How Strava changed cycling

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Strava has 70 million users and has recently attracted massive investment. (Photo: Emily Maye/Strava)
Strava has 70 million users and has recently attracted massive investment. (Photo: Emily Maye/Strava)
  • Cycling’s core app, Strava, is exploding in popularity.
  • Even Discovery Vitality is offering a membership option.
  • You don’t need to be madly competitive to enjoy its features. 

The world’s most popular cycling app is inarguably Strava. A decade after its initial release, Strava has 70 million users and has recently attracted massive investment. 

Although it has courted controversy over the years, including accusations of triggering illegal riding and reckless descending, there is no question that Strava has kept a great many more riders true to their fitness goals. 

Integrating the elements of competition and group cohesion, which are essential in any successful social media venture, Strava is part fitness tracking tool, route guide and training database – all in one.

It has also proved monumentally popular with a dedicated user profile. Since its inception, 4 billion activities have been logged to the Strava network. The benefit of scale has made it possible for Strava to offer hyper-localisation, empowering local riding communities. 

It is all about the data 

Lockdown accelerated the adoption of online cycling, in the comfort of your living room, but as summer peaks in South Africa, the allure is certainly to log those active outdoor distances. And what better incentive do you require, than the promise of some Discovery Vitality rewards?

The South African health insurance provider has now finally partnered with Strava and as a Team Vitality Club member, you can save 50% in membership fees. With the world’s most in-demand cycling app having bundled its premium features within a subscriber model, that Discovery Vitality enabled discount has a notable benefit. 

A technology benefit never envisaged by Strava’s founders, was how it would influence urban planning. With the millions of commuter activities that Strava logs, city planners have finally accessed objective data tracing how people use bicycles to commute. Like all things algorithmic and data centric, Strava is very much what you wish it to be.

Obsessively competitive riders can track their favourite pros and try to emulate those elite level training rides. For most, it remains an integrated training tool with a social and safety benefit. Bike maintenance can be a burdensome part of cycling.

With Strava riders are able to track distances and calculate wear on certain components, enabling them to accurately discuss preventative maintenance with a skilled mechanic, instead of guessing. 

Strava integrates elements of competition and grou
Strava integrates elements of competition and group cohesion in the app. (Photo: Harry George Hall/Strava)

Assisted training – instead of inflated ego

With Strava’s Beacon feature, a customized text message is forwarded to three emergency numbers in your Smartphone’s contact list. This message includes your latest location and can easily be triggered by simply tapping the Beacon icon on your Strava activity menu. 

For those riders who enjoy the mindfulness of a long solo ride, Beacon delivers great peace of mind to friends and family. The King of the Mountain (KOM) has always been an anchor Strava feature, classifying a hierarchical ranking of the fastest climbers and descenders on a specific riding segment. This has unfortunately incentivised unnecessarily risky behaviour on occasion and Strava responded by launching a new Local Legends ranking, which is being rolled out globally over the next few months. 

Where the KOM rewards extreme climbing fitness or daring descending skills, Strava’s Local Legends rewards dedication. It uses a rolling 90-day window to evaluate your efforts and no matter how slow you might be, it is the sheer number of rides you log on a specific segment that gives you status. If you find yourself in a new vacation destination this summer, Strava remains the best way to find rideable routes and potentially link with likeminded riders in the area.  


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