I had just moved back home to Ireland, to a part I hadn’t lived in for nearly 20 years. So I bought myself a road bike so that I could go exploring. But how was I to know the good biking loops to take?
A friend had introduced me to Strava a few months before hand. Mel’s a super pro biker who takes her cycling seriously. She’s also the reigning Irish Road Race Champion, if that wasn’t proof enough. She opened up her laptop with much excitement to show me her online Strava profile. “You see these hills?” Mel asked, motioning to the map on the screen. “You can race up them and then compare yourself to the others who have ridden them”. She called these sections ‘segments’ and showed me how, if you’re the fastest ascender, you can get a virtual ‘Queen of the Mountains’ badge.
I’m not the most competitive type when it comes to my training. I’m quite happy to dander along on my long runs and rides. If I have to do a speed session, I’ll slink away to a track or gym, away from prying eyes. So the idea of having my training spins recorded, measured, compared, and then plastered across the internet I didn’t really get.
In my new home a few months later, I still pondered where to ride. It was then that I remembered Strava and its many maps. So I opened an account, zoomed in to where I lived, and then roamed around the area to see where riders had taken their wheels. Soon enough I found cycle routes up and around the hills of Donegal and Derry that would certainly suit the bill. I could even download other riders’ routes on to my Garmin Edge and follow their GPS trail.
As soon as I got home, I figured I might as well upload my rides on to my Strava account. No point in clocking up the miles on the road without showing the result. But as soon as my Garmin sucked up my data, without me knowing, it split it into segments and compared me to my peers. There I was, 39th out of 56 for the Rossaor Climb. I had registered a paltry 23.8 km/hr heading up the incline.
All my non-competitive urges have disappeared since that day. Now, before I go out for a spin, I know exactly which hills are timed. I take advantage when I’m riding with others so they pull me up the slopes. As soon as I’ve reached home, my Garmin is the first thing I plug in. Strava downloads, splices, compares, and coughs up the results before I’ve taken off my overshoes.
And, my goodness, the thrill when someone gives me a ‘kudos’ for a ride where they think I’ve done well. The email notification is music to my ears.
I’ve heard of others being addicted to the Strava bug. And though my reasons for joining were purely innocent, I recognise the warning signs. Now I don’t allow myself to play on it if I’ve not done a good bike ride. And I stop myself from racing up hills just to shave seconds off my time.
Mel once told me she wanted to be Queen of the Mountains on a particular hill segment. So she stopped at the bottom, hid her bike gear and bottle in the nearest hedge to lighten her steed, and went full hog from there. Strava duely handed her the well-deserved title. Now there’s a Strava addict if I’ve ever seen one!