Strava Tools and Apps

Most cyclists I know use Strava to track their cycling activities.  Prior to joining Strava in 2012, I kept a record of all my rides in a spreadsheet (dating back as far as 2002!), so when I found out about Strava, I bought a GPS and had it do the work for me.  I’m a numbers guy so I like keeping track of my rides, distance and progress each month and year. With the popularity of Strava in recent years, third-party companies have jumped on board with additional features that make use of Strava data.

Here’s a list of Strava tools that I use:

  • Veloviewer: The free version is limited to your most-recent 25 activities, but the Pro version is only 10 euros a year.  There’s also a Pro+ version for 20 euros, but I just pay for the Pro version, which allows visualization of all my Strava activities on maps, tables, charts.  In addition, individual activities and Strava segments can be visualized on maps in 2D or 3D.  It’s a small cost for quick access to all your Strava data.  Here’s my connected heatmap from Stratford to Erin to Toronto to Port Dover (from Veloviewer):

Strava Stats: I only recently discovered this website.  It contains a lot of the same functionality as Veloviewer: personal heatmap, annual summary.  And it’s free! Here’s my four-day COLT heatmap from September 2017.

  • Strava Multiple Ride Mapper: This website is another free personal heatmap visualizer.  You can select the start and end dates that you want shown on your heat map. The developer has other Strava tools, like an annual summary and Strava segment summary. Here’s a close up of my 2012-2017 heat map for KW.  Warmer colours are roads/routes that I have cycled multiple times.
  • Relive: This app creates an video of your Strava activity.  The video is an animation of the route of your activity and it cleverly adds any photos you added to your Strava actvity, and includes data such as fastest speed, maximum heart rate and elevation of your ride.  Here’s a Relive of my gravel ride from last weekend.
  • Doarama: This isn’t specifically a Strava app, but you can take your GPS data (GPX file format) and load it to their website.  Then you’ll be able to create a video (similar to Relive). For my four-day bikepacking trip in September 2017, I combined all four days into one file and you can see it here.  Be warned, if you play the video at a slow speed, it will be long!  You can control the playback speed in the lower left-hand corner.  It’s four days of riding/breaks/camping, so if you play back at 1X speed, it’ll be a four-day video! (I recommend 1024X playback speed).

The Strava website has a list of other third-party tools that can be used with Strava data.  There are dozens of tools for visualizing, importing, analyzing Strava data,

Strava also has something called Strava Labs, where there are cool features like:

  • Global Heatmap: Billions and billions of miles of activities from all Strava users plotted on a single map. Here’s the Strava heatmap (all Strava users) for Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge and Guelph. Notice the hot spot for the Hydrocut mountain bike trails west of Kitchener-Waterloo, and a second hotspot east of Cambridge for the Puslinch mountain bike trails.  This heatmap was recently updated by Strava (October 2017).

  • Strava Roster: A list of the people with whom you’ve cycled with (or run, hiked…) the most.  From 2012-2017, here are the Strava users with whom I’ve cycled the most, based on the Strava Roster:

  • Strava Flyby: A cool visualization of your activity, along with other Strava users you rode with (or crossed paths with). Here’s a Flyby from one of my October 2017 gravel rides.
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Cycling Commentary – Separation and Motivation

Our society has advanced to the point where we are separated from the effect that we’re having on the world around us.  For example, we turn on the tap in our kitchen sink and we get a seemingly endless supply of clean, fresh water.  Do we ever think of where it comes from, or the path it took to get from its source to the kitchen?  Probably not, because we’re separated from the process.

Similarly, on a weekly basis, we put out a bag (or in my neighbour’s case five bags) of garbage on the curb in front of our house.  A truck comes by and takes it away and it’s quickly erased from our mind. There’s no thought to where it goes, how it gets there, and what happens to it because we’re separated from the process. The same can be said for the food we eat.  Or the technology we use and the clothes we wear.

On a similar note, when we’re in a car, we’re separated from the world around us.  Car advertisements promote a “quiet” ride, meaning we can’t hear the world outside our car.  They’ll also promote a 12-speaker stereo system, bluetooth connection to our smartphone, satellite radio,  and now smart cars – all features that continue to separate us from any interaction from the outside world.  Windows are rolled up so air conditioning can run in summer and the heater can be turned on in winter.  Everything about cars serves to separate us more from the outside world.

