I don’t suppose that the people who invented Strava ever had my relatively short commute from Stainland to Elland and back in mind when they invented their system but this week I’ve been putting it to good use doing just that. I even have a ‘heatmap’!
It’s a start…
For years I have been loyal to Cyclemeter. It has served me well during the last two long trips across mainland Europe (here is the kind of thing it produces) and numerous shorter ones here in the UK. I may well use the system again on future long-haul cycles. But lots of people do seem to talk about Strava so I thought I’d give it a go. As far as I’m aware, Cyclemeter doesn’t have a competitive aspect to how it works (aside from being competitive with your own previous rides) whereas as Strava does. Now, I’m no speed merchant and I can’t see myself beating any records of that nature anytime soon, but I do like seeing what others are up to and Strava seems to have cornered the market on the ‘social media’ side of cycling / running. So far, so good.
Here’s my profile (luckily nobody had bagged the ‘CyclingEurope’ appendage) and as you can see I’ve been out on the bike – Dale that is rather than Reggie – ten times over the course of the working week and cycled a grand total of 48.2 km. Now that might not sound very much (and it isn’t), but please bear in mind that since moving back up to Yorkshire from the flatlands of Berkshire in autumn 2015 and, more specifically, finding somewhere to live on one of Calderdale’s rather steep roads, the incentive to get the bike (old or new) out of the door hasn’t been great. Indeed this cyclist has, over the course of the last 18 months, seen his bike usage plummet. Aside from my new, challenging location, I have had a book to write and that’s best done whilst sitting at a computer. Now finished however – publication is on May 11th by the way – I only have the excuse of the hills. And really, that shouldn’t be a good one. So, on Monday of last week I resolved to return to the exciting life of a cycling commuter and through rain and shine, I’ve completed my first full week. What’s better, I had forgotten just how thoroughly enjoyable cycling to work can be. Yes, there’s the rigmarole of getting dressed like a surfer (without a body to match) and the changing once you arrive at work but, having been an enthusiastic cycling commuter during my Reading days for around five years (until I left my job in Henley-on-Thames at the end of 2014 to cycle from Tarifa to Nordkapp), by Wednesday I was back in the swing of cycling to work.
But getting back to Strava… I can feel myself being dragged into the pit of competition already. Automatically, the system has placed me in various leaderboards for segments of my ride. I had nothing to do with this!! The country, it appears, is covered in ‘segments’ and every time I ride along one I am being placed in a competition (whether I want to or not, although in fairness there is probably an opt-out…) with other local riders. I have to say that I haven’t disgraced myself in any of these segments. By that I mean I am not at the bottom of any of the leaderboards.
‘The Holywell Climb‘ is the one that I should be using as my benchmark for fitness improvement. It’s a bugger if ever there was one…
…although note that the route map goes from right to left and the profile from left to right. My best time was achieved last Tuesday and it took me 11 minutes and 4 seconds to cover the 2.0 km at an average speed of 11.1km/h. Bearing in mind that for much of those 2.0 km the gradient fluctuates between 10 and 15%, it’s not a bad start. Not bad, that is, until you cast your eyes to the top of the leaderboard where a certain Jiri Klekner did the whole thing in 5 minutes 8 seconds! Strewth. I’m currently in position 306 out of 399. Mmm… I note with alarm (as he is two years older than me) that my brother did it in 2014 in 6 minutes 33 seconds (he is 4th in his age group). But things are looking up. Not only do I now have some times to aim for but I’m having some new Schwalbe G-One tyres fitted to the bike in a couple of weeks. They are much slicker than the Rapid Robs that came as standard with the Cannondale CAADX 105.
Oh dear. I think I’m hooked.