What kind of Strava rider are you?

Strava badgesStrava sometimes splits the cycling community. Most people love it, a few hate it. Some are addicted. Strava is like body fat. Essential and great in small doses but ineffective in too great a measure if you’re out on the roads smashing every segment day after day.

Strava is a tool and thus, like the hammer, is useful when in the hands of somebody who knows what they’re doing and who is fully aware of the other tools at their disposal. Only got a hammer? You will destroy something. Segment hunting every day makes for a tired body. Master the technology and be not its slave. Use Strava to find new routes, plot your rest days and monitor your own workouts. Forget about leaderboards and KOMs. Until that is, the dreaded email arrives in your inbox. Uh Oh. So cruel.

So how do you use Strava, if at all? Are you a Strava slave, denier or abstainer? Do you recognise yourself or club mates amongst the Strava characters below?

Strava-holic

Your every ride is logged, even your five minute pootle to the shops. Well it would have been a pootle if you hadn’t gone all out on the ‘Shops LOLz’ segment. PB too. Not bad, you think, ignoring the fact it’s a 0.1 mile downhill segment.

Strava slave

Strava memeYour rides are shaped by the machine. You avidly check weather forecasts not for rain but for wind. Most cyclists see a windy forecast and sigh. Not you. This is the day for a ride. Your route will be determined by which record you’re chasing that has a favourable tailwind. You’ll ride in the middle of the night if the wind is howling a gale.

You’re not a segment hunter, oh no, you’re above all that. You have a dozen regular routes and you shall not deviate from your roads for new segments. Not when you have so many segments to chase on your regular routes.

Segment hunter

Unlike the Strava slave, you’re more than happy to go out of your way to find a segment, especially if the top 10 beckons. Hell, you spent three hours yesterday stitching together a route optimised for the segments you’re chasing combined with adequate recovery roads.

You’re a regular rain man, you can recite segment names complete with the times and names of your virtual enemies. You’ve memorised the street signs and lampposts that signify segment starts and ends. You are Neo, your world a matrix of segments. You must be the (number) one. When you look at roads you see red lines and the leaderboard times of all those ahead of you.

Your post ride map looks like the drawing of a one-year-old child, all squiggles and illogical turns. Intervals, you tell yourself, fooling nobody. Rest is a downhill segment. This is a healthy way to ride, I’m just pumping out high intensity rides, you think. Every day.

Trophy collector

Strava trophy cabinet

My real world, self-made Strava trophies

Virtual badges motivate you. The amount and type of your riding is dictated by random Strava challenges. Hell yes, you’ll climb 20,000 ft in your lunch break if it means a virtual trophy.

Café stops are dominated by talk of progress, of planned rides, of the ridiculous weather you’ve endured in pursuit of the digital trophy. Nobody mentions how much they’re not enjoying the experience, forced to ride in order to chase an arbitrary goal. Motivation you tell yourself.

You ignore the complaints of your wife about the actual trophy cabinet you’ve lovingly cobbled together in the shed, a real world replica of your virtual shrine. Now you just need the time to carve the real life versions of your virtual trophies. Oh, what’s that? A new badge if I cycle underwater for three hours every day for a month? Finally, a chance to wear that Rapha wetsuit.

Mr spreadsheet and statistics

Pah, Strava. You were logging rides in a paper diary back when carbon was known only as something Jabba the Hutt used to freeze Hans Solo. You can chart your times back to before the internet was invented, and yes, it goes without saying that you’re the king of your local mountain. On paper anyway.

Despite the advent of Strava, little has changed but the accuracy of your numbers. You upload rides religiously and study the same numbers as before. The only leaderboard you’re interested in is My Results. Strava is simply your online diary of rides, the electronic yardstick against which to measure your progress. And maybe the odd trophy.

Strava denier

Oh, Strava? Yeah, I just use it to log my rides. Leaderboards? Nah, not interested, you lie when people talk course records. The fact is you’re a secret Strava addict but nobody must ever know. You’re embarrassed, as if you’re somehow ruining the true tradition of cycling by wanting to improve, to be the fastest. The majority of your rides are private until that is you break a course record. You’re a regular record-breaking virtuoso. I haven’t even been training, you lie when others comment on your ride. Yeah, sure.

