I LOVE Strava. Of all the apps I have on my phone, it’s the only one which I would lose sleep over if it disappeared.
Once you have Strava downloaded to your iPhone or Android device, all you have to do is switch it on when you go for a cycle. It takes care of everything else.
‘Everything else’ happens when you press the stop button. It displays your speed and pace, the route you took, the elevation, and how much time you spent in movement. And as a bonus, it chops up the route into segments that have been christened by earlier Strava pioneers. You can even create your own segment of road or trail and name it for yourself.
When you travel along a segment for, say, the second time, Strava then tells you if you were faster or slower than the previous “attempt”. And it gives you access to how many other cyclists have been faster on that particular segment. You can view the list of fastest cyclists on any segment by year, age grouping or any number of ways. Those at the top of the list get a trophy – a little digital crown which proves they are the fastest EVER for that segment.
This is a problem if you live anywhere near Chris Froome, as he will have ALL the Trophies or KOMS (King of Mountain) on the routes you cycle. But if you live further away from Mr Froome, there is a chance that with a bit of wind assistance, plus a reasonable level of cycling fitness, you might just catch a Trophy.
It’s while chasing these trophies for a particular segment, that you realise EVERY piece of tarmac is a segment. So you tend not to hang about once you are in the saddle. And every time you drop the pace, your inner Strava voice says, “Seriously? Pick it up”.
You begin to compete hard against your previous efforts, and Strava encourages you to increase the speed and the mileage. And with all that competition, you get faster and stronger.
And just when you are feeling pleased at gaining a trophy, Strava will send you an alert to let you know that some 23 year-old Sports Science graduate with 5% body fat has just taken your trophy away by beating your segment-winning time by a whole 30 seconds.
Two minutes later, you and the graduate are following each other on Strava. You now have access to all his stats and cycling routes and realise the reason he’s kicking your arse is because he’s doing at least 60 miles of hill climbs every weekend with his cycling club.
So you start doing hill climbs. And you join a cycling club. Most of the guys in your club are on Strava. You used to have one random Strava follower. You now have dozens. And your cycling horizons expand. You lose a little weight, and you gain “Kudos” – little thumbs up from other Strava users, as means of congratulating a good effort.
Your confidence grows, and you might chase down a distant cyclist out on an evening wander. You might buddy up for a while, have a chat, get home, check the Strava playback, follow each other and give each other Kudos. His name will be Dez, and it will all be rather sociable.
Right up until you check Strava on Saturday morning and realise Dez has been out on his bike and stolen your long-standing KOM for a segment that is on your daily commute to work. Why’s he even on that road? Nobody cycles that segment unless they have to? What a dingbat!
It’s 8am on Saturday. You don’t cycle on Saturday. But there you are, sitting in your cycling shorts, checking the weather on the laptop, praying for a tail wind.
You are in luck! A strong tailwind is blowing along that segment you used to be king of, before Dingbat Dez hunted it down and selfishly poached it. Woohoo, let’s get the good bike out and take back that Trophy!
Half an hour later, you are the insanely proud re-owner of the KOM trophy for a generic Strava segment on a dull pot-hole ridden carriageway that you would only usually cycle on because it is your route to work.
Your legs are like jelly, and your chest is thumping so hard it’s best not to think too much about it. But, haha, in your face Dez. IN YOUR DINGBAT FACE! That Trophy icon is yours, and rightly so.
Congratulations, you have been Strava’d.