Do You Own An Apple Watch? Are You A Cyclist? You Should Download The WatchOS 10 Beta Now

Cyclist wearing Apple Watch with iPhone mounted on handlebars
(Image credit: Apple)

Every year the Apple Watch gets more sporty, and that process was accelerated last year with the arrival of the Apple Watch Ultra—the sportiest smartwatch yet—and the watchOS 9 software update that overhauled and greatly improved the native workout app on the watch.

Many of the biggest updates last year focused on running, but this year watchOS 10 benefits cyclists most of all. And if you’re a cyclist who uses an Apple Watch it’s worth downloading the public beta of the new software now it’s available. The improvements firmly establish the Apple Watch as the best fitness smartwatch available, and one of the best sports watches in general.

Ahead of the launch of the public beta for watchOS 10, I spoke to Eric Charles of Apple Watch product marketing and Craig Bolton, director of fitness technologies at Apple, to find out how the update will improve the Apple Watch experience for cyclists.

Probably the most important update for serious cyclists is that the Apple Watch can now link via Bluetooth to cycling sensors, allowing you to view power, cadence and speed stats on the watch. You can connect two sensors at a time via Bluetooth to the Apple Watch, so you’ll be able to use a power sensor alongside headphones, or an external heart rate monitor.

The Watch Will Estimate Your FTP And Power Zones

Two Apple Watch Ultras displaying power zone metrics

(Image credit: Apple)

Once you’ve linked a power sensor the Apple Watch will be able to provide an estimate of your functional threshold power (FTP) after five rides of 10 minutes or more.

“FTP is an important and popular metric,” says Bolton. “You can use it to track progress and measure your cycling fitness over time, and it unlocks power zones. It’s an estimate of the maximum power you can hold for an hour, and traditionally comes with an intense and intimidating test where you ride all-out for at least 20 minutes. We’re excited to estimate your FTP in the background.”

The longer and more intense your rides are on the bike, the better the estimate of your FTP will be, and it will continue to update over time. Using this FTP figure, the watch will show power zones that you can use to guide your training. These will be created automatically by the watch, but you can also customize them, along with your FTP.

Once you have your FTP and power zones you can use them in structured workouts, so you can set alerts that encourage you to stay at a certain percentage of your FTP, for example.

Your Phone Now Works As A Heads-Up Display

Two pairs of Apple Watch Series 8 and iPhones mirroring cycling metrics from the workout app

(Image credit: Apple)

You can now see all your cycling stats during a workout on your phone, which is easier to read on a handlebar mount than a watch.

“As soon as you start a workout on Apple Watch it will start a live activity on the phone,” says Bolton. “Tap on that activity, and the phone transforms and you can see all of your metrics. Everything that you’ve set up on the watch will now be available on the phone.”

You’ll need a mount for this, and the co-ordinating case that fits your phone. I’ve been testing the Universal Bar Mount from Peak Design and it’s easier to use than any mount I’ve ever tried. The phone clips on through magnets, and the hold is strong enough to brave the pothole-infested roads near me. What’s more, the mount can be used across multiple bikes since it’s held on with a silicone band rather than screwed in.

If following a training plan from another platform, you can now sync the workouts across into the Apple workout app, where they’ll appear with a logo for the third-party platform so you know that’s where they’re from.

“Training platforms like TrainingPeaks have the ability for their workouts scheduled on the user’s calendar to be imported directly into the workout app,” says Bolton. “This is the first time in the workout app where third-party apps are visible. It will feel exactly like one of our custom workouts—same UI.”

You can also see your past seven days of workouts, and the week ahead, within the workout app. So far TrainingPeaks is the only partner confirmed, but this feature will be available across all workout types, not just cycling.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.