Will Ride (or Run) for Kudos. Joining Strava

The virtual world of Strava always struck me as a dangerous place. A place where people competed for the fastest times on arbitrary segments of road, sometimes at their own peril– or worse, by risking the safety of others.

Strava was a world for spirited, competitive roadies. Transportation and touring cyclists like me need not join. That suited me fine. My private Excel spreadsheet was all I needed.

I tried tracking my miles on a social fitness site years ago, and in the end it did not go well. I became competitive about my riding in terms of overall miles, and began needlessly comparing myself to others. Over time, I’ve reduced the time spent competing with others. Currently my primary competitor is myself, and more specifically, the me of yester year.

Last week, at the encouragement of Felkerino, I joined Strava to see what it was all about. He insisted that the Strava world had changed since its competitive roadie-centric beginnings. Those users were still there, but the community had grown to include a more casual and social scene, welcoming to all, even the transportation cycling set.

Quickbeam and me. Buzzard Point

Felkerino gave me a Garmin last year, and finally toward the end of last year, I began tracking my running miles more diligently. I was surprised by what a good training tool it proved to be for running.

The Garmin helped me learn my average pace, and gave me more specific information about my runs. Now I also regularly use the Garmin to target a particular average speed because my Garmin has shown me that it’s pretty easy for me to space out when I run and unknowingly slow down.

Experiencing the benefits of seeing my running data laid out on the Garmin Connect site opened me up to joining Strava. Also, even though I do far less “training” when it comes to cycling, I became interested in recording my cycling miles, too.

I like the ease of synching my Garmin to Strava, and the option to record activity directly through the Strava app on my phone. I allow Strava to connect to my Instagram posts, and when I see my activity on Strava, my photo is inserted onto the map of my ride or run. It’s the little things.

You can give your ride a unique title, or just use the default “Morning Ride/Run,” “Afternoon Ride/Run,” or “Evening Ride/Run.”

My first recording on Strava was a 2.2-mile ride to coffee work. After I posted it, I received several unexpected “Kudos!” from other Strava members/friends. I had never heard of this kudos business. It seemed to me that the kudos threshold would be rides that, at minimum, reach double digits in overall mileage covered.

I’ve thought this through, though, and now I think rides to work deserve a lot of kudos. Maybe more kudos than a century ride. It’s not always easy to go to work, even when you like your job. Sometimes the urge to sleep in is strong, at least for some people. “Good job! You went to your job today!”

Reinforce good lifestyle habits with kudos. Stops at the grocery store, rides to the library to return your overdue library books, and trips to the doctor– also merit the kudos of your friends. “Way to take care of those teeth! Kudos!”

Felkerino is right. The site has broadened. I’m not sure how it expanded to include the recreational rider who isn’t that interested in speed or Kings of the Mountain placings on made-up ride segments, but it makes Strava a fun place to be.  Several of our BikeDC friends use it, and it’s entertaining to see the creative titles they give to rides, or the comments they leave to describe an outing.

People will comment on whether they saw someone else riding at the same time they were out, and I’ve learned that you can view “flybys” to see who was riding in the same area at the same time you were. (I don’t know how to do this yet so if anyone wants to explain it to me I’d appreciate it!)

I put this run on Strava!
I put this run on Strava!

As a neophyte, I’m still learning many (most?) of Strava’s features. I am adjusting to how it displays my running and cycling activities and overall mileage totals for each. Currently my Excel spreadsheet is more easily understandable than the Strava display, but  the spreadsheet doesn’t include other information I want to track like pace and route. I could add this data manually, but I prefer an automated system like Strava.

I don’t know how my relationship with Strava will evolve. Will I regress to competing with others? I don’t think so, otherwise I would not have joined it. This virtual world includes many real life friends so it feels more like a supportive, rather than competitive, environment.

Ultimately, I hope Strava helps me become more conscientious about my riding and running, and that it pushes me to try a little harder and to be a little more active. I also hope for many many kudos for those darn rides that transportation cyclists gotta do!


