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Strava KOMS are being hijacked by motorbikers going as fast as 112mph

Uh oh! *Insert speeding person on extremely fast motorcycle* just stole your KOM!

It's an email sure to ruin your day: Uh oh! So-and-so just stole your Strava KOM! Cue frantic analysis of their ride, segment effort and previous achievements to double (and triple) check if you've got grounds for a flag... or, more often than not, to find out that you just need to be a bit fitter and faster...

There is a serious point in this, however, as road.cc contributor Matt Page has spotted a trend of losing his KOMs to 'riders' hitting law-breaking speeds on motorcycles on the roads of Wales. 

While it is undoubtedly frustrating to lose a hard-earned KOM — not least to someone not actually riding a bicycle — the ride-tracking app's evidence of road users exceeding 100mph (Matt says he has seen speeds as high as 112mph) is even more concerning from a road safety standpoint.

"I am getting emails constantly now [every time a KOM gets taken]. Motorcyclists seem to be regularly using Strava for road and off-road, with blatant speeding obvious to see," Matt told us.

"Highest I have noticed so far, 180kph (112mph) but I don't have a screenshot of that. But I might be able to dig around.

"It was e-bikes, then trail motorbikes and now road motorbikes seem to be using it, but I have no idea why. I put a tweet out and mentioned the local police, but no reply yet.

"After being flagged, lots are now changing to 'exercise' I guess to avoid them being pulled down. Many accounts are private, but this guy is not."

Matt also suggested police forces could use Strava as a tool for catching speed limit-flouting motorists uploading evidence of their law-breaking.

Strava's website says that "motorcycle activities are not allowed on Strava and cannot use the 'Ride' or 'E-Bike' activity types."

Should you have a KOM taken by a person using a vehicle, you can flag their activity and will almost certainly have your pride and glory returned.

Strava's website outlines its policy on motorcycle activities:

The Ride activity type is for conventional human-powered bicycles (including recumbents) riding outdoors. Do not use this activity type if your activity includes data recorded while driving a car, motorcycle, pacing a vehicle, using an electric bike, or another electric-assisted vehicle, using a non-traditional bicycle with full fairings or aerodynamic modifications including velomobiles, or using a GPS simulator programme for virtual riding. 

Please note that motorcycle activities are not allowed on Strava and cannot use the Ride or E-Bike activity types.

A spokesperson for Strava also told road.cc: "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."

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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43 comments

Avatar
Zebra | 1 year ago
2 likes

To paraphrase Colin Powell, never have your ego so close to your KOM that when your KOM falls, your ego goes with it. 

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Velo-drone | 1 year ago
1 like

Never really understood why Strava doesn't just automatically hold any segment where the average speed is more than, say 20% faster than the current world record for the nearest distance (e.g. 1km / 5km / 10km)

It would instantly deal with a huge no. of these issues.

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Rick_Rude | 1 year ago
0 likes

There was section of cyclepath next to a major road I thought I'd really put some effort into, only to find the KOM was 64mph. I'm assuming the biker forgot to turn off Strava and got into his car.

It should have automatically flagged up as nonsense but the first 3 or so weren't humanly possible.

As for the motorcycle thing I must admit to inadvertently turning Strava on, as I looked at my history on a section and it said top speed 129mph. Oops.

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justDave | 1 year ago
1 like

It would be very easy for Strava to come up with an algorithm that automatically deletes rides with too high an average speed, and for KoMs for that matter

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Kapelmuur | 1 year ago
1 like

I use Strava only to compare my own times over the years.   I first subscribed 10 years ago as an over 65 and quickly realised that many of the faster times listed for my age group were dubious.

One in 3 of my rides is with e assistance and logged as such.  This is where plenty of high speed rides can be found, one KoM'er actually posted a photo of his motor bike with his ride details.

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El Camino | 1 year ago
3 likes

Quite funny, though....
I give not a single **** if anyone takes my records or LL's.
I'm out for a good time, not a fast time.

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Jimmy Ray Will | 1 year ago
9 likes

Isn't this all being self-policed now?

You get the notification that someone's beaten your time... you think 'I doubt that very much' and you take a look.

Sometimes you then have that momentary feeling of deflation when you realise you have lost the KOM (before remembering none of it matters in the slightest). However, more often than not, you instead get the rush of self-reassurance that the KOM was taken by illicit means, followed by a few moments of frustration, which quickly turn to glee as you snarkily summarise your argument for why a ride should be flagged. You finally finish off with a distinct feeling of smugness of a job well done as your name immediately returns to the top of the pile... why would anyone want to replace any of this experience with an algorithm?

