Stand up for Strava

Where the wild things are
Where the wild things are

I thought it was time someone made a stand for Strava. We see increasing amounts of bad press about speeding cyclists in public places or even the daft need for speed cameras on bike trails. And a blame of sorts is often landed on Strava.

I wont and can’t deny that Strava doesn’t allow and promote competition with its Cups and KOM Crowns; but surely these cyclists are competitive by nature and some how they would find a way of racing no matter what? Strava allows them to seek out other riders times and segments – yes. But if those segments are on shared paths and parks surely Strava is helping by highlighting where the problems are and who the riders are that cause the probelm?

Its an easy target, as are cyclists in general when it comes to public spaces – we should just ride sensibly or away from these locations and the problem wouldn’t exist.  Talk of banning or closing down the app is ridiculous in my opinion, the authorities should work with Strava to target the offending cyclists.

There are some negative sides to Strava, or the way it is used but the benefits of the app and the usefulness is far greater.

The Strava Effect

This article on SingleTracks covers it quite well. Strava has taken the soul out of cycling in some ways and it bugs me to see a bunch of cyclists at the end of a ride all checking their phones for their “results”. How many new PBs, any KOMs etc?

There is nothing wrong with this per se, but when it becomes the focus of conversation after a ride it really bugs me.  “I’ve hit my climbing challenge this month” “How many miles you done now?” “I beat you up that climb by 4 seconds”…  Yawn!

How about we talk about how great it was to be out together? How about we we talk about the stunning views from the top of the mountain? How about we talk about how technical that climb was and laugh at how someone fell in a puddle? How about we talk about when are we doing this gain? How about we talk?

Its not quite as bad as all that but it does annoy me.

And please don’t get me started on the constant shares on Facebook! Why?

ooh Well done mate you road your bike today.

Strava and Me

Since signing up to Strava I have become a little addicted to it myself, but I rarely talk about it or my achievements (or lack of). This doesn’t mean I’m not competitive and don’t strive to become quicker its just means that Strava is a personal thing for me.

I don’t really mind if you are quicker, though I am interested in how you manage to go so much quicker than I do.

“sometimes it is nice to smell the flowers, doesn’t mean you can’t measure how far you went to do it” – Nik

I rarely sign up to challenges either – If I do its to motivate myself as Strava gives a handy prompt to let you know how you are doing on a distance or climbing challenge. Not to compare my progress with others – it helps me keep track of my exercise, my progress on regular routes and gives me a gentle reminder to get out more.

Check out Mr Morzine’s thoughts on the same subject.

I am also a map fan so love looking at where I’ve been and where I could have been. Strava highlights segments and I have used the segment explorer on many occasions to plan routes – this ride was created using the Segment Explorer. Not so I can smash someones time, but so I can see what that little orange wiggly line is like in the middle of those woods!

You can use strava for this too
Smelling the flowers

Benefits of Strava

When I see others have been out and I haven’t it prompts me to ride. I check Strava to see where a few of my more adventurous biking friends have been to see if they have found some new trails. Now I want to go out and I know where to go!

Recording routes and trails is vital when exploring especially if you are far from home or want to easily explain the location to a friend – “Have a look on my Strava.” is a pretty common element of many a mountain bike conversation.

As mentioned above its also helpful for exploring new routes using the Segment Explorer…

Basically you get out of something whatever you put in – the same goes for Strava.  A number of people I know have given up on Strava as it was ruling their rides, I wonder why they let this happen and why fun biking and Strava can’t coexist for them and for the media as whole?

Oh well, I guess that’s their problem.


If its not on Strava…

Genesis CDF Cyclocross Bike
Did this ride really happen?

…did the ride really happen?

I realised this last week that I am a Strava Addict. Yes I admit it.

I didn’t really doubt it and let me get this straight, its not that I am addicted t o chasing down other peoples times and climbs. I am much more realistic than that. I ride for pleasure and fun, and ONLY OCCASIONALLY do I feel the need to try and beat someones time.

Last week my Garmin bike GPS failed to connect to my computer meaning that I lost a ride to the oblivion of the internal memory.  Now let me explain, this was only a small pedal out at lunch time not even 10 miles, but I enjoyed it and I rode down a section of hill on my cyclocross bike that I normally do on my MTB. I was desperate to see how the times compared as I felt like I was moving! This was the first reason I was disappointed, secondly I wanted to show that the CX bike doesn’t stop me riding off road and doesn’t make me a roadie.

Its not a road ride

Thirdly, I do like to keep an eye on my exercise and while I know full well I went out and I took a photo (above) to commemorate the occasion, my Strava account doesn’t know!  I can’t add manual entries – everyone knows they don’t count!

