So you’ve popped up in the top 10 on a few leaderboards and now you want to get your first KOM. Here are our tips to turn a good effort into a golden one.
1. Keep it fun
Firstly, don’t take KOMs too seriously. Don’t celebrate too much when you get one and certainly don’t gloat or don’t take it personally when you lose one again. Simply say ‘chapeau’ and think — seriously — about how to get it back.
2. Stay safe
This is really important: do not take risks in pursuit of Strava medals. There are some really dangerous segments — one descent local to us has a blind mini-roundabout halfway down — and Strava relies on users flagging them as such.
Go for it with all you’ve got but wear a helmet, obey the law and engage your brain.
3. Target a segment
Strava has become too competitive to get KOMs just by doing a fast ride. One user was confused as to why he had no KOMs given that he and his brother would average an impressive 22mph on a three-hour ride together, but that’s like taking Mo Farah’s best 100m time from the middle of a 10,000m race.
The vast majority of leaderboards are topped by riders giving it their all for that segment’s exact duration.
The first step is to pick a segment to target. Look for one that you ride regularly and where you’re already towards the top of the table. It should suit your characteristics — if you’re 90kg then maybe that 10 percent climb isn’t a great idea. Ignore super-short segments — anything under 20s is a bit pointless and, besides, GPS isn’t accurate enough over such short distances.
There are many segments, bypasses for example, where slipstreaming vehicles is accepted practice but it’s dangerous, we strongly advise against it and it’s always a shame when someone drafting spoils another ‘clean’ segment.
4. PRs mean progress
Practice your favourite segments both to get better at them — that tricky corner or deceptive flatter section that may or may not warrant the big ring — and test yourself. If you’re seeing PRs then you know you’re moving the right way.
5. Train smart
Look up training advice for the sort of efforts at which you want to improve. [Strava Premium can help here.]
Doing four hours at 16mph in a group is good for your base but won’t make you much faster up a steep, two-minute hill. Most segments are short, so it’s no good being a sportive diesel, you need strength and high lactate tolerance. Do over-geared hill reps, 4x4mins at 110 percent of your threshold, sprint reps of 10s on/20s off… Some squats and planks at home won’t hurt either.
6. Be aware of weather
We’re not suggesting you grab your bike when there’s a severe weather warning to go surfing the gales, but you’re unlikely to set a KOM into a headwind. By now most segments have seen big efforts with tailwinds.
If you’re targeting a segment, check the weather on a good app such as AccuWeather before you ride. A tailwind makes a big difference even on a steep climb.
7. Learn what effort you can do
Chasing KOMs is a great lesson in pacing. You need to do your maximum for the distance without blowing up. A power meter is a big help and it demonstrates their usefulness in microcosm, otherwise you need to ride by feel; heart rate is too slow to respond and only useful for long climbs.
The only way to do this without a power meter is to keep trying, using the ‘My Results’ filter to study the outcome.
Study your target segment online and use the street view function to learn exactly where the start and finish are located. You’re not going to set a fast time in a flappy rain jacket so wear your most aero jersey, ditch unnecessary weight, clean and lube your chain, and check your tyre pressures.
Do the same for yourself. Make sure you’re not tired from your previous ride, warm up for at least 15 minutes before your attempt and have a caffeine gel to pep you up.
9. Go for it
A segment attempt starts with the approach. You need to enter the segment with as much speed as possible but without denting your energy. Once you’re past the start point, keep calm and remember your pacing.
Think aero and get your elbows bent and head low unless you’re under 15mph. If you’ve paced it right, it should be a near-impossible agony towards the end…
Suck it up, suffer and keep pushing for the end. You can handle more than you think. If you get it all out and achieve a PR you can be proud of your effort no matter where it places you on a leaderboard.