Strava stalker

All your rides are private, visible only to you. Why would you give your rivals access to data that would give them a competitive advantage? That’s why you use Strava, to follow your rivals, to see just how hard they are training. Did they train on Christmas day? Ha, one nil.

You don’t know what size underwear your girlfriend wears but you know the heart rate zones of your ten closest rivals. You shake your head and smile when you see their pitiful junk miles or cry when they top a leaderboard. You must log more miles, climb more metres and ride faster than everyone. Every day. Unfortunately all that time on Strava means you’ve neglected your own training somewhat. Bugger.

Strava seeker

Kudos. You’re looking for virtual friendship, attention, anyone, please, I’m just like you, I cycle everywhere too. Really fast, honest, please look, please praise me. You hand out kudos willy nilly, so much so you’ve amassed 1,500 followers, the exact same number of people you’re following. New friends are just a kudos away. Not that you’re alone. Everyone wants kudos. Human’s crave recognition. One of the paradoxes of motivation is that there’s no self actualisation without praise from our peers. And hey, you know, it’s just so darned nice.

Data hater

Strava data mapped

Europe’s Strava rides

Yeah, I use it only to hate myself, you say, for Strava is destroying the sport you love. Your group rides have become Strava slogfests, people racing off the front to own a segment, the cyclist equivalent of cocking a leg and pissing up a tree. It’s like, so dangerous, all this charging about. You ride to enjoy the wind in your hair and you don’t want to ride by numbers. Oh no, you’re no machine. Where’s the romance in it all? But yeah, I’m on there, you admit begrudgingly, I look at it occasionally, perhaps. If only you had caught that wheel eh?

Social Strava

You ride at your own pace and follow the road whichever way it goes. The ride is unimportant until that is, you get home and share your ride with the world. I just rode 15 miles, you beam. This is why you rode. To tell somebody. Anybody. Not that your friends ever seem to notice. Truth is they blocked your fitness posts a long time ago. Pity, they’ll never know you commuted the same old five miles to work. Again.

Strava cheat

You have more flagged rides than Lance Armstrong. You are the king of any mountain you wish. Course records quiver with your every upload. Motor paced behind the car my girlfriend was driving? Nah not me mate, you must be confused.

Yeah, we hired a double-decker bus last week, what of it? Fancied a bit of open top touring in the Alps so we did. Those KOMs? Coincidence. Digital EPO? Never heard of it. Why would I cheat? Really why? That’s a question only you can answer because we have no idea either.

Strava snub

What’s Strava? Seriously. I just ride my bike. GPS? Great Potato Salad? KOM? King of Munchies? Segment? As in Terry’s chocolate orange, right? Now, if you’ll excuse me I’ve got some riding to attend to.

What about you?

I enjoy Strava for all of the above. There’s nothing like looking at your dashboard and seeing the miles of others to inspire you and get you out on the bike. Or looking back at old activities astonished sometimes at the miles you’ve ridden. No matter how you use Strava, whatever encourages us to ride can only be a good thing.

How about you, love Strava? Avoid it? Or perhaps, it’s just a meh?

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Images courtesy of Strava and unknown

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19 thoughts on “What kind of Strava rider are you?

  1. Ha – Nice Article – I think I am guilty of a few of these depending on the season. Trophy Hunter is perhaps my worse. Cycling 50km in a downpour on Boxing Day evening to get my Festive 500 challenge ‘back on track’ was perhaps in retrospective a low point :)…

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I only use the Strava heat apps to where others are riding, found some great “hidden” gems of a route this way. I use a Garmin 800 to get home, and insure I stay in my training zones and don’t hurt myself. If I wanted to compete I would, but I didn’t, so I won.’t. Takes all the fun out of a beautiful sport, and it might put my hard earned Cat6 status at risk…

    Liked by 1 person

    • The heat maps are very useful although I find it amazing how many people ride the traffic heavy main roads so sometimes best to avoid some of the popular routes. I also like to follow other riders who live nearby so I can see their routes.

