I like to look at maps. I like to plan routes. I am quite obsessed with knowing where I have been.
Not all who wander are lost – JRR Tolkien
When I first moved to London, I used to walk excessive distances on a weekend, taking delight in piecing together seemingly disjointed sections of the tube map, beginning to understand how it all fitted together.
I also like data (to a degree – nothing against stats nerds, but I’m not one).
One of my first purchases after getting my road bike (to commute on, primarily), after the obligatory lights, locks and helmet, was a cycle computer. I wanted to know how far I’d been and how fast I’d travelled (or not, as the case may be).
When I upgraded to my next cycle computer (a Polar CS200), I fastidiously logged in to the Polar website at the conclusion of each commute, in order to record each data point it had captured during the pothole- and profanity-strewn ride.
I never logged cadence though, since this is a mythical piece of data that no human-built machine is capable of sensing or recording. I digress.
Cycling apps on a smartphone (in my case a labouring iPhone 3GS) were made for me.
UPDATE: Brief Interlude
I have published an updated version (September 2013) of this post, which you can read here.
Both are part of a series of posts about Strava, MapMyRide and other cycling apps. The central page for all things ‘Cycling Apps’ can be found by clicking this link.
Alternatively, keep reading this post and sorry for the interruption…
Map My Ride, Record My Disappointments
My route-recording odyssey started with MapMyRide, one of a suite of apps for mapping outdoors activities (running, hiking, walking, hopping etc).
I loved the way that I could just set the app recording, shove my phone in my pocket (where it was going to reside anyway) and, upon returning home, be able to analyse each climb and descent in infinite detail (whilst dressed as Gary Imlach).
Saying that, I didn’t love the way that MapMyRide sometimes took an age to boot up and, on one occasion, simply stopped recording half way through a ride.
I’m pretty sure this was due to me having my iPhone full to the brim with memory-intensive apps and downloads (including all my personal development podcasts). When I deleted all the junk, the MapMyRide app did start to run more quickly and reliably (although I’m afraid my personal ‘growth’ has now stalled somewhat).
What I particularly liked was when MapMyRide determined that I had ridden ‘a categorised climb’. I don’t know how they (or the other cycling apps that do the same thing) decide which category a climb falls into, or how they relate to official race classifications (I doubt they do at all). All that matters to me is that someone (a computer algorithm in this case) noticed that I spent some time on my bike going up hill and congratulated me on my achievement. Or at least noticed it. By way of a computer program.
Being able to refer to known ‘categorised climbs’ also allowed me to discuss routes with my ‘cycling buddies’ (my sister and her fiance) in terms more coherent than, ‘you know, that road that goes past the farm … narrow … with hedges’. We can now describe the course of a route by its position in relation to memorable categorised climbs in the vicinity
First Steps in Strava
Strava is my new app for 2013 (which demonstrates that I’m not exactly the early adopter type).
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield – Alfred Lord Tennyson
I’d heard of Strava but couldn’t really see what all the fuss was about. Then I read this article from Outside magazine, which inspired me to give it a try.
Now you won’t see me with any King of the Mountain awards – as far as I can see, I rank in the bottom 10-20% on any climb of note near where I live. But I do enjoy knowing where the segments (as I think Strava calls them) are, and, if I’m feeling good, seeing if I can beat my previous best time.
If you have a Garmin cycle computer (which sadly I do not), you can use it to upload ride data directly to the Strava website, or you can simply use the app to record from a smartphone.
I’ve found the app to be much quicker to load than MapMyRide. All the Strava app needs to start recording is a single finger prod to the screen. With MapMyRide, you need to navigate through a couple of screens and specify the activity you’re about to do – time consuming when all you want to do is to get your gloves on and get going (it’s still cold here in London).
Unlike MapMyRide, Strava doesn’t have in-app mapping (and shake it all about.. ahem). At least I haven’t found it if it does. But if that is one of the factors that makes the MMR app sluggish, then I’m happy for it not to be in Strava.
If you do need to locate yourself, you can always use the Google Maps app (other maps are available). Strava runs quite happily in the background whilst you do so.
You can even follow me and give me ‘kudos’ (dude) if you’re impressed with my performance. Ironic kudos is perfectly acceptable, at least in the UK. Those of you that didn’t click on the Strava link above, will not have realised that it was a link to my profile. Whoops, here it is again.
I’m Calling It For Strava
It’s early days. I’ve only been on Strava since mid-January.
So far I’m finding it more usable and reliable than MapMyRide.
I’m going to keep using it for the time being.
When someone (my wife) finally agrees that a Garmin Edge 510 would be the perfect birthday gift (for me or her), I’ll be able to try it and Strava together and report back.
Which Cycling App Do You Use?
I open it to the floor. Help me to help you to help me. Comment in the handy box below please.
A maven … is a trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass knowledge on to others. The word … comes from Hebrew, via Yiddish… – Wikipedia
Are you a MapMyRide maven?
A stickler for Strava? (!?!)
Or do you use something else – another app (Endomondo, others?), an Excel sheet or a piece of paper?
If you have any advice as to how I can get best use out of Strava or any other cycling app, then I’d love to hear it.
Buy Something For Your Bike And Help Sportive Cyclist Out
Normally at this point in a post, I link to the products I’ve talked about so you can buy them (and I can earn a small commission).
That doesn’t work in this case – both Strava and MapMyRide happen to be free (for the most part)…
However, if you found this article helpful and you do want to send a bit of commission my way, please click through one of the following affiliate links and buy something (expensive…):
- If you’re in the US, why not amble to Amazon or cha-cha-cha to Chain Reaction Cycles
- If you’re in the UK, why not wendle your way to Wiggle or choosy choose Chain Reaction Cycles
Tell them Monty sent you. Actually don’t. They’re websites. Not people.