Facebook and twitter, online communities that have become a part of our daily lives. After hearing the mention of Strava more and more often, I decided to create a profile for myself and see what this online training community was all about. It’s now become part of my daily life… – By Sean Badenhorst
In summary, Strava is a GPS-based training/racing monitoring system, which logs your training rides or races online and ranks you against your own efforts for that same course or against others on Strava, who have ridden that same course. It also allows you to analyse your performance, empowering you with knowledge that’s useful in helping you improve.
You can create a Strava profile for free on strava.com and can either use your Garmin or Bryton GPS unit’s ride data, or you can use your iPhone or Android device. Strava also has a Premium Package that requires some financial commitment. It costs approximately R48-99 per month or R499-99 per year. This gives you access to more detailed analyses of your training efforts and will also rank you according to your age and your weight. For now, I’m content with the free membership option.
On your profile you include your gender (Strava has overall and gender-specific rankings), date of birth, weight, place of residence and a photo (if you want). You can follow others on Strava and they can follow you. In true social media style, you can also create groups and share your Strava-recorded rides online.
I activated Strava on my iPhone for a couple of rides on one of my closest trails, the Braamfontein Spruit in Johannesburg. When I had a good look at it online after each ride, I saw that other Strava users had created Strava segments – some quite long and some quite short. Using my ride data, Strava ranked me in relation to others on those segments. You can create your own segments on your favourite trails.
I had a careful look at some of the segments that showed I’d featured quite well and decided that if a steady ride could get me to a top 20 ranking, then a focussed ride must get me near the top performers. Boom! Strava had aroused the competitor in me.
I admit that I’m super competitive by nature and that I’m game for any sniff of a potential dice on a mountain bike. Any mountain bike on any trail. Okay, maybe with the exception of the most extreme descents… With Strava, I found myself starting to look forward to every ride. I felt motivated like never before to train and started to feature on the first page of many segments rankings as I became fitter and faster.
I started to click on the profiles of riders who were faster than me. Strava puts them side-by-side with you for comparison and shows a comparison of average number of rides, distance and riding time per week; total number of rides, distance, time, elevation gain in the year to date as well as all time (on Strava).
This is where you get to feel better. Or worse. It’s where you get some satisfaction (if you ride way less than another who is just faster than you on certain segments); or where you get motivation to try that little bit harder because the guy beating you trains far less… Of course beating your own previous best time for a segment should be motivating enough for most. Strava is an amazing training tool that everyone should at least try.
Pros and cons of Strava;
- Very motivational, both against your own performance and others
- Can give each ride a goal, a purpose
- Revives your desire to ride trails you’ve become bored of
- Great for interval workouts – if you know where each segment starts and finishes
- Offers amazing post-ride analysis. You can see where others are faster (or you are slower) on segments with a comparative performance graph
- Encourages you to ride different trails – and return to improve your segment times
- Not conducive to social rides. Best done alone or with one or two similarly focussed (similar strength) buddies
- Can become an obsession (if you let it)
- Just because you’re fast on a few segments, doesn’t make you fast in marathons. Been there, got that reality check
- In the selfish, it can lead to lowering of general trail etiquette towards other riders/trail users (so best done when trails are quiet if you’re serious about your segments).
- Short cuts or alternate (straighter) lines near the defined segment will also record on Strava. Best to focus on segments that don’t have alternate (easier) options nearby to avoid frustration.
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Originally published in TREAD Issue 23, 2013 – All rights reserved