What I like most about Strava

I like a lot about Strava.

I could go on at length about the features, ease of use, reliability and philosophy of the app but there is one feature that helps me the most.  The app divides rides into “segments” and reports results – speed, grade, elevation gain and estimated power – for each of them.  And, it not only compares the results of each segment with your previous rides highlighting “PR” (Personal Records) but shows how others riders have faired on the same segment.

I have included screen shots of a ride I do regularly, repeat climbs (and descents) up the Spanish Banks Hill to UBC.  This is a favourite training ride for local cyclists.  The surface is smooth, the scenery looking over English Bay is spectacular (if you have time to look) and, although only 2 km long, is a challenging climb.

I have been doing this climb for over 20 years.  All I knew was that the grade was approximately 4%.  I knew some parts were harder and, some easier.  What I didn’t realize is that the grade varies from 3-14%.  It starts at about 8% with 14% section midway and, a more relaxed 4% at the finish.  The variation makes it a good training climb.

The climb is also a good hill to practice descending.  The winding descent is smooth and has very little traffic most of the time so you can you use it either as a recovery descent to catch your breath or power down the whole way reaching speeds of 50-60 kph.

I have always liked this climb.  No.  Like is the wrong word.  The climb can hurt.  But it is a satisfying feeling when you summit and repeat climbs build strength and hone climbing and descending skills.

Strava has helped me understand the climb better and how best to attack it – where to attack and, when to rest.  Knowing a lower grade is coming up allowing recovery lets me attack the steeper sections harder.  There is a lot to like about Strava but this feature has helped me the most.

However, I understand some take it too far – constantly competing against themselves and others.  Turning every ride into a race.  Even endangering themselves and others in the pursuit of fast.  I am not a racer.  Never was.  I simply enjoy riding.  Enjoy training.  And, I want to be as good as I can for my age.  If Strava can help, thats all I want.

Are you a Strava aficionado?  What features do you like best?  Is the Premium version worth $6 a month?  And, why do some riders use both Strava and the Garmin Edge?

It appears I still have a lot of questions.  For me, the ride is what is important.  Speed is secondary.  I always turn the ringer off on my phone when I ride.  And, sometimes I don’t turn Strava on.  Sometimes, I just like to ride, enjoy the sun, the view and the wind in my face.



10 thoughts on “What I like most about Strava

  1. The Garmins are useful for navigation because the iPhone battery life is really poor if you have a constantly updated map on your screen. I use Cyclemeter and will get about 3hrs before the phone dies, not ideal if you plan on being out longer than that. For this reason I am looking for a dedicated cycling GPS probably the Magellan Cyclo505 when it’s released. Other apps like Wahoo or even the native Strava app will give you better battery life but neither will give you any type of route guidance, so then either you are using Google maps or a printed cue sheet.

    I’m a premium member for a few reasons. I like the product so it’s my way of supporting it. Plus it gives you access to other features like goals, heatmaps of where you ride and a few other training tools of which I use the heart rate zones the most.

      • I tracked every single ride or run I did for three full seasons, 1,800 miles the first season and more than 5,300 for the next two. I just got to thinking maybe I should enjoy cycling without the apps for a while. The jury is still out (at least until it warms up and I see if I can hang), but I’m certainly quite happy without. I the apps just got old after a bit.

      • I can understand that. All rides are not necessarily a race. Also, if you ride with a group frequently, the group is your Strava, your inspiration. You don’t need an app to tell you whether you can keep up or not.

  2. I use Strava to upload my rides to. I don’t track on my iphone, as I don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with a dead phone. Plus, my garmin edge can get about 16-17 hours of battery life.

    I like the segments, but I don’t get too caught up in it. Also, I have some people I keep in contact with to see what they are doing and they look at what I am doing. Kind of fun. No premium for me.

  3. Wow this is pretty fantastic! As a new cyclist, I was only aware of the cycling route mapper website by UBC/City of Van. Will use Strava in the future!

    • Be careful. Strava is addictive, particularly if you are competitive – I don’t think you are from what I understand. Strava has made me more aware of the routes I normally ride – distance, speed and, more interesting, grade. Vancouver is hilly and mountainous every which way. Have fun with it and let us know how you are doing with it.

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