THE KING IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE KING
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Strava. The world of the orange glow sticks on your computer screen. The kingdom of his and hers crown wearing enigmatic rider profiles. The proud look at me faceless tool that engraves your name on pointless rider boards. Strava. I love it.
But does it have a sinister side? Does it enrage the crown wearing Joe public rider when the crown that they crafted, inspired and idolised slips from their brow and falls lavishly into the dark hollowed pit of their inner demons and their name falls and spins like a lost tumbleweed down the ranking board? Long live the king. The king is dead. When the words of wisdom pop up in their email and echo across their barren sad screen. “Uh Oh you have just lost your KOM” do they lash out and verbally abuse the perpetrator? Do they clench their fists with rage, their face contorted with anger and revenge? Do they stand up and proclaim to the world “how dare they, that’s not fair”? In the wise old words of the Streets. Dry your eyes mate and have a spoon full of emotional maturity to get you through the day.
Strava (the word means “strive” in Swedish) fits into my solo cycling life. Most of my sweat-stained, crank turns of golden pointy happiness have developed when I am riding on my own. I prefer that. I champion that. I have total control on my ride, the terrain, the time and the bails. I can choose to push on or opt for a shorter route due to illness or laziness. I can change the direction and chase the sun. I control my own destiny and that’s why Strava becomes involved in some part of my ride. I do sometimes incorporate Strava segments into a training ride. I use these segments as training tools. They encourage me to try when I am out, to raise my heart rate, to make me work. I could not care whose name is balancing at the top. If I know them or not. Do I care? Not really. I might check the time that is balancing the pointy crown on its puffed out chest. It’s just playing the game and it’s a massive big bundle of fun. That’s the whole point of Strava. For me it’s a warren of big orange time trials on my computer screen. Myself against the clock. The other rider’s persona, their idiosyncrasies and feelings are irrelevant. If you love to compete then you will understand that it’s nothing personal, just war. If you use the Strava app then expect to be attacked. Don’t expect everyone to respect your time. If you can’t handle the thought of your hard-fought orange hue being electronically mugged and find that the thieving sods have stolen your hard-earned golden crown then why bother being part of a set-up that encourages people to bring out the warrior that’s hiding all Clark Kent like inside that shell of blood, guts and hair.
Mountain bike or road, the segments are there in pomp and ceremony. Every nook, bush, rut and pothole has been sprayed with an orange streak that dares you to raise the bar and attack. Up or down, flat and around, if you enter the world of Strava have some fun and challenge yourself. That is the whole point of it. I have been using Strava for a few years now and every week one of my hard-fought crowns of glory has been snatched from my head by a rider that I don’t know. They are local to my area but I have never heard of them. Like silent assassins they take without warning but like the Milk Tray man leave a calling card. An Uh Oh!!
I find this fascinating and rewarding. Fascinating as there are people like myself out there who ride their bikes for fun but have an edge to them. They like to push themselves. Red lining is a part of their ride. They understand the challenge. It’s a cat and mouse game. Rewarding that if I post a good time and steal a crown or two then the hunt is on. Other riders want your scalp. They want what you have and will try and try again to topple your reign. To me that’s why I mentally engage with this Strava witchcraft. If you find that you can’t handle the fact that strangers want to steal your crowns and proudly display their victory dance on your electronic grave I suggest you pack up your pump and backpack and stick to posting your rides on the Garmin site or make your ride, segments and times private. In doing that you will not feel violated when strangers drop an early morning electronic calling card in your inbox.
For me the game has always been on and the very few crowns that I possess are all up for grabs. The times are not amazing, the segments are not technical but I turned myself inside out to get them all. And if they are taken from me I will get right back out to gain my revenge!