Apple's watch OS 8 is a game changer for cyclists — here's why

watchOS 8
(Image credit: Apple)

Cyclists get ready - the Apple watchOS 8 updates promise some big changes to the cycling software, making for a better experience. Up until now, the tracking features for cycling have been pretty limited, with no ride detection or auto-pause (and who has time to manually stop their watch at traffic lights?) but all this is due to change. 

The coronavirus pandemic saw a ‘bike boom’, as many turned or returned to cycling to avoid public transport and to keep fit during lockdowns. Bikes sold out across the globe and more people than ever discovered the joy of getting around on two wheels. It seems Apple has noticed this trend and followed up with some much-needed updates to their tech. 

Apple announced at its California Streaming event on Tuesday, September 16, that its watchOS 8 update would be coming next week. watchOS 8 will require an iPhone 6S or later, running iOS 14, and will be compatible with all Apple watches, including the Apple Watch 6, the Apple Watch SE, and the Apple Watch Series 3. Users will be able to download it for free on Monday, September 20. 

The best new features for cyclists on watchOS 8 

Here are the watchOS 8 updates we're excited about for anyone who cycles. 

Apple Watch OS8 updates

(Image credit: Apple)

watchOS 8 features auto-ride detection 

If you jump on your bike in a hurry, watchOS 8 will prompt you to press start on your outdoor cycle, using algorithms to analyze GPS, heart rate, accelerometer and gyroscope data to detect when you begin a ride. This isn’t revolutionary - the Apple Watch already does this for walking and running, but it’s a handy feature for casual commuters and more serious cyclists.

As with all automatic workout reminders on the Apple Watch, you’ll also be able to see your metrics from when you first started the workout, not when you pressed record on the watch. 

watchOS 8 has auto pause and resume for cyclists 

There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to pause your workout, balance your bike and watch for the traffic lights at a stop sign. Thankfully, Apple has answered our prayers and added auto pause and resume to the cycling tracking on watchOS 8. Again, this isn’t ground-breaking — the likes of Garmin have been doing this for years — but it’s a handy feature for anyone who uses a bike to get around a busy city.  

watchOS 8 has more accurate tracking for e-bikes 

Apple announced some important cycling tracking updates for e-bike users too, with watchOS 8 possessing an updated algorithm to more accurately measure active calories. The Apple Watch will be able to better evaluate GPS and heart rate to better determine when users are riding with pedal-assist versus leg power alone.

Apple Watch OS8 updates

(Image credit: Apple)

watchOS 8 includes fall detection for cyclists 

In watchOS 8, the cycling workout will now have Apple’s fall detection. A feature launched by Apple in 2018, fall detection recognizes if you are immobile for approximately one minute if a hard fall is detected, and calls the emergency services from your wrist. With the new update, the Apple Watch will now be able to recognize the unique motion and impact of falls from a bike, in a bid to keep users safe when out on the roads. 

While incident detection is a feature that’s been available on some Garmin models for over a year, unlike Garmin, your Apple Watch will alert the emergency services straight away, rather than ping your emergency contacts with your location, which could be more beneficial should the unthinkable happen. 

Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.