Buying a heart rate monitor doesn’t have to be expensive. A cheap heart rate monitor might very likely be one of the best investments in your cycling career.
If there was a performance-improving per money index, I guess a heart rate monitor would rank in the top. It is possible to buy quality heart rate monitors like Polar or Cardiosport for reasonable prices. Several copy products have a high performance and might save you a few bucks.
Basic heart rate monitors
All companies producing heart rate monitors have some basic models made for beginners. These watches have a minimal amount of detail but are delivered at a very fair price. Measuring heart rate is very accurate at basic heart rate monitors because they use the same techniques for measuring as more expensive models do. These watches measure the current heart rate, and that is it.
If all you want to know is the current amount of beats, a Polar Basic heart rate monitor could be a good choice for you. There are also some other basic models which offer a few options like target zones or average heart rate. Especially the avg. Heart rate can be helpful, exciting and motivating to use during training. However, I think that these options are an absolute minimum for a serious cyclist.
Advanced heart rate monitors
If you want to get more details and options about how your heart performs during the training session, you will have to invest in an advanced heart rate monitor. Here you will get more details about your performance, and the monitor will store more data for you. E.g. how much time you have spent above your target zones.
Some of the monitors in this category can be connected to a computer so you can make graphs of your training sessions. This can be very enjoyable for some people and very useful for others. However, the amount of data stored on these monitors is often limited, especially when compared with how much data you can keep on an iPod or MP3 player.
For some reason, heart rate monitors have not taken part in this development. In many ways, heart rate monitors are old fashioned, probably because of very few competing manufacturers. For example, for many years Polar was the only reliable heart rate monitor on the market. Nowadays, competition intensifies, which makes the heart rate monitors both better and cheaper.
Professional heart rate monitors
If you have a scientific approach to your cycling or want to get all details registered, you have to buy one of the professional heart rate monitors. These watches store vast amounts of data. Actually, they can keep every single beat from your heart. This makes it possible for you or your coach to make some very comprehensive analysis of your training on your personal computer. But, of course, to get the total value out of a professional heart rate monitor, you need to have some interest in exercise physiology.