Cyclists beware: Strava is addictive, and fun

Strava? What the heck is Strava?

I had seen ads during the Tour de France about Strava, but it wasn’t until I was riding Slumgullion Pass outside of Lake City that I had a direct experience with it. Tom Suplizio and I had ridden to the top and were talking about our ride at dinner. He told me he had downloaded our ride to Strava, and we had the fourth fastest time up the pass.

I thought, “Huh, that’s pretty cool.”

Strava is a free website that lets you compare your training and riding times to other people who have ridden some of the same rides. It can be used for running, swimming, cycling, mountain biking and other sports. It gives you a record of how much you’ve trained, whether it’s hours or miles on the bike, vertical feet climbed or many other metrics.

It’s also like a social network where people can “follow” each other and comment on rides or segments, and people give each other “kudos” for good rides.

The feature most people seem to like is the timing and ranking function. It works with satellite GPS and gives you times for various segments of rides and then lets you know where you rank on each particular segment. For example, I rank 87th on Ped-e-kis with a time of 10:59, while former single speed world champion and Colorado Mesa University alum Ross Schnell owns the King of the Mountain (KOM) with a 7:43.

One of the crazy things about the website is there are no defined segments. Anyone can make up a segment on any section of road or trail. This makes it fun, but also a little weird.

A few weeks ago I got an email from Strava that read, “Uh oh, Mitch Hamilton just poached your KOM from the East Gate to Saddle.”

I didn’t even realize there was a segment from the tollbooth on the East side to the saddle; this segment is a whopping three-tenths of a mile.

I then realized the “segment” to Cold Shivers’ Point actually has about 20 different segments. Someone has made a segment from Switchback 1 to Switchback 2 and so on.

I looked at this saddle segment that I had just lost, and I thought, “OK, I can get this back.”

I got home from work and went for a ride. At the tollbooth I got my pass to go into the Monument and said hello to the attendant. I had decided I would do 10x1-minute hill intervals, and my first one would be this saddle segment. I sprinted as hard as I could; at the saddle I looked at my timer and was stoked that I had taken 12 to 15 seconds out of the KOM time on this segment.

When I got home and downloaded my ride I noticed my segment time was 1:36, but that I had a “resting” time of 42 seconds. I had lost this KOM because of stopping at the gate. Whoever started this segment (and many others) literally started the segment right at the tollbooth. That also cost me the “KOM” to the first switchback as well.

Now I was pissed. I thought, “What idiot would start a segment right at the tollbooth?” And, “Why are there so many stupid segments anyway? The only time that counts is the one to Cold Shivers Point?”

I went back a few days later and got a good warm-up. It was early, so I didn’t have to stop at the guard tower. I sprinted for the saddle as if I were being chased by a pack of rabid wolves and successfully repoached the KOM from Mitch.

Strava is filled with all kinds of controversy as well. There are debates about whether motor pacing is legal, or working with a group, or if times during races count. My former teammate, Dr. Peter Stubenrauch, proudly wears a T-shirt that reads, “Strava made me dope!”

On my rides with Lance Armstrong, he knew exactly where the Strava segments started and finished. On a few of them he said, “I won this one, and you’re second!” He had deleted his old account and was now trying to retake old segments and poach KOMs. I hope to return the favor when we ride the monument together sometime later this year.

The main thing about Strava is it’s fun. It’s addicting. I find myself thinking about what I need to do to improve a PR on a certain segment. It offers something for everyone and gives everyone a chance to see where he or she stacks up against anyone who has ridden and downloaded a segment.

So, download the app, get on your bike, be safe and poach a few segments.

Good riding!


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