Strava causes antisocial cycling, says academic - this time on club runs, as people focus on own rides

Riders using app more focused on own goals than interacting with clubmates, according to paper presented to Royal Georgraphical Society

by Simon_MacMichael   August 27, 2013  

Strava

An academic claims that smartphone apps such as Strava, criticised for encouraging going too quickly on shared-use paths, lead to another kind of antisocial cycling - people on club runs would rather keep tabs on what virtual rivals are up to, rather than interact with the riders they are out with.

In a paper being presented to the Royal Geographical Society's international conference in London today, Dr Paul Barratt from Staffordshire University will outline research that he says shows that riders trying to set quickest times for Strava segments is having a detrimental effect on group rides.

Instead of enjoying riding alongside fellow club members, Dr Barratt says that some are instead concentrating on vying with virtual competitors as they aim to outdo their times set on social networking sites.

"Whilst cycling club social rides have always tended to culminate in a short sprint, members are now jumping off the front of the group many times throughout a ride in order to bag a fast 'segment'," he explains.

He maintains that such apps are also encouraging riders to head out on their own when the weather is good to put in bursts on Strava segments, for example, in the hope of moving up the leaderboard - and adds that it can become addictive.

"No matter your ability, Strava can be a real source of achievement,” explains Dr Barratt.

“Even 'purists' that resist the technology at first can soon become hooked."

But, he cautions, using Strava can also have a negative impact, for instance if riding in poor weather or on one of those days that sees more of a struggle from a fitness point of view.

"There's a lot of bravado surrounding Strava,” he says.

“But the league tables ignore the subjectivity of the road and rider. People don't generally mind a bit of wind assistance - as long as it helps push them up the league table."

It's far from the first time criticism has been levelled at Strava, although it hasn't taken this form before, as far as we know.

Sustrans has said that some cyclists take advantage of traffic-free, shared use paths such as the one running along the former Bristol-Bath railway line to try and set quickest times on Strava segments that are subsequently flagged up to the site as inappropriate.

In the United States, Strava has been the subject of at least two high-profile legal cases involving fatalities.

In June, a judge in California dismissed a lawsuit brought by the family of William 'Kim' Flint, killed when he crashed head-on into a vehicle while apparently trying to reclaim his 'KOM' status on a stretch of road.

They had claimed that Strava encouraged dangerous riding by some of its users.

The following month, San Francisco cyclist Chris Bucchere was sentenced 1,000 hours of community service and three years' probation after admitting committing felony vehicular manslaughter in connection with the death of a 71-year-old pedestrian whom he had hit as he rode through a red traffic signal while trying to better his own time on a Strava segment.

Earlier this year, Strava founder Michael Horvath had insisted that his company's app encouraged responsible riding.

He told the BBC: “"Our people are active. I am sure that there are people in their families who say they are obsessed about cycling.
"But we are not making them more obsessive, what we are creating is a place for them to tell their story. They have these habits anyway and we're giving them the place to present it in a way that's meaningful to them.”

34 user comments

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I've seen this theory before
http://www.cyclismas.com/biscuits/dear-strava-its-not-you-its-me/
It seems to be really just the cycling equivalent of people walking down the street together texting someone else instead of talking to each other

posted by hillboy [11 posts]
28th August 2013 - 7:33

10 Likes

Most of the guys (including me) went through the same routine, started using Strava... went mad for it and attacked every segment, the rides became anti-social, then we all got fed up of bombing every segment and went back to normal riding, perhaps targeting one or two segments for fun.

Now we use Strava to track what we have done and measure improvement from "general" riding, we communicate and take the piss out of each others rides and we can see how other mates are riding (and take the piss out of them) even when we are not able to make the ride, so its made riding and the social side of cycling even better.

posted by mikeprytherch [219 posts]
28th August 2013 - 7:36

7 Likes

Nick T wrote:
If your the type to memorise where all the Strava segment are then I wouldn't particularly want to ride with you anyway.

Second that Smile

posted by mikeprytherch [219 posts]
28th August 2013 - 7:37

6 Likes

No, he's wrong. Our club runs vary and surely no one knows where all the segments are. Certainly doesn't effect us.

posted by miuzikboy [56 posts]
28th August 2013 - 8:38

7 Likes

As mentioned above, Dan Ellmore wrote about this very topic a couple of weeks ago on Cyclismas.

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posted by TrekBikesUK [101 posts]
28th August 2013 - 9:05

10 Likes

On our Tuesday and Thursday chaingangs you'd have next to no hope setting a KOM on your own. 10/12 people working can move far faster than one.

posted by karlowen [65 posts]
28th August 2013 - 9:07

9 Likes

and?

maybe I should knock up a paper to show stats on how many students ruin people's nights out by being plastered and high as kites puking up in public areas and general anti social behavior, if they wish to stereotype then maybe we should.

posted by billyman [124 posts]
28th August 2013 - 9:16

9 Likes

mikeprytherch wrote:
Most of the guys (including me) went through the same routine, started using Strava... went mad for it and attacked every segment, the rides became anti-social, then we all got fed up of bombing every segment and went back to normal riding, perhaps targeting one or two segments for fun.

