Review – Is Strava Premium worth it?

Strava meme

I’ve asked myself this question many times. Many of the features are gimmicky and premium members don’t really get a lot of value for their money, especially if you don’t have a power meter or virtual power.

I’m pay as you go and like many others I haven’t stopped my payment because of the low value return. I’m a supporter of Strava and use their free service a lot. At a cost of £4 a month, my subscription is more like a charity donation. It’s not a lot of cash for the return.

Should I upgrade to Strava Premium?

This depends on the type of rider you are. There’s more value if you own a power meter and like top level, easily accessible stats. Don’t care for such things? Then you may struggle to see the value. Let’s review the premium features one by one.

Power curves

For power meter riders only. I find this top level view of my performance and progress very useful. I can easily see my power for 5s, 1, 5, and 20 minutes, which is pretty much all I need to assess my performance. Sure I could get this for free from the open source Golden Cheetah but this is far too complex for a part-time, self-taught cyclist like myself.

I’m guessing most power meter owners have other paid for services where they can get much better data, like trainingpeaks or perfpro.

Fitness and freshness

Despite the misleading information from the Strava Premium sign up, Fitness and Freshness can be used with either a power meter or heart rate monitor. This was the only feature I found useful before I used virtual power. The graph provides you with trend lines based on your workload, giving you a basic picture of your fitness, form (freshness) and fatigue. Whilst I highly doubt the accuracy and validity of these numbers it’s a nice little guide. Nothing beats listening to your own body of course.

Filtered leaderboards

Want to compare yourself to people the same age and weight? You can with Strava Premium. Me? I rarely use this feature as I only benchmark myself against myself. Without any indication of wind speed or direction Strava leaderboards create a false sense of cycling hierarchy. Sometimes flattering, always misleading. Even when I do look at leaderboards I don’t seek to claim victories by age or weight. A leaderboard filter I might use is wind speed. And value of bike perhaps!

What about the heatmaps?

Follow the snake. A data visualisation of the Dunwich Dynamo from Strava

Follow the snake. A data visualisation of the Dunwich Dynamo from Strava

It’s a bit of a gimmick this one. Sure it’s novel to see all of your rides mapped but is it worth paying £4 a month? Treat yourself to a month’s subscription each year to check your heatmaps if you like to see how many roads you have conquered.

Training plans

I’ve already written a full blog on the value of Strava training plans, particularly the daily emails which do make you feel like you have a coach! The plans are a great introduction to intervals for beginners, giving you an idea of the different types of workouts and also motivation to complete the plan.

However the plans are not customizable despite the claims of the marketing. There’s a very limited selection of plans and most are virtually the same with the odd adaptation. They are also very intense compared to most other plans. Again, sign up for a month or free trial to try a plan before moving onto more varied training plans elsewhere.

Sufferfest videos

I’m yet to train using a Sufferfest video. You get a whopping 7 videos to choose from. Hardly value for money and more of a cross sell to get you to spend yet more cycling dollars for yet another service.

Suffer score

Tired cyclist

Another novelty feature. ‘Yeah, I was epic today.’ My legs tell me how much I suffered, not Strava. It can be useful for seeing your workload but there’s more useful measures such as TSS (Total Stress Score) which is hidden away in the fitness and freshness section for some odd reason.

Seeing your time spent in specific heart rate zones is useful, especially if you are following training plans. Again, most of these measures are found in other cycling services, with better analysis too.

Setting goals

Another feature I’ve not used. You can only set distance or timing goals which isn’t too valuable. I don’t really cycle big miles and don’t want to ride junk miles for the sake of it. You can also set goals on segments, but here my only goal is to beat my best time.

GPX download

A useful feature but another I’ve yet to use. I get route inspiration from those I follow but I prefer to craft my own routes so I can see the terrain and choose quiet roads.

Real time segments

I can wait. I don’t want to be staring at my phone on a ride. Half of the fun of Strava is waiting to upload your data when you get home and relive the ride. Besides, I want to save battery and data when riding.

Active friends

Has anyone ever used this feature? I guess it could be helpful if you are meeting someone but otherwise its unlikely I’ll see person x is active and rush on my bike to join them. Might be nice if your girlfriend or boyfriend wants to track you for safety reasons.

Trophy case

Strava badges

Seriously? My badges of honour are my chiselled calves not my virtual badges! I can see how this motivates some to ride, which can only be good, however the badges are focussed on random distance and climbing targets when my training has become a little more focused. OK, a lot more focussed. There’s spreadsheets and everything.

Exclusive content

The exclusive content is thinly veiled marketing. Jerseys you can buy and that’s about it. I’ve seen no sign of exclusive events. And certainly no surprises.

Strava Beacon

A new feature and one that I can see many joining Premium just to use. Strava Beacon shares your location with selected people who can then see where you ride or run. They don’t need to be a Strava member or have the app, you can simply send them a link and away you go, peace of mind for both parties. It’s a nice feature although available elsewhere on apps such as Glympse, Strava Premium users now only need to have one app running.

Strava alternatives

Zwift sunset

Zwift

The truth is, segments and leaderboards aside, Strava’s rivals usually offer much better services for most of the above because they have specialised in solving one customer need. Zwift for indoor riding, TrainerRoad for workouts, TrainingPeaks for data, any number of suppliers for better routing.

Strava seems a little directionless at the moment and there’s been very little innovation in the past few years considering how quickly online cycling services are growing.

Conclusion

All in all it is hard to find value in the premium membership. Why? All of the value is in the free functionality. Leaderboards, comparing your own segment history, PBs, a training diary and the social side of things with comments, creating routes (less useful without Streetview since Strava stopped used Google Maps) and of course, simply scrolling through the activities of others.

