With a platform like Strava that has so many features built-in, it is very easy to use the few obvious and most important ones, such as the route builder, the segment leaderboards and scrolling through your activity feed kudos-ing friends' rides, but there’s a lot more valuable functionality that you’ve probably yet to explore…
Some of Strava's features are not as easy to find, while others are slightly more difficult to get your head around.
We spoke to Strava’s Simon Klima to hear about the features he feels deserve a special shout-out, as well as ABCC Accredited Cycling Coach Tom Murray of Mint Cycling to find out which of the more advanced analytical features are useful for training and performance.
Simon says: “We try to cater for commuters up to Tour de France stage winners so we want to make sure that we’ve got features that work across that really broad church of cyclists.
“We aggregate data and present it in a meaningful way to riders—one that’s motivating, entertaining and shareable with the community.”
Here are the features it is worth being aware of, for both upping your exploring game and smashing your fitness targets…
Lots of different types of custom goals can be set on Strava to help you stay on track with your fitness or to challenge yourself.
“Setting weekly or annual goals can be a really good way of keeping motivated,” Simon says. A target distance (in kilometres or miles) or a target number of hours can be set on the platform, like a weekly or annual challenge. This is split across the type of activity, so you can have different goals for bike rides and runs.
Aside from volume accumulation style goals, more specific targets can be set for improvements, whether that’s hitting higher watts on different length intervals or slashing down your time on specific Strava segments.
Power goals can be set for efforts as short as 5 seconds and up to one hour, and a target date is selected to aim to reach your target.
The segment feature on Strava does not only have to be about clawing yourself higher up the leaderboard, the platform enables you to set goals that are completely personal to you. For each segment, you can set a personal goal time, as well as when you’d like to hit that target by, like the power goal.
Relative Effort tracks your heart rate through a workout, and it provides a score to show how hard you’ve worked, based on your maximum heart rate. With each workout, you complete you’ll receive a Relative Effort score (displayed to the right of elevation total in desktop view), as well as a total for the week.
“It’s a good way of comparing a short, sharp ride and a much longer leisurely ride,” Simon notes.
The Fitness and Freshness feature on Strava enables you to track your levels of fitness, fatigue and form over time, and it presents this data in a graph.
“The Fitness score is relative to you, you can’t compare it to anyone else’s—it’s a benchmark of your own fitness,” Simon notes.
“It is a super useful tool for peaking at a certain time of your season and giving structure in how you approach your training,” Tom says.
“Fitness and Freshness tracks the intensity, power, heart rate, distance covered in your activities and turns all of this data into a relative figure called fitness. It then plots this onto a graph, which is individual to each rider.”
“The more you train, the more your fitness figure will rise. But at the same time, because you are training, fatigue is also building, so your freshness (form) is getting worse.
“To have form for an event, you need your fitness score to stay high, but it’s also important for your fatigue number to drop.” This also applies when taking a recovery week between training blocks (with roughly three weeks on, one week off for recovery).
“The Fitness and Freshness graph is a really good way of monitoring these numbers and giving you direction to your season. Over time you’ll be able to understand the trends.”
Tom admits it is one of the more complicated features, but if you want to use Strava to closely track and improve your fitness, as well as prepare for events, “it’s the gold dust” he says. Now that’s some praise…
In the Training Log view, Strava uses the size and colour of circles for each activity to visually depict how much training you are doing.
“It’s a really useful feature for cyclists to view their training load over a period of time as it breaks your load down in a manageable way of looking at it,” Simon says.
Your training can be filtered into different time periods and you can also exclude commutes.
“Activities can be compared based on time or distance or elevation or relative effort. The size of the circle is relative to what you are looking at, for example, time. The bigger the circle, the higher the number,” Simon says.
The colour of the circle also depicts what type of activity you completed, with rides outside being separated from virtual rides.
Your personal heat map brings together all of your activities, with the strength of the colour of the line on the map depicting how many activities you have racked up on each road.
As the personal heatmap visually displays the areas you’ve ridden before together, it’s an easy way of redoing roads or sections of routes you’ve done previously and linking them up to make a new route, Simon explains.
“It’s also a satisfying tool as it allows you to see how much of an area you’ve conquered, as well as seeing areas you haven’t been to before so you can explore new places,” Simon says.
Here's my playground, for example...
“When you go out on a ride, you have headwinds and hills affecting each ride differently, so it’s really difficult to get a consistent power reading,” Tom admits. “ But Weighted Average Power looks across a ride, at your heart rate and the training zones you were in, to give a much more realistic average power.”
Strava’s Weighted Average Power smooths out the variations and enables you to compare efforts more accurately when you’ve headed out on uneven rides to those with steadier efforts, as it reflects your overall effort.
Strava’s Power Curve graph enables you to see the maximum power you have sustained for a given length of time, with readings for as short as one second and up to the duration of your longest bike ride for the selected period. This maximum output can be displayed in either Watts (W) or Watts per Kilo (W/kg).
“The Power Curve is super useful as it shows your strengths and weaknesses,” Tom says.
The graph provides a visual overview of your fitness as you can see your power PBs from a selected period of time—for example, the last six weeks, all of 2021, 2020, 2019, etc, or a custom date range. What’s more is that the graph can display two lines, so that’s two different power curves at the same time. This allows you to compare efforts from different periods.
“You can use the Power Curve to see how you are adapting as a rider. In addition to answering the question ‘are you getting fitter in general?', you’ll be able to see if you’re getting fitter at a certain type of effort, whether that’s your one-minute power or 20-minute power, or a length of effort in between,” Tom explains.
This one isn’t really a feature, but it’s a proper handy shortcut. Have you been on a group ride or race with numbers of riders in the double figures, or even triple figures if you’re on a virtual platform such as Zwift? You want to give all riders some kudos, because, well, it’s just a friendly thing to do… but no way are you going to sift through, profile by profile, to find each rider’s activity to give it Strava’s version of a ‘like’. You'll be glad to hear there is another way…
Simply go on your activity, click ‘manage group’ and give your phone a little shake. Boom, the option to ‘give kudos to’ either ‘athlete I follow’ or ‘all athletes’ pops up…
This is not sponsored content. We decided to take a look at some of the less obvious and more advanced features of Strava as we realised that we weren’t making the most out of the platform’s offerings ourselves.
Was this content helpful? Would you like to see something in-depth about another platform? Let us know in the comments below…
Anna has been hooked on bikes ever since her youthful beginnings at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit. As an avid road and track racer, she reached the heady heights of a ProCyclingStats profile before leaving for university. Having now completed an MA in Multimedia Journalism, she’s hoping to add some (more successful) results. Although her greatest wish is for the broader acceptance of wearing funky cycling socks over the top of leg warmers.