Now we use Strava to track what we have done and measure improvement from "general" riding, we communicate and take the piss out of each others rides and we can see how other mates are riding (and take the piss out of them) even when we are not able to make the ride, so its made riding and the social side of cycling even better.

So what you're saying is you can no longer compete? Tongue

posted by dave2041 [22 posts]
28th August 2013 - 9:38

6 Likes

Peer review research confirms that academics are using strava to improve profile and media column inches rather than collaborating on more useful research of value to others.

Sudor

posted by Sudor [182 posts]
28th August 2013 - 10:05

5 Likes

You'd get nothing but abuse if you rode like that on my club run!

I'm so lazy I'd rather order something off Wiggle than go to the shops for Haribo...

posted by Mr Jono [100 posts]
28th August 2013 - 10:10

6 Likes

I think this depends on where you ride. In hilly areas KOMs have quite a lot of relevance for training purposes. What I don't really see the point in is the short stretches of flat KOM. No point. Obviously TT segments can prove very useful for specific targetted training.

Also, personally I attack climbing KOMs when I'm out on my own and use them as a training tool that I can compare myself on. When group-riding, it's much more about chain-gang cohesion and training for road race situations. Or chatting bollocks on light spinning rides with mates.

There does seem to be a mis-conception about Strava users that we're all addicted segment-chasing maniacs. The truth is that most of us just use it to track what we'd have been doing anyway. The classic Sunday club-run rider and the committed racing athlete are very different animals. In my experience, the former tend to poo-poo Strava and make out that it doesn't help where as the latter have the opposite opinion, because they actually use it to help them become faster.

Also, the examples above are in America and I think it's fair to say that Americans tend to have more of a competitive must-win attitude to life than us mild-mannered brits. Which would explain the over-committed segment hunting that has caused problems.

All in all, Strava is a positive thing in my opinion and my riding and performances have become more meaningful because of it with results to boot.

Chiggety check yourself before you wreck yourself

posted by therealsmallboy [88 posts]
28th August 2013 - 10:27

7 Likes

Surely the only segments worth caring about are the uphill ones? As I recall, most of the downhill or even flat segments have been deleted or flagged as hazardous in my area. And yet I see all these articles by scientists or politicians constantly complaining about Strava users and their out-of-control speed-merchantry.

posted by chokofingrz [298 posts]
28th August 2013 - 10:57

6 Likes

It's normal for people to use their own behaviour or experience to make assumptions about wider patterns. All the above comments are very interesting but are simply anecdotal.

The question is whether the academic has done the same. Started with an assumption based on his experience and come up with figures to prove it.

I;d be very interested to see how he has tested his hypothesis, and also how he has defined the participants. For example if someone in your club has a KOM but is not on the ride.

And how has he determined the awareness of segments, and whether someone is going for a Strava time not just trying to outsprint or outclimb their group. Generally Strava segments are on sections where people compete anyway.

Perhaps he could provide, or the article could be updated, with a link to the paper ?

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posted by abudhabiChris [540 posts]
28th August 2013 - 11:02

7 Likes

I've met so many people in the town i live in through Strava that we are now forming our own club, yeh at first we all competed against each other now we are changing to getting good rides in during the weekends and blasting around having fun on Tues nights with chain gangs, slip stream segment blasts and hill climbs.
So thanks to Strava I now have a whole bunch of new friends & a role of a new club secretary Confused

posted by bfslxo [123 posts]
28th August 2013 - 11:38

7 Likes

Most club rides that I've been on have the "climbers" flying up the serious hills anyway, segment or no segment. The rest get to the top in their own time. Once we're all together again we go on our way. What's the difference?

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posted by nowasps [256 posts]
28th August 2013 - 12:32

4 Likes

mikeprytherch wrote:
Nick T wrote:
If your the type to memorise where all the Strava segment are then I wouldn't particularly want to ride with you anyway.

Second that Smile

Looks like you're both that type! Wink

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posted by zanf [559 posts]
28th August 2013 - 12:34

14 Likes

I am KOM on two Strava segments I use regularly. The segments represent two fixed routes I use for Zone 2 training. I've got KOM because I am the only one to have ridden them.

Strava is really useful to compare Zone 2 constant efforts as a benchmark comparison. So Strava can be used to measure how fast I am going slow.

posted by jimmers [6 posts]
28th August 2013 - 13:00

7 Likes

Hmmm, I attack the crap of group rides, repeatedly, because that's what you do on fast group rides (try to rip the legs off of everyone else), and it isn't because of Srava. I don't call them "club runs" because there is no running involved.

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posted by pedalpowerDC [235 posts]
28th August 2013 - 13:28

9 Likes

I'm with....

therealsmallboy

'The truth is that most of us just use it to track what we'd have been doing anyway'

posted by SuperG [59 posts]
28th August 2013 - 16:33

5 Likes

Never used it. No intention to ever do so. Totally irrelevent as I could drive along with my Garmin on my dash or go to the 'Strava EPO' website to cheat times like many do!

posted by Ginsterdrz [31 posts]
28th August 2013 - 18:19

9 Likes

Strava is an interesting extra but those treating it as a serious aid to training are wrong. I log my commute on it and I know that all my best segment times are based on weather conditions, especially wind and what I was doing in the previous few days.

