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Final few hours of the 2013 Tour De France in Paris. Screenshot from Strava.

Strava 10/25 2013 by Pieter Van Pietersen

There's a good chance you have heard of Strava. I've heard it described as a Facebook for cyclists and runners. You upload your GPS data to the site and it matches sections of your ride to established 'segments', giving you a ranking of the hundreds if not thousands of people who have also ridden it. If you are the fastest at a segment then you become the King/Queen of the Mountains: KOM or QOM.

Like all good things it can of course become addictive. Some riders stop racing and just go out looking for KOMs. Fun in its own way, but do you really want to do everything alone?

Strava is great for:
Following riders in your area and finding which routes they take You can learn about a lot of roads or paths you'd have never thought about taking just by looking at Google maps.

It is fantastic for tracking where you went on a group ride Often you are just looking at the backside in front of your face and not paying attention to the route. Downloading the data afterwards allows you to understand where you went so you can try some of those roads again in the future.

Similarly if you got lost on a ride you can see where you actually went.

Benchmarking yourself to other riders and pros Normally it just points out what a huge gap there is between pros and everyone else. Best get the disappointment out of the way sooner rather than later, then forget about it.

Feel good factor after setting a KOM This is the addictive part, but addiction like opiates we know isn't a good thing. The feeling is more than cancelled out when the KOM is lost.

Strava is bad for:
The feeling when you lose a KOM It is awful when you receive an email to say that your KOM has been beaten, especially if you are abroad and can't easily get it back.
Of course the misery is far greater than the joy of getting it, so it is a lose-lose situation. Best to disable the email notifications of KOMs and forget about them.

One chap in the US, William Flint even died whilst trying to regain a segment on a descent. His family tried to sue Strava but the case was dismissed (June 2013). It is important to remember to consider safety above getting a KOM, so don't be tempted to run red lights or corner too fast.

Remember, the KOMs are not comparable due to weather conditions (I noticed a lot of KOMs go in the summer with low density hot, humid air and dry roads), traffic conditions, riders in pelotons and riders on TT bikes.

Strava is bad for training It is tempting to chase KOMs rather than do proper intervals.
To be fair, it can be good VO2 max training, as you will generally push yourself harder than you might have without the segment to chase. But chances are you will win one KOM then think about heading home rather than repeating it another 9 times.

If you get the KOM it is addictive, so you're better off not getting started.

Strava wastes time You spend time charging your Garmin , get in a bad mood if it crashes or dies half way through the ride, time uploading the data and time looking at everyone else's data. Life is too short to be spending more time with electronic gadgets and your laptop. Spend the time with your family or with friends instead.

It could give away your training secrets. If you upload every ride, you might be giving away your training secrets. This is a problem for some pro riders. The trick is to only upload selected rides.

Digital EPO For the real losers out there, it is possible to increase your speed or power by running your Strava data through this website. However hope is not lost, as it leaves tell-tale signs on your graphs. Little blocks appear at regular intervals, like ramparts on a castle, so such cheaters are easily discovered. How to spot the telltale 'speedbumps' in Strava data that has been tampered with Digital EPO.

Whilst Strava is an awesome app and a very useful tool for navigation, it is best used sparingly.
After you've won a few of the KOMs near your house, put the Strava away. Concentrate on training for important races, and leave the Strava segments to newbies from your office.

About William Flint

A blog entry about Strava addiction

How to spot the telltale 'speedbumps' in Strava data that has been tampered with Digital EPO.

Garmin Edge 510 GPS Bike Computer. A Garmin (510 or 810) is an essential tool in the Stravista's arsenal.

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