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  3. Strava? Harmless fun as far as i’m concerned, spoilt only by those days when I go out hunting a top 10 on a favourite climb, nail it as hard as I can, get home, download…43rd out of 433!

    As i’ll tell anyone who’ll listen we have more than our fair share of top notch cyclists in these parts (Lancaster) so i’ll settle for top 10% much of the time.

    But the flip side to this…I have a mate who is one of the aforementioned top notch cyclists who found himself having to defend his KOM’s and top 10 leader boards against accusations that he must have cheated in some way – all got a bit unpleasant so he said “sod this!” and hasn’t been near Strava since.

    Shame – thankfully most people use it in the spirit it’s intended.

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    • Inevitably for some blokes they see it as a pissing contest. Perhaps your mate shouldn’t take the ‘virtual’ poker dot jersey so seriously but I guess all cyclists do mind (to a certain extent and degree) whenever somebody is faster than them.

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  5. Great blog and writing style! Absolutely enjoyed reading this whilst doing my zone 1 ride on the trainer. You practically sum up all the Strava nuts (me included) out there and grouped them nicely. I don’t really chase Segments as I’m no where near to making the top 10-15% of the leaderboards but I like to compare my own efforts to see whether I have improved in terms of time, cadence and heart rate (in that order). When I do look at the leaderboards, it seems I always rank somewhere between 30-50% of the top of the leaderboard so I’m definitely your average to above average Joe. I haven’t actually paid for the premium service to see how I stack against those of same age and weight class so I’m not quite an addict….yet anyway!

    Rgds
    Mr Spreadsheet and Statistics

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    • Thanks Jay. I’m not sure premium is worth it to be honest, I’ll be writing a blog about this soon as I’ve been premium for a few months now. Cadence are heart rate are linked, so if you get a quicker cadence your HR is likely to increase too, assuming your fitness hasn’t increased of course.

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  6. What a really great article, I can definitely see myself and others in a lot of these descriptions! I have just removed my profile from Strava a few days ago. Personally I found it all became a bit tired. I have spent the last 2 years segment hunting and amassing a good few KOM’s. To be honest who really cares? The social side is OK but it can definitely take over your life if you’re not careful. I have been riding for several days now without Strava being involved and can honestly say that it’s the best I’ve felt on a bike for the last 12 months. I think Strava could definitely improve their service by occasionally dropping you the odd email when you haven’t had a rest day in over a month or something similar. They are quick enough to let you know when you lose a KOM! I suppose different things work for different people but I am definitely a lot happier for being Strava free!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Aladdinsane. There’s definitely a line which is easily crossed with Strava. It does become addictive. I’ve still like to chase the odd PB but my riding is a lot more structured now. Chasing KOMs and riding hard every day soon takes its toll. I love your idea of the take a rest emails. I will add it to their product improvement site.

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  8. What a great read!!
    Frighteningly accurate.
    I think there is a Strava lifecycle which for me looked something like this if I’m honest:

    Discover It – Love It – Obsess Over It – Lose On It – Obsess A Bit More – Lose the Love for it – Use it as a training Aid

    I have finally come to terms with the fact that no matter how fast you are there is always another rider who is either quicker or willing to take more risks. I became possessive over my KOM’s and would defend them at obscene times of day and in the most extreme of weathers!! Hopping on and off pavements nearly skittling pedestrians. Bonkers Stravadict !!

    Lesson learnt – I now use Strava to focus on my progress, not to out do others or be the quickest or ride the furthest. Just for MY journey!!

    Huge thanks for such a wicked blog!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Bikermad, it’s definitely a journey, glad you reached the nirvana! I’ve got to the point where even my own times are irrelevant, interesting for sure, but with so many variables, segment times aren’t the best indicator of progress. Still feels great of course when you get a top ten!

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