After reading some recent online discussions about Strava.com (here and here), I'm feeling compelled to fess up — I fear becoming a Strava addict myself.
If you're not hip to Strava, it's an online (web and app) service that allows you to record information from your rides. It plots your efforts on maps, displaying where you went and how long it took you to get there. It posts all the data for other Strava members to see, and it's particularly good at breaking popular routes into segments and ranking everyone's times.
In other words, it's a nerd-fest for middle-aged cross-country geeks like me.
What's not to like? Well, most of the criticism I've been reading points out that Strava-crazed riders intent on logging, displaying and boasting about their most recent PR's have a new incentive to, you know, mow down anyone they encounter on the trails.
It's understandable that folks might be getting concerned about an emerging technology platform that makes every trail ride into a potential full-bore time trial. Pre-Strava, it was easy to boast to your friends that you slayed the Sexy Goat trail in 15 minutes — while mentally subtracting the 40 seconds you spent patiently waiting for some birdwatchers to make enough room for you to execute a comfortable pass.
No longer. According to Strava, 15 minutes barely gets you into the top 30 recorded Sexy Goat segment times. Your mark is going to be posted on the Interweb. You need to make that pass ... NOW!
However, it's not like my nerdy geek posse wasn't comparing times before Strava. The technology has raised/lowered the bar a few notches, but hammering trail rides dates back to the first time two mountain bikers discovered they'd ridden the same stretch of singletrack:
Gary Fisher: You're telling me you climbed Sun Trail in 3:30? For reals?
Charlie Kelly: I would have done it in 3 flat but some birdwatchers got in my way.
Will mountain biking survive Strava? Yes, but for what little it's worth here are some suggestions to keep the demon in check.
PLEASE NOTE: This is not gospel from IMBA, just the ramblings of an IMBA spokesdude.
1) The only situation where it's acceptable to ride a trail on the edge of control and ability is on a racecourse.
2) Otherwise, leave a considerable margin for error. Other trail users might do things like follow yielding conventions, pay attention to their surroundings and act in a predicatable fashion. But they might not, so cut them a break.
3) Be really nice. Handle every trail encounter with courtesy, grace and a subtle wink.
4) If you're intent on logging a smoking time, get it done on the climbs. Nobody but you and the Strava crew cares if you're ascending at a blistering 6.7 MPH or a super-lame 6.2 MPH. Nail the climb and you'll get your PR — and the only one you'll hurt is yourself.
5) Conversely, err on the side of caution while descending. A collision at warp speed is the kind of thing that could change trail access in your hometown for years to come.
So am I a Strava addict? Maybe — but acceptance is the first stage of recovery, right? And I got there in just 2 weeks, three days and 4 hours. How did you do?