The Angry Singlespeeder: Why Strava Sucks

Opinion

Editor’s Note: The Angry Singlespeeder is a collection of mercurial musings from contributing editor Kurt Gensheimer. In no way do his maniacal diatribes about all things bike oriented represent the opinions of Mtbr, RoadBikeReview, or any of their employees, contractors, janitorial staff, family members, household pets, or any other creature, living or dead. You can submit questions or comments to Kurt at singlespeeder@consumerreview.com. And make sure to check out Kurt’s previous columns.

What do you call two people going for a bike ride? A race. What do you call two people with Strava going for a bike ride? A race that never ends.

In concept, Strava seems like a good idea; mapping rides and archiving them for people to reference is a terrific service. It’s especially terrific for out-of-towners who don’t know of any good places to ride and need a quick guide at their fingertips. But in reality, I think Strava sucks because of one main reason — humans can’t be trusted to use it in a socially responsible manner. It fuels the alpha-male ego in all of us, eroding the social fabric that makes riding bikes fun.

Whatever happened to the old days of training where you had a wristwatch and a segment you regularly rode? Some days you’d go out by yourself and hammer it, other days you’d ride with friends and enjoy the social aspect of chasing after the fittest guy, seeing if you could hang.

Nowadays people brag about being 10th out of 200 on a specific climb, as if it’s some kind of huge achievement. Who cares? On Strava, if you’re not first, then you might as well be last. And that’s the problem. The constantly futile quest to be first is ruining the pleasure that used to come with riding a bike.

Strava is a true paradox, as it’s the most anti-social form of social media. Because everyone is so hell bent on personal best times or bagging the cherished KOM, people don’t talk to one another as much during rides. They’re either hammering, or getting ready to hammer. The social interaction doesn’t happen until everyone goes home and starts dicking with their smartphone or computer, giving ‘kudos’ and other cyber high-fives.

In a world without Strava, on any given day you could be first to the top of a climb and say “Yeah, I crushed that mountain. It was a good day.” With Strava keeping record, the results only confirm your overall mediocrity. At least without Strava, you could still claim that you were fastest on that one particularly good day.

Thanks to Strava, recovery rides are also a thing of the past. If you do a recovery ride and happen to have your phone or Garmin working, people will see you were 185 out of 200. Then the rumors start flying. “Oh man, did you see Billy Bob’s time up Monkey Hump? He must have fallen off the wagon!” And what fragile cyclist ego can handle that kind of abuse.

If you want to race, then either find the fastest group ride in your area, or open up your wallet and sign up for a race. Racing by yourself – or worse – racing on a ride that’s not supposed to be a race is just poor form. In the same way smartphones have forever altered the social code of human interaction, Strava has changed the way people ride — for the worse.

I don’t have a Garmin. I don’t even have a smartphone. I have an old piece of shit flip phone and rely on something called maps. You know, the paper kind? The kind with topographical lines and waypoints that tell you where an old mine shaft, service road or 4×4 trail is? Maps that you actually have to study before going out on a ride, so when you’re neck deep in the woods or way out in BFE you still have some idea of where you are. Thanks to the proliferation of Strava, cartography is a dying art.

Perhaps the greatest pleasure of not being on Strava is beating someone who contests every KOM. Most times I let the Strava kooks have their little race to the top. But once in a while I get fed up with the social disruption and get in the mix. Great satisfaction comes from beating a Stravaddict, because even though he holds the KOM, he knows he really doesn’t hold the KOM. Indeed, there are probably hundreds of luddites out there just like me who are not on Strava but who can ride his prized KOM faster.

And because you can never trust humans to behave responsibly, there’s all kinds of Strava-induced idiocy happening that not only ruins the social enjoyment of riding, but also hurts our broader reputation in the community. Take for instance the geniuses who are riding illegal mountain bike trails, then posting their Strava segments for private landowners, land managers and park rangers to see. Not only does this make the entire cycling community look bad, it puts future land access in jeopardy. On legal trails, corners get cut and obstacles removed all in the name of a few hollow, useless “kudos.”

Thanks to the constant quest of chasing KOM segments, humans are always looking for ways to game the system. There are even tips and tricks on how to cheat Strava, like driving your car to a big climb and doing it fresh or ending an actual segment inside your house so nobody can ever take your KOM. Seriously? And I thought running traffic lights, rolling stop signs and illegally weaving between traffic was moronic enough.

