Until now, I've not found Apple Watch to be a helpful tool as a bike computer. I have three main issues that have kept me from using the Apple Watch in this capacity:
- Connectivity — there's been no way to connect to third-party sensors (power, cadence, or speed)
- Glanceability — the watch's face isn't visible when cycling unless you're cycling one-handed and focussing on the watch.
- Navigation — no mapping or routing features whatsoever
watchOS 10 addresses some of these problems as I discovered on an easy going cycle.
watchOS 10 allows you to connect to Bluetooth-enabled third-party sensors. In my case, I connected it to my Garmin Rally RS100 Power Metre via the Settings app (Bluetooth -> Health Devices) on the Apple Watch. This surfaced power and cadence data during my cycle, while heart rate, elevation, and speed were tracked by the Apple Watch.
The connection between the Apple Watch and RS100 was seamless and didn't drop in the hour or so that I was cycling. So, easy to setup and easy to use.
My biggest gripe with using the Apple Watch as a bike computer is that the display is not facing you when your hands are on the handlebars. watchOS 10 addresses this problem.
When you start a workout on your watch, a Live Activity now appears on your iPhone's lock screen. Tapping that Live Activity expands it to fill your screen which gives you a defacto bike computer display with various different metrics available for selection.
While clear, there's a lot of wasted space — 1/6th of the display is taken up with 40⚡️POWER.
Using the iPhone as a bike computer display for the Apple Watch solves glanceability, however, there has been no improvement when it comes to displaying maps or routes. You can't display a map on your iPhone's Live Activity and you can't upload a route in advance of a cycle.
Apple Watch plus iPhone can't replace a bike computer in the regard just yet. (There's always watchOS 11.)
Some minor observations:
- Strava doesn't (yet) import power or cadence data from Apple Watch captured cycles. I assume this is something Strava will fix in the future.
- I didn't test connecting to a speed sensor.
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