Wahoo Tickr Review, 2020, v2/Gen 2, Plus Tickr X Heart Rate Monitor, HRM
In this detailed Wahoo TICKR Review v2, we take a look at the entry-level heart rate monitor from Wahoo – the first of their new products for 2020.
This is a fairly long and DETAILED review so, for those of you pressed for time, here is a quick summary and some links to buy one from trusted retailers. For those of you who have already got the coffee on for the Big Read, page down for all the details on what could be your next heart rate monitor.
Wahoo Tickr Review
Price - 90%90%
Apparent Accuracy - 99%99%
Build Quality & Design - 85%85%
Features, Including App - 90%90%
Openness & Compatability - 99%99%
Verdict: Wahoo Tickr is a contender for your next HRM
Wahoo’s Tickr and Tickr X heart rate monitors are generally well-thought-through designs.
They cover all the basic HRM features needed in the modern sporting-gadget world – Tickr will SIMULTANEOUSLY work with your app, your watch, your online training platform and all combinations of these. the Tickr models are products that you can buy with confidence. They are accurate and look cool too.
The premium Tickr X is generally only worth considering if you want to work remotely from your Wahoo app or if you want indoor training metrics (speed, distance, cadence) along with the Garmin Running Dynamics metrics (VO/GCT)
The detailed review that follows looks at every aspect of the design and there are certainly better alternatives for each design element that Wahoo could have improved upon. However, the overall package is a sensible compromise that performs well and should continue to perform well for several years.
Shop Wahoo – Choice of Retailer Partners
- Reasonably Priced
- Fully Connectable (ANT+ 3xBLE)
- > 1-year battery life
- Great for cyclists and runners
- Garmin running dynamics produced and transmitted (Tickr X)
- Indoor metrics produced and transmitted (Tickr X)
- Wahoo app-only caching supported (Tickr X)
- Smart control features (Tickr X)
- Strap design & strap performance could be improved
- Doesn’t cache back to high-end Garmin watches
- It will not be a suitable tri-watch for many athletes due to swim incompatibilities
- A cheaper, more plasticy feel than the competition.
- With 5m waterproofing I wouldn’t swim with this.
Wahoo Tickr Review – Background
I’ve used Wahoo heart rate straps, on and off, for over 6 years. Along with Garmin & Polar, I would say that Wahoo has led the way through innovation & performance, perhaps with 4iiii and Suunto also standing out above the numerous generic straps you can easily get your hands on and which sometimes fail soon after.
Until the 2020 iterations, Wahoo’s range of heart rate monitors comprised the TICKR, TICKR RUN, TICKR X and TICKR FIT (armband). Even this older range played nice with both of the established sports data transmission protocols, namely BLE and ANT+ and also supported caching, tapping actions and motion dynamics; meaning you can exercise without a sports watch/app or you could tap your HRM to trigger a lap and you can also marvel at how the TICKR could work out your pedalling and running cadences.
However, the sports world moved on. The rise of Zwift means that at least two BLE connections are often required and the rise of triathlon (and dominance of Garmin at the high-end of triathlon watches) means that HR caching for swimming is needed. Perhaps alongside those rises, we’ve also seen a stagnation of the usage of some of the more advanced cycling and running motion analytics – don’t get me wrong we’re all still interested in them, we’re just STILL not quite sure what to do with any of them, except cadence, other than ‘run faster’. CV-19 has also brought home to many the importance for sports tech to work indoors on treadmills, smart trainers and, of course, in a gym (S&C) and fitness class setting.
Alongside the Wahoo TICKR v2 that I am reviewing here, Wahoo has also released a second-generation TICKR-X with the older TICKR-RUN now discontinued. I’ll cover the extra capabilities of the TICKR-X further down in this review.
It’s a heart rate monitor that easily fastens at the front and you have to admire Wahoo for going against the conventional wisdom of a side clasp. The strap fastens to the pod with press studs which is GOOD in the sense that press studs tend to be more reliable and easy to attach/re-attach than side clasps, however, over time, press studs are prone to clog with dirt and/or corrode and when that happens attaching becomes a problem – still, I’ve had the Tickr for a few months now and so am nowhere near the couple of years of usage that would be required to get it into that state, especially if it’s kept relatively clean.
The strap is more important than you might think and the accuracy YOU receive from it will be linked to how well it stays in place and doesn’t degrade, amongst other factors The positioning of the sensor sections of the strap is also key to longevity and performance and Wahoo’s are a little lacking on the Tickr.
It’s often the STRAP THAT FAILS rather than the pod.
The pod’s design is nothing unusual and uses a CR2032 battery just like many competing offerings. The battery compartment lid is fairly ‘standard’ and doesn’t contain an ‘O’ ring seal nor does it benefit from an easier to remove mechanism found on newer Polar models.
Overall the pod is fairly thin, which is great. Again it’s not as thin as some competing products like the Polar H9 but IS thinner than just about everything else out there. The size is perfectly fine and if you add in the width of the strap and mount for a Polar pod then the width is pretty similar to the Wahoo Tickr Reviewed here.