This is one of the main reasons motorists feel a sense of entitlement when driving out on the roads.  Anything that interrupts their “driving experience” is a nuisance.  And it’s this driving experience that is promoted and accepted in our society.  Driving a car is more than a convenience; it’s part of our way of life.

I don’t think many people will argue against the benefits of walking, cycling or public transit or other non-car-related modes of transportation.  However, if you were to take away their free parking in the city, there would be an uproar.

In order create a fundamental change in someone’s habits, there needs to be an incentive.  So: How do we get people out of their cars and onto their bikes?  Here are my suggestions:

  1. Employers can offer incentives for employees who take public transit, cycle, walk or even car-pool to work.  This type of program would not only benefit the employees, but the employer would benefit by having healthier staff. A study in the Netherlands showed that biggest motivators for people to ride to work were (1) cash, and (2) social or peer group motivation. There’s even an app called Biko, where sponsors have aligned with Biko to offer deals at restaurants, coffee shops, breweries.  Biko started in South America but is now available in Toronto and Vancouver.
  2. Disincentivize driving by charging more for parking at malls, offices etc.  while offering safe (lockers), free parking for bicycles.  For example, there’s currently no financial incentive for people to take public transit to the University of Waterloo because monthly parking is cheaper than a bus pass.  Stores will resist this, stating that their business will drop, but at the same time, cycling and pedestrian traffic will increase.  In Waterloo, the new LRT construction on King Street has taken years and millions of dollars.  However, cycling was not part of this huge overhaul in infrastructure.  On-street parking on King Street took precedence over bike lanes.  Construction is still taking place, so I’ll reserve final judgment for now.
  3. Connected, protected bike lanes and trails so cyclists will feel safe from motorized traffic.  Check out this before/after shot of bike lanes in London:

    Before/After photos of a road in London. Cycling infrastructure CAN happen and it has happened!

  4. Bike share programs.  KW has started a program here.

It can be done but it will require a shift in the way we think about things and it will require a government that is willing to make drastic changes. 

Share the Road – Greg’s Ride 2017

2017 marks the third year that I’ve signed up for the Share the Road ride (Greg’s Ride).  Each year in September SharetheRoad.ca organizes a charity ride to raise money to support their cause.  I have previously blogged about the history of Share the Road here.  Founder Eleanor McMahon has created an amazing program to support cycling awareness and infrastructure across Ontario.

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Cycling – Kitchener-Waterloo to Guelph

I’ve been at my current day job for about six years, and when I started in 2011, the commute was a short 9-10 km distance that I didn’t cycle enough.  I even had the luxury of secure bike storage, a shower, and the Grand River Trail.  In March of this year, my employer moved to Guelph, and my commute jumped to about 22 km.  Strangely, I’ve commuted by bike this year a lot more than in previous years when I had a shorter commute.

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Product Review: Arkel’s Seatpacker 15

Last fall, the wonderfull staff at Arkel sent me one of their new products for my bikepacking adventures: the Seatpacker – a 15-litre waterproof seatpack.  A couple of weeks ago, I went on my first over-night bikepacking trip with the Seatpacker, and here’s my review (Disclaimer: This product was provided to me by Arkel at no cost.  This review is based on my use of the product as well as information provided on Arkel’s website).

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Mid-June update – Destination Cycling

Finally the nice weather is upon us!  And I’ve been able to enjoy the sunshine by riding more.  This includes some city riding to local destinations, and a nice weekend gravel grinder with my riding buddy Ron (founder of Contrabean – a local coffee roasting company).  Ron and I used to ride a lot together and we entered many mountain bike events (24- and 8- hour relays, and Crank the Shield).  Times have changed but we still enjoy getting out.

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End of May Cycling Thoughts

As the end of May approaches, I thought I’d blog about my week in cycling, my continued recovery and some other thoughts.  After a nice long weekend camping at Killbear (and riding to Norse Brewery), I decided to take a few days off cycling to let my head rest.  As such, I didn’t commute to work last week.

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Global Bike to Work Day 2017

According to Strava, May 11 (last Thursday) was Global Bike to Work Day(since it’s on Strava, it must be true).  So I thought this would be a good day to ride to work (and back).

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Cycling Advocacy – More Bike Lanes Needed

I live in Kitchener-Waterloo in the northeast end of town and one of my biggest pet peeves about cycling infrastructure in this part of town is the lack of bike lanes or safe roads to cross Highway 85 to get across town.  Continue reading