With the release of the new Apple Watch Series 7 and watchOS 8 update (available on Apple Watch Series 3 and later) comes several new cycling features fit for beginner riders and adventure cyclists alike. Focusing on safety features, more accessible stats, and other improved tracking capabilities, the update allows cyclists to have more confidence on the ride.
“The workout app always tracked indoor and outdoor cycling, but with watchOS 8, we wanted to do more and make the experience even better,” Julz Arney, director of fitness for health technologies at Apple, tells Bicycling in an exclusive interview.
After testing internally in their human physiology lab, here are the experience updates you need to know about to get the most out of your rides from Apple Watch.
Workout Start Reminders and Auto-Pause/Resume
If you often forget to hit start on your watch when you get going on a ride, you’ll love this update. After just three minutes of pedaling, the Apple Watch will recognize you’re riding and ask if you want to start an outdoor cycle workout. Even if you can’t hit the start button right away when that notification pops up—like if you can’t take your hands off your bars while you’re cruising—it’ll continue to record your workout from that moment it detects pedaling until you dismiss the reminder or stop the workout.
To recognize you’re riding, the watch analyzes data from the GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer (basically the compass), along with indications of elevated heart rate, Arney says.
Even better: The update also comes with automatic pause and resume, perfect for city riders who don’t want to keep checking their watch at stoplights. That also means if you forget to press pause when you stop for lunch, it won’t record the down time, but will pick back up when you start pedaling again. Arney says this feature takes just seconds to kick in—another way it makes sure you record all your stats and make ’em more accurate.
Double-check you have these features turned on by going to the settings app on your watch or phone, then workout. Auto-start for cycling only works with Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 6, and Apple Watch Series 7. (Auto pause/resume works on Apple Series 3 and later.)
Apple first introduced fall detection in 2018, but will now make the feature more accurate for workouts, including cycling. (Note that this update will come in a watchOS update later this year.)
“We conducted extensive studies to specifically look at the motion and impact of falls during workouts,” Arney says. “Then we went back and ran all those updated algorithms against the workouts in session, to make sure that we’re not sending you an alert when you don’t really need it.”
To determine if you had a significant fall, sensors on the watch consider the trajectory you were traveling before the fall, how hard you hit the ground, as well as motion afterward. “You can think of it as three different moments in time to assess whether a hard fall has occurred,” Arney explains.
If your watch does detect significant impact, an alert will pop up, which you can either dismiss if you’re okay or initiate a call to emergency services. This safety feature goes a step further: If the watch detects you’re not moving after the fall, it will make the call on its own after about one minute. And if you’re not responsive and can’t speak to the operator, it will play an automated message to emergency services telling them you had a hard fall. The alert will also go to your emergency contact (if you set one up in Medical ID in the Health app), telling them you fell and called emergency services. It will also let them know your location.
If you forget to hit dismiss on the alert but get up and start moving, it automatically cancels. The watch will also make a very loud noise to let you know a call to emergency services will happen shortly so you don’t miss it.
For any new Apple Watch user aged 18 to 55, fall detection turns on automatically for workouts. Existing users can toggle the feature on themselves in the settings app on the watch or phone or from the Health checklist. This feature will only work on Apple Watch Series 4 and later.
Voice Feedback for Workouts
Keep your eyes on the road while getting updates on your mileage with voice feedback, played right from the speaker on your watch or through Bluetooth headphones. On the bike, you’ll hear speed and distance updates every five miles. (For runs or walks, it’s every mile.) You’ll also hear when you reach the halfway or completion point, if you set a time or distance goal, as well as feedback when you close one of your rings—whether its move, exercise, or standing.
Check you have this featured turned on by going to the Apple Watch app on your phone, then workout, or go straight to settings on the watch.
Improved calorie counting
When it comes to the calories you burn in a workout, the algorithm for outdoor cycling always relied on GPS and heart rate sensors to track speed and effort. Now, with the uptick in e-bike riders, Apple updated calorie tracking to more accurately measure how hard you’re working, taking into account any discrepancies between speed and heart rate.
For example, if your heart rate is at about an 80 but you’re going 15 miles per hour, the watch will recognize that you might be getting some pedal assistance from the bike and adjust the calorie count for that outdoor cycling workout. So now you’ll have a more accurate read of efforts.
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