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Apple Ultra 2: A Watch For Cycling?

Apple’s premium-level watch on a cycling website? Well considering the cyclist-focused metrics and inclusions in the latest Apple Watch Ultra 2, yes, absolutely!

Apple recently launched watch 0S10, the latest operating system for their ever-popular watch lineup, and the first with dedicated cycling features. Before we look closely at the watch, let’s look back at the story so far.

First released in April 2015, Apple’s watch soon became the world’s best-selling wearable device with more than four million units lapped up within three months of the launch. Since then, an estimated 120 million of the traditional Series 1 to 8 Apple watches have been sold. 

In September last year the world’s largest technology company went head-to-head with other major players in the lucrative wearables space – namely Garmin, Polar and Suunto – with the launch of the Apple Watch Ultra, and the Ultra 2 is now available.

Apple added a number of new cycling-specific metrics to the watch’s operating system including Bluetooth connectivity for power meters, speed sensors, and cadence sensors for cyclists, along with new mapping capabilities, and waypoints for other outdoor enthusiasts such as MTB riders and bushwalkers. 

A subsequent software update revealed even more advanced features, the standout being the watch’s ability to estimate FTP, or Functional Threshold Power, a reading of the maximum estimated power a rider can hold for an hour. 

FTP From A Watch?

To estimate the user’s FTP the watch is synched with a power meter on a bike or indoor smart trainer. Once the user has undertaken at least five rides of ten minutes each, the estimated FTP will be shown. This figure, an Apple rep told us over a Zoom tutorial, will be re-calculated with each synched ride with the results stored and FTP estimate updated monthly. 

How accurate is the reading? We put this to Apple and while they didn’t quote a number they said the feature has been extensively tested on indoor trainers, outside in real-world conditions, and with various riders. The bottom line – they were “very pleased with the overall results.”

The Closer Look At The Ultra 2

Some of the cycling specific metrics offered via the Apple Watch and iPhone screen.

Unboxed, the unique sports straps attached, the watch was charged and synched with an iPhone. Relatively straightforward, as most tech seems to be these days, the synching process was straightforward and within around 10 minutes the watch was on the wrist and ready to go.

As a long-time user of Garmin’s Fenix 6, the first thing I noticed about the Ultra is the screen size … it looks huge, not so much across but particularly in the portrait orientation. With the screen size noticeably larger than the Garmin, it’s interesting to note the Apple Watch is considerably lighter – 61g compared to 72g. Note that this is not a comparo between Apple and Garmin, but I will include some observations due to wearing their their devices for some time (no pun) now.

Synching the watch (and linked iPhone) to a power meter or other device such as a heart rate sensor is a simple affair …  updated Workout app in watchOS 10 adds more advanced features and will now automatically connect to Bluetooth-enabled accessories. There’s now also the option for Apple Watch cycling metrics to be viewed in greater and more expanded detail on an iPhone screen.

Other metrics include: Current Power, Average Power, Segment, Split, and Interval Power. Cadence metrics include Current Cadence, Average Cadence, Segment, Split, and Interval Cadence. 

During testing we found the watch and its wide ranging screen data options to be super helpful, especially for gravel cycling off the beaten track.

In addition to this, when a workout is started from the watch, it automatically shows up as a Live Activity on your iPhone’s Lock Screen. 

Tapping the Live Activity will take over the entire display of your iPhone, so the same metrics that are on your Apple Watch will be streamed to your paired iPhone, which you can safely and securely mount to your handlebars.

Metrics on the iPhone display are large and easy to read, and there are buttons for Pause, Mark Segment, and Menu. 

Day To Day Life

After a few days wearing the Apple Watch Ultra it’s fair to say I’ve become addicted to it. Each day another more, function or convenience factor arises – the latest was the way it interacts with an IPhone. Set a wake-up alarm on your phone and the watch will gently vibrate to wake you. There’s also the ability to tap the screen to snooze or switch off the iPhone alarm. 

Other useful features are in-depth sleep tracking, an inbuilt dual frequency GPS, brilliantly accurate compass (for hikers or boaters), a handle track back mode, ECG mode and even a depth gauge for SCUBA or free divers. 

Summing Up

Build quality, design, the input buttons and screen, as you might expect, are all flawless. The watch oozes style and class, and looks, feels and operates accordingly. Subtle touches include vivid red night mode, automatically detecting a bike ride (or run, walk or even kayak workout), and crash and fall detection. 

Whether you wear it to simply tell the time, or feel like spending hours deeply delving into the countless modes and features, we can safely say this is peak smart watch for cyclists, and all others are now playing catchup.

The latest Apple Watch Ultra is available from Apple stores and dealers.

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“…The watch oozes style and class, and looks, feels and operates accordingly…”


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