GPS, Ride Mapping, and Competing With Yourself

I’ve made it clear in posts over the last year or so that I have settled into a style of cycling that suits me. I like to hang with the B-level riders. I’m not going to knock myself out to keep up with the strong guys on the Sunday morning club ride.

At the same time, I am an almost obsessive record keeper. I have four years’ worth of rides on Bike Journal, and can compare how I’m doing this year with how I’ve done in previous years. I can also compare how I’ve done on a favorite ride compared to how I might have ridden it a month, or six months, or a year ago.

But record keeping has gotten a lot more sophisticated over the last four years. Now, you have to have a GPS device that collects data during a ride and can be downloaded to your computer. Much more detailed information is available than had been before.

The big new player on the scene is Strava. It presents itself as an easy way to track your rides and collect all sorts of interesting numbers. Not just the ride time, average speed, maximum speed, etc. — heck, my $12 bike computer does all that — but Strava does so much more, and it displays the results in a colorful, attractive layout.

Want to see how today’s ride went? Here’s how Strava shows it to you*:

(Click on these pictures to enlarge them for easier reading.)

If you want to see how well you stack up against other people who’ve ridden the same route, or maybe just a particular segment of your route, you can do that, too:

Not to be outdone, the ride mapping site I occasionally use — Map My Ride — has added segments, too. It offers a lot of the same data as Strava, but since it only started doing that recently, it doesn’t have as many comparisons available — yet.

Now, in order to get all this information, you have to have a GPS device, from Garmin, or an iPhone or Android smartphone, or a Blackberry. Well, that counts me out. Don’t have ’em, don’t particularly want ’em.

But…I did a nice 19.2-mile ride after work this afternoon, and really felt good. That long weekend ride must have built up my legs, because today they were generating some power that’s not usually there. I finished with an average speed of 16.6 mph — about 1.5 mph faster than I typically do that route. Maybe if I was more diligent about comparing my times on various routes — or segments within routes — that would help me raise the level of my performance. But I’m not sure we’ll ever know, because purchasing those items is out of my budget for awhile.

And really, does all this competition that the data sets up really offer any benefits? I can’t answer that, but maybe our readers can. What do you think? Do you use Strava? Map My Ride for GPS? Like ’em? Hate ’em?

*Screen grabs from Strava and Map My Ride websites.



  1. redddesign says

    I use a number of different sites.

    Strava: general competition with other folks. I follow a number of people on there, including others from my club, and it’s neat to compare rides that we do together. Or to find some climbs or routes I wouldn’t have known about.

    Garmin Connect: I don’t really use this site other than to show other people my performance (if you don’t have a Strava login you can’t see HR/Speed/etc)

    Training Peaks: I use this app mostly for my own metrics, as it has the most complete stats on my workouts. I also work with a coach and he goes in there and adds my workouts.

  2. says

    I use Endomondo and love it. There are certain aspects that can boost excitement or motivation quite a bit – last year there were several times that I went out just to improve my rank. It also replaces a lot of pencil and paper tracking, which I’d never do – now it’s instant.

    It’s nothing required, just fun to have around.

  3. says

    No interest, if I didn’t want to keep mileage for “maint. tasks” on the bicycles, I’d NOT even use a bike computer! I do keep the stats on Bike Journal, it makes it easy to see when “consumables” should be replaced. LOL, besides, why would I want to “depress” myself by comparing my lowly stats against others! πŸ˜‰

  4. jwendtrr says

    I have had a Garmen unit for years now so it’s easy to upload workouts. I have the data in excel for all the rides so I know how many miles I do on each bike plus a more accurate formula for calories burned.

    I am not sold on any particular GPS site I have tried. I have dabbled with runkeeper, mapmyride, ridewithgps, bikejournal and others. While I do like the possible rewards from Endomondo and earndit, I am a big fan of nuride. Not sure where it all covers, but in Austin I use a lot of the $5 HEB grocery coupons and free Firebowl CafΓ© entrees.

