Strava, Strava, Strava. This word seems to be everywhere I go.
While spending a week riding in the Pyrenees this summer, many of the riders couldn't wait to upload to Strava the GPS data from each ride to see how they compared to everyone else in the world who'd ridden the same col. We did this after every ride, even before sitting down for dinner. After comparing our ascent times with other riders, we analyzed the watts, cadence, heart rates and gradients, reliving the whole climb.
So, yes, I am using the app. I don't love it. And I don't hate it.
I initially thought Strava was just another app, similar to Map My Ride, which I find useful for recording rides and sharing ride routes. But Strava has exploded to become the most popular cycling multi-media tool, like Facebook for bike geeks like me.
The app can be uploaded to your smartphone to record the route, speed and distance of a run or ride directly. Or you can save your phone battery by uploading the data onto your computer from a Garmin device that records your heart rate in addition to the elevation, gradient, time, intervals, speed, cadence, air temperature, watts and distance or your ride.
Instead of telling the world where you went for dinner or posting pictures of yourself at a party, you record and post your cycling achievements for all to see and invite other cyclists to compete against you. You race when and where you want against cyclists you know or complete strangers.
After being persuaded, I signed up for a free membership in July just before I left to cycling in France. I have posted half a dozen climbs but haven't entered any of the challenges and I don't use it to compete with other riders. I enjoy it more for seeing what others are doing, specifically clients and friends.
I love the fact that social media can get people excited and motivated to ride and train hard to improve their fitness. I can appreciate the value of providing an online community where riders of all levels can share their achievements with others who can appreciate what they have done.
But when I was at a dinner party last week and my friend bragged he was only 18 seconds behind an elite racer on the hill climb to Prospect Point, at least according to Strava, I wondered if it had gone too far.
Then only a few days later, on my way home from the Glotman Simpson 10 kilometre time trial at Iona Beach Park in Richmond, I overheard one rider say he wasn't going to buy a race license next year but instead compete on Strava. Immediately after this last comment, he changed gears and started to hammer down Spanish Banks hill in an attempt to beat Strava's fastest recorded descent.
Strava makes the competition even more exciting by breaking your ride into smaller segments so you can compete on specific sections of a ride, like a climb or descent. They also set up specific riding challenges like the Rapha Rising Challenge, awarding a full Rapha riding kit to the man and woman who can climb the most metres on Wednesday July 18, the date of the Queen Stage of this year's Tour de France.
Cyclists have started to take these challenges extremely serious, missing work to compete and taking dangerous risks in an attempt to win. On the road, I have noticed that the constant feedback on Strava encourages riders to compete every time they ride instead of training and peaking for a specific event or season.
Lastly, I'm not a fan of racing only on Strava and skipping organized races or events. Most people already spend too much of their time alone, staring at a computer. Joining a group ride, cycling for an event and racing with your community allows riders to share these experiences with like-minded people, making real connections in real time. So although I will still follow my friends and upload a few rides, I'm not racing for Strava bragging rights, not yet.