My business partner Dennis runs every day, and he is my motivation to get out every morning and take a long, fast walk. I've been doing this for 36 straight days so far, so it looks like I've developed a good habit that I'll keep. While my iPhone, Apple Watch, and Runkeeper app can tell me a lot, they don't provide good continuous information on my heart rate. That's why the Tigra Trio (US$99.99) caught my eye and will be a regular part of my daily exercise routine.
The Trio is designed to work for runner/walkers and cyclists, providing bike cadence, counting steps, and continuously monitoring your heart rate. Looking at the back of the device is like looking at the back of an Apple Watch; the Tigra Trio also uses an optical heart rate sensor. But the Trio monitors continuously, not just when you bring up the Apple Watch Heart Rate app, and that's a big difference.
Since cyclists, runners, and walkers are all measuring slightly different things, the Trio comes with two straps. There's a small one that goes around the forearm for walking or running, as well as a larger strap that can go around the calf muscle for biking.
The device charges through a proprietary USB cable with a special clip that snaps onto the sensor, and it runs for about 8 hours on each charge. The strap is totally removable for washing, while the sensor package is waterproof and made of tough polycarbonate to put up with some abuse in the field.
The Trio uses Bluetooth 4.0 and works with most popular fitness apps, including Strava, MapMyFitness, Runkeeper, Runtastic, Endomondo and more. There's also a free TigraFit app that can be used, providing mapping, speed, distance, cadence or steps, and more.
I use Runkeeper to keep track of my daily fitness walk, so I was thrilled to see that the Tigra Trio worked with it. I followed a simple process to pair the Trio with my iPhone, but found that I also needed to let Runkeeper know about the device. In the Runkeeper app, this is done by going to Settings > Apps, Services and Devices > Manage Devices. I have to connect the device each day, but it's a very fast process.
Previously, when I went for a walk I could look at three charts; pace, elevation, and steps. Adding the Trio added another chart showing my heart rate. I'm 58 years old, and my maximum heart rate (220 - 58) is 162 beats per minute. To get the best results from aerobic exercise, you're supposed to get your heart rate to within 55 and 85 percent of maximum (in my case, between 89.1 and 137.7 beats per minute) for 20 to 30 minutes. My average heart rate was 118 bpm during a 25 minute walk, so I am getting some benefit from my workouts.
Unsurprisingly, the Trio also showed that my heart rate maxed out at about 155 bpm when I was doing a little jogging down a hill. What DID surprise me was that the one hill that I climb each morning that usually gets me quite winded doesn't really make my heart rate much faster.
I think devices like the Tigra Trio are perfect for anyone who is getting serious about fitness, as they provide an easy-to-read log of heart rate as you're exercising. It's the perfect partner to a dedicated app like Runkeeper or TigraFit.
My only beef had to do with the instructions that come with the unit; they're in such small print that they're hard to read, and the "quick start" card with little diagrams on it is too simplistic. Fortunately, I've tested other devices like this in the past so it wasn't too much of a stretch to figure out pairing and how to turn the device on and off.
Price-wise, the Trio is more expensive than competing devices that simply check heart rate and don't add the step count or cadence tracking. As an example, the Wahoo TICKR heart rate monitor is about half the price at $49.99 while the Polar H7 monitor runs about $55. The ability to get cadence and step count data may be well worth the extra $40 - $50 for the Tigra Trio.
The Tigra Trio is a powerful device for tracking heart rate and biking/running cadence. It's a bit more expensive than just a heart rate monitor, but the extra data should make the most ardent exercise buffs happy. The device would definitely benefit from more clearly-written instructions, but works well with just about any major fitness app.