Strava: The Follow up

In the current issue of Dirt, #132, I wrote an article about Strava trying to present a balanced view of its effect specifically on mountain biking. Its quite a touchy subject as the responses to my original poll on the subject revealed. I thought it would be good to expand on some the research I did for the article and share some of the sources and 3rd party tools available to Strava users. I also hope readers will feedback and open up further discussion (trolling) in the comments below.

Trolling is where it all began in a battle between DrunkCyclist and Strava themselves. After writing a post entitled ‘Strava Terrorism’ declaring that the writer, Caveman, was going to take to his local trials and grab all the KOMs on his mini bike, the CEO of Strava took exception and flagged up his account( n.b. not the real Strava CEO as he’s far too busy but some very humorous joker impersonating him) .

Caveman is actually a big fan of Strava and is a paid up Premium user but it led to a brilliant little internet battle and this tongue in cheek video was a great premonition.

Talking to Tattoo Dave down in the Surrey hills he is aware of similar behaviour going on down his way as well as increased trail usage due to Strava. Again though, he is a big fan of Strava and uses it regularly himself as an aid to motivation. Not that a man who’s built miles and miles of trails really needs much help with that.

Its motivation where Strava was sighted as very beneficial by many users. There is a whole swathe of 3rd party tools which let you use your GPS data in interesting ways. I’ve worked closely with Dan Nisbet who set up last year which enables riders to race each other on a specified segment over the course of the month up in the North East. The person putting down the fastest time in that period gets the most points. Dan set a different segment each month for 6 months and even gave a trophy out to the overall winner. When I contacted Dan he was kind enough to let me use the same software in Sheffield and he made up a ThisISheffield version, Strava Smashing, which has been a great success. We’re about to enter the 6th month and it’s very tight at the top with banter flying all over the place from a bunch of people who’ve never met. Dan Nisbet through Strava has managed to foster a virtual riding community.

When I get beaten by someone on a Smashing Segment I like to know where they made up the time on me; RaceShape is a tool that lets you do just that. It compares the GPS data for particular segments producing a graph of time difference and an overlay on a map to see where the differences were made. The example below shows where Swinny made up 5 seconds on me on the last smashing segment. Fascinating and disheartening in equal measures.

When researching the article I spent a good couple of hours chatting with Ben Lowe, who is a software developer by day and very keen rider. He explained a lot of the intricacies of how Strava actually works and he’s combined these two passions in to VeloViewer; a tool which aggregates your data and presents it in a much more useful way. He’s created graphing tools that are mind boggling to interpret but the segment and ride tools are really useful and put all the details at your finger tips.

After seeing this amazing animation of commuters arriving at Loughborough University Ben branched out in to VeloFlow which is an incredible way to visualise multiple rider’s data. The best way to explain it is to watch this video (best viewed in HD and full screen). It shows all the mountain bike rides done in the Peak District in July 2012 as if they all happened on the same day, each dot is a rider and one of the dots is me! This is a screen capture of the actual VeloFlow animation, if you click here, then ‘load rides’, wait for it to load then click play, you’ll be able to zoom in, fast forward and explore in much more detail. Ben has many examples of VeloFlow applied to different races and sportifs. Can you imagine if every rider in a World Cup downhill uploaded there data to Strava?

Other tools to make more of your Strava data include a suite from Jonathan O’Keeffe. He’s made a tool which tells you the history of any segment, ie how the top three places have changed over time; A notifier which sends you and email should you want know if a KOM has changed on a particular segment; and one which I use a lot that lets you see how other people have ridden to a particular segment. This is great for planning new rides or segments.

If you’re already a fan of Strava you probably know many of these tools, if you’re a hater you’ve probably already signed up to be a Strava Terrorist. With or without a GPS in your pocket, I hope you’re getting out for ride.


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