Strava is undoubtedly the most popular social platform when it comes to cycling. Almost all the cyclists in my local bunch use it in one way or another. Some are on a free account, while some pay $81.99 yearly to access Strava’s premium features.
How do you use Strava for cycling? What are some of the features that Strava has that make it so attractive to cyclists?
A health and fitness social platform
Strava was founded in 2009 by Michael Horvath and Mark Gainey. It’s available in 195 countries, with 20% of users from the United States alone.
As recent as 2020, Strava has a valuation of $1.5 billion after raising $110 million from Sequoia Capital and TCV in Series F funding. In 2021, there were 95 million users with 1.8 billion activities uploaded. At least half of the riders are on Strava in group rides these days. Even the pro cyclists are on Strava these days. Most Tour de France riders regularly upload their training and race onto Strava.
Cycling fans can get a glimpse into the world of professional racing, the efforts the riders put out, and the insanely high speeds they go up steep mountains.
More reading : How to Get into Road Cycling
The leaderboard ranks you against other cyclists, including the pros on a particular Strava segment.
It is the most popular Strava feature. There are millions of Strava segments created over the years, and you’ll likely find several just around your home.
The leaderboard is a motivation for cyclists to improve their fitness levels or to compare against their peers. Strava divides the leaderboard into gender, activities (cycling, running), and type of bike (pedal vs. electric bike) to create a more level playing field.
Strava leverages its extensive database with billions of uploaded activities to produce a Global Heatmap of where the popular riding routes are.
Heatmaps are very useful when you’re exploring new routes. A glance at the Heatmap indicates the popular areas and regions for cycling. You can go deeper into the street level or uncover hidden gems around your neighborhood.
Strava updates the heatmap monthly.
Analyze your performance
You can analyze your overall ride performance on Strava if you use a heart rate monitor and power meter. Combining these two will paint an accurate picture of your performance, and you can track your improvement over time.
The unique feature that isn’t available on other platforms is the ability to analyze your performance for each segment vs. other riders. You can compare your performance against anyone on the leaderboard and identify areas of improvement.
Track your training
The free subscription allows you to track your activities in the Training Calendar. You’ll see your total weekly mileage, total time, and the number of activities.
Strava Premium users can access the Power Curve and Fitness & Freshness features.
- Power Curve feature allows power meter users to analyze their best power output over a particular time, such as 1s, 15s, 1m, 5m, 10m, and up to 6 hours. You can also view the power curve on a historical basis to see how far you’ve improved.
- Fitness and Freshness track your form and fatigue and is a good indicator of how you’ll feel and perform on the day. For those familiar with Training Peaks, it’s similar to the Training Stress Balance metrics.
More reading : How to Train for Your First Century Ride
You can set both power and segment goals on Strava. Using the leaderboard and analyzing your previous and others’ performances, you can set specific and realistic goals for yourself.
You can also view your friends’ goals for the same segments, if any, to add further motivation.
More reading : How to Get Better at Riding Up Hills
Access to training plans
Strava has partnered with Carmichael Training Systems, the leader in endurance training and coaching, to provide training plans.
There are currently 12 training plans targeting various aspects such as Climbing Endurance, Steady State, Lactate Threshold, VO2 Max, and Anaerobic efforts. You can customize the plan based on the weekly commitment. The plans contain precise daily instructions on what you’ll need to do.
More reading : Why Train with A Power Meter?
Get discounts from retailers
Many retailers have used Strava to promote their products, especially in the last two years. There are now many Challenges where you get discount codes once you’ve completed the challenge.
The Challenges can involve riding a given elevation, hours, or miles in the specified time range. Some of the large retailers who regularly hold Challenges are Competitive Cyclists, ROKA, SIS, La Passione, Castelli, and Le Col.
More reading : How to Find Bargains and Discounts on Cycling Gear
Privacy and safety
Privacy and safety are the main concerns and are naturally so. We’re recording our activities and sharing them with friends and strangers on a social media platform.
Strava gives users the ability to hide the start and endpoints of their rides up to a 1,000-meter radius to address this concern. This prevents others from knowing your house’s exact location, especially if you’re used to starting and stopping your bike computer at your gate.
There’s also an option to make your rides private or only viewable by your followers.