Can An Apple Watch Track Mountain Biking Rides? We Tested One

Can an apple watch track mountain biking rides featured image

Are you an avid mountain biker who loves tracking your rides and monitoring your progress?

Have you ever wondered if an Apple Watch can keep up with your adventurous lifestyle?

Well, you’re in luck because we put it to the test!

Yes, the Apple Watch can track a mountain biking ride effectively. With its advanced features and capabilities, the Apple Watch is a reliable companion for outdoor cycling enthusiasts. With built-in GPS and altimeter, it accurately records speed, distance, and elevation, providing precise data to measure your performance and progress.

Below, we’ll explore the capabilities of the Apple Watch when it comes to tracking mountain biking rides.

From GPS accuracy to heart rate monitoring, we’ll dive into the features and performance of the Apple Watch and determine whether it’s a reliable companion for your next mountain biking adventure.

Benefits of Tracking Mountain Biking with an Apple Watch

From monitoring heart rate and calories burned to mapping out routes and analyzing performance, tracking mountain biking with an Apple Watch is a game-changer for cyclists seeking to push their limits and achieve their fitness goals.

Here are some features from Apple Watch for tracking your mountain biking ride:

  • Automatic cycling detection
  • Auto Pause and resume
  • Average Speed
  • Sync with your power meter
  • Route tracking and mapping
  • Crash sensor and emergency services
  • Heart rate zone
  • Calorie burn monitoring
  • Splits, elevations, and rings
  • Pacer and custom cycling workout

Automatic Cycling Detection

As a forgetful cyclist, I absolutely love the automatic cycling detection feature on the Apple Watch. It’s a game-changer for me!

Now I never have to worry about remembering to start tracking my mountain biking sessions because my trusty Apple Watch does it for me. It’s like having a personal assistant on my wrist.

It also prompts me to record my ride after a few minutes. This means I never miss out on tracking my rides and capturing all the important data.

using apple watch for mountain biking

Auto Pause and Resume

The auto pause and resume feature ensures that my workout times aren’t affected by stops during a mountain biking ride. This convenient feature can be easily enabled in Settings or through the companion app on my iPhone.

With auto pause and resume activated, my Apple Watch is like a mind reader. It automatically detects when I take a break during my bike ride and pauses the tracking.

This means I can relax and not worry about manually pausing or restarting the tracking if I need to catch my breath or deal with any interruptions. The watch is so smart that it recognizes when I start biking again and resumes tracking seamlessly.

This feature gives me a clear understanding of my actual active time during the ride without the hassle of manually adjusting my recorded workout durations.

Average Speed

Mountain biking with apple watch series

To track average speed during mountain biking using an Apple Watch, you can utilize the built-in biking features or third-party biking apps.

Here’s how the Apple Watch tracks average speed:

  • Built-in Biking Features: the watch will display the average speed on a cycling workout by default. You can also configure the “workout view” to display the current speed.
  • Third-Party Biking Apps: Third-party apps such as Cyclemeter provide more comprehensive tracking features. These apps can display metrics like time, heart rate, average pace, and mileage. They may also offer customizable workout views and the ability to track additional data such as cadence and power with sensors

Connect to Your Power Meter

Connecting your watch to a bicycle power meter allows you to track power output during cycling workouts.

Here are several ways to connect an Apple Watch to a bicycle power meter:

  • Pair with watchOS 10: Apple Watch can now automatically connect to Bluetooth-enabled cycling accessories, such as power meters, speed sensors, and cadence sensors. This enables brand-new metrics, including cycling power (watts) and cadence (RPM), and additional Workout Views, including Power Zones. (1)
  • Turn your Apple Watch into a power meter using a companion app: App such as HR2VP allows you to use any Apple Watch as a cycling power meter and bike computer. The heart rate gets measured by the built-in watch sensor, which is known as one of the best optical sensors on the market. Then, power is computed by an algorithm running on the iPhone. Power estimation is based on heart rate, and is displayed on the watch. (2)

It’s important to explore your chosen app’s features and settings to ensure it’s compatible with mountain biking and meets your needs for connecting to a power meter.

