How eBike riders can enhance their fitness and safety with an Apple Watch
December 18, 2022
Justin Christopher

If you're new to eBike riding, you may have noticed the huge variety of accessories that can enhance your experience - mirrors, lights, water bottles and so on. But one of the best accessories for riding electric bicycles doesn't actually fit on the bike at all, it's a wearable, like an Apple Watch worn on the rider's wrist.

Confused? Don't be. Since the introduction of the Watch, Apple has steadily added features for health, fitness, and safety; and with the introduction of watchOS 8, some of the new features are aimed squarely at bicycle riders, including eBikes. Let's take a look at some of the features of the Apple Watch that might interest eBike riders.

Detecting bicycle riding automatically

Older versions of the Apple Watch would recognize walking or jogging and automatically prompt the user to begin activity tracking. With more recent updates, this also applies to bicycle riding, including eBike riding. The watch uses GPS, heart rate, and movement data to know when you're riding a bicycle, automatically, and prompts the wearer to start workout tracking by pressing record. Pretty slick.

Use maps and other tools with Apple Watch cellular, even when your phone isn't nearby

If you're out on an eBike ride, you may not want to bring a full size mobile phone with you. The cellular versions of the Apple Watch have their own LTE connection built in, so they don't need WiFi. Assuming you have a cellular signal, you can use navigation tools like maps, and even send and receive SMS text messages, or make phone calls - no iPhone required.

Auto start and stop at stoplights and stop signs

If you're riding for fitness, you may want to carefully monitor your riding performance. It's hard to get a true picture when you're constantly starting and stopping at stoplights, which affects total active time. With watchOS 8, you can auto start and stop your activities at lights and stop signs, without having to interact with the watch at all. This option can fix your average speed, which might otherwise be wrong due to time sitting at stoplights, too.

Fall detection for bicycle riders

No one wants to think about crashing their eBike, but it happens to the best of us. While it's best to always ride with others (especially in remote locations), sometimes a solo ride is inevitable. When you're riding alone, an Apple Watch can provide an extra measure of safety using the built-in fall detection feature. 

With watchOS 8 (available for recent model watches) fall detection now extends to bicycle rides (it only worked for walking/running previously.) In the event of a serious fall, the watch can call for emergency help automatically, even if the rider was unable to, and can message a friend or family member as well.

Tracking caloric expenditure

Many riders who are trying to lose or maintain their weight may be recording caloric intake from food and drink, as well as calorie expenditure from exercise.

Previous versions of the Apple Watch could provide an estimate of calories burned, but suffered from accuracy problems, because the watch was aware the rider was "cycling", but not that they were riding an eBike specifically.

With the introduction of Apple WatchOS 8, there is improved accuracy of the calories burned estimate when the riding is on an eBike, because the watch considers heart rate and GPS data to figure how how much of your movement is from leg power vs. how much is from an electric motor on your eBike, instead of assuming that all movement is from your legs alone.

Monitor your heart rate, without wearing a heart rate strap

Before wrist-mounted devices, riders who wanted to measure their heart rate needed to wear a heart rate strap around their chest, which isn't particularly comfortable, and can slip out of place while riding.

Apple Watch and other similar devices can monitor and record your heart rate through sensors on your wrist, with no requirements to wear a heart rate strap.

Apple Watch can read your cycling accomplishments out loud

Do you like to receive some encouragement while you're out riding? It's now possible for Apple Watch to monitor your stats and then verbalize them when you hit certain milestones: think "you're averaging 10 miles per hour" or "congratulations, you've closed your rings for today."

Apple Watch downsides for eBike riders

Overall, the Apple Watch is a really slick accessory for eBike owners. It isn't perfect, however.

One of the main negatives about riding with an Apple Watch - some riders might prefer to see stats and data on the handlebar, not the wrist. With a wrist-mounted device, the rider has to remove their hand from the handlebar to look at it. 

It's possible to mount an Apple Watch to the handlebar without difficulty, but doing so means many features won't work, like heart rate monitoring, because they rely on the watch being worn on the wrist. This makes the Apple Watch an interesting add-on, but not really a viable replacement for monitoring speed, distance, time, and other stats on the handlebar.


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