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majstermod | 1 year ago
7 likes

Strava could require data with power/cadence/heart monitor for all badges. If you don't have these sensors then you can use strava without KOMs. Simple and efficient.
Even if somebody rides e-bike, it will be obvious effort put into cranks was far too low for average speed achieved on segment.

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hawkinspeter replied to majstermod | 1 year ago
4 likes
majstermod wrote:

Strava could require data with power/cadence/heart monitor for all badges. If you don't have these sensors then you can use strava without KOMs. Simple and efficient.
Even if somebody rides e-bike, it will be obvious effort put into cranks was far too low for average speed achieved on segment.

I doubt that Strava care enough about fake KOMs to put the effort in. Fake KOMs are likely to get more attention from people (more page views) and Strava already have a process for people to flag rides.

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BalladOfStruth replied to majstermod | 1 year ago
3 likes

Maybe either a heart or cadence sensor because you can get either for £20-30 (though the push-back would be pretty strong), but you couldn't justify requiring a power-meter - that would price too many people out of the app and from Strava's perspective probably isn't desirable.

I don't really know what the solution is - there's no easy way to prove that you're riding a bike that doesn't have a motor, at least not without a) being cripplingly expensive for Strava, or b) disuading most users from using the app. There are a few changes they could make - as other have suggested, it should auto-flag impossible rides (the app should not let you log a bicycle ride with an 150kph average speed) - but generally, they're going to have to rely on the community self-moderating.

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Sriracha replied to BalladOfStruth | 1 year ago
5 likes

I'm not a Strava user, but I can understand the interest (and frustration) of those who do want to benchmark their performance against their peers.

So presumably you can filter whom you compare against by age category, else it'd be pointless. How about if there were optional "data integrity" filters available, so you could further narrow the field to only those with HRM data, power data, etc, as you wish?

That way no one has to feel disenfranchised, but equally nobody else has to benchmark against improbable competitors.

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Rendel Harris replied to Sriracha | 1 year ago
2 likes

That sounds a very workable solution.

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Rendel Harris replied to majstermod | 1 year ago
0 likes
majstermod wrote:

Strava could require data with power/cadence/heart monitor for all badges. If you don't have these sensors then you can use strava without KOMs. Simple and efficient.
Even if somebody rides e-bike, it will be obvious effort put into cranks was far too low for average speed achieved on segment.

I'm not sure that would work, a heart monitor would show nothing in particular without knowing what the user's resting heartbeat was, a cadence meter would be equally pointless as you could put an ebike in its lowest gear and spin the pedals at 120 rpm without resistance.

A power meter, perhaps, but even then, on many climbs on my road ebike the motor powers me up to 25 km/h then cuts, it might only cut back in as I dropped below 25 km/h on steeper pitches, so I might show power using an ebike maybe on average 50 watts below what I'd show on my unpowered road bike. Also, how do you know what someone's power/weight ratio is, a 60 kg person could put out 240W and get the same time on a KOM that would take me 320W, so you wouldn't be able to tell if they were genuine unless you had their weight, then you would be relying on users accurately to report their weight. Also, power meters are expensive and not that many people have them, it wouldn't make sense either commercially or from a fairness point of view to exclude anybody except those with power meters from the KOMs. 

Maybe there could be an "elite" KOM leaderboard for those supplying power meter and heart monitor readings, but as an overall solution I'm not sure it would work.

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wycombewheeler replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
1 like
Rendel Harris wrote:
majstermod wrote:

Strava could require data with power/cadence/heart monitor for all badges. If you don't have these sensors then you can use strava without KOMs. Simple and efficient.
Even if somebody rides e-bike, it will be obvious effort put into cranks was far too low for average speed achieved on segment.

I'm not sure that would work, a heart monitor would show nothing in particular without knowing what the user's resting heartbeat was, a cadence meter would be equally pointless as you could put an ebike in its lowest gear and spin the pedals at 120 rpm without resistance.

A power meter, perhaps, but even then, on many climbs on my road ebike the motor powers me up to 25 km/h then cuts, it might only cut back in as I dropped below 25 km/h on steeper pitches, so I might show power using an ebike maybe on average 50 watts below what I'd show on my unpowered road bike. Also, how do you know what someone's power/weight ratio is, a 60 kg person could put out 240W and get the same time on a KOM that would take me 320W, so you wouldn't be able to tell if they were genuine unless you had their weight, then you would be relying on users accurately to report their weight. Also, power meters are expensive and not that many people have them, it wouldn't make sense either commercially or from a fairness point of view to exclude anybody except those with power meters from the KOMs. 