  1. I have come to feel the same way about Strava. I had downloaded the phone app on a whim one day before heading out on a new shop ride. I had wanted to track the route in case I later wanted to go back and ride it alone. I rather like the little social side of it. Being able to share pictures from rides and seeing what my friends from back in TN and NC have been up to. I may, on a rare occasion get a little competitive with myself, but there’s nothing wrong with that. 😉 I even sometimes use it while kayaking, just to see how slow I go! I don’t Strava every ride. Not my everyday commute, unless I take a new route, but for unusual short trips I might and when I’m out exploring.


    • Yeah, so far it’s a lot of fun. I am using Strava for every ride at the moment, but who knows whether I’ll keep that up. I sometimes forget to start or stop the app so it’s only so helpful in tracking my miles.


  2. I’m an addict. I always give rides a meaningful name (to me at least!). To see flybys I think you need to see the Mac/PC version of Strava, just click on the button on your particular ride. I’m in touch with all sorts of folk around the globe and love the photos, comments and banter. It’s also great to see people being active. I have a Garmin account and transfer info from Garmin Connect on my Mac into my spreadsheet. I’m sure there’s other ways of doing this. Garmin Express can also update Strava automatically, bit techy though?


  3. At least in DC, I think the Freezing Saddles competition has brought a lot of non “roadie” (for lack of a better term) riders in to Strava. The contest has grown into the hundreds, and most (?) of those riders joined Strava simply because that’s what we use to keep score.


  4. Welcome to Strava, MG! There are heaps of randonneurs on Strava; it has so many functions that there’s something for everyone. The feature I really like is the heatmap (available on Strava premium). It shows where I’ve ridden, but more importantly, where I haven’t. When planning new rides, I often look at my personal heatmap and compare it to where other people ride, using the Strava Global Heatmap (free at http://labs.strava.com/heatmap). When you’re stuck in a “route rut”, this can kick it in the butt! I often try to ride a “new” road on every ride — it’s such a great way to explore. That’s the spirit of randonneuring, isn’t it?.


  5. The 2 reasons why I joined Strava were: 1) our #bikedc friends were already on it, and I knew they were a supportive group, and 2) I am obsessive about my own stats. When I joined, it was easy to ignore the competitive racing folks, and I still do. Never had a problem with that. Welcome to the fold!


    • Thanks, Lisa! Yeah so far I’m not paying much attention to the speedies. Maybe it’s easier than I thought because speed is not my primary interest when it comes to cycling.


  6. I’ve been using Strava to track my (mostly commuting) rides for about 3 years. The thing that got me hooked was the ease of use on my android phone.


  7. I sometimes wonder if Strava is better in certain regions. Not the program or app itself (that is obviously the same), but the users themselves. Locally, I have found that most people still use Strava as a competitive “thing” and it’s not really good for me as I can get caught up in this (sometimes it’s beneficial, but often I find it incredibly demotivating because I realize there is no way on this earth I will ever come close to touching what others have done and continue to do). I honestly haven’t really used it much for about the last 10 months because of this; however, I do intend to go back to it, with the understanding that it is for my personal tracking and not to compare to others.

    I’ve also had to take the social aspect out of it and not allow just anyone to follow me. While I understand that kudos are nice for some people, I find myself getting irritated when someone gives me kudos for something I believe to be unworthy of kudos, if that makes sense.

    I find it valuable and easy to use in regard to tracking distance, average speed, and the like though. It’s easy enough to just plug in the Garmin, let it upload, and be on about the day.

    The beauty, I think, of using Strava is that it does have function for just about anyone who runs and/or rides. If the social side is motivating, it’s a great place to get that extra boost. If it’s more motivating to compete anonymously (or not) with people who’ve ridden the same routes, it works great for that too. If the user just wants to track stuff and keep it to him/herself, it’s a great program for that as well.


    • You might be right on that, G.E. I feel like the D.C. area has a vibrant commute and transportation cycling community, and they are well-represented on Strava (moreso than I realized, as I referenced). I also like the ease with which Strava can track a ride, provided I remember to turn the darn thing on, which seems to be an issue for me. I am not taking the kudos very seriously. I think kudos is such a silly term and really, the rides I think we deserve kudos for generally have little to do with distance. I just rode home with a bike full of groceries. And it was totally freezing! It was only 3.5 miles, but I think keeping food on the table by bike in the winter deserves some kudos! 🙂


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