pain in the post-run shower when the soap hits the raw spot on their chest. The cursed bra band sits EXACTLY where the chest strap should sit. So we are forced to put it a bit lower on the chest. And if you have any sort of chest to speak of, guess what happens when a curvy figure runs (no matter how well they are strapped in)? They bounce. And the bouncing either pushes the heart rate strap down your torso or it mashes the thing into your skin. With every step.
When I read about the Mio Global ALPHA a few years back I hoped the day would come when they made a product for the multisport folks. One that didn’t have a display on it. One that JUST gave me heart rate. One that was – essentially – a replacement for my chest strap. That was all I wanted. So when the Mio LINK was announced I held my breath for the reviews and waited.
I read some pretty good stuff right out of the gate. The LINK, when compared side by side simultaneously with a heart rate strap, was holding it’s own pretty well. There were some reports of a bit of a lag here and there. And there were some reports of drop outs. But as more folks got their hands on them and more communication happened between Mio and users, things were made clear about placement, tightness, etc. I was so sick of the pain that the chest straps caused me that I sent an email to Mio flat out asking them for a free device to try and review. I also made it clear that I’d be buying 2 of them regardless of their answer.
Folks, it never hurts to ask! I am now a very happy Mio Brand Champion and there are 2 Mio LINKS in this house as I type. Both of them are LOVED dearly. But before I get too mushy, let me tell you what’s up.
1. You and I mess around with our chest straps WAY more than we realize.
This was the very first thing that I learned when I put my LINK on for the first time. It was for a 2 hour bike ride that called for hill repeats. I must have attempted to mess with my heart rate strap once every 10-15 minutes. I kept reaching for it. I kept trying to adjust it. I kept thinking the phantom chest strap was falling down. I reached for the front, I reached for the back. I pulled up my bra, I stretched out my sides. I had NO idea that the chest strap took up so much of my time/focus/attention.
2. Leaving the Garmin at home is kind of freeing.
Unlike the Garmin chest straps, the LINK speaks more than one language. It can broadcast in Bluetooth Smart and ANT+. On paper, that might not be a big deal to you. But what it means is that you don’t need to have your Garmin with you in order to get heart rate data. You can use your phone! For Data Whores like myself – this is epic. I can check my resting heart rate in bed. I can go for a walk or jog or fun ride and have data if I want it. It doesn’t need to be a planned out event with my Garmin (that I may or may not have charged the night before).
3. Two wrist bands on the same wrist isn’t all that bad actually.
I don’t wear any jewelry. It bugs me. Especially watches. Can’t stand them. So the thought of having to wear a Garmin strap for the 910 AND the LINK did not appeal to me at all. I even wear my Road ID on my ankle. The first thing I did was try to put the Large LINK around my ankle. Didn’t fit. And then my husband discovered that you can’t wear the LINK on one wrist and your Garmin on the other while you run. The signal doesn’t reach. That IS a concern for me. But not a big one. And I know there are a lot of people out there that think that’s a deal breaker. But, until you try it, I wouldn’t knock it. The LINK basically disappears on your arm and you don’t feel it. It’s not so tight that you are constantly bothered by it. I wear the LINK under my De Soto Arm Coolers (very tight) and the Garmin quick release strap over the Arm Coolers a bit lower down my wrist. I don’t feel the LINK there and I totally forget about it after a few minutes.
Would it be better if you could wear the devices on separate arms? Yes, of course. But for the sake of the battery life, it’s not that bad actually. Speaking of battery life…
4. Stated Battery Life is around 7 (now they say 8-10) hours….not for the Ironman, ultra runners, or Randonours.
This was a disappointment for me actually. And I hope that battery life will improve in the future. Not that I’m planning to do another Ironman anytime soon! But if I did, there are ways to make it work. I could use my husbands LINK on the bike, and then my LINK on the run. And If I was doing an event that called for downtime to charge my Garmin Edge, it’s not that much more difficult to charge the LINK too. Is it too big of a price to pay to force me back to the chest strap? Hell no.