Most cyclists are familiar with the story of William “Kim” Flint II, the Berkeley, CA cyclist who was killed in 2010 when he careened into a car while chasing the elusive South Park Drive KOM downhill segment. In typical American fashion, a lawsuit quickly followed, filed by the family of Flint claiming Strava as the liable party. Although many believe the lawsuit to be frivolous, it has not yet been thrown out of court. As much as I think Strava sucks, trying to blame Strava for an individual’s irresponsible behavior sucks even harder.

In a world without Strava, riders are not thinking about the dozens of segments on a ride. If they’re riding easy, they can relax and enjoy nature and all the pleasures that riding a bicycle brings. If they’re riding hard, they’re thinking about the guys next to them and who’s going to be first to the top. They beat and hammer on each other, and at the end of the day, they’re not worried about going home to their computer to see who got what. They already know…until the next ride. And that positively doesn’t suck.

Read the counterpoint article “Freewheeling: Why Strava Doesn’t Suck.”

The Angry Singlespeeder: Why Strava Sucks Gallery
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Flag this dangerous Strava segment

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Someone stole your Strava KOM

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Strava led me to doping

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Sharing trails is unlikely when racing a Strava segment

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Strava made me dope

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No rainbow viewing when racing Strava

Can't stop to photograph rainbows when on Strava
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Rocket bike to gain an advantage on Strava

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Strava Segment Hunter T-shirt

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Strava ettiquette

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Strava segment marker painted on the street

Strava segment starting lines are starting to appear on public roads and trails.
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Strava documents average speeds well over the speed limit

About the author: Kurt Gensheimer

Kurt Gensheimer thinks the bicycle is man’s most perfect invention. He firmly believes ‘singlespeed’ is a compound word. He sometimes wears a disco ball helmet. He is also known as Genshammer. He is a Gemini and sleeps outside in a hammock.


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  • JS says:

    …..actual segment inside your house so nobody can ever take your KOM

    LOLOLOL…….I’m #1, I’m #1. Goooooo Me!

  • Chuck says:

    STRAVA is the best! I use it whenever I’m done taking several practice runs on a trail I’ve cleared of twigs and rocks and created corner-cuttin’ lines.
    When I’m finally ready for my “race” run, I go full out.Then, if some recreational cyclist loser gets is in the way, I just yell “STRAVA coming through” and they usually startle right off the trail. Hikers and horses too. I’m so rad.

  • Jenny says:

    I use strava just to track rides, that’s all. I don’t care that I’m usually #195 out of 200. I’m still ahead of the people who are sitting at home watching TV.

  • tim trunnell says:

    You people all sound like your grandparents did talking about how everything was so much better “back in my day”! The circle of life continues! Unfortunately there are plenty of assholes in this world and they would still be assholes with or without Strava.

  • Gideon Glass says:

    The basic premise of the anti-strava argument is false: that every ride, all of the time, you are going for a leaderboard or PR time. I am on Strava and I would estimate that about 1% of my time spent riding is spent on improve-my-Strava-time type efforts — which really are the same as old-style stopwatch-based PR’s, except Strava tracks them for me. As always, it’s mainly to compare against my own previous results.

    RE: recovery rides. Don’t people just leave the GPS at home for those? I mean, why spam your friends with lame short rides? That’s what I’ve always done.

    As far as riding “illegal” trails, most rides that involve trails of that type are no secret to anybody — ridden by 1000′s of people before and after Strava.

    OLH Bridge to Mailboxes – good choice. At least you have THAT going for you… and the flip phone.

  • Will T Smith says:

    Strava did not invent cycle assholes. They’ve been around for a LONG time, on and off road.

  • CFRoe says:

    I like Strava because it tells me how much faster I am on a 29er than a 26er Haha!

  • Dan says:

    Strava is the new thing to bash. Leadville bashing must be getting old.

  • Jesse says:

    Who ever wrote this probably isnt capable of a KOM and knows it.

  • Jason Novack says:

    This was happening way before Strava, MapMyRide, or any other mapping program out there. Bike Race Teams/Clubs were doing this years ago….before Smart and Phone where used next to each other. Has this compounded that? Probably, but I don’t blame a piece of technology on this behavior, that blame lies with us, the rider. There are people I know that won’t even ride anymore unless it’s training or at a race. That’s terrible, and who is to blame for that? Not an App on a Phone.

