Strava has had some pretty bad press over the last year or so. Stories of riders and walkers being run off trails, short cuts and racing lines being cut into twisty singletrack trails and your mates bragging about being first up or down a hill – all these things are giving a great riding tool some bad press and are probably your first thoughts when someone asks you if you use Strava.
I steered clear of it for a while, mainly because I am not the fittest or fastest rider and I didn’t want to see myself at the bottom of leader boards and beat myself up for taking 10 mins longer than the next guy to get around a loop or to climb a hill. Then one day it clicked for me.
Firstly I wasn’t as slow as I thought I was going to be and I found I was not as bad at some of my local climbs either. Strava allows you measure your performance along segments, up, down or across and it allows you define those segments too. Each time you ride a defined segment it will let you know if you have improved and award you with a small trophy. You can ‘race’ others if you wish (and it can be useful to see how you stand up) but you can also keep your activities and segments private and monitor your own performance.
This is great if you are setting yourself goals or training for an event and want to monitor your progress. But Strava is much more than this.
As with other sites (Garmin, Endomondo) Strava can keep track of all of your data, letting you know how much time you spent have riding, how far, how high you have climbed etc. You can compare you activity with your friends by adding them and following them through your Strava account.
A feed of activity will allow you to see how much your friends are riding and where they are riding. This is particularly useful if you see they have ridden a new trail or found a new downhill run and you want to find out where it is.
This brings me on to the Segment Search feature. Whether you want to find a challenging hill to climb or simply find somewhere new to ride, the Strava Segment Search allows you to zoom into an area of map and find new Strava segments in your area, or if you are travelling it will help you scope out new trails in a new location.
My curiosity with Strava has made me work harder to improve my time up hills and it has encouraged me to let go of the brakes a little more when going down hill. While I am not a trophy hunter or obsessed in anyway with times and speed, I still like to compare my riding with those around me and the result is a fitter and more focused rider.
So don’t be afraid of Strava or telling people that you use Strava, use it as much or as little as you like and be realistic about your abilities and goals. But be warned, you will find a competitive edge you didn’t know you had and will soon be looking for hill climbs to conquer and segment times to beat, just remember there can only be 1 King Of the Mountain and he maybe cheating!