Gear Shed

Q:

Can you help me pick a kick-ass sports watch?

I'm looking for a kick-ass sports watch for my boyfriend who's into lots of sports, currently mountain biking. What do you recommend ong those that show heart rate? JT

Polar S720i     Photo: courtesy, REI

Polar S720i

A:Plenty of very cool choices out there, with your budget the main guide as to what's best.

For instance, Polar's S720i has just about everything you'd want in a sports watch with a bicycle bent. It's a terrific heart monitor, allowing you to set several target= heart-rate areas, measure calories burned, and more. It's also a wireless bike computer that tells you speed, miles traveled, average speed, maximum speed—most everything you need to know. It even measures altitude and temperature. All that data can be wirelessly downloaded to a personal computer so the user can track exercise sessions. It comes in a tough steel case and is even waterproof. Price: $289 (www.polarusa.com).

Polar's more modest S150 still measures heart rate, creates training guidelines for maximum heart rate and other parameters, and measures basic cycling functions (speed, average speed, distance). It lacks the wireless features, the altimeter function, and some of the more arcane measurements. But it's also much less money: $140, and I found some sales that were in the $100 range. Which is a lot of heart monitor for the money.

Another interesting big-ticket choice is Suunto's X9. It doesn't have bike-specific or heart-rate capabilities, but in addition to all its high-end altimeter and barometric functions, it adds a GPS and measures distance and speed as well as direction. Pretty cool! Alas, pretty expensive as well: $699 (www.suunto.com). But you love him, right?

Luxe timepieces reviewed in "Steel Time" from Outside's February '05 issue, or check out the 2004 Buyer's Guide for the sports world's best fitness watches.

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