Route Tracking & Mapping

The Apple Watch can track mountain biking routes and provide mapping features using third-party apps.

Here are some of the apps that can be used for this purpose:

  • Komoot: Komoot is an app that is all about adventure, with specific modes for mountain biking and gravel. It offers turn-by-turn navigation, offline maps, and the ability to plan routes ahead of time.
  • Bikemap: Bikemap is a third-party app that can turn your iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch into a bike computer, GPS tracker, and cycling distance tracker. It provides real-time biking stats alongside route tracking and mapping features.
  • Strava: Strava is a popular third-party app that can be used to track mountain biking routes and provide mapping features. It allows you to record rides, view a map of where you are and where you’ve been, and share rides as GPS/FIT/TCX. It also offers heart-rate alerts for your rides.
  • Native Workout app: The native Workout app on the Apple Watch can also track mountain biking routes and provide mapping features. It allows you to record rides and view a map of where you’ve been.
komoot app on apple watch for mountain biking
Komoot App

Crash Sensor & Emergency Services Can Save Your Life

The crash sensor feature on the Apple Watch is a valuable tool for mountain bikers, providing an extra layer of safety during dangerous and challenging rides.

This feature is designed to detect when a crash occurs and automatically initiate an emergency contact notification.

apple watch series sos emergency services

I have personally tested it for cycling, including mountain biking, and it works great, alerting me when I crash my bike.

Here’s how the crash sensor works:

  • The Apple Watch crash sensor uses the gyroscope and accelerometer to detect sudden changes in motion and orientation, like when you have a fall or crash.
  • It can even listen to the sound of a crash using the microphone. If a potential fall is detected, the watch will ask if you’re okay, and if you don’t respond, it will automatically call for help and share your location.
  • The hard fall detection feature can be used in conjunction with Specialized’s helmet ANGi sensor, which can detect a crash via the small device that attaches to the fit system.
  • Just keep in mind that the crash sensor needs cell service to call emergency services, so it won’t work in areas without coverage.

Setting up the fall detection (3):

  • Open the Watch app: Open the Watch app on your iPhone.
  • Go to Emergency SOS: Tap the “My Watch” tab, then tap “Emergency SOS”.
  • Turn on Fall Detection: Turn on Fall Detection by toggling the switch next to it. If you’re between 18 and 55, the feature will be set to “Only on during workouts” by default. If you’re 55 or older, the feature will be set to “Always on” by default.
  • Choose your setting: Choose the setting that works best for you. If you choose “Always on”, Fall Detection will be on at all times. If you choose “Only on during workouts”, Fall Detection will only be on when you’ve started a workout.
  • Check your fall history: Falls are automatically recorded in the Health app, unless you reply that you didn’t fall when your Apple Watch asks. To check your fall history, open the Health app on your iPhone, then tap the “Browse” tab. Tap “Other Data”, then tap “Number of Times Fallen”.

Using Emergency SOS:

  • Press and hold the side button on your Apple Watch until the sliders appear.
  • Drag the Emergency Call slider to the right.
  • Your Apple Watch will call the emergency services in your region.
  • If you have set up emergency contacts, they will receive a text message with your current location.

It’s important to note that Emergency SOS may not work in all regions or situations.

Adding Emergency Contacts:

  • Open the Health app on your iPhone.
  • Tap “Medical ID”.
  • Scroll down to “Emergency Contacts”.
  • Tap “Add emergency contact”.
  • Select a contact from your list and choose their relationship to you.
  • Tap “Done” to save the contact.
Apple watch saves a man life during mountain biking
Apple Watch’s Emergency SOS and Fall Detection feature saved a man’s life during a mountain biking accident

Heart Rate Zones

Heart rate zones are a valuable metric for monitoring effort levels and finding sustainable intensity during exercise. With an Apple Watch, you can easily track and analyze your heart rate zones while mountain biking.

viewing heart rate zone on apple watch during mountain biking

To view heart rate zones during a mountain biking workout on an Apple Watch, you can follow these steps:

  • Start a biking workout: Open the Workout app on your Apple Watch and select the biking workout option.
  • Swipe up: While in the biking workout, swipe up on the workout display to access additional metrics.
  • View heart rate zones: Look for the heart rate zone section on the screen. The zones are automatically calculated based on your heart rate data.
  • Monitor heart rate zones: The screen will display your heart rate zone, heart rate, time spent in the current zone, and your average heart rate.
  • Customize metrics: Depending on the version of watchOS and the specific app you’re using, you may have the option to customize the metrics displayed during your workout. This allows you to prioritize heart rate zones and other relevant data.

