Strava, the world’s largest endurance sport performance tracking app announced some big changes this past week. Second only to the Coronavirus pandemic in its effect on mountain bikers and road cyclists, the Strava changes have evoked passionate, polarised reaction. Here’s exactly how it will affect South Africans:

By Sean Badenhorst

Firstly, let’s just agree that Strava is an amazing app that’s changed the way we ride. Or at least changed the way we perceive our rides. With the integration of GPS tracking, it’s given everyone the ability to monitor his or her progression, which really is huge.  Strava PRs are like gold stars and sweeties for cyclists. Daily badges of recognition for a job well done. Before Strava… well, let’s just say most of us judged our efforts by feel.

While it’s a fantastic way to track your own progress in terms of fitness, strength and skill, all of which lead to faster Strava segment times, it’s also become an always-on outlet to get a competitive fix without having to commit to a race. You can satisfy your, er, pick one or more: ego, adrenaline boost, ambition by drip-feeding it Strava segment PRs/Trophies/Crowns fixess every single day (except during the Coronavirus Lockdown of course).

And until now, for the past 11 years, it’s been free. There’s been a Premium version which you pay for, but as we revealed a few years back  was nice, but not hugely attractive for most.


This was the paid-for service that gave you access to more data and ride analysis than the free service. You’re now a Strava User (free) or a Strava Subscriber, which costs you US$5 per month, but as a South African, budget R600 per year (once-off payment) 0r R110 per month (as at 24 May 2020). All current Strava members do get a 60-day Strava Subscriber Trail though, whereby you have to submit your credit card details upfront. If you don’t want to continue after your 60 days and don’t cancel, you’ll be billed. But you can cancel at any time.


Well, it’s gone for free members, but it’s accessible to subscribers. Everyone used to see their own segment effort as well as their previous efforts on that segment as well as the full leaderboard for that segment. Now free users can only see their own recent effort and the top 10 all-time leaderboard (men and women). This means you can’t see how your friends have fared or where you are in relation to them on each segment. You also can’t see the  ‘This Year’, ‘People I’m Following’, ‘Age Group’ and ‘Weight Division’ leaderboards unless you’re a subscriber.


Over 44 000 third party apps have been able to make use of Strava’s leaderboards. But that’s now changed. Only devices from brands like Wahoo and Garmin that have Strava Live Segments can display this now and only for Strava subscribers. This includes popular South African-used apps like Vitality, Hub Tiger, Lose It and Zwift Power.


In the past, everyone could build a route. Now that’s only a function that subscribers can access. You can still create segments as a free user though. This isn’t a huge thing for most South Africans, who are fairly comfortable to ride known, marked routes where rider safety is more important.


Before, everyone could access the matched ride feature, which allows you to compare yourself to others on the same segment, essentially showing you where they are stronger or weaker than you. Most useful for KOM/QOM-chasing tendencies. It’s now been updated and is only available to Strava subscribers.

What is the reason for the changes? Profitability. Lack thereof. In 11 years and with 55 million users, Strava’s founders, Mark Gainey and Michael Horvath say that the app needs to start making a profit. When they launched it, they wanted people to use it and appreciate what they’d created. Little did they know it would become so popular… The Strava Premium was just not attracting enough users to make it viable to continue without making the subscription model more attractive.

If you have ever owned a business, or even if you just understand how businesses work, you’ll appreciate the need for the changes. There has however been criticism as to how the changes were made – the manner, the tone, the suddenness. But of course anything that requires large doses of passion and commitment, such as riding bicycles regularly, will always generate polarised viewpoints.

Usually, with a free version of an app, you’re subjected to advertisements. That’s the trade-off. But Strava has never gone this route, choosing instead to keep the experience commercially clean and user focussed. They’re still sticking to that strategy, but asking you to pay a small monthly fee if you want to have access to the app’s full bouquet of features.

Here’s the thing. Let’s say a Strava Subscription costs you as much as R110 a month. That’s a round of coffees (maybe not even) for you and your mates after a ride. That’s a decent quality spare tube (or three cheap road tubes). That’s a few gels or energy bars. That’s a bottle of wine. That’s not a high price to pay for something that you’re deeply passionate about, is it?