Apple announced a number of updates at their annual WWDC event (World Wide Developer Conference) yesterday, including watchOS 10 for Apple Watch with a host of new features including redesigned apps and additional watch faces. We are most interested, though, in the new Bluetooth cycling sensor support, which includes power meter connectivity. Could this be the thing that sees fitness watches and phones replace the dedicated bike computer?
Previously, Apple Watch had a dedicated cycling workout mode which utlisied built-in sensors and GPS to track cycling activities, including metrics such as distance, duration, heart rate and calories burned. It also supported various third-party cycling apps such as Strava.
When we reviewed the Apple Watch Series 7, a limitation was that it couldn't connect to cycling sensors. Now with Apple's new watchOS 10 software update, you can connect to cycling sensors via Bluetooth and turn your iPhone into a comprehensive head unit on your bike handlebars with all the data you'd get from a dedicated GPS computer.
WatchOS 10 enables power meter, speed sensor and cadence sensor connectivity, which is beneficial to those with a more serious cycling focus to be able to monitor their training in more detail.
The new Bluetooth cycling sensor support also allows for connection to smart turbo trainers that transmit Bluetooth Smart, as well as GymKit, and to third party apps such as Strava if they incorporate this new connectivity. Cadence data can be obtained from a power meter, and speed data from a PowerTap hub or smart trainers.
Utilising power meter and heart rate data, new algorithms are said to be able to calculate Functional Threshold Power (FTP) through data collected by the Apple Watch. FTP can then be used to calculate personalised power zones and is useful to have as a benchmark for measuring changes in fitness over time.
These power zones are customisable, and you can choose how many zones you want and the range of each zone. They can then be used during structured workouts and are presented in data fields on the watch.
When a cycling workout is started from an Apple Watch in watchOS 10, it will show up as live activity on an iPhone which allows the data screen on the Apple Watch to be mirrored on the full screen of an iPhone, when clicked.
You can then mount your phone on your handlebars to see data such as heart rate zones, elevation and power, turning your phone and watch into a proper bike computer. So, can we expect to see one device that does it all in the future?
Maps have always been a feature that enabled cycling-specific directions and navigation, and now with watchOS 10 and new maps, the compass automatically generates the last place with cellular reception so emergency calls can be made.
These new features add to the previous fall detection technology and emergency SOS feature, which has been praised by cyclists for saving their lives. It can detect if you have a heavy fall while cycling and prompt you to initiate an emergency SOS call.
Other new features include redesigned apps, new watch faces and tools to support mental health, and we can expect this update to be made available to download in September in line with Apple's annual release cycle of new watches and phones.
What are your thoughts on the new features in watchOS 10, and will it tempt you to ditch your bike computer? Let us know in the comments section below as always.
Emily is our track and road racing specialist, having represented Great Britain at the World and European Track Championships. With a National Title up her sleeve, Emily has just completed her Master’s in Sports Psychology at Loughborough University where she raced for Elite Development Team, Loughborough Lightning.
Emily is our go-to for all things training and when not riding or racing bikes, you can find her online shopping or booking flights…the rest of the office is now considering painting their nails to see if that’s the secret to going fast…