Whether you’re a dedicated Strava user with multiple KOMs or just like to log your rides and find fun new routes, you’ll definitely learn something from our list of top Strava tips.
This article was last updated on 27 March 2017.
Strava’s taken the cycling world by storm. This smartphone app has thousands of users around the world, and millions upon millions of rides have been uploaded to it since it launched.
While it’s great for tracking your rides and helping you keep a tally on your mileage, speed and routes, Strava is capable of so much more. It’s also got a few little features that can be helpful or that you might want to be a little careful with.
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1. Try a new challenge
Want to step things up from plotting routes and aiming for QOMs and KOMs? Strava runs regular challenges which you can sign up for on the Strava website.
This could be aiming to cover a Gran Fondo distance in one ride, climb a certain number of meters over the course of the month or just aim for the most miles cycled in a month. Join them and use them as motivation to ride more, then compare yourself on the leaderboards.
2. Join a Strava competition
Segment competitions arose a couple of years ago and are a great way to add spice to your riding without racing and risking a pile-up. A club will nominate a segment, usually a climb, and members have to complete it within that month.
Bath bike shop Avon Valley Cycles organises one for instance, with an overall classification through the year of cumulative time with a big prize at the end, plus prizes for monthly segment winners, spot prizes and smaller ones for everyone beating the benchmark ‘lead-out’ time given at the announcement of the month’s segment.
It’s fun to do and there’s great camaraderie between riders, though going for the overall win does take a lot of focus and effort. It doesn’t matter if you’re going for wins or aiming to break into the top 20 for the first time, it’s still rewarding. See if a club or bike shop near you is running a comp and get involved.
3. Give it a name
Strava is social and the people who follow you do so because they’re interested in what you do on a bike, so give them something interesting. Even if your latest upload was a commute, change the default ‘Morning Ride’ title for one of your own that tells people something about your ride or gives them a laugh.
Use the description panel, too. Tell people how your race or training session went or about a great road you discovered.
4. Add photos
Whether it’s your new shoes, the cake you had at the cafe or an incredible view, adding photos to your ride makes them more interesting to your followers and also feeds a great collage in your profile.
5. Plot where you ride with a heatmap, discover somewhere new
The Strava Heatmap application is a great way of plotting where you do most of your riding. It layers up your entire Strava history and allows you to quickly see your favourite routes and rides.
However, may we suggest an alternative use? Why not take a closer look and see where in your area you aren’t riding, as there may be undiscovered roads or trails within throwing distance of your usual routes yet to be discovered.
Handily, the Heatmap also allows you to see where other Strava users are active, which is great for finding out other potential riding locations a little further afield.
6. Set up a privacy zone
While it’s great to be able to record your ride and share it with friends, one thing you don’t want to do is let potential thieves know that there’s a rather fine bicycle at a certain address — your home — at a certain time.
Luckily it’s easy to sort this one out. Go to the privacy settings and set up a ‘privacy zone’ around your house. Any ride that starts or finishes in this area won’t have the full route mapped and shown online, but will still record all the other relevant data.
7. Try Strava Flyby to compare yourself against others
Strava Flyby is a function which allows you to see not only your ride but also the ride of anyone you rode with, whether that’s during a race, club run or even just sharing the road with a stranger for a short stretch.
The great thing about this feature is that it allows you to then compare where they’ve been faster, what segments they’ve been slower in — handy for perfecting your race craft.
Undertandably, some users might not want to have their route and details popping up in the feeds of unknown riders on the road. All you need to do is pop to the Privacy Settings tab and on the ‘Flyby’ box, tick ‘nobody’, then you’ll remain invisible to others using the Flyby feature.
8. Keep it personal or just among friends
If you don’t really want to share your rides with the whole world or only want a select few of your cycling friends to see them, you need to change your privacy settings.
Again, all you need to do is go to Privacy Settings, then turn on the ‘enhanced privacy mode’.
9. Gear mileage tracking
By entering details of your bike(s) you can keep tabs on their mileages, if you’re so inclined. You could even use this to monitor the life of chains and cassettes and so on.
10. But don’t give away too much info about your bike
However, whether you’ve spent thousands of pounds or dollars outright, or upgraded parts lovingly over time, losing it would be a big loss.
So, although it can be tempting to detail exactly what bike you are riding when registering your ride on Strava, we suggest keeping it vague. Do list ‘650b full suspension mountain bike’, DON’T list ‘Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper FSR Carbon 650b’ or you risk making it a target for thieves. Also, it makes the rest us feel jealous.
