Apple Triathlon – Good First Time Go At Triathlon On the Watch

Custom Multi-Sport Profile RBRBRBRBRB

Apple watch Triathlon Mode – Is it laughable?


A: In a word, “No”. Apple’s new triathlon mode is actually fairly decent. Better than I imagined.

I’ve recently upgraded my Apple Watch 7 (and Series 6) to the public beta version of watchOS 9 which everyone can now get free access to. Apple already announced it had a new triathlon sport profile so I was eager to try it out. My hopes and expectations were set fairly low and I’d imagined a tickbox feature that could simply handle an outdoor triathlon. It’s much better than that. Whilst it can’t and won’t ever match Garmin’s high-end Forerunner 955 triathlon features it certainly is more than good enough for most people. Here’s how.

Triathlon vs Multi-Sport

A triathlon watch has one basic requirement. It must have a single sports profile which can take you through the 3 triathlon disciplines of swimming, biking and running. The Apple Watch does that…and more besides.

A multi-sport watch is pretty much the same thing except the sports don’t have to be swimming, biking and running. It could include canoeing or more than 3 sports. Whilst the Apple Watch can NOT include canoeing in a multi-sport profile it can handle multiple variations of swim/bike/run and that was the first thing to impress me.

The Scope of Apple’s Multi-Sport Offering

The Apple Workout app comes pre-loaded with the following multisport profiles

  • (Outdoor) Triathlon
  • (Duathlon) Run-Bike-Run
  • (Aquabike) Swim-Bike
  • Bike-Run
  • (Aquathlon) Swim-Run
  • Run-Swim-Run (Whatever that’s called!)

I’m not going to name any names but for an out-of-the-box set of multisport features, that’s better than some of the existing offerings from the market-leading watch brands.

It gets better.

Apple also allows you to create and store custom multisport profiles. From my own sporty experience, the two main uses for this are for triathlon races that include an indoor sport, usually a pool swim, or for special kinds of triathlon workouts called ‘bricks’ where, usually, running and cycling are repeated many times.

A cursory play with Apple’s abilities suggests that there are limitless possibilities of combinations of the following sports in a custom multisport profile

  • Indoor and/or outdoor swimming (pool and OWS)
  • Indoor and/or outdoor biking
  • Indoor and/or outdoor running

So you really can create a limitless repeat of Run+Bike or you can create a triathlon that starts with a Pool swim.

What’s Also Covered

Some important aspects of individual sports are also covered. As an example, Apple lets you specify a custom pool length – my local pool is 36m long…it’s really not that unusual and there are many pools that are not 25m/50m.

  • Full transition automation – progression from one sport to the next is automatic. There is no need to touch the watch until the finish line. The digital crown is used to scroll through displays and a nice touch is that the top/focus metric remains constant across screens.
  • Alerts – add alerts for heart rate, time and distance to any or all sports
  • Personalisation – the screens for each sport can be personalised So for swimming, there is a heart rate zone screen and an activity ring screen that can be toggled on/off, then there are two metrics screens where you can choose various heart rate or speed metrics. Running can show elevation or the new running power metric. (images below)
  • Edit – custom multisport profiles can be changed after they have been created.
  • Goals – for example, set distance or calorie goals
  • Progression from one sport to the next is automatic.

What’s missing?

In terms of the sports that are covered and the mechanism to combine them, then Apple has covered all the bases for 95% of triathletes.

Garmin users are able to add non-run/bike/swim sports such as CANOEING or add specific kinds of sports profiles like TRAIL RUNNING or ENDLESS POOLs/VASA Trainers into their multi-sport profiles. Those Garmin features are highly niche and a mass-market product like Apple’s Watch can’t be expected to cover them.

Similarly, high-end Garmin triathlon watches let you choose from a huge number of metrics based on the core components of heart rate, distance, speed/pace and time.

Garmin also gives you the possibility of adding weird and wonderful metrics like bike power, muscle oxygen or interstitial glucose, These require the connectivity of specialist sensors and Apple may never do this kind of thing. This will always be Garmin’s part of the market.

The Apple workout app does support Bluetooth chest straps added to the Watch but does not support bike power meters. Bike Power meters ARE however supported on the Apple Watch BUT ONLY by an app that makes the connection to the power meter like iSmoothRun does. (#Confusing)


Apple has not produced the ‘best ever’ triathlon watch for triathletes. It never will.

More importantly, it never intended to.

Committed multisport athletes will generally choose Garmin’s triathlon watches. Garmin simply gives the flexibility to support complex training and racing needs.

However, for Garmin, that’s a relatively small part of the overall market for triathlon watch tech. Let’s say 95% of people who have completed a triathlon/duathlon do not have a bike power meter. Probably every single one of those people would have been fine to use an Apple Watch.

You can chip away at my argument and find more use cases where the Apple Watch isn’t quite right. The bottom line is that the Apple Watch now has the potential to take away VERY LARGE portions of the market for watches for triathletes. Polar, Coros and Suunto should definitely be worried and Garmin may eventually be significantly affected by this move.


Q: I have an iPhone and want a smartwatch but I also might do a triathlon or two. Is the Apple Watch now a good choice?

A: Yes. Any Apple Watch apart from Series 3 will be great,








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