Just like you, I’m busy. Sometimes I have to work late, sometimes I have to mow the lawn, sometimes I’ve got to look after the little lad… The list is seemingly endless. Oftentimes, this barrage of commitments limits my ability to plan and coordinate group rides – I’m not lamenting this fact, it’s just life. But when life gives you lemons, you still have to go riding… And sometimes that means riding alone.

While Strava can’t help you interact with real live people, injecting some friendly competition into your rides is the essence of what makes Strava different than many of the other fitness tracking tools out there.

The heart of the ‘competition’ lies in Strava’s “segments.”

Most climbs of consequence are automatically classified as segments, but Strava also allows you to create your own – Like a flat stretch of road that lends itself to a TT type effort for example. On each segment you’re instantly pitted against every other rider who has ridden that stretch of road or trail – Including past versions of yourself ;-) Based on your performance, there are a couple of awards up for grabs:

  • PR Awards – These compare you to you, and from what I can tell, they record things two levels deep
  • KOM / Overall Awards – These are awarded for any given segment, awarded to the leader (KOM/QOM) and subsequent leaders (going 10 levels deep, from what I can tell)

Another fun element that Strava offers is the Suffer Score[1] – A judgement of the ‘epicness‘ of your ride based on heart rate and ride data measurements.

Though perhaps not a 100% scientific… It would amount to cool bragging rights, especially for somebody like Smart, who’s usually suckin’ wind more than most out there – His suffer score would be off the charts on every ride ;-)

The Suffer Score is one of a few features open only to ‘Premium’ members. The full premium account gives you access to:

  • Segmented leaderboards – Allows you to filter leaderboards by age or weight class to get a more accurate purvue of how you stack up against the rest of the field
  • Heart rate analysis – This is effectively the Suffer Score
  • Advanced power analysis – Capture your work done, find your best efforts quickly and easily and track how much time you spend in different power ranges (I don’t have a power meter, so I took that description from the site)

Strava also offers a pretty solid iPhone/Android app. The app itself is super easy to use, displays a really nice synopsis of your rides and a nice breakdown of the segments/climbs on the ride. I really only have two semi-gripes about the app:

  • The app doesn’t sync with the rides you have online (it only catalogues the rides you’ve recorded on the phone).
  • I find the GPS on the iPhone a little less accurate that my Garmin 500 – I don’t really imagine this to be an artifact of the app, but more-so the phone itself. (I’m still rockin’ the iPhone 3G as well)

Outside of the main features Strava is doing a lot of the little things right as well… From categorizing the climbs (ie. Cat 1, 2, etc.), allowing you to catalogue equipment and measure the mileage on each bike, to displaying the grade of the elevation as you hover on your ride’s elevation profile.

The layout is clean and easily understood and the climbs and kilometer waypoints are clear on the map overview. Even Garmin Connect doesn’t highlight some of these things as well as Strava… Heck at least with Strava I can upload my data from Chrome.

It even has a nice way to embed your rides into your blog (see below), or effortlessly posting to Facebook or Twitter.

Ultimately, I haven’t been tracking my training nearly as closely as I used to, but Strava definitely pulls together a really compelling socially competitive offering. At a minimum, it’s nice to compare my rides to past performances, and if I’m really wanting to get into the details, Strava’s segments provide a nice way to break rides down into manageable chunks.

Now that Strava has removed their upload limit, and offer unlimited uploads for free, there’s nothing holding you back. I’d definitely recommend giving it a go, if nothing else you can tour all the features ;-)

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. DJ Connel over at On Bicycles, and… What Else is There decoded the Suffer score a few weeks ago for those who really want to poke their nose into it.