The one innovation that I especially like is the red/blue LEDs that light up when you snap the HRM on. It is VERY reassuring to quickly see that everything is working fine for your workout.
Design Detail – The Strap
You can see that the rubbery skin-contact areas are broadly similar in size across all the models. But look closely and you will see that the Polar H10 strap has two secondary contact pads next to the rubbery dots. This doesn’t increase accuracy per se, it just increases the CHANCES that accuracy will be achieved if or when the strap moves. Similarly, the rubbery dots on the Polar H10 strap do reduce the chances of the strap moving and hence increase accuracy in that sense.
Finally, you can see the Wahoo bucks the general trend by having a front-fastening strap rather than a side-fastening strap. I guess this is a personal preference thing when it comes to comfort and ease of use. However, one practical benefit of Wahoo’s approach is that you MUST break the electrical circuit each time you remove the strap which can only help with battery life. I and others have had real problems with battery life on the H10 and that problem seems to go away if you detach the pod from the strap at the end of each use.
Design Detail – The Pod
The Wahoo Tickr looks pretty and the design is more ‘with it’ than the somewhat more staid competition. For all you topless runners, this is the strap for you. For the rest of us; meh, keep your clothes on!
The red+blue LEDs are now handily on the top of the Tickr. The Red LED flashes for a heartbeat and the Blue LED indicates the connection state with 3 modes:
- Per-second Blink = on but not paired
- 4 Flashes = connection made
- Twice per-second blink = paired
Wahoo Tickr Review – Accuracy
The Wahoo Tickr is accurate, I would use it as the source of HR for my own workout data.
If you are having accuracy issues with a new strap eg ‘spikes’, then use physio gel or simply lick the strap and wear it tight enough not to slip. Otherwise, consult this link for more advanced fixes. Although, if you are having issues with an ageing HRM then the strap could be damaged or you might simply need a new battery,
I’ve used the Tickr extensively for many miles of riding and running. I’ve no reason to doubt its 100% accuracy, although it’s possible. Here are some examples, essentially showing errors on other optical devices for running and cycling. I’ve included one of the workouts where I wore two chest straps – its nice to perform pointless tests, sometimes. As far as the accuracy of the Tickr goes, there’s nothing to see. Usage is over a variety of bike (outdoor/hilly/bumpy/indoor), running (hill reps, endurance)
On the positive side, the 500 hours of use from a single CR20-32 battery is good and is likely to last most recreational athletes over a year (10 hours/week).
On the negative side, the TICKR should never go swimming, it will break. I did this a few times with my old Tickr X under a wetsuit and it broke.
- Transmission protocols: ANT+ (unlimited connections), BLE (3x Connections)
- HRV data
Wahoo Tickr compared to Polar & Garmin – What is the best heart rate monitor?
In my opinion, the perfect chest strap doesn’t yet exist and I would add to the Tickr X the following features to make it ‘just right’
- TRIATHLETE: ANT+ caching for high-end Garmin watches, specifically to support triathlon/OWS/swimming
- ACCURACY: A superior strap with anti-slip mechanisms like the Polar H10
- ACCURACY: A larger sensing pad like the Polar H10 strap and
- VERSATILITY: Proper waterproofing to 50m
Other straps like the 4iiii Viiiiva can relay and convert sensor data in ‘bridge’ mode – for example reading a BLE power source and retransmitting it over ANT+. I suspect the market for this niche need is, err, niche as is the need to support older analogue gym equipment as supported by some Polar models. There is little point Wahoo including these kinds of features.
Wahoo Tickr – Will it attach to other straps?
Potentially the Wahoo pod might work with some other straps. I only tried it with the latest Polar straps and the Tickr would NOT attach as the press studs seemed to be a slightly different size.
Wahoo Tickr – Would I use or buy one?
I have zero issues recommending the Wahoo Tickr for basic use for runners, cyclists and indoor trainers wanting an accurate and highly connectable HRM. Wahoo Tickr WILL join my Garmin HRM-TRI, Polar H9 and Polar H10 as HRMs that I rotate and trust to make accurate recordings.
It can’t be *my* go-to strap for every sport I do as it doesn’t work for swimming. In fact, only the Garmin HRM-TRI meets my needs there.
Wahoo Tickr Review Take-Out
Wahoo specifically designed the Wahoo Tickr base model to do everything that most runners and cyclists typically need and want to do in 2020, and they’ve done that at a competitive price. Wahoo has hit the nail perfectly on the head with the Tickr, despite the strap needing improvements.
Whilst the Tickr X is a more feature-full HRM strap, my opinion is that Wahoo has only made a half-hearted attempt to produce a premium strap. Unsurprisingly, the Tickr X is moulded to the environments where Wahoo’s other products work ie indoor cycling; and Wahoo possibly thought, “Hey, let’s nail the other needs of indoor athletes while we are at it“. And they’ve done that, and they’ve done that in a timely fashion bearing in mind how CV19 has changed our training. However, they have somewhat neglected to consider that many of these ‘indoor athletes’ may well also be triathletes. Purely in that respect, the Wahoo Tickr X would NOT get me to switch from my ageing Garmin HRM-TRI.