Justice for the leaderboards! Strava has announced a new algorithm that will automatically flag activities with “too much erroneous data”, so you don’t have to wake up to that dreaded “Uh oh” email just to find that your crown has been stolen by someone going over 120km/h on a 'bicycle'.
In a post this week, the popular platform for sharing any activity, from rides and runs to skiing, has revealed that it is “updating its algorithm to make leaderboards more credible, and taking steps to proactively prevent suspicious efforts from appearing on leaderboards”.
“We know. There's nothing worse than scoping out the leaderboard for a segment you want to tackle only to see the CR, KOM or QOM is 65 MPH and thinking to yourself, ‘That must have been a car’,” said the company.
Strava also announced that it will be withholding from leaderboards any activities that have faulty GPS data or appear incorrectly labelled (we’ve all gone for a run and forgot to switch the app to a bike ride…).
Strava said: “With these and other ongoing changes, we can better ensure your efforts will get the ranking they deserve and you can trust that the CR, KOM or QOM (plus all the other times on the leaderboard) are the real deal.”
Spurious data and counterfeit activities have long plagued people using the app. road.cc has in the past has received a number of emails informing us of people losing their KOM/QOMs to seemingly impossible rides.
Last year, on our live blog we told the familiar story of how a member of the road.cc team lost a KOM to someone who 'cycled' from Newcastle to London in six hours, with an average speed of 90km/h and hitting a max speed of 157km/h.
And just a few months before that, long-distance cyclist, world record breaker and road.cc contributor Matt Page spotted a trend of losing his KOMs to 'riders' hitting law-breaking speeds on motorcycles on the roads of Wales.
“Perhaps Powys Police should start checking Strava for those who flout speed limits. Multiple times each weekend I get ‘Uh Oh’ emails, so far the record is 180kph. I have no idea why motorcyclists have started using Strava, but I hope Mr Horton will sometime get what he deserves,” he wrote on Twitter, with the screenshot of the new KOM holder with a motorbike as their profile picture, and a max speed of 161km/hr on the ride.
Perhaps @DyfedPowys should start checking @Strava for those who flout speed limits. Multiple times each weekend I get "Uh Oh" emails, so far the record is 180kph. I have no idea why motorcyclists have started using Strava, but I hope Mr Horton will sometime get what he deserves. pic.twitter.com/0Qhio77dKy
— Matt Page (@mattpage24) September 19, 2022
Back in September, we had asked Strava what more could they be doing to stop people from using the platform in this way, and they said: “Being part of the Strava community is a commitment to respect: we respect each other, ourselves and the rules. When we all share mutual respect, we all win. Read our community standards here.
“That means that we rely on our global community to help us monitor the integrity of our segments and leaderboards. We ask our athletes to flag anything that doesn’t match our community standards – including mechanical cheating – which will be addressed.”
“Strava values sportsmanship and fair play, and we want members of our community to earn spots on the leaderboards through clear and safe competition.”
If Strava gets its algorithm right, cyclists who swear by the app could finally breath a sigh of relief. According to its new policies, there will be a new threshold for flagging and if it deems an activity to be suspicious enough, all segment efforts from those activities will be withheld from leaderboards until the activity gets verified.
Strava also said that it is “doubling down on catching bike rides (or downhill ski runs, car rides, etc.) marked as runs with new run-specific parameters that will flag activities based on their distance and pace data”.
But what if I’m actually that good, you ask? Well, Strava says that it will do its best not to automatically flag you. The company said that it’ll make sure that none of Tadej Pogačar's efforts at the upcoming Tour de France get flagged automatically, although his ridiculous showing at the Oude Kwaremont KOM at this year’s Tour of Flanders, smashing the previous record by 11 seconds, did get flagged.
If you’re secretly the next Merckx and one of your ‘true’ activities does get flagged, let us know…
Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after completing his masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He also covers local and national politics for Voice Wales, and sometimes writes about science, tech and the environment. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him riding his bike on the scenic routes, fighting his urge to stop pedalling and click photographs (apparently not because he's bonking).