Strava, the widely-used app for cycling enthousiasts to register their own rides and follow another riders’ progress. Almost every cyclist has heard of this app and it is increasing in popularity, but what are the pitfalls of using this tool?
Before smartphones existed, people were tracking their own miles and progress in simple spreadsheets, or even more basic, by resetting the odometer of their cycling computer once every year. We used simple tools to see how many hours we could spend on our bikes, and we would tell our friends about our accomplishments and passion for cycling. Everybody could make about their averages and distances a bit of a taller tale, because nobody could tell if you’re telling the truth.
Nowadays, we don’t have to tell these stories to our friends. The minute we hit “save ride,” people can comment on our rides, give us kudos for our effort, and see all of our statistics. Does it feel a bit deflating to ride 99.9km instead of 100, or to see your average isn’t 30km/h and “just” 29.8?
Honestly, does it really make us more happy to see how many hours your friends have spent on their bike? What if you’ve just entered into parenthood, are slammed at work, or are renovating your house and you don’t have time to spend as much time on the bike as you would like to. Is it a point to see the epic rides of your buddies?
But what about the benefits to Strava? Does seeing a weekly leaderboard push you to ride more? Do segment times and goals for the week push you to ride more, or harder? On Strava, we can see our personal best on segments of road, our times compared to our friends, and our distance and hours per week amongst our riding buddies. Do you get the enjoyment of these small victories?
Strava has features in “fly-by’s” to help see who you rode with and passed by on your ride. Sometimes you’ll encounter that someone rides the same route as you at the same time, and you can make a new riding partner. Maybe you want to thank the rider whose wheel you followed all the way home.
Strava’s routeplanning is even more useful to everyone, competitive or not. A global heatmap is overlaid onto the map, so we can see where riders go and where riders don’t; something extremely valuable when charting new territory.
This tool is quite beneficial to the sport but has its drawbacks. We sometimes get lost in the numbers, checking our head units during the ride, eyes glued to the screen. After the ride we let our data dictate how the ride was for us; it might've been fun, but the metrics might say otherwise. Even if you’re of the mindset “if it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen,” sometimes you should just ride your bike, leave your GPS at home (or in your pocket out of sight), and enjoy being in touch with the machine below you and the terrain around you.
Eddy Merckx never used ride tracking; look at what he became ;-)We would love to hear your thoughts about this topic in the comments below!