So it seems most of us are on Strava these days.
All good fun, of course, as long as you don’t get sucked too far in and become a Strava casualty!
Back in the halcyon days of 2011, or ‘the early years’ as I like to call them, in the days when many of us were yet to switch our cycling from analogue to digital, I used to aim for a top 10 slot on many of the local climbs here in Lancashire. Not only that, I could always count on having a handful of KOM’s to my name (the less well known ones, admittedly, but they were still mine).
I was no hotshot, but in the sparsely populated world of Strava I might just have popped up on the radar of the cycling community.
But no more, alas.
Now that every cyclist and his dog (to coin a slightly clunky phrase) are logging their achievements for the world to see, I find myself lost on the leader-boards – 73rd position out of 846, for example – vaguely respectable perhaps but still very much swallowed up by the mediocrity.
Where once I aimed for top 10, now I’ll settle for top 10%; a result of not only the sheer number of cyclists who pedal up and down these fantastic northern lanes that I’m endlessly banging on about, but also because, the fact is, we have an awful lot of very good cyclists in these parts; elite riders in whose slipstream it is no shame to find yourself.
If 1000 men, women and children have ridden a climb and I find myself in 100th position, I suppose I’ll settle for that; though hopefully I’m beating most of the children.
A favourite route of mine takes me out of Lancaster, through Burton-in-Kendal, and on through the village of Holme. As I was riding out that way recently I picked up a tailwind on the rolling road between Burton and Holme, which quickly turned my thoughts to all things Strava.
I have long since stopped basing my training on Strava leader-boards, one of the main reasons for this being that, especially in the sort of coastal area that I live, all the top-tens are wind assisted. I’m not sure what you do about that, and it’s just a bit of fun after all, but when the direction of the wind has such an influence on the time you can post, the KOM’s lose their value somewhat.
Nevertheless, on this evening I’d picked up a tailwind and I thought I’d better use it!
So, as I concentrated on maintaining my form and effort on this particular stretch to Holme I thought to myself, “surely this stretch of road on Strava should be called ‘Holme Run’, it practically names itself”.
And so I returned home, downloaded my ride data, and lo and behold there it is: “Holme Run”.
This got me thinking about the names given to Strava segments; those sections of road over which your performance is recorded and ranked on a leader-board for comparison against everyone else who’s ridden it.
When I first started using Strava (we’re talking about ‘the early years’ again, when normal practice was to jot down the vital statistics of every ride in a little dog-eared notebook. Quaint!) the names of segments in these parts tended to be descriptive and functional: “Quernmore Road Climb”, “Cockerham to the Stork”, or “Barnacre Hill”. As time has gone by the cyclists of Lancaster, and everywhere else for that matter, have got creative.
So now we have names like:
“Jonny’s lead out” – I’m not sure who Jonny is but I’m guessing he doesn’t strictly speaking have a lead out, and his mates are the butt of the joke here.
“Ride like they’re shooting at you” – which, predictably, takes you past the local shooting range and, believe me, the irrational feeling that a bullet might whistle past your ear at any moment is a more effective motivational aid than than just about anything else I know.
“Dogging dash” – I’m not sure what the phrase ‘dogging’ means in other parts of the world, but round here, that’s a worrying one.
“That little hill after the Redwell that sucks” – which I know well, and it does.
And finally, to prove my point:
“With the wind behind you” – because the wind is a reasonable predictable southwesterly in these parts, and so on this stretch it often is.
What also makes me chuckle is the narratives people add to their rides, along the lines of “3o miles into a headwind”, or, “blowing a gale couldn’t get any rhythm going”, which, loosely translated, means:
“To those of you poring over my ride data, please be aware that my times were severely adversely affected by these strong winds we’ve been experiencing. I am much quicker than I seem. Thank you.”
Interestingly, when they nail a King of the Mountain slot, there is no caveat to be found explaining the monumental tailwind that swept them up and propelled them to the top spot.