Maybe there could be an "elite" KOM leaderboard for those supplying power meter and heart monitor readings, but as an overall solution I'm not sure it would work.

if someone is settlng ligit records on climbs, their heart rate should be 150+, which would be unlkely on a motorbike

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Rendel Harris replied to wycombewheeler | 1 year ago
1 like
wycombewheeler wrote:

if someone is settlng ligit records on climbs, their heart rate should be 150+, which would be unlkely on a motorbike

Indeed, I was thinking more of ebikes though. I did an experiment a little while ago on Canonbie Road, a climb near me that averages over 11% and touches 18%. I wanted to figure out how close the exercise I got on the ebike was to the unpowered road bike, so I rode it on consecutive days in the same conditions at roughly the same speed with my HRM on; on the ebike my HR maxxed out at 159 BPM, on the road bike at 181, so were I inclined to cheat I could post the ebike ride with that data and it would look kosher.

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Sriracha replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
7 likes

I suppose if you were falsifying the data on a hill climb, that would be the definition of "inclined to cheat"!

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Rendel Harris replied to Sriracha | 1 year ago
3 likes
Sriracha wrote:

I suppose if you were falsifying the data on a hill climb, that would be the definition of "inclined to cheat"!

I wouldn't though, once one starts that it's a slippery slope...

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chrisonabike replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
3 likes

You always rush to take the high ground don't you!

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srchar replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
0 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

Maybe there could be an "elite" KOM leaderboard for those supplying power meter and heart monitor readings, but as an overall solution I'm not sure it would work.

Don't give them ideas! I can picture the "elite" KOM icon, a sparkling crown in the graphical style of Candy Crush. Imagine the dopamine hit!

* Elite KOMs only available to subscribers. If you cancel your subscription, you lose all your Elite KOMs and they don't come back when you resubscribe.

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srchar replied to majstermod | 1 year ago
1 like

Mid-motor and a Power Tap hub, or a realisation that KOMs don't actually matter.

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Xenophon2 replied to majstermod | 1 year ago
0 likes

Why should Strava care about the delicate egos of their subscribers?  If you want to compete, go ride an offical event.  All the rest's just marketing fluff.

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Rich_cb replied to Xenophon2 | 1 year ago
2 likes

Because if those delicate egos decide to stop subscribing then there's no more Strava.

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steaders1 | 1 year ago
1 like

At one point I had the fastest decent down Sa Colabra which got flagged by Strava

I was on my Tacx neo set to 100% and I just let it free wheel down, as you cannot brake the speed just increases and there is  no way you could take any of the bends at those speeds, so was that cheating of just Strava not recognising the gear we use and adjusting to compensate? 

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Kapelmuur | 1 year ago
4 likes

I had my first ride in the over 75 category on Monday and was surprised to find that the fastest over 75 on a local (admittedly gentle) rise had averaged 33 mph.

However, I was once clocked by Strava at over 2,000 mph through a tunnel under one of the Manchester airport runways.   That didn't even get me a KoM which was disappointing.   Sadly that days results soon disappeared from the segment.

 

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Organon replied to Kapelmuur | 1 year ago
0 likes
Kapelmuur wrote:

under Manchester airport runways.

I know it well, but wouldn't flag those ones as the segment is trash. All GPS will be off in the tunnel. Anyone could have a glitch and get wild time. Meanwhile I don't thing most people are self policing the way the article suggests. I see so many people with dozens of KOMs that have been up for days, weeks, even years, and haven't been flagged. 

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PRSboy | 1 year ago
3 likes

I don't suppose this is being done out of maliciousness, more likely bikers have found Strava a good way of logging their ride stats (though I'm surprised they don't hide the data given the speeds involved!).

Maybe Strava could add 'motorcycle ride' as an activity type, though 'KOMs' would need to be blocked for obvious reasons.

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msackman | 1 year ago
5 likes

I do feel Strava should de-emphasize the whole KOM stuff. I would much rather see priority given to a rolling-12-month fastest time. No, it likely wouldn't do much to address going out in a gale ... but it would help tidy up the vast amount of garbage KOM "records" out there.

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Awavey replied to msackman | 1 year ago
7 likes

If you treat them more as NFTs its alot easier to ignore their significance, its digital bragging rights, held in the noise of the internet, they really dont mean a damn thing when all is said and done about it.

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Patrick9-32 replied to Awavey | 1 year ago
10 likes

I thought the same thing.... and then I got one for a running segment and now I believe they are a very important training tool which can help to motivate and ensure competitive edge...  10

 

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PRSboy replied to msackman | 1 year ago
5 likes

I appear to have some KOMs from when I was younger and keener as I get occasional "uh-oh..." messages.  Its annoying as I don't remember getting them, but have the agony of losing them!  

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