5. It’s <this close> to being perfect. Here’s a hint Mio:
So if those are the good, what’s the bad?
Mio gets a big thumbs down for their design of the charger. It’s upside down and backwards. It’s just wrong in so many ways. I’ve already taken my LINK off the charger in the morning all ready to go only to turn it on and see a red light meaning it wasn’t charging at all and the battery is dead. But the design of the charger has the LINK sit in such a way that basically calls for the LINK to disconnect or not connect correctly. And the visual notification that the device is charging is a pulsing blue LED. If it’s not pulsing it’s either fully charged or not charging. Two VERY different states that are signified by the same thing. Not good. This could be remedied by a firmware update that would cause the LINK to glow a steady low blue light when it’s plugged in and connected. That would mean a pulsing blue light = charging. Solid blue light – plugged in/done charging. Just to see that visual would tell you right away what the status is on the device.
I will note here that my husband doesn’t seem to have an issue with his sitting on the charger. I’ve finally found a good position that works for my device and to be honest I didn’t have any problems during my weeklong ride in Colorado so it could be that my office set-up is just overly complicating matters!
Another flaw is a lack of alert that the battery is low, dying, or about to die. On a recent ride I was out on the road for 7 hours. I checked the LINK towards the end of the ride and the light was a nice blue meaning I was in my lower heart rate zone. 45 min later there was no light at all. It was dead. Done. Gone. It would have been nice to see maybe a blue light + a very short RED flicker that could warn you that it’s about to die. They only way to check battery life is to turn it on or off. Again, a solution attainable with a firmware update. Update: the device DOES do this already – it flashes red 2 times when it’s about to die. I haven’t seen it happen on mine yet.
That’s it. Those are the 2 things that get me a little frustrated with the device. Are they bad enough to make me put a chest strap back on? HELL NO! I’ll never go back! And these issues are fixable via firmware changes.
Another thing to note – the LINK is actually a 2 part device. It’s a little hard plastic pod that sits inside the wrist strap. I discovered this when I was drying it off one day when the pod popped out of the strap. That got me thinking! What a great design! If I muck up my strap, or decide I want a white one/black one in the future, there might be a way to just swap that out without swapping out the whole thing. Lots of options open up with this design and I’m very happy to see it.
A note on care:
I asked Mio about the proper way to care for the LINK. It is waterproof so showering with it is fine. But necessary? I’ll come off a ride with the LINK covered in gunk. Sunscreen, sweat, Gu smudges. It gets ugly out there sometimes. Rinsing it off while it’s on my wrist just covers the strap. What about the LED sensors? I was told that a rinse off with water and wipe down with a soft towel is pretty much all the sensors need. That’s what I’ve been doing and I haven’t seen any issues.
Do I recommend the Mio LINK?
Where is your side-by-side comparison of the LINK with a chest strap?
Plenty of folks have done this already. I’m not going to show you something they haven’t already covered. If you want that kind of info, go ready:
DC Rainmaker’s mega-crazy in-depth review. And ALL the comments. You will learn something. But a quick summary: there is a 1%-2% difference in readings. But which is correct?
Would I buy it for myself?
Yes, yes, yes and I already have for my husband and he loves it!
Do I think it’s good for runners or bikers?
Both – but understand that right now you may have to wear it on the same wrist as your watch if you run with it.
Is it worth the price?
Hands down YES. $99 is a small price to pay to be free of that evil chest strap! And if you are hesitant, as a Brand Champion I have a discount code I can offer you for 25% off! Even MORE worth the price!
Just a few weeks ago I completed my first Ride The Rockies event in Colorado. It’s a 1 week bike ride that is known for the crazy climbs, long days, and high altitude. I’m writing a blog post on my experience on the ride using the Mio LINK and being in the saddle for 8 – 9 hours at time. Keep an eye out for it. I learned a lot about the device and have a few more thoughts to share.