  • Troy H. Austin, Tx says:

    Good read and laugh. IMO you can choose to use it or not and you can choose for it to affect you or not. With or without technology there will be Stava’ers in
    any sport or event…just like the yonder days of social meetings and rides I feel that Strava is just a simple new way to be social and meet others or compete. Not everyone has the opportunity to “meet up” in a modern world, so this app lets everyone be together virtually. Additionally, mute the social media posts if you don’t care for them. In this modern day there are many that only want to hear about “me” to stand out away from the noise, hence the posts. After all, couldn’t the “old school” writers say the same about your article/blog and how you have it is easy with the new media technology? They could be saying right now that you are yelling *STRAVA!”

  • MTBAndy says:

    There is a Stravass here that cheats on a regular basis. He has driven, at full speed mind you, up climbs claiming “he just wants to see what the grade is” then claims the KOM. He also uploads his ride data to his wife’s account so she will take all the QOM’s. Strava started as fun until too many people started using it for their ego stroking.

  • Deez says:

    Once i forgot to turn my ride off and drove home on a segment. I got KOM and waited a few days to delete it just to be a dick.

    I use Strava for personal progression and ride mapping. As a newbie MTBer I have no idea of how fast i am going or what kind of shape I’m in unless I see it context with other people.

    They could be 8 years old or 100 with plastic knees. I don’t care because I’m not a racer, I just want to get better.

    I’ll never get a real KOM and don’t feel like killing myself trying. If someone ever yells Strava at me I’m yelling DOUCHEBAG at them. I stop for others on my rides all the time and mentally deduct a second or two.

  • Ewan says:

    In Amerika, technology rules YOU!

  • Jimbo says:

    This article was way better than the Pro-Strava article. Strava sucks! Stop Jane lining the trails and turning 12″ single track into 42″ single track for the sake of a fake ass race on the internet.

  • Marc S says:

    You summed it up right here.

    “I think Strava sucks because of one main reason — humans can’t be trusted to use it in a socially responsible manner.”

    It’s not the tool that sucks, it’s the tool using it.

  • freebiker says:

    What’s strava?

  • Mark says:

    I don’t really see the problem here. If you don’t like Strava then don’t use it.

  • Greg says:

    I would respectfully disagree with the author. Strava/GPS is just a tool – the real problem is the riders. I have a sneaking suspicion that the rides shouting “Strava” and wrecking trails by cutting corners were not exactly courteous riders before Strava came along.

  • Julius says:

    Nice this is an awesome article. I never had a Garmin but I thought about buying one. Then years went by and I had to ask myself this a want not a need. I agree with Jenny it applies to any sport and activity.

  • Patrick says:

    it’s a tool, but if you really must time your ride, and feel the need to post it, fine. but for those who use it to brag or need for an ego boost, just keep in mind other riders have the right to use those same trails, tracks, or what-have-you’s. shouting “strava!” to get people out of the way just seems lousy. i have to agree… join an organized race. its safer for everyone else, and you can brag all you want both in the real world and the cyber world.

  • Buckdanley says:

    People really yell “strava” and expect you to yield to them? Holy crap!
    I’d probably take a cue from Cutters and put a stick in their spokes.
    I have a GPS so I don’t get lost in the backcountry. Is it nice to be a

  • Raymond says:

    Stand back old timer, your era has finished. Those golden Elysium fields you cherish in your mind, never existed, let the young bucks through! ;)

  • Gshock says:

    You sound like the guy in the VW bus driving in the fast lane getting pissy because you have a prius honking the horn at you for going 55. Get over yourself, technology is not your enemy. And BTW did you realize you have are polluting the environment in that busted ass VW? In all seriousness, Strava is a great tool to gauge yourself against others and motivate you to meet personal goals. Don’t blame Strava for users that take it too serious.

  • mtb4-eva says:

    I love this! Kurt…this is perfect. Two types of riders, Stravassholes and the rest of us. The Strava guys in my town mapped the trails crossing State Forest Land. Smooth. Now the state closed our trail, and we have to build a huge ‘go around’. Thanks Stravassholes. Can’t you just chill out, and enjoy our sport? Use Strava for your road rides…or not at all.

  • OneEyedHito says:

    The main problem with this op/ed piece is that it keeps referring to Strava KOMs for climbs. Strava is for descending. Spandex blows.

  • Tom says:

    Its cool to hate strava. I hate it because it constantly looses its signal. I doubt theres any rider who actually yells ” strava”. (Populist fiction writing 101). But if there was, we could all agree we hate him. Nice topic to boost traffic though. Love the link to why strava is great. Web writing for revenue lesson well delivered. Nice work.

