Reviewed: Strava

Ah, remember the days before GPS? The ability of being able to view, organize and analyze your ride routes was much harder, right? We had tools like Training Peaks to upload our ride data--analyzing distance, speed, heart rate, calories burned and approximate power output, but the methods used to calculate where our ride took place were much more crude.

It was really when the GPS Navigation company Garmin decided to target the cycling industry as a viable market for it's devices that the GPS movement started to take hold in cycling. Garmin did it right in my mind. They took a viable vertical market primed for the technology, and catered products, marketing messages, and hired individuals specifically with the cyclist in mind. Heck, they even dumped a ton of money into sponsoring a pro cycling team (what we now know as Garmin Cervelo).
With this new locationally aware sophistication part of the cyclists lexicon, combined with the proliferation of socially enabled web-based services, the pump was primed for Strava.

For a year or so prior to our use of Strava, we at CogSnob utilized to create, upload and analyze our rides. While the site was fairly crude in the early days, it satisfied our needs just fine.
Fast forward to December 2010, when we read a brief article on about a new socially enabled route tracking (the site can also be used for hiking, running, etc.) site called Strava.

We looked into the service immediately and convened our review meeting a few weeks later to discuss what we had found. I remember asking the team naively, "Why would anyone waste their time sharing routes? They just want to see their ride stats like distance, speed, and power, right?"
What I failed to remember in that statement was that most cyclists are inherently part of an uber competitive group. We suffer, push, and battle our way through the pain to propel ourselves ahead of the nearest individual on a bike (or hill). We measure ourselves buy overcoming adversity, regardless of our opponents age, sex, or race and even the pure geographical disposition of a route.

You can bet, the folks at Strava know and understand this fact quite well. The social element I questioned so vehemently is truly the foundation of the site, woven throughout all aspects of it's features.


Once you create your account, establishing your profile and choosing the ever important avatar, you can immediately begin uploading past rides from your GPS enabled device. Because all of your movement is geocoded, the Stava service can accurately display your route on a map with all of the legacy data such as speed, cadence, distance, and power. To be honest, at this point the service is on par with MapMyRide (minus the route creation feature). But remember, this is a social site. Because of the accuracy of the geocoded routing, your individual ride is instantly matched with other user routes sharing the same geocoded data. Your speed, heart rate, time, and power output are matched to other cyclists via a feature called Segments.

Strava uses their Segmenting feature as means for users to define a specific section of a route (or the entire route) for comparison against others. Anyone can create a Segment within any route they have previously uploaded. Typically, most cyclists will create a segment around a section of a ride that has a steep grade or particularly hard stretch that allows for maximum speed (ala time trial). As a means of rubber-stamping your accomplishments within a Segment, Stava uses labels like KOM (King of the Mountain), PR (Personal Record), and even labels your best times should you complete the route/Segment more than once. Like Facebook and other social media sites, these labels and associated ride and segment data are displayed in a threaded view with other cyclist you "follow".

The site also allows you to create and join groups as well as search for other cyclists throughout the country to follow and stalk. One feature that I particularly like is the ability to associate rides to specific bike profiles that you create. Since my wife "allows" me to have multiple bikes, I like having the mileage data for justification attached to each shiny purchase.

Our Recommendation

Paying homage to the competitive cyclist in all of us, the Strava service is a fun and easy way to compare yourself against other cyclists. With a first to market position, I must admit, I believe it is only time before and Garmin's own upload service, Garmin Connect, will extend their feature set to include the social aspects found in Strava. Until that happens, grab your Garmin and start knocking out KOM's.

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