Calorie Burn Monitoring

Based on our experience using the Apple Watch, the accuracy of calorie burn tracking during mountain biking can vary.

We noticed differences in calorie burn tracking compared to other activities like walking.

This could be because the watch prioritizes speed over heart rate, leading to potential inaccuracies.

calorie burn monitoring with apple watch

However, there are third-party apps like Cyclemeter that specialize in tracking cycling activities, including mountain biking.

These apps offer customizable stats, maps, and graphs, making them a great alternative to the native Workout app.

It’s important to remember that calorie burn tracking depends on individual factors such as weight, fitness level, and intensity of the activity.

While the Apple Watch’s estimates may not be 100% accurate for everyone, consistently tracking your rides can still provide valuable data for monitoring your overall fitness and progress over time.

Splits, Elevation, and Rings during a workout

During a mountain biking workout, the Apple Watch provides three important screens: Splits, Elevation, and Rings.

These screens serve different functions and offer valuable information to enhance your biking experience.

customizing splits and elevation views on apple watch

The Splits screen gives you a clear view of your pace or speed for each mile or kilometer of your workout. You can see your distance covered, average pace, and time for each split, helping you monitor your performance during each segment of your ride.

The Elevation screen provides valuable information about the changes in altitude during your ride, showing the ascent and descent details. You can view elevation data by swiping up on the workout display to access additional metrics.

The Rings screen shows your progress toward your daily activity goals. It offers a comprehensive overview of your session, displaying your heart rate zones, workout duration, active calorie burn, and more.

You can also customize the metrics displayed during your workout depending on the type of workout.

Here are the steps:

  1. Open the Workout app: Open the Workout app on your Apple Watch.
  2. Select the desired activity: Scroll down and select the desired activity, such as cycling.
  3. Access the Workout Views: Tap the “More” button next to the workout that you want to do.
  4. Edit the Workout Views: Scroll down and tap “Workout Views”, then tap “Edit Views”.
  5. Include or remove metrics: Tap “Include” to add a metric to your Workout View or tap the “-” button to remove a metric. You can also tap the “Edit” button next to a metric to edit it.
  6. Reorder metrics: To change the order of the metrics, tap “Reorder”, then touch and hold the “Change Order” button to change the order.
  7. Save changes: Tap “Done” to save your changes.

Pacer and Custom Cycling Workouts

Other handy features designed for mountain bikers are Pacer and custom cycling workouts.

pacer feature on apple watch
  • Pacer: This allows you to set goals (distance and target finish time) and receive real-time updates and alerts to stay on track. It’s like having your own personal coach to keep you motivated and focused.
  • Custom cycling workouts: This allows you to tailor your training sessions to your specific needs. Whether you want to improve your speed, endurance, or climbing ability, the Apple Watch has got you covered. Say goodbye to boring workouts and hello to a more engaging and effective way to reach your biking goals.

To access these features, open the Workout app on your Apple Watch and select the cycling workout option. From there, you can tap the three-dot icon in the top right corner of a cycling workout to access more options, including Pacer and custom workouts.

Which Apple Watch Models Should I Use for Mountain Biking?

There are several models of the Apple Watch that can be used for mountain biking.

Here are some of my recommendations:

Apple Watch Series 7

apple watch series 7 midnight sport band

The Apple Watch Series 7 is the latest model and can track mountain biking activities using the native Workout app or third-party biking apps.

  • It features a larger display, improved durability, and faster charging compared to previous models.
  • Its improved processing power and longer battery life allow you to track and analyze your rides without worrying about running out of juice.
  • The Series 7 also boasts advanced health tracking features, including blood oxygen monitoring and heart rate tracking, providing you with valuable insights into your performance and recovery.

