How to Avoid Cadence Lock: My New Garmin Heart Rate Monitor (HRM Dual)

A woman using an optical heart rate monitor on her watch. This can lead to cadence lock.

For the past six months, I’ve used a Garmin Forerunner 245 to track my running. Overall, I’ve loved it – except for the occasional cadence lock. I couldn’t find a solution for this problem, until I got a Garmin Heart Rate Monitor.

I received a Garmin HRM Dual Heart Rate Monitor as a Christmas gift, and I’ve tried it out on a few runs so far. It seems to have eliminated the cadence lock problem, and I’ve noticed a smoother, presumably more accurate heart rate measurement.

If you want to track your heart rate while running, I’d definitely recommend you pick up an HRM Dual. It’s relatively cheap and it’s effective. Keep reading for some of my observations after using it for a few days.

The Problem with Optical Heart Rate Monitors – Cadence Lock

Overall, I love my Forerunner 245. It has a decent optical heart rate monitor. For much of the summer and fall I didn’t notice any problems.

There is a bit of a lag in the measurement, and it won’t register the increase in heart rate from a hill or interval at first. But over steady state runs, it seemed to do a good job.

But lately, it has started to give me problems. On several runs in December, I had a clear example of cadence lock. My heart rate would be in the moderate range – 140 to 150 – and then all of a sudden it would shoot to 180 or 190. I knew there was no way my heart rate had actually spiked that much.

One thing that can exacerbate cadence lock is cold weather, so I’m guessing that’s partially responsible. If I notice it, I can sometimes fix it – either by slowing down or by adjusting my watch. But I’ve tried bundling up to keep my wrist warm, and I’ve tightened the watch higher on my arm. Nothing has prevented the problem consistently.

And while it’s not the end of the world, it’s very annoying. It disrupts the advanced metrics on my watch, like performance condition and training effect. It also muddies the waters if I look at a run in Garmin Connect, and it makes it difficult to gauge what my heart rate really is throughout runs.

A heart rate graph with data from my Garmin Forerunner 245. This is an example of cadence lock.
Example of cadence lock from an easy long run, wearing a Garmin Forerunner 245

The graph above is a good example of the problem in practice. I took this chart form my long run last week – an easy 11 mile run.

After about a half hour, my heart rate varied quite a bit and the reading spiked to 160 several times. It’s possible I went over some hills, but unlikely that those readings are accurate. But clearly, after the 50 minute mark, the heart rate reading spikes to 180. It fluctuates a bit and briefly recovers, but for the majority of the rest of the run it’s clearly way too high.

If you plan on incorporating heart rate training into your workout routine, this just won’t do. Thankfully, my Garmin HRM Dual seems to have fixed the problem.

Example of Heart Rate Data from a Garmin Heart Rate Monitor – HRM Dual

Let’s compare that graph above to an example from this morning’s run – using a Garmin HRM Dual to track my heart rate.

An example graph of heart rate data taken by a Garmin Heart Rate Monitor, an HRM Dual
Heart rate data graph tracked by a Garmin Heart Rate Monitor – an HRM Dual

This graph was taken from my long run this morning.

There are still a few fluctuations in the data, but this isn’t surprising given the fact that my pace varied a bit throughout the run. I also ran up several hills, and this definitely caused the spikes around the hour mark. Some of the quick recoveries were probably caused by the fact that I had to stop a couple times to tie my shoelaces or wait for a traffic light.

But there’s clearly no cadence lock going on, and I’m confident that the data in the graph is more or less accurate. When I used the heart rate strap yesterday on a steady state tempo run, it gave me a very smooth heart rate graph.

Overall, my experience so far has been that the heart rate strap is a much more reliable measure than the optical heart rate sensor on the watch.

Other Impressions of Garmin’s HRM Dual Heart Rate Monitor

After a few days of use, here are some other first impressions of the HRM Dual.

It fits well. The straps are a little hard to adjust, but once you get them to the right length they’re great. On my first run, it seemed a little loose, so I tightened it up after getting home. On the next run, I did 12 miles and it felt great. It’s not too tight, and it feels comfortable while running. There’s a vague sense of pressure as I breath in and my chest expands, but nothing that is constrictive. After a couple of miles, I hardly even noticed I was wearing it.

Once you have the straps adjusted, it’s easy to put on. It clips together under the right armpit and holds snug.

You have to put it on for it to turn on and start sending a signal. This can make it a bit finnicky to connect at first. When I first put it on, my heart was at rest, and I don’t think it was beating hard enough for the sensor to register something and turn on. I couldn’t actually connect the heart rate strap to my watch until I went outside and got a bit warmed up. And again, the next morning, it didn’t pair at first until I moved around and got my heart rate up a little.

My resting heart rate is low (in the 40’s), so this may not be a problem for some people. But if you’re a well trained athlete, you may have similar issues. I’m going to play around with it a bit this week to see if I can get it to connect easier, but I do wish there was a button you could press to turn it on.

The heart rate monitor snaps onto the strap, and you can easily take it off to wash the strap. The strap can go in the wash, but you shouldn’t put it in the drier. It’s cold out, so I’m not sweating that much at the moment. It doesn’t smell after two days of use, but I’ll probably wash it once a week to prevent any build up of sweat.

The heart rate monitor uses a watch battery for power, and it’s supposed to last over three years. I’ll have to report back in a few years to see whether that holds true. If and when the battery does die, you can easily and cheaply replace the battery. You can get a 4-pack of CR2032 watch batteries on Amazon for about $5.

Final Thoughts on the Garmin Heart Rate Monitor – HRM Dual

It’s only been a few days, but so far I really like my Garmin HRM Dual. I was beginning to get frustrated with cadence lock on my Garmin Forerunner 245, and this new heart rate monitor chest strap seems to have fixed the problem.

My only complaint is that the heart rate monitor doesn’t always fire up when you put it on, and you may need to move around a bit and warm up before you can pair it with your watch. But otherwise it works well.

Have you tried out the HRM Dual or another Garmin heart rate monitor? I’d love to hear your comments below.

And if you’re looking for a heart rate monitor to pair with your watch, head over to Amazon and pick up a Garmin HRM Dual. You won’t be disappointed.

How to Avoid Cadence Lock: My New Garmin Heart Rate Monitor (HRM Dual)

One thought on “How to Avoid Cadence Lock: My New Garmin Heart Rate Monitor (HRM Dual)

  1. Just wet the strap contacts with a bit of water (or even a licked finger in a pinch) and it works great right at the start.

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