A Beginners Guide to Strava

“If it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen!”, is often a phrase
you’ll hear hurled around by roadies and mountain bikers all over the world, but
what exactly is Strava and what is the big deal all about? Chances are if
you’ve been a keen cyclist over the last 5 years or so, you’ll either use, or
have at the very least heard of, Strava. Strava is hugely popular, with 25
“activities” uploaded every second and 15.3 million every week. Strava can be
used for running and swimming as well as cycling. For those not in the know,
we’re focusing on the cycling features of the app, so here’s our quick start to
guide to what it is, what it can do and how it can benefit you as a rider.

For years riders have tracked their rides with GPS cycle
computers and Strava is very much along the same kind of lines. Not only can
you upload files from your GPS computer to Strava after, or even during your
ride, you can also use the free downloadable Strava app for your smart phone.
This gives you cheap, easy access to ride tracking technology without having to
shell out on an expensive GPS computer. And for many riders, that alone is
enough to make Strava a winner. But there is a lot more to Strava than its
ability to simply track your ride.

While the basic app is free, for keen riders who want to
extract the most from the app there are a trio of membership packages that are
designed to cater for different riders needs, aimed at safety, training and
analysis. These “Summit packs” are add-ons payable monthly or annually and
start at just £2.49 per month. The Summit Safety Pack adds real time tracking
so friends and family can see where you are at all times, as well as personal
heat maps to help people stay safe when exploring. Summit Analysis gives you
more tools to play with when combined with heart-rate monitors and power meters
which can be used after or during a rider. Finally, the Summit Training Pack is
for super keen riders and athletes with dedicated training plans and improved
versions of the features included in the free app.

Strava has a range of features built in that allow to get
the most out of your riding. These range from performance comparison to social
networking and more. Accessible from desktop or your phone/tablet, your Strava
profile is the main hub of the app. From here you can access all of the
features at your fingertips with ease, like looking over all of your previous

The simple ability to be able to store all of your rides in
one place makes it easy to look back on previous rides you’ve done. This is
perfect for tracking your progress fitness wise; if you regularly ride the same
trail or route, you can see where you were going faster or slower on your last
ride and if you so desire you can then use this to your advantage. You can make
a change to your training or routine to help you get fitter for the climbs, or
if you’re finding yourself going slower downhill, you can dedicate more time to
sessioning descents to get your confidence and speed back up. Of course, you
can also just as easily use this feature to keep track of how far and where
you’ve ridden over the years for reminiscing.

This brings us neatly onto several other handy features of
Strava. One of the big draws of Strava is the competitive element of cycling.
Whether that is against yourself or other riders, Strava and its ability to
create riding “segments” has revolutionised non-competitive competition. With
online leader boards, you can test yourself against other riders in pursuit of
the ultimate prize – the King or Queen of the Mountain. If the heady heights of
the top of the leader board are beyond your reach, you can aim to be the top of
the leader board of your local club or your list of riders that you follow. You
can also get trophies for new Personal Records (or PR’s) on segments, as well
as your second or third best times. Combined with the monthly challenge’s setup
by Strava themselves and you have an environment where you can as competitive
you like, challenging yourself or others as you ride, all without actually
having to enter a race.

This competition also brings rise to the social networking side of Strava. In a similar vein to Instagram, riders can follow other riders around the world, from your local riding buddies to professional athletes. They can then follow you back too. From here, you can comment on rides, give other riders “Kudos” for their ride and see how you compare to them on the leader boards. It’s also great for meeting new riders and finding new routes, all of which can benefit your riding experience.

Strava is a brilliant app, but it isn’t without its
downsides. It can become an obsession; the competitive nature of the sport can
lead riders to push their limits too far in search of a KOM, putting themselves
and others in danger, while many mountain bikers bemoan the simplification of
trail features or short cut “Strava Lines” as people search for every little
advantage they can. When used in moderation, Strava is a great way to add
another useful dimension to your riding.