Considered by many as the best smartwatches, the best Apple Watches have been dominating the wearable market for years. Evidently, this isn't good enough for Apple. In recent years, the Cupertino-based company has been on a mission to entice dedicated sportspeople to join their ranks by offering advanced health and fitness features. With WatchOS 10, Apple turned its attention to cyclists, so naturally, I jumped on the saddle of my bike to see how good the new features were.
What makes the new cycling update special isn't just the ability to connect Bluetooth-enabled cycling accessories, such as power meters, speed sensors, and cadence sensors, to the watch. It's not even the new algorithm that combines sensor data from the watch and connected power meters and can estimate Functional Threshold Power (FTP).
No, I was most interested to see the Live Action feature in the flesh. When you start a cycling activity on your Apple Watch in watchOS 10, it automatically shows up as a Live Activity on the iPhone. This practically turns your iPhone into a cycling computer with data provided by your watch and any connected Bluetooth accessory.
This is a powerful feature. You can browse different Workout Views, such as Heart Rate Zones, Elevation, Race Route, Custom Workouts, and a new Cycling Speed view, which has been optimised for the display size of an iPhone. For non-competitive cyclists such as myself, the Workout Views provide more than enough information to pore over.
Of course, I won't pretend that the data on offer is enough for professional athletes. I can't see Ironman champions mounting their iPhones on their triathlon bikes to track the cycling leg of their next triathlon. (To be fair, the Apple Watch Ultra is pretty good in the water and has decent running features, but this isn't the article to discuss the multisport prowess of this wearable.)
That said, only a small margin of people have the endurance and the skills to call themselves pros. Buying the best road bike, donning a tight cycling jersey and squeezing yourself into cycling shorts won't make you a good cyclist (sorry, MAMILs). For around 85 per cent of the riders out there, data provided by the new Apple Watch feature would suffice.
As for my personal experience with the new setup, it went buttery smooth despite WatchOS 10 only being available as a beta. I found it hard to take proper photos of the screen, but the phone's display was easy to read on a sunny day. As a side note, I must say that the Peak Design Out Front Bike Mount (retailer link) is a superb phone mount; I thoroughly enjoyed using it.
My bike ride wasn't too strenuous, and I didn't have any power meters or other Bluetooth accessories connected, so data was limited to what Apple Watch and the iPhone could capture. Not surprisingly, data was plentiful and easy to access; all I had to do was swipe my finger across the screen to access more data. User experience was always a strong point of Apple devices.
There are limitations to the setup. One thing to note is the ruggedness of the iPhone or the lack thereof. Admittedly, cycling computers can withstand some light rain and splashing around in the mud. But I doubt anyone would want to risk bricking their $2,000 iPhone 15 Pro Max by getting it wet.
That said, I can see the appeal of the new Apple Watch cycling features, and I look forward to testing it more once it's out of beta with some accessories. I'd be curious to see a data comparison between a Garmin bike computer and the Apple Watch setup...