  • Brad Herder says:

    I LOVE STRAVA!

    It’s an awesome motivational tool and has great training information and statistics.

    It’s also very useful for finding the best places to ride in other parts of the country.

    And it’s just plain fun ribbing your friends.

    Also, around here (Western Mass), trails are pretty empty so user conflicts aren’t an issue.

    It’s my favorite thing since the mountain bike!

  • doug says:

    “Oh man, did you see Billy Bob’s time up Monkey Hump?”
    Possibly the best line in the entire bit!

  • Xc29er says:

    I think people are blowing this out of proportion down hill idiots that don’t yield don’t care if ts for strava or not. Rude is rude that’s all there is too it. I like strava it is my Facebook for active life style. It’s all about manners and some just were not brung p right and they ruin thing for others.

  • Ryan Henry says:

    He is the angry singlespeeder!!! What did you expect??? No need to be so upset and explain why you are a different kind of Strava user!!!

    For the record he has a good point about people not using maps anymore!

  • Chad G says:

    I started using Strava a year ago (road and mountain) and love it. I have a time demanding job and a young son so my time is precious. I often have to balance wanting to ride with a group of my buddies (often who are slower than me) with wanting to hammer and pin it. I often ride with my buddies but hammer segments and wait at junctions. That has NOTHING to do with Strava. It has to do with me wanting to maximize my opportunity to ride and push myself and get exercise.

    I ride for a few reasons and these aren’t in any particular order:

    1. Exercise
    2. Adrenaline
    3. Challenge
    4. Camaraderie
    5. Being in nature

    The way I achieve the majority of those goals is to ride as fast and hard as I can. Sometimes, the camaraderie is a bigger priority than other times. Sometimes it’s not.

    At the end of the day, to each his own. We all have different priorities and circumstances we’re coming from and dealing with… Personally, Strava pushes and motivates me to exercise more frequently and harder and for me, its benefits outweigh its costs.

  • Horatio says:

    Very enjoyable, finally someone who feels the same as I do about strava.

  • Flash Bazbo says:

    I believe that pricks will be pricks, whether they have Strava (and spandex) or not. But occasionally you will meet even a road biker who says hello.

    I enjoyed the article.

  • Shady Mady says:

    Strava is the bees knees.. I out to take your momma’s QOMs!!

  • will says:

    Singlespeeder huh? No wonder you’re angry…you ride a single speed. What are YOU trying to prove homeboy?

  • Mark says:

    This sounds like it was written by just another egotistical elitist ignorant liberal … “Strava suck because humans cant be trusted to be responsible”. I suppose the editor feels the same way about guns. Strava never caused any single person to be irresponsible, it was those irresponsible people that chose it. Did Obama freaking write this garbage?Who ever you are stop posting your elitist drivel…

  • Robert says:

    After reading a lot of the comments, it appears, the truth really hurts. I also don’t and will never use, ” look at what I am doing now book.” Most people call it Facebook.

  • Mike disconnnected says:

    What the heck is Strava and who cares? Sounds like something that got stuck to my tire as I rolled over it.

  • geotrouvetout67 says:

    Never heard of Strava before but now that I replaced my 20+ years old bike computer by a Garmin Edge (I don’t have a smartphone), thanks for letting me know about it, looks like a cool website. If I can better myself on a track it’s all benefits for me, to stay fit and competitive rather than a couch potato. I know I’ll never be KOM and don’t care but if some care about it why not? If that makes them happy, let them be happy and proud about it. If they cheated, so what? They know in their heart that they are not the real KOM and the guy who is second and did not cheat knows he’s done his best and that’s what counts IMO.

  • simplerider says:

    Keep it fun, keep the trails open, and be safe.

    “Keep it virtual”

    epomyride.com

  • BoZ says:

    Well, I care about Strava.. Myself and a friend were continually racing each other (Mountain bikes and dirt tracks) before we even knew about strava, Then we bumped into some bloke who saw us, and asked: were we racing for Strava?.. We said: “eh, Whats that”? .. Now we have it and we compete as much as possible.. But we do it with etiquette for other riders and we LOVE getting KOMS.. Why should anyone who doesn’t care about it, care about what others do?… Strava has reinvented riding for us…

  • Hey Jude says:

    I use it to a) keep a record of my rides and b) to compete against myself. I’m a mid pack rider so I know I’ll never compete for a KoM and just accept it. My wife on the other hand is a top 10 rider, so she’s obsessed with segments and QoM’s etc…

    There’s always Map my Ride – less competitive.

