Strava is a GPS enabled fitness application used to track your route, speed, distance and more. Highlights include ease of use, no fee for most features, and a great competitive feature called Strava Segments. I’ve been using this application extensively on my Samsung Galaxy S7 as well as in conjunction with my Garmin Edge 520. I’ve logged thousands of kilometres in Strava mainly via cycling and hiking.
Platforms: Android, Apple, Web
Cost: Free, Premium Available
What Is Strava?
Strava is a multi platform app that can be used to keep statistics on a variety of sporting activities. The app has built in settings for jogging, hiking, rollerblading, biking, and many more. For the purpose of this review, I’ll be writing from the perspective of a cyclist, since that is what I use it for the most.
You can take advantage of Strava’s features by either turning on the app on your phone before you start your ride, or by using a GPS-Enabled device (Such as a Garmin Edge 520) and then synchronising it with the Strava service afterwards. You’ll need to have a GPS signal, but you don’t need to have an active data connection on your phone to use the app – you’ll only need a data connection to upload it to the Strava servers when your journey is finished. I’ve used its features successfully for hiking, kayaking, and biking.
Once your ride is finished, you’ll have access to trip statistics directly from the mobile app:
- Visual map of your trip
- Total moving time
- Total distance
- Average speed
- Elevation gain
- Estimated calories burned
- Graph of elevation vs time
- Graph of speed vs time
- Graph of heart rate vs time
- Segment times
Most of the data is straightforward. You’ll of course, require a heart rate monitoring device in order to get the heart rate vs time graph to show any data. The fun part of the data comes in the form of Strava Segments.
Strava Segments are sections of road or trail that other Strava users have flagged in order to compete for the best times. For example, there is a big hill going up the back of the Parliament Buildings here in Ottawa that is quite popular with cyclists – a Strava user flagged this as a segment, and anyone using Strava that bikes up this hill can compare their times in that one segment with others.
In my experience most of the popular routes around town will have a number of segments already set up. After a good ride, you can check out the segments section and see how fast others made it across that big bridge, how fast others made it up that big hill, or how fast others made it down that set of switchbacks. If a segment doesn’t exist, and you plan on taking that route regularly, you can flag a section as a segment yourself.
If you’re taking a familiar route, you might even find yourself saving up your energy before a known segment in order to really let loose, just to see how high up the rankings you can place. This additional information can give you a little extra something to shoot for in your usual ride.
Strava Segments are easily my favourite feature – it’s fun to see how you perform in different sections compared to others, and they can spice up your regular ride by changing up your pacing.
Once your trip has been uploaded to the Strava servers, you can access a handful of other features:
- Trip distance visualisations
- Gear management
- Monthly and yearly statistics
- Ability to follow other riders
The web interface is easy to work with, and I especially like the ability to keep track of my various bikes and their equipment. If you’ve got more than one bike in your stable, you can select which bike you used on which trip in order to keep track of mileage. Take it a step further, and you can use this to keep track of component mileage as well (For example, cassettes and tires).
Typically I turn on my Garmin Edge 520, and use that to keep track of my trips, and then every couple weeks I’ll turn on the Bluetooth and let it sync with my phone. This in turn syncs with Garmin Connect, which in turn syncs with Strava (All of this is automatic once I turn on Bluetooth on both devices). Once the rides are synced to the web server, I visit the web interface and make sure the correct bikes are associated with the correct trips to keep accurate track of mileage.
I’ve used the app on its own with both my older Sony Xperia as well as my Samsung Galaxy S7, but I find my Garmin Edge 520 to be much better for battery efficiency. The app is useful, however, at the local pub when you want to bring up some quick stats or trip maps with your friends. It’s great proof of a particularly epic downhill, or long journey. If you don’t have a dedicated cycling GPS unit, the app can work as a GPS speedometer and provide close to real-time statistics during your ride.
Strava has been an immensely useful app to keep track of my rides and hikes, bikes, and other equipment. I am a huge fan of the statistics generated, the Strava segments, and being able to keep track of equipment mileage. The web and Android interfaces are clean and easy to use, and Strava is compatible with my Garmin Edge 520 among many other devices.
All in all, I strongly recommend giving it a try.