Cycling: A Meter for the Heart and Head

Back when I began using heart-rate monitors for cycling training, I knew that power meters were better devices, but I didn’t care—the suckers cost $5,000. Power meters record how many watts your pedaling generates, an objective measure of effort in contrast to the beating of your heart, which varies with health, sleep, and training. Still, even as the gadgets dropped to $1,500, I stayed true to mi corazon. But now comes the $710 Polar CS600 with Power.

The CS600 works much like an electric guitar, with a small pickup strapped to your frame that measures chain vibration and converts it to wattage. At a glance, you see not just the watts you’ve generated but also cadence, speed, heart rate, and even slope incline. Regardless of whether you have a training plan, this is one useful gadget: It shows the power output for each leg, allowing you to correct an imbalance mid-ride, as well as the efficiency of your pedal stroke, which helps you focus on a rounder, better technique. Installation takes a couple hours, and the minimally insightful manual requires patience, but this power meter is the one to have. And that’s coming from both head and heart.

–West Coast Editor Steve Casimiro

Editor’s Note: In our April issue (on newsstands now), see Casimiro’s cycling gear guide, featuring the year’s best mountain bikes, road bikes, clothing, and gadgets.

Photograph by Joshua Scott

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