Tracking My Progress with Strava
My background in marketing and sales management have been specifically highlighted with my love of analytics, report running and data mining. I love theories, graphs and making decisions by gut and knowledge. (More gut than knowledge.)
Now, I don’t go as extreme with numbers around training as I do with marketing and sales..but it’s close. Normally I’m NOT tracking every movement, gear usage and PSI of tires or suspension pressure on EVERY ride. (I have my moments when I go through that cycle, mostly when I have a new bike to dial in.) For the past few years I’ve used Training Peaks for my HRM or in years past my power device, a Power Tap about 10 years ago. In roughly 2006 the invention of the Garmin GPS training unit for bicycling opened my eyes to what you can learn from data. From the ascents, decents, temperature and such, over laid with your speed, cadence and possibly power. You really turn yourself into a machine!
Welcome Strava, social media for bike rides
Two years ago I first heard of Strava. I didn’t really get it, another site to track your GPS files. They had put a bunch of pro’s on the site, and I feel like there was only a paid version when it first started. In the beginning of the year when I purchased my new Garmin Edge 800 I started uploading some files to Strava when I remembered. It was cool as it tracked my data, and also compared it to my friends.
Strava Segments are Virtual Group Rides
I ride my bike alone most of the time. My job makes my ride hours vary, and I don’t like the extra stress of having set rides too often with groups. Two months ago Strava started the coolest things called segments. Basically it overlays your GPS file with set parts of trails, roads, or whatever to show how you compare to other Strava users on that section. Some examples are from the base of a climb to the top, or a full loop of a specific trail system.
It really excites me to try different places, or when I visit new places to do rides around these segments I can find on Strava.com. Comparing myself to others that have done that ride, climb, descent or loop. You can also make your own segments to see how you are improving. If you have a loop that you use for recovery, or maybe for testing purposes – this is a great function.
Ease of Use and Design
Strava has done a few things very cool and user friendly with their design.
Uploading is super simple. The first time you click Upload Activity it asks to download this sync thing. You don’t ever have to open it again, everytime you go to upload it finds your Garmin and all activity you haven’t uploaded this far.
No software needed. As noted above it downloads (what I think is a cookie) the first time you try to upload. I am able to upload from my laptop and desktop, not needing to open any software other than the internet browser I already use.
Stats and Activities are clean. Rides, performance, averages and such are easy to find on your profile. It also will compare you to someone else when you click on their profile.
Strava on your iPhone or Android
Strava functions mostly off Garmin but they have really great phone apps that will track and upload straight from it! This is an easy way to get into the social group ride without plunking down on a Garmin.
This is super handy also as every once in a blue moon I’ll forget my Garmin or forget to charge it. I don’t miss tracking a ride when this happens!
Other notes of Strava
Follow me on Strava!
I recently upgraded to Premium mainly as I’ll be adding a Powertap to my arsenal soon, the site has a great Powertap analysis and keeper of data for later use.
You can also do all of the above for running as well! Pretty handy for triathletes or runners that want to get social with their runs!
I wasn’t paid or even asked to write this by Strava. Simply really digging the design and use of the site!
Wheel Lust and Love
Wheels are one of those romantic parts of cycling to me. Something that can make your bike 100% better, or 200% worse. Truing wheels is the first memory I have of working in a bike shop 12 years ago. It was the first “bike mechanic” skill really taught to me. Before that it was installing kick stands and cleaning off bikes.
Wheel systems like Fulcrum, Mavic and Industry9 hold a spot in my mind, strong, reliable and a thought out system. If those hold a spot in my mind, hand built wheels with your standard j-bend spoke hold a place in my heart.
There is some feeling inside of you when you pick out the perfect hub, the right rim, spoke lacing pattern to make it stiff and strong while light weight, and final touches such as the nipples that hold it all together.
I’ve always been drawn to things like Phil Wood hubs, Campagnola C-Record Sheriff Badge hubs and reliable rims like Mavic Open Pro. Then someone goes and post something like this, Enve rims laced to Chris King road hubs and I am left searching the internet planning my next wheel build.
