Cycle: Strava Keeps Track of Your Stats, But is It Ruining the Joy of a Good Ride?

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If you go on a ride but don't have some record of it, did it actually happen?

Ever since cycling computers started to be able to download ride files so that cyclists could evaluate and archive their efforts, the desire to show friends and teammates how fast, long and hard they rode grew exponentially. Computers and components including Garmin, CycleOps, SRM, and SRAM are recording everything from where you ride to how much physical power you generate.

It was just a matter of time before an app would come along to help track all this information wrapped in a slick social interface. Enter Strava, a cyclist's solution to logging rides for the world to see. The site/app even features bragging rights, showing who is the fastest at any given section. Many cyclists use the feature, but there are those who say that it's also ruining the joy of a ride.

Strava, the Swedish word for "to strive," was created by

Michael Horvath


Mark Gainey

in San Francisco out of the spirit of creating a team-like environment for athletes who trained alone.

According to its website

, "Strava makes fitness a social experience, providing motivation and camaraderie even if you're exercising alone."

Through a web interface, and later using smart phone technology, athletes could compare efforts. They have termed their creation "social fitness."

"Strava is a very interesting tool for cyclists," said Palmer Martines, owner of PHX Bike in downtown Phoenix, and a Strava user. "It's a good way for me to review my rides and see how I'm getting stronger while comparing to those I ride with and want to compare myself to."

For the record, we here at the Cycle Cycling Team (of one) are also users of Strava. And so are several endorsed pro athletes who regularly post files to Strava for everyday Joes to compare themselves against. Strava, currently a private company, does not share how many users it has but industry estimates put that number near 1 million.

Strava takes fitness files for cycling or running from a GPS device, such as the popular Garmin Edge 500, or a smart phone enabled with the Strava app, and creates unique web pages for each ride file that can be viewed publicly or kept private. While this is nothing new - the Garmin Connect web interface and MapMyRide.com have been recording rides and routes for years - Strava has added a more social element that smacks of Facebook's Relationship Status.

Strava compares times and speeds of rides and various sections, awarding KOM (King of the Mountain) or QOM (Queen of the Mountain) status to the male of female who has recorded the fastest time for any given segment. By embedding this level of competition into the social site, some users have turned their ride focus away from general training or enjoyment to simply claiming a segment KOM.

This is the basis for a lawsuit against Strava by the family of William Flint, a recently deceased Bay area cyclist that claims Strava encouraged Flint to ride recklessly while chasing a KOM in Orinda, CA. A second suit has been filed in regards to the death of Sutchi Hui, a pedestrian who was hit by a cyclist who appears to have been chasing a Strava KOM while riding in San Francisco.

While Strava is remaining mum about these suits, the company did release a type of safety manifesto from the desk of Horvath to illustrate their care for their virtual community that ventures, sometimes dangerously, into the real world.

There are others who feel that Strava has inadvertently created a whole new kind of athlete, the "Stravasshole." This is a person who is essentially cheating against their virtual competitors by either sandbagging a ride simply to grab a top Strava segment time, or outright gaming the system.

"There recently was a guy who posted a bunch of KOM's for sprints along Central Avenue and it was totally clear from the file and the speeds that he was just riding the light rail," said Martines. "But, the good thing about Strava is that they respond very fast any time an obvious cheat ride like that is flagged."

Strava is free for basic users, but also offers an upgraded Premium account with enhanced features that starts at $6 per month.

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