Apple Watch Ultra

apple watch ultra

The Apple Watch Ultra is a more rugged version of the standard series and promises features to get mountain bikers stoked. It is not a separate model, but rather a version of the standard series that is more durable.

Apple Watch SE

apple watch SE

For those on a budget, the Apple Watch SE offers many of the same cycling features as the Series 7 at a more affordable price point.

It includes GPS tracking, heart rate monitoring, and the ability to create custom biking workouts.

While it may not have all the bells and whistles of the latest model, the Apple Watch SE still delivers reliable performance for mountain biking enthusiasts.

Should I use Apple Watch or Garmin?

using apple watch as a bike computer for mountain biking

The Garmin Fenix and Forerunner series are the Apple Watch’s esteemed competitors for mountain biking.

This is due to the fact that it sports many sophisticated features including topographical maps that allow bike-riding enthusiasts to track data and metrics, making it easy to monitor their progress and performance.

The Garmin also comes equipped with a range of useful functions specifically designed for outdoor activities, something which the Apple Watch struggles to match in terms of usability.

On the other hand, one key disadvantage held by the Apple Watch over its rival is its far shorter battery life.

For those wanting an extended ride or even a multi-day mountain biking expedition, the basic Apple Watch will almost certainly not be able to last you multiple days without charging.

Whether one chooses a Garmin watch or an Apple Watch for biking ultimately comes down to personal preference as both have their own unique set of attributes and drawbacks that need to be considered in order for riders to find their ideal watch.

My Verdict

While an Apple Watch may not be specifically designed for mountain biking, it can still track and monitor your rides with impressive accuracy.

But more importantly, the crash detection and emergency services features may save your life.

So, whether you’re shredding down steep trails or conquering challenging terrain, rest assured that your Apple Watch will be there to keep up with your adventurous spirit.

Frequently Asked Questions

No, the Apple Watch does not have built-in support for topo maps. However, you can enhance its capabilities by installing third-party apps like TOPO Maps+ and AllTrails.

These apps offer a wide range of tools such as worldwide elevation heat maps, hill shading, and hybrid maps that combine satellite imagery with contour lines.

You can also enjoy features like offline tracking, route building, location sharing, and elevation data. So, with these apps, you can make the most out of your Apple Watch for outdoor adventures.

There could be several reasons why your Apple Watch is not tracking your bike ride. It is possible that the watch is not properly calibrated or the bike ride activity is not selected in the workout app.

Here are some possible solutions:

  • Make sure route tracking is turned on: On your iPhone, go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services, tap Apple Watch Workout, then tap While Using the App. This will ensure that your Apple Watch is able to track your route during your bike ride.
  • Restart your Apple Watch and iPhone: Restarting your Apple Watch and iPhone can help resolve any issues that may be preventing your bike ride from being tracked.
  • Calibrate your Apple Watch: Calibrating your Apple Watch can help improve the accuracy of your workout and activity tracking. You can calibrate your Apple Watch by following the steps outlined in this Apple Support article: Calibrating your Apple Watch for improved Workout and Activity accuracy.
  • Check your workout settings: Make sure that you have selected the correct workout type (Outdoor Cycling) and that your workout settings are configured correctly. You can also customize your workout views to display the metrics that are most important to you.
  • Update your Apple Watch software: Updating your Apple Watch software to the latest version can help resolve any bugs or issues that may be preventing your bike ride from being tracked.

No, the Apple Watch doesn’t count steps while biking. The motion of the wrist while cycling is almost motionless, so the watch cannot accurately track steps during cycling.

No, having an Apple Watch can eliminate the need for a bike computer. The Apple Watch offers features such as GPS tracking, heart rate monitoring, and activity tracking, making it a suitable alternative for tracking your bike rides.

The accuracy of Apple Watch calorie cycling can vary depending on various factors such as individual differences, activity level, and the specific activity being tracked. While it provides a good estimate, it may not be 100% accurate for everyone.

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