    I just started using Strava, and I have noticed that it can make me go a little faster in the segments. Even if I am having a normal commute, I can try to beat a personal record on one of the shorter segments. I guess if I knew more people I would be more into the competing with others. I did do more exercising so I could max out on daily points when I was in an earndit challenge. (won a pair of shoes from that)

    The biggest reason I keep track of all my miles however is really to have some hard data on how many miles I bike instead of drive. In the last 13 months I have avoided putting almost seven thousand miles on my car and I am able to justify getting new bike gear based on my much money I am saving. πŸ˜‰

  5. says

    Google Spreadsheet: To track all my miles, including commuting. I also track wear and tear of components, so I have a good idea when they need to be replaced. And I also track cold-weather gear usage between winter seasons.

    Bikejournal: A backup to the spreadsheet to track miles. One of my cycling clubs used this primarily. It is nice to see how you fare against other folks (overall miles only). I may discontinue logging here because not too many folks have been logging here lately.

    Google MyTracks: Used it to log a couple of rides. Ok, but really lacking in comparison to other GPS options out there.

    MapMyRide: I used their smartphone app to log about 40 rides before I had a GPS unit. App works great, but I kept noticing that the average mph was always 2-3 mph lower than my bicycle computer. The downfall of mapmyride is that you can not export your workout data into TCX format. Hence, whatever goes into their site can only be used there and nowhere else. It is really a bummer because I have some really memorable rides in there that I would love to export.

    GarminConnect: I bought a used Garmin unit a couple of months ago and I started logging there. Website is easy to use and you can track workouts, including running and swimming, and a ton of other stuff. It is a good way to have a history of all your rides for posterity. I have not really used the site to its fullest.

    Strava: I started looking and logging here after one of the bikenoob guest posters recommended it (Jeff Hemmel). Wow! You can log and track your workouts, and also analyze your performance (power, etc). The distinguishing feature are the segment competitions. You know that well-known sprint point in your ride when your entire group goes nuts? Now you can see how you fare, not just in that group ride, but against every rider that has ever done that ride. Of course, there are major bragging rights for the folks that conquer the segments. This feature alone has made our morning rides a lot more fun because in every given morning you have a choice to try to conquer the segments. That feature encourages you to push the envelope just to see if you got the segment. We even have taken to yelling: “Strava up!”, that way folks know there is a segment coming up πŸ˜€

    Cadence Bicycle Computer: I run this for backup purposes and to track overall ride miles right from my house. I don’t start the GPS unit until the meetup place. So running the bicycle computer allows me to track this.

  6. Jeff A says

    A few days late by the time I read this. I don’t have a GPS, but I log into an Excel spreadsheet primarily, then put that data into MapMyRide, where I have actually sat down and mapped out rides. I also put info on BikeJournal, since the club I joined this year asked that we do this. That’s when I searched for the BikeNoob, and immediately blushed over my paltry mileage. But I still get on the bike and go.

  7. says

    I use the Strava app on my iphone and really like it. You get a clear, easy to follow screen that really does help me think about my riding/hiking. Plus, I like seeing what others are doing on these same routes and finding new routes. I’m a data person. Being able to see the breakdown really does motivate me to do more. I’m just starting out on the bike and I’m probably making better gains than if I weren’t tracking it. I haven’t found a way to list all of my attempts on a segment – that would be really cool.

    • Ramon H says

      When you select a “segment page”, there is a button there called “my results”, right under “full leaderboard”. That shows you all of your attempts πŸ˜€

  8. jeffh113 says

    It’s probably obvious from Ramon’s comment, but I love Strava. Use it to track my daily rides, enjoy seeing the map of exactly where I rode, but also have to admit I like seeing how I measure up against other people on certain segments or climbs. It’s also a great way to find riding areas if you’re in an unfamiliar area. Just got back from North Carolina, and I was able to find a number of great climbs just by searching on Strava. Only real downside that I can see is that, at least with my iPhone, a 3-hour ride will drain the battery almost completely. And trust me, nothing bums a Strava geek out more than doing really well on a ride, only to discover your battery died and you missed some of it!

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