Mio Link Heart Rate Monitor

If you’re not familiar with Ray Maker’s blog, DCRainmaker, I highly recommend it — especially for advice/reviews on fitness tech. I ran across his website quite by accident. 

A couple of years ago I read a blog about the amazing, unsurpassed, and revolutionary benefits of using heart rate zones for training. (It had to be true, right? It was on the Internet.) So I dug out the heart rate monitor that came with my Garmin Forerunner (that had been living in a commune with some dust bunnies behind my dresser), strapped it around my chest, and went for a run. It was a short run and the strap caused some mild chafing. A couple of days later I went for a longer run. There was more severe chafing this time — in the exact same spot. Several runs (and minus some precious skin) later, I was back on the web looking for solutions. That’s how I found Ray’s blog.

During my search I discovered a couple of things. 1) I wasn’t the only one with this problem. (There is a small, vocal subset of Garmin chest strap wearers who are very bitter individuals. Trust me on this.) 2) Ray had an ingenious solution for this exact problem on his website. 3) I actually liked the data that dang heart rate monitor was providing. (I just didn’t want to pay in blood to get it.)

I used Ray’s make-shift solution for a while, but eventually I sprang for a Mio Link heart rate monitor. It straps to your wrist. For me it’s SO much better than a chest strap (ergonomically, anyways). I never wore both the Link and the verdammt chest strap at the same time so I can’t say whether one is more accurate than other. 

(As it turns out, Ray’s already compared them here. ;-) Short answer: The Mio Link is very accurate.)

By the way, the similarities between Ray and I are amazing:

  • Ray is an American who lives in Paris. I’m an American who has lived in Paris.
  • Ray is a runner and a triathlete. I’m a runner and a triathlete.
  • Ray’s wife owns a cupcakery. My wife owns a bakery.
  • Ray has a website. I have a website.
  • Ray is a techno-geek. I’m well.. a geek.
  • Ray is young and a fast runner. I used to be young and Im on a first name basis with a couple of fast runners.
  • Ray has a coach. I have a couch.

It just keeps going… But back to the Mio Link:

The Mio Link is a wrist based heart rate monitor. It uses green laser diodes and a photoreceptor to detect the pulse in your wrist. It’s small, lightweight, and waterproof. (I use it when I’m swimming, too.) The Link has no display but connects to your GPS watch (or your GPS bike computer) with ANT+ or Bluetooth. 

You only have to connect the Link to your GPS watch once. After that you simply turn on the Link and then turn on your watch. They find each other — and just like that you have heart rate monitor data streaming to your watch. My Garmin Forerunner saves the data automatically so when I log into Garmin Connect (or Strava), my heart rate data is right there along with my pace, elevation, and cadence. When I export the file, the heart rate data is automatically fed into .gps and .tcx format — which is how I use it on www.GraphMyRun.com.

My Link lasted a couple of years and then mysteriously... died. One day it just wouldn’t turn on. I suspect that the battery  which is not replaceable  gave up the ghost. I went without for nearly a year, but I missed having heart rate data. (In particular, I find it useful to monitor my heart rate to make sure it doesn’t get close to 150 on long runs. Without fail, I’m reduced to walking soon after I cross that magic number.)

I bought a used Mio Link on eBay for about 1/2 the price of a new one. While I was on eBay I also bid on a Mio Fuse on a lark. The Fuse is like a Link on steroids. The Fuse has a display, it has its own memory, and an accelerometer — so it can counts steps and monitor how deeply you sleep. It also pairs to GPS watches via ANT+ or Bluetooth. What’s not to like?

The Link is a dumb device. (And I mean that in a good way.) It does one thing and one thing only — and it does it extremely well. There is one button. When you click the button, the Link turns on and monitors your heart rate. If you hold the button down for a couple of seconds, it turns off. Easy-peasy.

The Fuse is a sophisticated device. It has three buttons and a display. It’s bigger and thicker than the Link. In its normal mode, it monitors your steps and tells the time. (You have to press a button to momentarily turn on the display though.) It has a workout mode where it will also continuously monitor your heart rate. (It doesn’t monitor your heart rate at all in normal mode.) And finally, there is a sleep mode that monitors your heart rate and keeps track of how much you twist and turn in your sleep to calculate your sleep “efficiency”. 

I like the sleep mode because it’s a great way to find your resting heart rate. Beats the heck out of trying to find your pulse first thing when you wake up but before you start moving around.

But even with all that, I find the Fuse bulky and difficult to use. The capacitive buttons are sometimes nearly impossible to work (although I’ll admit that I am getting better with practice). Unless I want to measure my resting heart rate with sleep mode, the Mio Link is my go-to heart rate monitor. It’s unobtrusive and just works. I love mine.

© Phil Miller 2014, 2015, 2016