Bike riding and racing around the West Coast in a jersey with a big Strava logo on it often draws one big question: What is Strava?
The default answer is, "Strava lets athletes all over the world experience social fitness - sharing, comparing and competing with each other's personal fitness data via mobile and online apps."
But what does "social fitness" entail? Let's explore further.
At its core, Strava simply logs your activities' routes that have been recorded via a GPS (Global Positioning System) device. So if you ride your bike from Point A to Point B, Strava saves and translates your route into a friendly map as an entry for that day. From there, you can explore all sorts of interesting data associated with your activity: total miles, elapsed time, feet climbed, calories burned and an elevation profile.
As you log more activities, you can view weekly, monthly and yearly totals. However, using Strava as an in-depth activity log is just the beginning; what makes Strava unique is what happens when it combines everyone's data.
Any Strava user can turn part of a route into a Segment. Along your ride from Point A to Point B, there may be a particularly challenging climb. By turning that challenging climb into a Segment, you can now compare all of your previous and future attempts up the climb and see how you stack up against every Strava user that has also ridden that climb.
Think of it as virtually riding with thousands of other people, even if they rode your route in May at 6 a.m. and while you pedaled it in August at 4 p.m.
Strava then aggregates all of those Segments into an explore tool, which can help you find new and interesting routes in the places you already love to ride. The most popular Segments are always shown first, so you can be certain to find routes that hundreds of other Strava users enjoy. Imagine clicking around a map of your town and discovering new singletrack trails or a big climb on an unexplored road.
Best of all, Strava is free. All you need to get started is a GPS-enabled device or smartphone. Strava has a free phone app for both Android and iPhone units. Keep in mind that Strava isn't just for cyclists, it tracks activities for runners, hikers, skiers, swimmers, skaters and surfers.
So log onto http://strava.com, sign up and experience social fitness for yourself.
- Team rider Nick Schaffner is the author of this week's Marc Pro-Strava Racing column. For more information, results and upcoming events from the Truckee-based cycling team, visit http://marcpro-strava.com.