I am going to immediately jump in and join the Strava debate. If you don’t know what Strava is, it is the San Francisco-based social media that has swept up the cycling world in the minds of more than a few. Think Facebook for bike riders and you have a good grasp on what Strava is.

Strava will record and log your rides through either your smart phone app or through a Garmin-like head unit, which is what I use. Further, it will break down your ride into a series of segments and compare your ride to every other recorded ride on the same segment. I have no idea how many segments there are in Sonoma County, but I would guesstimate somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000.

Strava won’t release how many users they have, but they did state publicly that they have 300 billion data points worldwide, which they started selling to other companies earlier this year. Hall Road in Santa Rosa has a segment that 6,000 riders have recorded times on. I find it interesting that Strava is more popular in Europe than here in the States. Box Hill in England has been recorded 175,000 times by nearly 30,000 people.

So what is the problem? I will talk about what I like later on, but the easy answer is ego. We are all nuts and obsessed with winning. Now instead of riding for enjoyment, many riders are riding full gas through segments just to try move up leaderboards and earn the elusive trophies that Strava will put next to your name for obtaining top ten times. There is even a site where you can digitally enhance your rides to artificially post a better time. Lame!  Though you can flag a segment as being dangerous, most are not. I find that this is where the stupid gene kicks in for many riders.

Since Strava includes the elapsed time instead of moving time through segments, riders are penalized for stopping at stop signs or stoplights. Stupid! When segments like that get flagged, they often get angry comments from other riders that cannot be reprinted here. More stupid!  So when you see someone blasting through a stop light at 25 mph, you wonder if this is the reason.  Good example; there is both a north bound and south bound segment that covers Fulton Road through Highway 12. Beyond stupid! Looking at the leaderboard, the top times obviously took some crazy risks.

Much has been made of two deaths in the Bay Area that were blamed on Strava segments, but I don’t see much being done to block dangerous segments. In fact if local Police agencies looked at some of these GPS-recorded segments, the riders themselves could be open to prosecution.

The good part about Strava is the social element. Being able to see your friend’s rides and comment on them is certainly a positive and personally a huge motivator for me.  I rarely will smash a segment, but if I am out somewhere and feel good I will push a little extra.  The added benefit is that you are doing something good for yourself.

The coolest thing about Strava is that many of the gods of cycling use Strava and you can compare your efforts with them, especially on the major hills here in the county. I don’t know of any other sport where you can do that.  So being able to see the times of Levi, Peter Stetina, Michael Torckler and others efforts is awesome!

Use Strava, but have some damn common sense and don’t piss motorists off.

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– Bruce McConnell

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