11. Back it up!
You know that slightly tongue-in-cheek meme about your ride not counting if you didn’t Strava it? Well, while we might not go that far, we would be devastated if our ride history got lost.
So if you’re concerned about losing your precious data, you might want to consider uploading your rides to Garmin Connect as well as Strava. It takes a little bit longer, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind.
12. Become a Strava artist and paint your town red
Who doesn’t love a little Strava art? As well as gaining you much kudos online (depending on what you draw, of course) it’s a great excuse to try new routes and different areas.
To really get into it, you’ll need to plot out where you’re going to ride in advance. If you live in a city, words are a good place to start as there’s an abundance of straight roads on offer. Practice makes perfect, so start simple and work your way up in complexity.
If creativity when riding isn’t really your thing, but you do fancy a beautiful way of displaying your hard-earned Strava stats, then there are a number of companies who’ll add the art to your numbers. One such example is Sisu, who can visualise your stats in a number of ways from straight-up route traces to circular plots of duration or distance.
13. Follow a pro
There are scores of top professional riders on Strava and following a few gives an unprecedented level of access and insight into their race and training days, such as André Greipel’s peak power of 1698W while sprinting to victory on the Champs-Élysées on the final stage of last year’s Tour de France (or, more impressively, the 1513W he sustained for 10s).
While pros were initially cagey about Strava, many soon realised that it’s a great way to connect with fans and now lots of them upload their rides soon after the finish of even the biggest races, earning kudos by the thousand.
Greg Van Avermaet uploaded his Olympic Road Race-winning ride, deservedly earning 14,845 kudos, the highest of any activity on Strava last year. The most followed pro is Laurens ten Dam, more than 95,000 track his rides.
14. Follow local riders better than you
Looking at the pros and their 15k miles per year is impressive and engaging but not much help to improve your own riding. For that, follow riders in your area who you see setting good times on your favourite segments, especially amateur racers.
Look at the training sessions and hours they put in and see what you can learn. This is often more beneficial than following pros, unless you actually have 25 hours per week to train.
15. Reassure loved ones with Strava Beacon
This feature was rolled out on Strava Premium last summer, and lets you share your riding location in real time with friends and family. It uses GPS to find your exact location and your phone’s data connection to broadcast that to selected contacts, much like Garmin LiveTrack or MapMyRide.
They won’t be able to see your full ride data like speed, distance, elevation or any ANT+ sensor data like heart rate or power. But they will be able to find you on a browser-based map and check whether you really have popped out for a “short spin”. You have been warned…
16. Give kudos generously
Everyone likes getting kudos for their rides so give it generously to those you follow, including people you race against. In 2016 the global Strava community gave over 1.3 billion kudos, an average of four per activity.
Don’t think that rides have to be 100-mile epics to deserve a thumbs-up or that you have to kudos everything.
17. Tag your commutes
If you regularly ride to work then identifying the activity as a ‘commute’ is actually performing a public service. Through its Metro project Strava collects (and makes anonymous) commuting data in cities and makes it available to planners and local authorities, who can use the information to inform their cycling infrastructure decisions, which can only be a good thing.
18. Flag rides as necessary
Sometimes people leave their iPhone app running after they get in the car so their drive home gets uploaded with their ride, resulting in a slew of KOMs or a GPS error causes a massive speed spike. While this is rarely deliberate, you can flag a dodgy activity for Strava to check. The user will be notified and can crop accordingly.
Strava is self-policing; the community is maintained by users willing to do this, but do so responsibly. And yes, it’s okay to flag pro riders motor-pacing at 30mph for hours behind a scooter!
19. Check out the spin-off apps
Strava’s raw data has enabled a flood of spin-off apps (over 13k!), from analysis tools for the KOM-obsessed such as VeloViewer and Toolbox For Strava to the recently launched Relive.cc, which creates animations of your ride over a 3D map, much like those used on Tour de France coverage. It looks more impressive for a hilly sportive than your commute.
20. Join the BikeRadar Strava club
Did you know Strava recently picked BikeRadar to be one of 30 Verified Clubs to test a new content program? It’s true! Join our club and you’ll get a selection of our best stories, reader photos and tips in your feed. It’s a constant surprise, you could see downtown Singapore lit up at 5:30am, Swiss singletrack in the snow, the expanse of the Australian outback, or rides in shorts next to Arizona cacti.
Over 6,000 riders are already part of the BikeRadar Strava Club, and in the past week alone they’ve collectively logged 106,163km of riding, which is rather impressive. Join us and contribute some km or pics of your own.