File this under the it’s-not-just-a-phone-anymore category. One of the apps available now on both iPhone and Android markets is bringing the smartphone closer to a handheld computer (also known as a tricorder for you Trekkies out there).
Strava is part cycling and running computer and part social networking site. Actually, it’s not so much social networking as friendly competitive networking.
If you haven’t heard of it, Strava is an app you start when you hop on your bike or step out for a run and turn off when you get home. During your ride or run, Strava uses your smartphone’s GPS to track your travels.
When you get home, you can see how far you went, how fast you went and how high you went (specifically, your elevation gain, or the number of vertical feet you climbed).
You can also see how you stack up against every other Strava user that’s done your ride or run. Strava highlights sections (like a particularly grueling climb or fast downhill) and ranks everyone’s times. Leaderboard, they call it. (You can opt out of having your times published, by the way, but it’s less fun.)
When you set a faster time for a section you’ve been on in previous rides, Strava lets you know with an icon (PR for personal record). It lists all your PRs and top-three times and if you set the best time on the Leaderboard.
Now, I don’t personally bike to get all geeky about times and stuff. Not at all, actually. I like to hammer and pass people, but I’m more of a soul surfer type of guy overall. The journey on the bike, the soul-cleansing hard effort, the lonely country roads and quiet singletrack trails in the woods—these are why I ride.
But I’ll be honest, it’s kind of fun to set a new personal record on a favorite ride. And to see where you stack up against the other riders in your area. Even if you live in Boulder, Colorado—arguably the hottest place to live in the U.S. right now if you’re a pro endurance athlete wanting to live and train at altitude, especially cyclist. (It’s amazing to see their times.)