One day Strava will begin charging users to view leaderboards if it wants to monetize its users. I doubt its training tools will become too sophisticated as this isn’t mass market.

In the meantime they get my charitable donation in the hope it helps them buy more servers so I don’t spend half my life waiting for their site to load during peak periods.

I’ll wait until the cycling service market consolidates, as it surely will either via a new entrant or mergers because the market is currently too fragmented with none of the tools providing a good one stop shop for my online cycling needs.

Until then keep on enjoying Strava. It’s a service I use daily and am happy to contribute a small amount to although now I’m looking at rivals, these days could be numbered.

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31 thoughts on “Review – Is Strava Premium worth it?

  1. I’m a Strava Premium user too and like you sometimes I struggle to see where the real value is for my yearly fee. I got free trial when Strava realised I’d been riding with a power meter and never cancelled after that. I’ve never used the training plans or filtered leader boards or Sufferfest videos or heatmaps or route downloads. I do however quite like the little trophy case thing, haha!

    If I didn’t have a power meter I don’t think I’d bother. In fact I haven’t ridden with power since last November so maybe I’m not getting any value from Premium at all right now…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I joined Strava premium in the last month and I do agree with your assessment of the premium features. The reason I joined premium is that I’d like the free stuff to remain free, without money they can’t give it away free forever so if a few pay for it then everyone wins. Having used the free version for 18 months, it’s been of great benefit to me and I’m not sure I’d still be cycling now without it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Strava annoys some cyclists because it is encourages segment chasing on group rides etc but you’re right, I think it is overlooked just how motivational Strava is and how it encourages people to ride more. And that can only be a good thing.

      Like

    • I tend to cycle by myself (commuting ~100Km/week) and when I do have company on a weekend spin, it’s more for the social aspect so I haven’t experience the segment chasing but I would imagine it could get annoying and potentially dangerous.

      Since becoming a premium user, I’ve begun utilising the goals section. Weekly, annual and segment goals (self created segments which are 25k and 75k respectively, not your short segments I assume you’re talking about above) so I’m looking forward to seeing my progress throughout the year. I may have missed it but I would like a climbing goal per week/year.

      As a recreational cyclist, it’s been invaluable. If you are racing, I’m sure trainingpeaks is probably the way forward for you.

      Liked by 2 people

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  4. Best route planner I’ve used is footpath on iOS, an amazing piece of software that just works. Now Garmin can sync with other sites I can use these to compare other things. One that might be worth a look is veloviewer, interesting for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I used to use veloviewer before they started charging. Good top level overview of stats if I remember rightly. Just too many services to pay for nowadays when the roads themselves are free! Footpaths looks good, been waiting for a route planner on mobile. Shame I’m on Android. Grrrr.

      Liked by 1 person

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  6. Completely agree.

    I know some people get pretty worked up about what Strava is and isn’t, but I think the free features are great. Leaderboards, KOM’s, Kudos – it’s all a bit of fun isn’t it?

    Suffer score, trophy case, real time segments and the rest; I’m not really too bothered about.

    The freebie version works just fine for me.

    Like

  7. Great review and I totally agree with you.

    I remember that when I first started using Strava, I was already using RunKeeper to track my training (cycling, running & others). Strava seemed more cycling focused by having the segments and leader boards. Now, a couple of years down the line, it seems that they’re kind of stuck between being a social network, a training platform and a GPS tracker.

    Anyways, it’s still an excelent free service. Oh, one thing that I use a lot is the “Group” feature with my cycling buddies for communicating, watching each others rides, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

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  10. My view is not that the subscription service is bad, but simply that the free service is too good relatively. I am a subscriber, simply because I want to pay them for an excellent service which I’ve enjoyed and found very motivating. In the scheme of other bike expenditure, its small beer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That pretty much sums it up. How long before they begin charging for the free stuff? I’m surprised it hasn’t happened yet but then I’m cynical!

      Like

  11. I got Premium free for a year when Strava messed up some promotion and started billing me when they shouldn’t have. As such I had a whole year to see what it gave me and for someone who rides without power the answer was, as with you, “not a lot”. I let it lapse when the year was over because I wasn’t then a regular enough cyclist to warrant it.

    I’ve since joined a club, got a new road bike and acquired a Garmin 520 which has *drumroll* Live Segments so kind of forces you to try with Premium. I’m now a paid-up member of 5 months and will probably continue with it.

    It’s not that the live segments add very much per se but they do sometimes provide a burst of motivation to dig a little deeper.

    That I can see the power data from the Stages spin bikes and Wattbikes at the gym adds a little to the mix too. If power meters ever drop below a monkey then I may consider one for the road too.

    The main reason I’m reasonably happy to continue to pay what is a fairly insignificant sum per month is to support the developers and Strava’s continued development. I’m a firm believer in paying for useful stuff and as the saying goes, currently I’ve gotten far more out of Strava than it has gotten out of me.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Just reading the Strava Story about the Giro reminds me of another reason to support Strava with cold, hard cash; these stories are often superb, with beautiful photography and inspiring commentary on professional races and amateur challenges alike.

    Yes, you can read them without Premium too but again, some things are worth paying for.

    You don’t get stuff like this from Garmin Connect…!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Very detailed review, great read!

    As you wrote, the free functionality offers the greatest value. However I think an upgrade is worth for some people and at least the amount of additional features seems to increase more over time. It’s not a whole lot of money and it’s well worth to try it for a year or so.

    I use Strava as a runner and love it! I reviewed the service a couple of days ago on my blog.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I’m a runner rather than a cycler but I totally agree. The features of the free version are all I need, I’m really not bothered about comparing myself to other people in my age range etc as I’m in it for the self improvement rather than racing!

    Brilliant review, great read!

    Liked by 1 person

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