For the uninitiated, Strava is an app used by cyclists (and runners) to log their activity. Whilst you pedal it creates a map of your route, and compiles data on distance, time, average speed, altitude gained, etc.
Whether you like it or not, Strava also takes your time taken to ride “segments” (specific sections of road or their website
, from there you can, “see where you rank and start moving up the leaderboards.”
trail) and then compares your results against other cyclists who’ve ridden that same segment. As they say on
I added Strava to my phone’s apps late last year, mainly too see what all the fuss was about. A few uses and, although I liked that it generated a share-able map of my ride, the skeptic in me erred toward seeing it as little more than a way for show-offs to do a bit more showing off, the chance to turn every mundane rise in the road into a virtual race. The pessimist in me also began to worry about my lack of fitness.
I began to wonder if the virtual race I’d taken part in might be fixed — some of the climbs I had battled up at an average speed of around 10mph were showing Strava “King of the Mountain” highest speeds of around 30mph, a velocity my car would have struggled to achieve on those same roads.
As a result of that skepticism I only used Strava intermittently and paid little heed to where I ranked on the leaderboard for segments covered by my regular Edinburgh-based rides.
However, it was during a recent trip up to Moray in the north east of Scotland that I slipped from being Strava doubter toward becoming a Strava sucker.
I had used the app to record a short route that I’ve ridden on and off for decades, mainly so that I could get an idea of how much altitude the main climb gained over its 2 miles (actually, Strava says it’s 1.8 miles, so there). Much to ego’s delight, I checked the results post-ride to discover that I’d achieved a King of the Mountains best time
I had truly grovelled up the climb, battling a headwind, not a thought to how fast I was travelling, too much in oxygen debt even to recall that Strava was recording the slog. Definitely not a glory performance but still, Strava had reeled me in.
Two days later and I had time for one last bike ride before heading back to Edinburgh. But which route should I take? Ego decided: ride the same route, try and better my previous time on the climb.
So there I was, back to battling gravity and that headwind, mind now swirling with thoughts of the glory I’d derive from smashing my old “record”. Each time my legs politely demanded a lower gear I was up and out the saddle, forcing the tempo a little higher, turning myself inside out, and all for the sake of Strava.
Oh dear, what a sucker.