  • Steve says:

    I disagrree 100% with this article. 1. I am an average rider that likes to see the time the pro’s put up even though I may never be KOM it fun to have that feature. 2. I use this mostly to train for bigger rides and when I log my big ride there is and should be a since of pride in that accomplishment that translates into the stories we share about our rides by giving accurate fact. 3. I have actually meet new friends to ride with through this app that ride in the same area as me with simular times which is better then long waits for either rider.

    Don’t bash social media because you havn’t figured out how to use it to be more social.

  • Mario Chiaramonte says:

    I just got my first smartphone last month and just started using Strava and I have to say that I love it. Before Strava, I was still racing with myself, trying to better my best time or break certain times. Only now, I can actually see that I’m a lot slower that I thought and I my personal goals have been heightened a bit. Plus, the competitive factor helps motivate me. I don’t think I’ll ever even get close to top 10 on any of my rides and I know my friends ride a lot more miles than I do, but my local hills have longer, steeper climbs, so I’m motivated to do more climbing, so even if I can’t come close to them on mileage, I can still best them on the total elevation climbed, which is something any rider can appreciate. Plus, just trying to move up a couple of spots, even if it is from 94 to 92, somehow seems like a worthwhile goal and a satisfying achievement. Really, I’m not kidding, Strava is truly pushing me. I mostly ride solo and the mountains I ride don’t get a lot of traffic, so Strava isn’t taking any of the social aspect away from me, in fact, it gives me something to talk about with my friends that also ride.

  • CCMTB says:

    IMO it’s the user not the tool, although those words could be interchangeable here. I like the performance of the actual Strava app because it’s precise and rarely, if ever, crashes. I’ve paid for many other cycling apps and keep coming back to Strava. And the only time I get Strava-fied is when I’m on a climb. Downhill times don’t count to me because there’s less effort involved.

  • Forrest says:

    Don’t even know what Strava is and don’t care!

  • summitparkrider says:

    I use Strava, when I ride alone it is super fun to compare how I did on that particular ride. When I ride in a group I ride with the group, not worrying about my Strava rank for this ride. Strava is not all encompassing it is a fun added tool that I like to refer to that is all.

  • Carlos says:

    Ride a trail like a responsible human being. Grab your a hold of your determination and go sign up for a real race and throw Strava away.

  • Scott says:

    The author is just another angry / negative political person taking the “Strava addict” who can’t do any kind of ride other than a go-all-out Strava ride.. who then applies that type of person to ALL Strava users. Some people are so narrow minded. Lame article. Wake up !

  • Your Momma says:

    Why the Angry Douchebagger Sucks, now that would be a better read.

  • Jay says:

    This article is just hate piece. Those that cant adapt or use the technology always are the ones writing this crap. Thier little fragile cycling ego cant handle it and it cleary shows. Strava is pretty epic. I dont have to talk to any douche bags during my ride and the times posted speak for themselfs Quit living in a cave and trying to prove your core because you use a flip phone and cant properly run strava. Maybee if you took the time to learn new technology istead of slamming it, you might see the benefit. How is a group ride with a bunch of douches in spandex any dif than strava???

  • pete says:

    So sträva sucks except when he’s referring to the law suit, huh? Ultimately, if there is anyone or thing that sucks, it’s the people. It’s the people who take something past what it might have originally been designed for. I don’t think our rides have changed since strava came along…well, except maybe that last ride through Dogwood with Mark…jeezus, guy was trying to give me a heart attack :)

  • Exit says:

    Strava is a great motivator and nothing more. You can do a segment over and over in a single day, if your trying for a KOM, and the majority of them are going “up a hill”, so I don’t really buy the crazy down hill theory. Every rider I know who is not a complete newbie always give the right away to the uphill rider.

  • Fernando Ribeiro says:

    I think the article name could be different, it could be something like “Why strava online competition suck”, but the author has many points indeed. I use Endomondo to track my rides in Brazil, never had behavior problems with it. Cheers people…. Just remember to always have fun!

  • luisMHdez says:

    Love Strava! Keeps me co. On solo rides. Keeps me informed, and motivated. And yes gives me some bragging rights! But in no way does it make me an asshole on the trails!!!!

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