The Starbucks Effect
I’m a big fan of Starbucks and Apple. If you were to ask me two brands that I relate to in the most upwards of ways, it would be these two. I’m sure someone will hop on the comments and blast me about child labor or over priced coffee, but I like what I like.
Why does all this matter to bikes? Service matters.
I visit and pay full retail to the above places for the experience, customer service and reliability. I can walk into any Starbucks across the country and receive the same tasting green tea. I can walk into any Apple store and receive the same great shopping experience. I have used Apple products pretty strictly since 2002, they work, they last and they come loaded with many things I need. They are more expensive but the experience and product is worth it for me.
As I travel through my territory of the Southeast the question of online price wars comes up and I always bring up the examples of Apple and Starbucks. These two hold true to their core mission, and have well trained staff. When was the last time you went into look at Apple products and you saw a huge SALE sign? They actually go out of their way on their website to put discounted or refurbished product out of the main view of the consumer. (It is all the way on the bottom of the navigation bar on the left.)
When was the last time you asked the person making your coffee if you can give them less than their asking price?
Discounting product does not win customers for life.
Experienced staff, a pleasant shopping experience, reliability and amazing service is what wins customers for life. There is a reason that the Gap owns Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic. Different shopping experiences, different quality of product and different prices. All of them have well trained staff, thoughtfully laid out merchandise and HAPPY staff.
I shop at all three depending what I need, and each location I walk away with a good experience.
Consumers, I encourage you to give feedback to your local shops.
Did you stop shopping there because they kept messing up your bike when you brought it in for a tuneup? Did they sell you the wrong tube size 3 times? Did someone rub you wrong because they were grouchy and lacked customer service? Was your experience one that left you shaking your head and heading straight to google to find what you needed online?
I still try local coffee shops when I’m traveling, I buy clothes from other places as well, but when in a pinch I know who I can rely on and in todays times when we are all running around like crazy, this matters more to me than saving 5%.
The Bike Industry Needs More Women Like Liz Hatch
The name Liz Hatch is a sensitive subject in the women’s cycling peloton . The sexy blonde has made many pro women cringe. Last year I mentioned her name during an interview with Team Vera Bradley and they weren’t happy. Why? Some call her a wanna be. Not fast enough to compete with the great girls. Some call her a sand bagger.
The Bicycle Industry is Regressing
As technology expands and new bike products, or forms of bike products, hit the market the market grows – or so one thinks. If you look at the basic roll of the wheel in the past 10 years we’ve had full suspension to the masses, lighter carbon road and mountain bikes, 29″ and 27.5″ wheel sizes, carbon wheels, stainless steel tubing and more tech driven clothing than I could ever talk about in a lifetime. Lights run for days and nutrition is truly a science.
The technology that is pushing the market forward is also allowing us to regress. One example of this is the push on 29ers in the industry. Most of the bikes offered are hard tail and there are a good number that are fully rigid single speeds. Why? To me I ride one for simplistic sake and to enjoy the ride. As a mechanic I want my bikes to work right. No squeaks, no skips and everything set up perfect. With a fully rigid single speed you put air in the tires every once in a while and lube the chain when it gets too dry or dirty.
In the coming weeks I want to touch on regressing in the industry. Marketing, product and education. Wool and steel are a big hit. Retro “tweed” rides seem to be monthly across the country and the lure to fixed gear riding is still on a high. Companies such as Rapha, Vassago and all those custom small builders across the world are building momentum based on our own regression. How do you feel? Do you like riding your steel Serotta or the feel of merino wool? If so, tell us why!
What are your preferences to the below?
* Clipless or platform?
* CO2 or hand pump?
* What material do you prefer? (Carbon, Aluminum, etc..)
* Gears, single speed or some type of 1×9 setup?
* Outboard bearing or axle/cup type?
* Camelbak or water bottle?
* Oversized handlebars? Drop bars, wide bars, bent bars?
* Wicking material or cotton? Better yet, wool?
* GPS or cyclometer?