Sometime ago I read about something called Strava and online “social” fitness and my response was to roll my eyes and complain about how much I hated facebook then move along. Later I read some more about it in Velonews, and I’m like, hey this might be cool, but then something shiny flew by and I lost interest. Finally I noticed where Velonews awarded Strava.com their technical innovation of the year award and took 3 seconds to type strava.com into my browser.
So what did I find? Strava.com is a whole lot like Garmin Connect, which is a web service where you can upload ride data and get stats and what not. I used Garmin connect a little and liked it, but since my GPSmap 60CSx isn’t a “fitness” GPS its not supported which means I have to manually save the files from it then manually upload them, so much work.
Unfortunately the 60csx isn’t supported on Strava either, but the novelty is making the extra steps worth it until I get a supported unit. What makes Strava special is that anywhere on your route you can designate a segment, then Strava will search every public ride in its database and compare you against everyone who has ridden that segment and create a leaderboard showing who’s the fastest. If you upload a ride where someone has already designated a segment you’re informed of your place on the leaderboard.
Now those of you far wiser than I may be saying, “So what,” those of you who don’t wish to constantly compare and turn what should be a relaxing past time into some kind of make believe pretend sport against imaginary computer people you’ll never meet. I, on the other hand, am ready to plaster my name on as many leaderboards as I can get it, perhaps on the bottom but that means I’ve got nowhere else to go but up.
For instance, when I looked to see what kind of segments had been designated in Southern Illinois I surprised to see that several had already been made, of course the infamous Williams Hill was two of them. A cyclist from Indiana had taken a trip over to test his mettle against the most difficult climb in Pope County. Now I’m firmly positioned in the number 2 spot after last weekends record-breaking attempt. You can see how this is adding an exciting new dimension to riding. I’m no longer just riding for fun, it’s about honor, turf, bragging rights, this is for real!
Besides the leader board I’m also getting power data from my rides, yes its just averaged based on my weight, speed, and elevation, so its kind of meaningless, but hell, its free. Apparently if I pay them 60 dollars a year they’ll give me a sufferscore for each ride and detailed heart rate and power data analysis I love analysis, but the real reason I’d becoming a paying member is that it lets you shuffle around the leader boards, so you can compare yourself to other fatties or old guys. Instead of the Andy Shlecks of the world.
What they offer for free is amazing. For example my nemesis on the Williams Hill climb, I click his name and get a side by side comparison against him. Like did you know that he’s ridden almost exactly the same amount of miles this year as me, 4400, but he’s climbed almost 50,000 more feet at 127,000 to my 80,000. I better go find some more hills.
In short Strava is amazing, its like data, tons of data, imagine a world where everyone has their own baseball card. Imagine a group of staticians following you around keeping track of all the meaningless things you do. Strava makes it all possible. It even has a running mode too! My advice is if you own a GPS unit start taking it on every ride, get a free Strava account, upload those rides and let the social fitness networking begin. If you want me in that network click here. YEEE HAW!
If you’re wondering how much of this post is sarcastic, I haven’t decided yet, I’ll get back to you.