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The Company

VDO, or SiemensVDO as some of you might have known it, is renowned for their wide variety of car audio systems. Recent shift in their corporate strategy has seen them diversifying into the bicycle industry. Taking advantage of their experience with electronic gadgets, their first offering is a series of cyclometers with a wide array of functions.

HC 12.6

The HC 12.6 is their top of the line cyclometer with Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) functions incorporated. This meter is targeted at cycling enthusiasts who need a basic HRM to monitor their training regime. It serves the primary purpose of informing the user, how far, how fast and how hard he is going.

The HC 12.6 comes in an impressive compact black package. The nifty package houses a cyclometer, spoke magnet, wired sensor, chest receiver, handlebar mount and an illustrative instruction booklet.

Mounting the Cyclometer

Anyone with experience in handling cyclometer will be at ease in mounting the VDO. If this is your first time, do not fret. Detailed instruction with step-by-step picture illustration is on hand to guide you through the setup process.

One interesting note is that, Germans seem to embrace the idea of tool free installation. Similar to Sigma (which is also a German company), VDO uses o-rings for the mounting of the sensor and handlebar mount; at least that is what is shown in the instruction. However, the review piece comes with a screw-on handlebar mount. Seems like VDO has think otherwise about tool free installation.

The VDO Experience

For a newcomer, VDO had done an impressive job with the HC 12.6. It has already won several best buy awards from both German and international bike magazines.

The HC 12.6 is spotted with an elegant, waterproofed stainless steel casing and a large screen display. Its beauty is not just skin deep. Hidden under the elegant casing is a feature packed computer.

It comes with 12 cyclometer functions. The functions pretty much cover all the information needs for most cyclists. They include: trip meter, 2 odometer, maximum/average speed, riding time etc. What we find really useful is the automatic start/stop feature for all functions. This eliminates the problem of users not restarting their cyclometer after the meter went into sleep mode. For those who prefer to have more control, the stopwatch and navigator (second trip meter) functions can be activated manually.

HC 12.6 also comes with 6 fundamental HRM functions that will be handy for enthusiast who is training to keep fit. Remember, the HC 12.6 is design with basic HRM functions only, do not expect to find fancy stuff such as PC interface, historical training data etc. that usually come with high end HRMs. The available functions, however, should be sufficient to provide most users with all their vital training statistics.

The settable training zones helps users to ensure that they stay in their target zone during their training session. Acoustic signal serves to remind users when they fall above or below the targeted zone. An elastic wrist strap is available separately to convert the cyclometer into a watch so that it can be use for other activities.

Training monitoring is also made easier with the auto start/stop function. The stopwatch will be activated the moment it receive transmission from the chest receiver.

The chest receiver got a good tranmission range of about 90cm to 100cm. While cycling, we did not experience any drop readings. Despite our good experience with the chest receiver, some magazines reported that the receiver performs badly in area with high electro magnetic interference.

Where it falls short

Well like all other great products, no products will fully satisfy a demanding consumer. Firstly, we would love to see backlit display in the VDO to enhance its nighttime usability. We also find the display cramped with redundant information that users do not need. Information such as wheelset option and maximum/minimum heart rate could either be condense or remove to make space for more vital information. We also dislike the fact that the HC 12.6 could not be upgraded to a wireless platform. Users who hate the untidy look of wire coiling around one another, you have been warned.

While we have no complain on the cyclometer functions, we feel that a few more HRM functions could be added. One of the more critical functions we miss dearly is the lap timer. Without it, timing of our training ride around Bukit Timah is impossible. Other functions like recovery timer, calories counter will be a bonus to make the HRM more complete.

Conclusion

The HC 12.6 will be a great training tool for non-competitive cycling enthusiasts. A great 2-in-1 instrument that will assist users in monitoring each of their training session. It comes with a very affordable price tag too. For its price, it makes sense to get the VDO rather than a separate cyclometer and HRM unit. For more information, you can go to VDO’s website

Features:

Cycle Computer functions:
Actual speed in KM/H or MPH
Individual trip
Riding time up to 19:59:59
Average speed
Comparison of actual speed/average speed
Maximum speed
Clock
Navigator, second trip counter with possible pre-setting
Sub total distance for bike 1, subtotal distance for bike 2
Two individual wheelsizes pre-settable

Heart rate monitoring:
Actual heart rate
Upper-lower limit settings
Average heart rate
Display of time spent in, above and below limit settings
Stopwatch for exercise time
Acoustic signal
Optical signal

Additional features:
7 languages selectable
Service-Interval-Indicator (bike inspection)
Auto/Start-Stop of all functions
5 year warranty