Until April of this year I had never used Strava. That’s right. Never. It did not exist on my phone or in my life. I had a vague notion of what a QOM meant and what a “segment” was, but that was it. In fact, I hated Strava. But, it’s difficult to judge a product without using it, right? It’s hard to back up your reasons for hating Strava without having used it. So, when Singletracks.com set out to do a 30 days of biking challenge in April, and said they’d be using Strava to track our rides, I had no choice but to jump on the bandwagon and download it. It’s still there, on my phone. It’s almost July now and I haven’t trashed the app. So what does that mean? Have I become a convert? It’s hard to say.
I like lots of things about Strava. I like tracking my rides and seeing how hard I worked. I like seeing how far I went and how I compare to other female bikers in the area. I like to be competitive, whether it’s just with my own times or with those of other people. I think Strava is good for that; it forces you to compete with yourself. If you’re training for races I can absolutely see how Strava is crucial to your training. You really need to know which places slowed you down and where you were able to make up time. Strava is pretty great for that.
BUT (and there’s always a but)… I think Strava is taking over my bike rides. When I bike, I like to take pictures. I like to stop and rest frequently. I like to try things over and over until I get them. What I don’t like is thinking, man, I’ve probably screwed up my Strava time today by taking time to do a do-over on that last spot. Is that Strava’s fault? No. It’s my own fault for letting something so insignificant get in the way of biking the way I want to bike.
Biking PBR at 18 Road in Fruita, Colorado
I hate getting to a particular piece of trail and thinking, Ok. This is where I leave everyone because this is the segment I know I can QOM on one day and I’ve got to practice! So even though I love flying down this hill behind the boyfriend, I’ve got to go first because I need to go as fast as humanely possible so that I can beat other people who also have gone as fast as humanely possible down this section of trail!
I did this just last weekend in fact. Then I got to the end of the trail and missed the BF. He should have been there too, but he was taking his time, enjoying his ride down, and enjoying the view. I had simply flown down the trail in such a rush that I missed everything around me.
Again, this isn’t the fault of Strava! If it wasn’t Strava it would be some other app doing the same thing! It’s our own faults for letting technology get in the way of our biking. We feel the need to track everything, study all the stats, the times, the calories…when what we should be doing is using that phone to take photos. Stop and capture what’s really important: having fun with your friends, enjoying nature, improving your technique. These are the things that matter. Unless you are a racer that Strava time doesn’t really matter.
It’s the same with the riders dubbed “Strava-holes” on the trail. These folks go off-line, ignore rules of etiquette and are just generally asses to everyone else on the trail. But that’s not Strava’s fault. That’s their own fault for getting so wrapped up in their times that they ignore all the other rules of biking. They shortcut, they blast past people without saying hello and they’re just downright rude. Don’t be a Strava-hole. Use it if you want, but use it wisely.
I think I may start only tracking certain rides. On rides when I know I’m going alone or with just one other person who is also tracking, I might continue to use it. But in most cases, I think I just won’t even start the app. It’s not worth it. I end up torn between Strava and enjoying my bike ride and honestly I’m just not willing to let the app win.