Strava: The Perfect Fitness Community

What is Strava?

What is Strava?  The Strava Primer

Why are we so passionate about Strava? What is Strava? Strava is a fitness community at that compiles gps ride data. GPS ride data includes a recorded gps ride or run that athletes are recording through various fitness gadgets such as a iphone or a Garmin device. The ride data is recorded while the athlete is phyically completing his/her ride (Here is one of Chris’s Rides). The athlete then uploads the ride data to Strava's fitness community, where it is compiled and compared against other users. The crux of why Strava differs from the other online fitness community is the "segment."  An athlete can create a "segment" on that recorded ride. An athlete’s segment is stored as a gps location’s start and end point. Strava will then create a virtual leader board that shows you everyone whom also completed that "segment" and uploaded it to Strava. The virtual leader board ranks everyone according to time. If you do that segment the fastest, you earn the King of the Mountain/Queen of the Mountain award. 

For a great perspective on how addictive and virtual game-like Strava is, check out Scarlet Fire's blogarticle.

How did Strava bring GPS Recordings to the Masses?

For a long time now the 'serious' athlete could record all their activities and analyze the data.  The biggest player that surfaced was Garmin and they tailored products to the niche markets of runners and cyclist.  Within the higher level of competitors it seemed everyone had a Garmin strapped to their arm or to their bike.  But how did Strava emerge as the big player when they were so late to the game?  The answer to that is the smart phone.  When Strava entered the market the smart phone was constituing over half of the US consumers with growth rates off the charts; so it was perfect that when Strava started they started with their own smart phone application.  All of sudden anyone with a smart phone could log their rides or runs and they would get automatically posted to their community.  But the team at Strava did not stop there; they allowed any of those other already existing GPS logging devices to be able to upload their activites too.  This was the game changer and the concept none of the other online athlete communities did.  

Why is Everyone Excited about Segments?

As one team member says, Strava Segments are the next best thing since crustless bread.  Ok, maybe an exaggeration, but they are pretty ground breaking and here is why.  Most non-professional athlete's train and race in the areas around them, or in places were race events are as rare as the Dodo bird.  With Strava allowing any road or trail segment on our planet to be permentaly marked in the cloud it has brought the competition right to our front doors.  PLUS, at anytime we so chose to compete on that segment!  What this did was narrow the pool of atheletes which one is competing against and in turn brings a higher self confidence to each of us.  To double the confidence boost an athlete can get, a lot of the segments are fairly short sections of road or trail.  This means it is much 'easier' to go 110% up a short climb, then to get your results from a race event lasting an hour or more.  Athlete's can also pick and choose the segment's they want to ride hard which more adaptly fits their abilities.  To put that in perspective a little: Eric 'may' have a wimpy power output compared to Chris, but Eric is also a tad lighter then the diseal powered Chris so he may choose to go hard on all the segments with very steep grades.  In a way, this equals the playing field over such a short distance, were in truth any longer race with varying hills Chris becomes a distinct speck in horizon leaving Eric in the dust.

Let me recap that for second.  Segments are made by the athletes in the Strava community; most leaderboards for a segment have local competitors; and most segments are short distances.

How Does Strava Keep Me Coming Back?

Strava does not sit back and play the passivist in all of this.  They seek to poke the inner fire of every rider by providinge-mails, virtual challenges and the virtual trophy case.  Isn't motivation what we truly desire?

John Rogers most aptly illuminates the premise of Strava: "You don't really understand an antagonist until you understand why he's a protagonist in his own version of the world."  In just so happens, Strava creates there own "version of the world" by augmenting every local riders' reality.  As key antagonist in the competitive life of local athletes, Strava sends the following email:

Uh oh! Steve Jonahs just stole your KOM!


Hey Chris,

You just lost your KOM on Cannonsburg SGA Part 2 to Steve Jonahs by 1 second.

Now get out there, have fun and be safe.


-Your friends at Strava

Look at this e-mail carefully.  It has all the elements to make you return to Strava.  Its make you aware you lost your KOM trophy, identifies the individual that stole it (especially if your aware this guys takes your KOMs) and indicates the time (luckily 1 second here).

That's not all Strava does.  It also allows other riders to follow you and vice versa, your ability to follow them.  For instance, I follow several pros that are on Strava.  I get daily digests from Strava informing me how many miles they rode, which always make me feel lazy.  Strava also permits you to give kudos and comments on other rides.  There is nothing like putting in a hard ride on a cold day and having your friends notice by giving you kudos.

Why is Strava Stealing the Serious Athlete?

Recreational athlete aside, Strava hasn't rested on it laurels by being a fitness community for the average joe.  Strava is developing a market for the serious athlete too.  Prior to Strava, I was addicted to trainingpeaks where I could use WKO Plus.  It allowed analysis of my power data and e-mail digests of my training plans.  Strava has quickly formulated its own tools that do much of the same computations.  I've yet to use the power feature as it is a premium option.  Spite my fruglieness, Strava does provide a free trial offer to test out its premium features.  Something I would suggest any one to take part in.

Here is a recent article regarding their power analysis and segment intensity score.

Nonetheless, even if you can't find the motivation and the power metrics convincing, there is no better tool on the market (other than the occasional twitter tweet) that allows you to watch your competition.   For instance, you want an off weekend but it's not in the plan, you can quickly scroll the last weeks training of your closest friends and foes to determine whether you can rest easy or you get out and hit the road.

In conclusion, Strava is quickly taking the market.  While this blog post is older, Strava has some very interesting statistics regarding its market in a easy to read infographic which we have also embedded below. 

Strava is also quick to develop new tools and alter there system.  Just since I've been a member I 've seen increased effecienty with posting data and creating leaderboards along with the new premium acount features.  Check it out for yourself and see why we are so excited about it.

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