If you are serious as an athlete it isn't Strava that you need but some form of power meter and HRM - oh and the necessary knowledge or a coach to help you interpret the data. You could always use the same systems as the Sky team. Or of course you could still use old fashioned techniques to do stuff like VO2 measurements using turbo trainers etc.

Just say in'

Shay

posted by shay cycles [234 posts]
28th August 2013 - 19:38

6 Likes

But if you record the weather conditions and compare data from rides in similar conditions you know how and where you're improving.

In addition, if you start to find patterns in how you perform under certain temperature/ wind/ rain conditions you can use it to plan how to approach races and TTs.

I do and it works for me.

Just sayin' Big Grin

Chiggety check yourself before you wreck yourself

posted by therealsmallboy [88 posts]
28th August 2013 - 20:36

5 Likes

I'm not sure that I agree entirely with the report. Most Strava KOMs have reached the point where it requires a tailwind to move up the leaderboard, or even the effort of a large group with a tailwind. One recent example was a segment, about 20km long, which we rode as a group, and because we worked together to produce a very high speed all of us benefited.

Strava also provides a vehicle for us to comment about the ride afterwards, and also to track each other's individual rides during the week. If anything I would say it creates greater cohesion in the groups I ride with, because of the virtual contact it creates between weekend rides, and the online banter after a ride. - There is always the aspect of sprinting for segments, but that is done in good humour, and often working together as a group to make a good time.

Ultimately - don't take it too seriously!

posted by gmrza [15 posts]
29th August 2013 - 0:10

5 Likes

I personally don't understand why anyone is arguing this point... am I missing something? Thinking

Quote: "Instead of enjoying riding alongside fellow club members, Dr Barratt says that SOME are instead concentrating on vying with virtual competitors..."

Well, yes they are, so although we may use Strava in various ways, the point being made is inarguable.

In response to a comment above, I'm pretty sure that academics and students are two very different animals. A bit like comparing a gentleman’s bicycling club to the local hell’s angels chapter! I can’t remember the last time I saw a group of academics 'ruin everyone’s evening' by shouting and puking Wink

posted by toetruck [15 posts]
29th August 2013 - 10:51

6 Likes

cable43 wrote:
I've met more people through strava than the group ride. It's a tool. It' all on how the individual chooses to use it.
It's a pen...write what you will. C'mon adults. Be adults.

Misuse should be blamed on users not the item being used

posted by jarredscycling [453 posts]
29th August 2013 - 15:59

6 Likes

I have a KOM on a Boris Bike in London. The GPS was out so my path across Waterloo bridge was apparently over the Thames. Yes, I was sad enough to make the segment and claim KOM. It's the only KOM I've been able to hold on to since Strava got popular.

It would be cool if Strava could add data about group/solo rides as I think most KOMs now are wind-assisted chain gangs (that's my excuse anyway!) Wink

Dedicated cycling price comparison | http://www.leadoutbikes.com

posted by mckechan [193 posts]
30th August 2013 - 16:25

2 Likes

Sudor wrote:
Peer review research confirms that academics are using strava to improve profile and media column inches rather than collaborating on more useful research of value to others.

Applause

posted by step-hent [694 posts]
30th August 2013 - 17:18

5 Likes

chokofingrz wrote:
And yet I see all these articles by scientists or politicians constantly complaining about Strava users and their out-of-control speed-merchantry.

The same argument applies to this as it does to the segments the research is referring to - it's as though people think that nobody tried to climb fast or go fast downhill before Strava was existed. People have been 'racing' their mates on bikes practically since bikes were invented, and it's all part of the fun. I can't seriously believe that a newish tool for recording speeds has materially increased that. It's just that people now have something to attribute it to, apart from 'he/she likes to push the pace up hills/down hills/on the flat'.

I'm with many of the others on here - strava is great for tracking afterwards, but I don't often think about it out on a ride. Most of my club are the same. And it certainly adds to the banter after a ride has finished, when you see everyone else's uploads. It's just for fun, after all!

posted by step-hent [694 posts]
30th August 2013 - 17:26

6 Likes

'Most club rides that I've been on have the "climbers" flying up the serious hills anyway, segment or no segment. The rest get to the top in their own time. Once we're all together again we go on our way. What's the difference?'

+1 on that. Unfortunately I'm in the get to the top in my own time group. Crying

As for forming a lead-out train to attack Strava segments as has been suggested - that's getting a bit sad isn't it ?

Velotastic !

Too many hills, but too little time.

badback's picture

posted by badback [268 posts]
30th August 2013 - 21:38

3 Likes

I use Strava as a means to test my fitness and speed.
I don't really care if I'm not KOM on a segment, there are lots of people out there faster than me, and I'm faster than lots of other people.

It's a tool at the end of the day, use it according to your own requirements.

Marky

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posted by Marky Legs [110 posts]
2nd September 2013 - 12:32

11 Likes