Several years ago when I was starting to become a more serious cyclist someone told me that I should sign up for this site called Strava. The site was relatively new at the time and appeared to be the budding social network of cycling. A few people I knew were on there and it was kind of cool to see what rides others were doing and also to compete against them on some local hills and other segments. As time went on, Strava began to explode in popularity and is now used by most cyclists I know and by people all over the world. It is always funny to hear seasoned bike racers who have been out there on the road racing circuit for twenty years discussing segments and the strategies that they would have to implement to take that King of the Mountain. “If we go out with a strong group on a day where there is a nice tailwind and we keep it organized and really hammer it hard we can win that segment back from the guy who stole it!”
Participating in Strava can be a lot of fun. You can compete, give people kudos on their accomplishments, join challenges and see where you stack up compared to other local cyclists. However, it can quickly become an obsession and source of pressure as it takes on a life of its own. I enjoyed the competition of Strava and the social aspect of it, but I felt like it put imaginary pressure on me. Once I knew everyone could see my rides I felt the need to ride as fast as I could every time I went out. I didn’t want anyone to see my slow recovery ride, so even my recovery rides were faster than they should have been. My first full year on Strava I over trained pretty badly, I think in part, due to the pressure I put on myself to keep up appearances on Strava.
Strava can give you some goals to work toward, especially if you are not someone who races. You can try to achieve the climbing and distance challenges they set up, or pick your favorite segment and work on becoming the king or queen of the mountains. However, you need to compete safely in these challenges. Some people get too fired up when they are notified that someone has stolen one of their KOMs or QOMs. You get a nice message “Ut oh! Jane Smith has stolen your Queen of the Mountains on Mount Everest, get out there and get it back! Although more recently they changed that last part to “Now get out there, have fun and be safe!” after several Strava related accidents some of which resulted in deaths. It’s crazy to think people would take those kind of risks just to get or regain their king or queen of the mountains title on a certain segment, but it has happened.
I feel like most people go through phases of Strava, similar to those outlined below:
- You sign up for Strava, think it’s cool and start uploading your rides and following friends.
- You notice many of your friends are riding more miles than you, so you start piling on more miles to keep up.
- You pick a few segments and go after them as a fun diversion on your ride.
- You start riding even more miles and planning all of your routes around hammering on specific segments.
- You spend your nights sitting in front of your computer analyzing people’s rides and plotting ways to take away their KOMs.
- You start riding with your Strava “frenemies” to examine their strengths and weaknesses so you can continue to plot your theft of all of their KOMs.
- You take more and more risks in your riding just to move up on the leaderboards.
- You get the Strava symbol secretly tattooed on your body
- You try to ride even more miles, but then “hit the wall” and realize that you’ve over trained.
- You reevaluate your goals and reasons for riding so much.
- You decide to just use Strava for fun, give everyone kudos, and just go back to enjoying riding your bike…. although if you can steal a KOM every now and again you wouldn’t mind 😉
I honestly like a lot of the aspects of Strava. I like being able to see my friend’s rides and give them encouraging “kudos.” I like being able to see my improvement on certain segments over the years. I feel like sometimes in the off season, going for a specific QOM or two gives me a bit of a fun goal. However, remember that it is just a fun social network of athletes and that we are all at different levels, training toward different goals. Don’t become too obsessed with comparing yourself to others, just focus on your own goals, enjoying your riding and hit the kudos button every now and again to send positive energy out to your friends in the local cycling community.