After much searching on the internet (Googling as we have become accustomed to calling it) I found that i was not alone in my pain. While this doesn’t appear to be a known fault as such, its seems to just happen to these devices to some people. It could be a mechanical issue with the USB port – I don’t know.

What next, a new one? Certainly buying gadgets is great, but the Garmin actually works otherwise.  I know I can use a card reader and take the activities off the device microSD card. Excellent! Problem solved. I can ride again.

So two days later I rode and rode and rode (and took more photos) and got up to a fantastic high speed on a little road descent. Can’t wait to see how I compare with others and my previous times!

ARGH!  I didn’t have the device set up to record to the microSD card! Another ride lost to oblivion – that actually didn’t happen and the only record is another photo.

I have now fixed the issue and rides will be recorded to the microSD card from now onwards. And I have saved myself buying a new Garmin!

More new bike bits it is then…

Strava – Don’t be Afraid

The Gear Factor Strava - Ride Details
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.

The Gear Factor Strava - My Rides
Previously I had been loading and recording my rides on the Garmin website, I still do from time to time, but this summer I decided to start storing them on Strava.

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.

The Gear Factor Strava - Segment Search
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!

Garmin Edge 800

Garmin Edge 800

edge 800

A bike computer is a must! No doubt about it you have to have a bike computer.

Whether you want to track how far you’ve been, how long you’ve been out, your average speed, your top speed, the height you climbed or compare any of this data to how you did last time or if you need a map to check your location or find the way. Every cyclist will want some of this data at some point, I love my gadgets so I bought the best I could at the time, the Garmin Edge 800. 2 years later here’s what I think…

My main reason for buying was to navigate my local countryside. Going off road and off piste can be a little daunting  at times, but having a good old OS map at your fingertips makes this so much easier. Having a map that isn’t going to be blown away by the wind or turned to pulp by the rain is also an advantage. There have been many occasions where this has helped locally but its also a great tool for getting out and riding less familiar places or trying to follow vague instructions by other riders.

For a longtime I was attaching the Garmin 800 to the bars and simply using it to see how far I’d ridden, or if i was going to be back home in time for tea; it was interesting on group rides to know how far through the planned 25 mile route we had to go for instance. Eventually I became more interested in seeing much I had climbed or what my average speed was. It became more important to know that I was improving.

Recording this data on the Garmin Connect website is useful as you can set distance goals etc or simply collate all the info to see how far you have ridden in a month or a year etc.

I don’t yet use a heart rate monitor or measure cadence but I’m think the former is something I will get quite soon, this might help to improve my fitness but I must admit it is something I don’t fully understand and I don’t want to gather data that will mean nothing to me.

The emergence of Strava has increased my usage from a training perspective as now I can upload my rides to Strava and compare my performance with other riders or check that my time around a trail is at least somewhere near what the masses are doing. Look out for a future post on Strava.

The recording of route data is useful for my mountain bike club ( as we record and upload routes for discussion as potential club rides and for sharing after a ride to show those who didn’t attend where we went.

Many people are happy just collecting data and have a simple GPS device, but if you are like me and ride a fair bit on your own and like to ride new spots, my advice when buying a bike computer is buy the best you can and to get one with maps. Garmin have a great range and I am considering upgrading to the newer model with some advanced sharing and uploading features.


When I purchased my Edge 800, I bought a bundle with an OS map on for UK exploring, when traveling abroad these maps can cost you a lot for short trips – don’t worry there is an open source community out there that uploads and updates maps from around the world and I have used these for Spain and France with great success. If you are interested in learning about this please get in touch and we will post some info here.

This weekend I gave the Garmin a good bit of use riding two new spots in South Wales. The first was with a friend of mine and I was able to record the route so I can go back again without a guide; and the second was a solo ride on the edge of the Brecon Beacons. After creating and downloading a route GPX on I was able to upload to me Garmin and follow the guidelines on a route that I had planned and detailed from the comfort of a desk and a computer.  Two half days of riding were possible on one charge of the internal battery – with plenty left for another ride or two of similar lengths.

The screen can be configured to show you whatever data you are interested in – speed, distance, temperature, coordinates etc – or a map or chart showing height gained. You can even set up a virtual partner and see visually how far behind or ahead of a defined pace you are.  The possibilities and data are endless.

Its no understatement when I say that I think this is one piece of gear that I am not sure I could manage without – for all of the above reasons.

If you want to take a look at some of the more technical details and specifications visit the Garmin site here.