WatchOS 10 adds huge features improving cycling and hiking

Apple watchOS 10 cycling update

Lots of fitness enthusiasts love their Apple Watch because of its convenience. Apple Watches are often easier to use and have more features than traditional fitness watches, giving a more well-rounded experience. However, there are some features that cyclists and hikers have been requesting for years. This morning at WWDC, Apple announced that a lot of the most requested features, like more cycling and hiking information, will be coming to Apple Watch when WatchOS 10 launches later this year.

What’s new for cycling on watchOS 10?

Cycling is a fun hobby, sport, and a great way to get from A to B. But for those cyclists who want more information about how they’re improving, or easily (and accurately) know how fast they’re going at a glance in areas with speed limits, things can get expensive, fast.

Currently, if you start a cycling workout on Apple Watch, it won’t look that different to a running or walking workout. You can see heart rate zones, splits, distance and average speed, all on the watch screen.

The problem with that is that it’s really hard to look at a watch screen while you’re riding a bike. While running, it’s pretty natural to be apple to lift up your arm and look at your wrist. When cycling, particularly at speed, that’s less feasible.

Now, with WatchOS 10 and iOS 17, Cycling workouts will show up as a “Live Activity” on iPhone, so you can pull up the live workout data on iPhone (and then mount it to your bike using a Quad Lock mount or similar). It’ll make it much easier to glance down and see heart rate zones, speed, distance, and other important metrics. This will be especially helpful on workouts with a target goal enabled, so you can see when you go off-pace and adjust accordingly.

There are some apps that do this already, like Cyclemeter, but unlocking full metrics requires an annual subscription. This leaves Apple Watch owners with the tricky decision between recording cycling workouts on either the watch or a separate app, or risk doubling up the metrics in Health.

For those wanting to kick it up a notch, Apple Watch will now be able to automatically connect to Bluetooth-enabled bike accessories that measure cadence, power and speed, and then add those metrics to your workout view. Right now, to get those metrics easily, cyclists need to subscribe to an app (like Strava or Cyclemeter) or get an expensive bike computer. I currently use a Bontrager Duo Trap S with Cyclemeter, and the information is not presented as clearly as I would like, so depending on how Apple presents the data, this could be huge for hobby cyclists.

Apple Watch will also be able to estimate Functional Threshold Power (FTP), which is the highest level of cycling intensity a cyclist could maintain for an hour. From there, personalised power zones will be calculated to give cyclists easy-to-understand information to make the most of their training.

They’re small improvements that many cyclists (me included) have been requesting for years, so it’s going to be a lot of fun to test them out properly when they launch later this year.

Hiking improvements

At the moment Apple Watch Ultra users can set waypoints for areas of interest as they travel around. Coming with WatchOS 10, there will be new waypoints added to the Compass app for all Apple Watch users. When hiking in areas with low or no reception, you’ll get a waypoint with the last location where you had phone reception, and then the last location where you had emergency call reception. That way, if something goes wrong, you know how far back you have to travel to make a call for help.

There will also be a new elevation view when planning routes using altimeter data and, in the US, a new topographic map with contour lines, hill shading, elevation details and points of interest. Known hiking trails in the US will also give you info on difficulty, type and trail length.

Apple WatchOS 10 hiking information

While it’s disappointing that the map data isn’t rolling out everywhere at once, it’s positive that it’s at least coming to the US, because now we can enjoy a flicker of hope that it might soon come to Australian trails, too, maybe in a year or two. As for the reception waypoints, that’ll be helpful not just for hikers, but for rural and regional towns where reception can be spotty.

Apple WatchOS 10 and iOS 17 will both be coming to new and existing devices later this year, likely in September.

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Alice Clarke attended Apple WWDC 2023 in Cupertino as a guest of Apple Australia