Saturday, June 20, 2015

Well Go and Figure: I Like Strava!

I really like reading bikesnobnyc, and bikesnobnyc really likes poking fun at roadies who obsess over all the latest tech and bikes and training stuff. One way in which some people do this is something called Strava. Snob pokes fun at it too, which made me somewhat reluctant to try it, I must admit. Sad as some (including the bikesnob) may find it, I hold the bike snob in pretty high regard. 

Strava allows cyclists and runners and swimmers (tri-geeks or mono-geeks) to track their workouts' paths, speeds and distances via gps and also uses any extra info the person's electronics may offer, like heart rate and power meter readings. Caring about that stuff or buying all the latest tech is not really my deal, but way back when I had a basic cycling computer that measured distance and speed, I really liked it. Too much. That little device on my handlebars became quite a distraction and I started to spend too much time watching it and trying to beat previous top speeds, best times and so on. I was getting all OCD about the little screen readings and missing out on the best parts of cycling: fresh air, sunshine, trees, people... you know, the outdoor world in all its fine variety; the whir of the drivetrain, the thrill of speeding along with the wind rushing in your ears.

I wasn't cool with that situation and ditched the computer and have been pleased with that decision ever since. I missed having a tally of my miles because it helps me stay on top of maintenance tasks like chain replacements, knowing how many miles a set of tires had lasted, etc. Other than that, it was good riddance to the computer, especially since I had mastered manual cadence computation.

I forget what made me curious about Strava. In any case, I decided to try it.

I don't spend money on high-end cycling stuff, tech included. However, I do own a smartphone and there's a free Strava app to track my rides with. Knowing the pitfalls of handlebar mounted tech, I just start the app, stick the phone in my fanny pack and enjoy my ride. When I'm finished, I just stop recording and upload the activity and I'm done. Activity tracked, ride enjoyed unimpeded by OCD statistics watching. It's the best of both worlds!

Strava is also a platform for people to compete, trying to go fastest on "segments" identified by riders. Common cycling routes usually have lots of segments on them that have been defined by Strava users. Climbs are very popular segments. The person with the fastest time is referred to as "King of the Mountain" and their achievement is thus called a KOM.

My dog Snow Face is about as close as I'll ever get to a KOM, since we're talking about some of the most fit riders in town riding racing bikes vs. a middle aged overweight man on a heavy commuter bike. That said, Strava allows me to compete with myself, letting me know when I've put in a good effort or a personal best (PB) on a segment. After a brief spate of segment-chasing and over-exertion (a common problem among Strava users because it is kind of addictive) I have chilled out. It's nice to see segment info from a ride, but I no longer seek it actively. On routes I ride often, I know where the segments are and attack them hard some days and ignore them completely on others.

It should be noted that Strava has been criticized for inducing some unsafe riding by idiots chasing KOMs... I believe it. If you're gonna try it, please don't be one of those. Being a cycling nerd is completely forgivable, but putting others at risk so you can play speed racer is not. 

I am finding Strava fun and encouraging and best of all my cycling stats OCD is relegated to times that I'm OFF the bike rather than ruining my time ON it. I think the lesson here is that you don't have to be Kaptain KOM to enjoy using Strava, nor do you have to geek out watching tech strapped to your handlebars. Go and figure, I like Strava! Being a devoted follower of BSNYC, I would ask you to keep this under your hat, OK?

Yer Pal,