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Review: Strava.com

by on September 30, 2011

[This review is an independent review.  I’ve not been offered or received any form of compensation or accommodation for this review.]

I’ve been using Strava.com for about a month now, and I’m finding it to be quite a helpful tool for improving my physical conditioning and tracking my cycling rides.

I was hesitant at first to add Strava to my complement of tools to track my riding.  I have a custom made Excel spreadsheet where I log the key details of each of my rides.  I use Garmin Connect to pull the data off my Garmin GPS after each ride and appreciate the tools available there.  I could see no compelling reason to add one more step to the end of each of my morning rides.  I’m frequently pressed for time as it is.

Strava.com is a combination social networking site and exercise logging tool.  It is easy enough to upload your latest ride (or run … but I’ll be addressing the cycling part of the site exclusively from here on).  The reporting tools are similar to Garmin Connect with the addition a few additional data fields, including an estimation of the number of watts generated per ride.  Users have the option of using a Garmin GPS or a Strava app (iPhone & Android apps are available) to record the details of the ride.  All these tools work seamlessly, and the variety of input devices means that this site is usable by a wider variety of people.

But again, with the exception of having an easy way to examine the rides of other friends, there seemed to be no real reason regularly upload data … until I discovered the feature that will be both my downfall and my greatest tool for increasing my conditioning.  It is called “segments”.

All users are able to use the computer interface to define all or parts of rides as “segments”.  Each of these segments then are automatically logged separately, recording date, average speed, heart rate (if your device records this data), power, VAM (I’m not sure what this is), and time.  A graph displaying elevation, speed, heart rate, & cadence for that segment is available.  In addition, Strava also finds and ranks each rider who has traveled over this “segment”, providing a list of these people and their data details.  It also provides you with some ranking of your own individual performance on that “segment”, for instance indicating that this is your 3rd fastest time on this “segment”.  If you ride a new route, and someone has designated part of it as a “segment”, your details will be automatically available as soon as you upload the ride.  When creating a “segment” you are able to make it private, allowing you to have your own data separate from the public data.

For me, this one feature is what made Strava useful for me.  I know the “segments” on my regular route.  I have additional motivation to use those segments as sprint segments.  There is nothing I need to do to log these, simply riding over the length of the “segment” with my Garmin or Strava application turned on results in the segment being recorded.  Some days, I’ll not attempt the sprint or fast climb.  Some days, I use the “segments” for my interval training.  Some days I’ll choose a “segment” to hammer and either advance in the rankings or  improve on my best time.  That easy, extra motivation has helped me log some good speed on several key sections of my route, and it is far more accurate than simply glancing at the speedometer at a landmark.  The key for me is that it logs these without the user doing anything, no hitting a button on the Garmin or a stopwatch.  It is all automatic.  If you ride the “segment” more than once in your ride, Strava figures this out and gives you a new set of data for each time you have ridden it.  If you ride the “segment” in reverse, it will not count it as riding the segment.  If you stop prior to the end point, however, the clock continues to run.  If someone marks the “segment” as “dangerous”, the leader board is not displayed.

The tools available to create the “segments” are pretty intuitive.  You drag a start and stop button over a slider while the map display and elevation profile help you fine tune those key points.  If a similar “segment” already exists, the program will prompt you to use that … or give you the option to create your own “segment”.

There are other features on Strava that are available but that I’ve not explored in detail, including the ability to search rides based on several criteria, including distance from your start location, elevation change, and time.  Members of a cycling club can designate the club they ride with.  Tools are available to embed ride information on websites and blogs.  Events and challenges are available. Strava will hide your home or office once you designate the radius (500 ft, 1000 ft, 1 mile) and provides you the option of having your name and information public (open to all) or available to just Strava members.

Strava has two “levels” for users.  The first is free (which is the one I use) and the premium package is $6 per month with discounts for annual membership.  The premium level provides increased analysis of ride data and leader boards.

Try it, especially if you want to push yourself and provide additional motivation to increase your speed and/or climbing.

 

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One Comment
  1. It seems that Strava has really hit a home run with the features associated with identifying ride segments, and tracking and comparing of individual performance on those segments.

    The cycling club I ride with has always been into some serious hill climbing but the virtual competition aspect is driving many of them to chase after our local Strava King of the Mountain awards. This feature is definitely inspiring a lot of additional training and effort.

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