Seven things I hate about Strava

No, really

Strava. What it's really all about.

Lots of people whine about how Strava is destroying cycling, what with the whole “added competition” aspect and all. Or something.

These people are of course entitled to whine as much as they want about whatever they want. But the fact remains that Strava, and similar apps, are enormously valuable to cyclists, and not just competitive testosterone-driven street racers out for a new KOM. The key thing being the fact that your detailed data allows you not just to compete against others, but to compete against yourself. And even excluding the competitive aspect, it’s really quite nice to have a record of how many kms you’ve covered, how much uphill you’ve done and how often you’ve done it, and how much you’ve improved over time.

And I’d be a whole lot slower and a lot less fit if I didn’t have some kind of self-challenging tool to kick my arse of a morning. Or, to be more accurate, some kind of self-challenging tool that turns every commute into a gut-wrenching interval session.

That said, there are things about Strava that piss me off. Royally.

1. People taking KOMs in cars or on trains

This happens surprisingly often, and was funny the first few times it happened. There I was, shiny new KoM on some dopey insignificant segment, next thing I get an email saying someone has stolen my KoM by… wait… 45 seconds? Whoever that is, they’re mad fast and… oh wait. They did it at 85km/h. On the train line next to the segment itself. Sigh.

It’ll happen to you too. Then two days later, you get a string of KoM notifications on your favourite route and it’ll turnout that the guy who beat you did it with a top speed of 110km/h by leaving his Garmin switched on in the car for his 10km post-ride drive home.

First of all, you’re seriously driving ten kilometres with your bike in the car after a toddle around Sydney Olympic Park? Fuck right off and refer to Rule 5. Second, switch the Garmin off and trim your uploads if you happen to forget.

2. Broken elevation data

I like going up hills. It’s pretty good fun, when you look back at it. It’s often torture while you’re doing it, but nevertheless, some of us like to focus on our climbing. To this end, we watch our VAM score – an invention of Michele Ferrari (boooo!) – which attempts to standardise climbing performance by looking purely at how many vertical metres you gain per hour. I’m no Schleck and certainly no Clenbutador, but I find VAM useful – so much so that when I rode Mount Hotham in December, I switched my Garmin to a VAM/kmh/avg custom display at the bottom of the hill and kept it there for the whole ascent.

So what?

Well, I use veloviewer to give me detail on VAM over various climbs. But an app is only as good as the data you pump into it, and occasionally one finds a segment created based on bad GPS elevation data. The Veloviewer blog goes into some detail here, but suffice to say it’s a pain to find you’ve got buggered up data, and a pain to get it corrected, when Strava could be running batch jobs to find anomalous broken segments in the background.

Also, segment explore favours categorised climbs. Buggered up segment data means what you often find is flat segments marked as Category 1 and not the joyously gut wrenching climbs you’re looking for. Booo.

3. Badly-thought out segments filled with traffic lights and stoplines

If a segment has even one set of traffic lights, it becomes a game of chance whether you’re going to get a good run or get stopped by the lights. It removes the possibility that you can measure your performance from day to day, and instead you end up measuring how lucky or unlucky you were to pass through at a given time. Joy.

Also, these are the segments that draw the ire of the “Strava encourages reckless behaviour” crowd. It is assumed by these folks that if a segment has traffic lights, Strava is somehow encouraging riders to run the light. And maybe some do. But personally I abort, brake to a halt, and resign myself – cursing and out of breath – to another try later or abandonment of the segment altogether. Joy. Again.

4. Ten second drag race segments

If ever there were a pointless pursuit, it’s trying to set a fast time on a segment that lasts less than twenty seconds. There’s simply insufficient resolution in a tool that measures speed once a second. To make that one second gain on a very short segment, you probably have to be going 5km/h faster than the next guy, and what comes out is a squadron of impossibly fast riders sitting on joint KoM, and all one second slower times failing to even register a trophy. And then there’s GPS margin of error. Pointless. Mark segment as hidden.

5. People that flag safe segments as “hazardous”

There’s a segment not far from me, on one of my many to-work commute routes, which is marked as hazardous on Strava.

Fair enough, you might think… until you learn that the segment in question is on a wide, separated bike path, with virtually zero pedestrian traffic and crash barriers between it and the road, with no blind corners, perfectly straight with visibility hundreds of metres ahead… on the flat. But some joker has marked it as hazardous. Er… Yeah. Look, I understand why the system is there, but in its current state, it’s deeply flawed. New segments get created to replace the old, and your rides end up littered with dead segments, all covering the same ground. And Strava support tell me there’s no way to unmark a segment.

Sure, they can be hidden, but my OCD is irritated by the “plus x hidden segments” link. Aaaaagh. Must wash hands. Clean. Nice and clean. Wash. Clean.

Yes, that’s my fault for being obsessive-compulsive.

6. People whining about how Strava is destroying cycling.

Shut up and ride your damn bike. Competition has always been part of cycling, Strava just makes it asynchronous. And optional. If you don’t like it, don’t use it. And if other people using it annoys you, don’t ride with them. Problem solved.

You know what’s really destroying cycling? Dangerous road infrastructure and draconian off-road access restrictions. You’re welcome.

7. Coming 11th overall on a segment


3 Thoughts on “Seven things I hate about Strava

  1. 4. 10s Drag race – worth noting that when using some GPS devices you can set them up to use Smart Recording ( so the recorded points can be much further apart than 1 second. This means that any times for a segment can be a number of seconds out either way as Strava don’t currently extrapolate the times for when you crossed those virtual segment start/finish lines. I’ve tried to explain that in this post and accompanying page
    Liked the post though and thanks for the mention 🙂

  2. Help us protest QOMs, and KOMs and take back our trails. It doesn’t need to be a competition.

  3. Nick Kindelan on 17 January, 2015 at 7:11 pm said:

    How about adding the route planning feature to that list? Here i am trying to plan out a route and this stupid thing just will not do what i want it. I have to place a waypoint in a different place (if i can find one) and then move it to where i need it. Also dragging the map around is almost completely impossible. I have to hover over the screen clicking manically until i can drag the map to where i want. This thing has me pissed and swearing, and im a laid back easy going person. So yeah. F strava in that respect! Great for everything else but something as simple as this should be a breeze to use.

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