In Defense Of Strava

Dan Colvin
Dan Colvin

I’ve tweaked Strava a few times for data overkill, but the other day I heard from Bike Noob reader Dan Colvin. Dan pointed out that Strava has its uses, and can come in handy for any rider. I asked him to turn his comments into a guest post. Here it is.

For better or worse, Strava changes your rides. In an extreme case, the ride can become all about trying to capture the King Of the Mountain on some segment. Or multiple segments.

Personally, I don’t care for rides that become all about that, but I am OK with pushing a segment if it just occurs naturally. It might occur to me, for instance, that I am really working hard into a fierce headwind going south on an out-and-back, and maybe I should back off a bit. Then, when I turn around and give it everything I’ve got on the northbound leg through a particular segment, see if I can improve my standing there.

Or, I will remember that there is a particular climb on today’s route for which I’ve never recorded a particularly good time. Maybe I will push it really hard and see what I can do with it. More subtly, there is the idea that friends are watching – can’t turn around now, how will that look? Can’t hunt arrowheads, got to finish strong. This can be both a blessing and a curse.

Then, there is the after. I rarely take more than a glance at the Garmin as I turn it off after a ride. I wait to get home and see if the ride was as good (or as poor) as I thought it was. It is sort of like Christmas morning there, as I upload the ride, give it a name, and wait to see if my time on some particular segment was as good as I hoped it was. There have been times where I was just trying to post a good time on some segment and discovered I had a KOM. Or a top 10. Other times, I’ve thought I climbed something really well, then discovered that it wasn’t as good as some previous attempt I had made.

Once the ride is up there, friends start to notice, comment and/or give kudos. On any given day, someone I know is posting some cool ride from some other part of the area. Or, I will see that some friend who normally rides in town was out on my local roads. Pretty cool. Not so cool, on the other hand, on days when I didn’t ride, but see that others did.

The really cool thing is when I run across some of those same names in the pro ranks. A number of the up and coming pros, particularly the ones who’ve come through the Livestrong-Bontrager team, have spent their off-seasons training in the Austin area. So, they show up on many of the local segments. Of course, there is no way to tell whether they had a headwind or a tailwind, or if they had a clue they were on a segment, but it is still fun to think, “Hey, the next guy in front of me on this segment is currently racing in the Tour of California.”

I’ve only used the free stuff on Strava. From what I’ve seen, the upgrade is pretty reasonable, and I have friends who use it to tell all sorts of stuff about the training efforts of their rides. I guess knowing that I was able to sustain an average of X number of watts over a 10 minute period today, and it was so many watts higher than what I had been able to average three months ago would be nice. But, it would only mean something if they were measured watts instead of estimated.  I guess you need that for the Suffer Score as well. I’m not sure I need a computer to tell me how much suffering I did.

It is helpful to have all of my rides for the year out there. I don’t have to track mileage or average speed or try to remember where I rode on a specific date. I can just refer back to it. It also helps if I am trying to remember a particular route, or figure out how long a route would be.

A friend who has recently been cycling in various parts of the country tells me that Strava is somewhat of a regional thing. In some parts of the country, it hasn’t achieved critical mass, so there are few, if any, segments established. With no segments and few other riders, there is much less benefit to using Strava. In other areas, Strava is well established and not being on Strava can make you somewhat of an outlier.

Our area, Central Texas, seems to be one in which a very large number of riders are on Strava. I start to feel a certain kinship with riders whose names I see on the segments I ride regularly.

All in all, it has been a mixed bag. I wouldn’t say that it is for everyone, but I have enjoyed it.



  1. says

    Glad you like it, for me, it’s useless, would not waste the money! A inexpensive bicycle computer tells me all I want to know about my rides and I could care less what others think about it. JMHO, YMMV, have a most excellent day.

  2. Mark X says

    Strava seems so polarizing to me. Haters vs. lovers … not too many folk in the middle. I’m a lover. I love it for most of the reasons you mentioned.
    Like many cyclist, I’m anal. I like to keep records. I like how Strava records, saves, & compares my rides. I only compete against myself. I like to see my improvement.
    I don’t care about the ‘pros’.

    Strava is merely a tool. Use it as you wish.

  3. Chivasvelo says

    Waste of what money? Strava is free. You can pay for a premium membership that has a few extra bells and whistles. But most of strava’s functionality is right there for free.

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