Monday, September 5, 2011

Using Strava to analyze your rides

An alternate title for this post could be simply “Strava is awesome”.  I recently was put on to strava via a friend.  Originally I had thought it was just another online tool to track bike rides & runs like Garmin Connect or trainingpeaks, both of which I use frequently. 

But then I had a look at strava, and there are a couple of features that really stood out:-

  • comparing sections of a ride with others – with King of the Mountain competitions
  • identifying the climb difficulty and statistics – e.g. category 2,3,4, % grade, elevation gain etc.

So I signed up for a the free service and immediately I really liked what I saw.  I have been riding a bit recently in the hills out at Skyline drive, the first of any sort of mountain riding I had done.  When I uploaded my first ride, I could immediately see how difficult the climbs were, and it told me what position I had finished against anyone else who has uploaded a ride from the same location.

Here’s an example:-first-ride-elevation
not only can you see the elevation for the whole ride, it split up the ride into segments automatically. In addition to that, you see a table with your performance for each segment.  You can also add your own segments.
I found this fascinating.  The first climb of the day was a tough one, after a 4.5 mile descent the climb is 3.9 miles, it is rated at a category 2 (same scale used in the tour de France).  It took me 26:37 to complete the climb at an average pace of 8.8mph, with an average HR of 152.  It also estimates the average power for the climb, for those like me without a power meter.  When you click on the climb segment, you get even more detail – like the grade being an average of 5.7%, and information about who is the fastest man & woman to complete the same climb.  Once you have loaded up several rides along the same segments, you can compare your own best performances too.

If you look closely at the icons on the left column of the chart above, there are some awards there too, it will tell you if you have a new PR or even if you made the “KOM” King of the Mountain. 

Of course you can choose whether to keep your information private, or public and compare to others.   There is an element of social networking built in too – friends can leave comments on your efforts and can click on the “Kudos” button (just like a “like” in Facebook).

It is possible to create your own segments too – they don’t have to be just hills.  Last weekend I combined 2 rides that I often do into a single long ride.  I created segments for a tough out/back and another segment for a loop I often do, so now whenever I go back, I have something to compare them too.  When you create a segment, you can choose to keep it private, or make it public for everyone else to have a go at.

Here’s another example:

An out and back section of almost 17 miles with a decent amount of rolling hills.carters-run-elevation

and after uploading 3 rides where I completed this section, I can compare the results.carters-run-comparison

Part of the reason for the difference in speed/time between May 22nd and June 5th was switching to racing tires.  The ride on August 20th was part of a 3hr ride, not sure why the HR was up as high as it was, but it is good to see that I was only 25 seconds slower than the last time where I felt like I went harder on a much shorter ride.

I’ll often catch myself thinking that I had a “great ride” today – now I have a tool to help me understand this much better.  It won’t just be a perception any more, or an overall average speed that I use, with Strava I can analyze it in many different ways.

You don’t even have to have a fancy bike computer.  Strava supports Garmin devices, and there is also an app that you can download for the iPhone and Android platforms.

I think it is my new favorite tool!

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