Apple Watch CyclingSource: iMore / Russell Holly

When COVID-19 struck, and folks were stuck indoors, workout equipment flew off the shelves. This includes bikes of every quality level, many of which are still challenging to get today. The cycling world has a lot of very specialized hardware for collecting data while you ride. A heart rate monitor for your chest, cadence, and power sensors for the bike, and a computer to give you speed, elevation, navigation, and tons more. It's all excellent hardware, improving every year, but it's expensive and incredibly specialized.

And if I'm honest, after multiple 100+ mile rides across a variety of conditions, I'd really rather just use my phone and my watch. The things we've seen from the Apple Watch Series 6, watchOS 7 and iOS 14 will make that choice significantly easier for me to make.

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New features, same convenience

Cycling on watchOS 7Source: Apple

The most significant advantage to using my Apple Watch over anything else on my bike is the software options I have available to me. Right now, I use Strava for everything because it grabs the information I care about and has its own fun social network with other cyclists. But I have so many different options for tracking my cycling data through dozens of other apps, and very soon, Apple's own software will be a competing option.

Apple's fitness tracker has had a cycling mode for a while, but it's a little on the basic side. It grabs the heart rate, distance, speed, and some clever stuff even after you've stopped recording an activity like what your heart rate cooldown time was. It's good stuff, but missing things like elevation and a way to at-a-glance see your average speed over time. And, of course, Apple Maps for cyclists is... lacking, to put it nicely.

Apple Watch Series 6 offers a hardware pulse oximeter and altimeter, which means the native fitness tracker from Apple will have more information on your oxygen absorption level and accurate elevation tracking. These are both super handy to have, and while some cycling apps for Apple Watch do offer forms of elevation tracking, this will be more accurate and native to the Apple Fitness software.

From a software perspective, Apple Maps Cycling Mode is being built from the ground up to be safe and extremely accurate. It's being released city by city so Apple can get it right the first time without endangering the lives of any cyclists, something Google even today could do a little better with its mapping software. As much as I love community-made bike routes when I'm planning out a longer ride, knowing Apple has put some thought into my safety when I just want to get across town is going to offer a nontrivial amount of peace of mind.

Upgrading seems like an obvious choice for me

Apple Watch SeriesSource: Apple

It's not immediately clear whether the new hardware and software offered with the Apple Watch Series 6 will tempt me to ditch Strava altogether and live entirely in the Apple software experience. Still, there's no doubt this combination will make my feel safer and enjoy more data without having to rely on an entirely separate set of gadgets from the ones I enjoy every day.

And in many ways, that's the whole point for Apple. Being able to make the Apple Watch feel like a companion for everything you do instead of just an extension of your phone, something capable of motivating you as well as assisting you, is what makes the overall experience worth investing in at all.

New colors and capabilities

Apple Watch Series 6

Latest and greatest

While it isn't a massive upgrade over the Series 5, the latest Apple Watch adds blood oxygen sensing, an always-on Altimeter, U1 chip, and comes in some flashy new colors. If you just have to have the latest looks, then go for the upgrade.

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