Strava users. Data junkies. Social media heads. Oversharers. And then, the KOM crazies. What is typical of a KOM chasing Stravaphile? You can learn about a Strava web persona from the meticulously crafted titles hovering above uploaded rides. One example is the “Understated Ass Whooping”. This ride title is commonly associated with a ride that lands multiple KOM’s, and will read something like “Didn’t Have Good Legs Today” or “Recovery Ride with a Few Efforts”, or “Sunday Cruise Before Yard Work”. The caption betrays with ironic prose, a behemoth cycling attack that was likely preceded with a brooding, weeks long planning and training regimen. This ride was on deck for a while, possibly months and set up to nab a string of segments. The key element of the Understated Ass Whooping is avoidance of any referral to the massive blast of speed and power of the KOM event.
Opposite the Understated Ass Whooper is the “Exuberant Hard Tryer”. The latter will openly celebrate and draw as much attention as possible to themselves. Typically these ride titles feature caps lock, exclamation points and laughter. For example, “Took 3 KOM’s Today, Then Added 5,000 Ft of Climbing!!! I’M ON FIRE!!!!!!” or “Another Day, Another KOM!!! LOLOLOL!!!” Mildly annoying, at least the Exuberant Hard Tryer is an open book, there’s no passive aggressive posturing or narcissistic undertones, just pure energy and enthusiasm. You can’t hate on it, but you want to.
Then there’s the “Quiet Loner”, the ride titles are unaltered, default app generated, like “Morning Ride” or “Evening Ride” and there’s very few Kudos, no comments, just a ton of KOM’s and training rides. It’s easy to assume this type of rider is socially awkward or uninterested, yet fast as hell and more likely a triathlete. Triathletes share several STRAVA characteristics in common. They don’t climb much, They post every workout with a description like “4X15 Intervals, Threshold and Tempo”, They are super, super, super competitive and KOM crazy, crazier than the biggest crazy loon. They may not admit it, but stealing KOM’s is their greatest joy next to a strong Trialthlon finish. Losing a KOM for them is painful and emotional and you can rest assured their next interval workout will contain that segment. When you lose a KOM to the Quiet Loner, they will be in a sleeveless jersey, low socks, the ride will be less than 20 miles, at 6PM, the segment will be flat or rolling, the avg speed for the ride will be 16.9 mph but the segment will be absolutely demolished, full sprint, on the brink of death over 30mph, and yes, they will be riding a Tri bike with aero bars, lights, seat mounted water bottle holders, and the Big Gulp sippy straw up front, possibly a salt lick, too.
STRAVA has permanently altered the landscape for competitive cyclists forever. It’s affected cyclists who never had any intention of racing but find themselves preoccupied to a great degree with PR’s, stats and trophies. They become racers. There may be a growing majority of amateur racers who started with a bike, downloaded the app which led them into the racing arena. The app evokes and fuels competition among the users, it draws it out of people, it’s irresistible. Every ride is a race. The shitstorm of comparison data. Older cyclists can be overheard asking, “Remember what it was like before STRAVA”? And it is hard to remember. There was a time when all you had was a watch. That was it. A wrist watch that you wrapped around your handlebars. You would go out with a goal to ride a certain amount of time. It was the dark ages. Try to do that today, pack up your pockets for a 5 hour ride, no phone, no data, just food and spare tubes and 20 bucks. It would be scary.
STRAVA is good. It’s good for cycling. It gives average people an opportunity to find their potential, it lights the way. STRAVA is fun. Chasing and winning KOM’s is thrilling. Connecting with the cycling community makes your life better. It’s simple, really. STRAVA gets your butt outside, it motivates and inspires people to live healthier lives, to respect their bodies, to want better for themselves. It’s more than social fitness, for many, STRAVA has changed lives in a measurable, profound way. It’s not so much the brilliance of the app that is responsible, rather it reveals what is latent in all of us, the great depths to which we can push ourselves, our potential for average greatness. If you have zero tolerance for the downside, no focus on negativity, there is a world of crazy fun on a bicycle that waits for you, plenty of room for you, plenty of room to expand your capability as an athlete if you allow yourself. Having a good time is the key, which you will lose sight of and rediscover over and over.