A few months back we went undercover and infiltrated the underground networks of Strava Premium. While our operation yielded invaluable intel, we discovered that it didn’t come without a price.

By Paulo Conde


There is no doubt that Strava has revolutionised the sporting world. In our opinion, the biggest impact has been the introduction of segments, and more specifically, the leaderboards on these segments. Where we used to get on our bikes and ride to hit a broad target of two hours, or 50km, we now carefully craft our routes to ensure we cover our favourite segments, and go hell for leather over each and every one in the hopes of improving our position on the leaderboards.

This is great in so many ways. A little competitiveness adds spice to the ride. Bragging rights between mates are earned, not claimed. Realising what other people are capable of over the same stretch helps you push your own limits. And, obviously, we continually push each other to greater heights in a blow-by-blow match of ‘stolen KOMs’.

But there is a nasty downside to be wary of. Working your way up the leaderboards is exhilarating at first. Progress is usually quick and you can see massive gains in position in relatively short time frames. Getting into the top 10 gives you serious bragging rights. Getting an elusive KOM is simply off the stoke charts. But there comes a time when you will slot neatly into your rightful place in the pecking order. It may be at number 1, or it may be number 1000, but you will be in the position that you’re supposed to be in for your given fitness and skill level.

And it’s when you hit this point that excitement turns to frustration, success becomes disappointment, and feelings of self-worth turn to feelings of self-doubt. You push yourself harder and harder in the hopes of improving your position, but you find yourself coming up short, time and time again. Instead of looking forward to rides, you begin to dread them. You begin to avoid the segments that you used to ride religiously. The chemistry that used to put a fire in your belly has gone and the romance is well and truly dead. You have now become a slave to the system that you once so loved.

This may not have happened to you yet, but trust me, your time will come. There’s always a bigger fish, or a bigger pond. There are people out there who will be able to outperform you because they have more talent, more time or more money. I found myself in this position a few months ago and after weeks of dejection, I came to a sudden moment of clarity.

It’s not about competing against the others. It’s a competition against your own worst enemy. You! If you go back and look at your own progress over time, you’ll see that you have been consistently improving, and that you’re still improving. You’re on the right track. You’ve just been focusing on the scenery, rather than your own path. You can’t truly compare yourself against others, because everyone is on their own path, at various stages of their own development.

Some people may be on exactly the same path as you, but they got to the point you’re at because they started their journey earlier. Others may have taken a different path that took them to a point further down the road. But there’s nothing stopping you from catching up or overtaking these people by working harder, or finding better paths further down the road. And that is the true beauty of this revelation. This is not a race to a fixed end-goal. It’s a journey that continually evolves over time. It can be as challenging, or as fun as you want it to be, and you can go at whatever pace you’re comfortable with. The power, really is in your hands!

I co-incidentally came across a couple of quotes that helped crystalise this point of view:

“If you compete against others you become bitter. If you compete against yourself, you become better.”

“Winners focus on winning. Losers focus on winners.”

Now that that’s settled, let the real games begin!




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