Want to rack up more KOMs or QOMs? These two amateur cyclists explain how they’ve captured thousands – and the craziest ways Strava has changed their lives. – By Christina Bonnington
Two riders in particular, Keith DeFiebre and Becky Brain, have mastered the art of the KOM. As Strava’s globally top-ranked amateur users, Keith has more than 5,100 KOMs, and Becky has nearly 3,400, according to the Strava Toolbox site.
Let that sink in a bit. While most of us are huffing and puffing to finally snag the local neighbourhood line sprint, these riders are raking in KOMs and QOMs every. single. ride. And Strava confirmed—no, they’re not cheating, either.
“I like to ride my bike. And I like to ride fast,” DeFiebre says. (Although it doesn’t hurt that he likes to create his own segments from time to time, too.)
We chatted with both California natives to learn the secrets to their KOM success.
When did you first start riding bikes?
Brain: I got my first two-wheeler when I was 7 in 1968.
DeFiebre: 1988. I played football in high school and college, and my friend, Dean Meyer, was a top professional road and mountain biker. He got me into riding. Coming from football, I needed a sport where I could wear a helmet, that was pivotal for me. It worked out perfect.
RELATED: A Cyclist’s Guide to Speaking Strava
What’s your preferred type of riding?
B: I do both mountain and road. (I started racing road bikes in ‘94, and mountain in 97.)
D: I like to do a mixture of almost everything I can find with biking. I started out doing centuries and touring and double centuries. I won my first downhill race I ever did in 1989 and went straight to the pro division. I like cyclocross, road, BMX, and mountain bike cross-country.
How did you get your first KOM/QOM?
B: It was in 2013, on my first ride on Strava. I was on a climby local loop in a nearby park called Briones. I just love to climb. Before Strava I was a map geek. I would look at maps and count the trail heads and count the distance between, feverishly trying to do the math (“God, how far was that?”). My boyfriend introduced me to Strava and the heavens opened. He was like, “Ah geez, we’ve created a monster.”
How did you rack up so many crowns?
B: I ride different places all the time. I get bored easily and I like to explore different parks. Anytime I’m driving and happen to see singletrack I’m not familiar with, I’ll stop. I also like to click around randomly on men that I see a lot on the leaderboards and see what they’ve done and women have not. If a man can do it, so can I! I create some segments, too. It’s not cheating — I rode it, therefore I’m going to make it a segment, if it’s not already. I try to get about 160km in a week.
D: You have to do a lot of riding, and then you’ve got to make your own segments. I also ride about 160km a week.
What are your tips for those that want more KOM/QOMs?
B: Climb what people usually descend. Climb those babies! Even if it’s hike a bike, just do it — just climb stuff.
D: The number one thing I’d say is be careful. We’ve heard horror stories about people trying to get KOMs. There’s a danger factor, especially for downhill KOMs. I tell people, focus on uphill ones, time trials — don’t focus on the downhill.
What are you doing when you’re not stealing KOM/QOMs?
B: I’m a professional dog walker. I have my own business, I’m Dog People, offering pack adventures and pet sitting. My boyfriend and I volunteer at the local shelter’s running dogs initiative. I’ve also been volunteering about 25 years with cycling and races, specifically Downieville. Giving back to my sport by volunteering is a huge part of my philosophy.
D: I’m into cycling advocacy. I am vice president of the NCNCA (Northern California Nevada Cycling Association). I host an event in the Philippines in the winter, a race in honour of a downed cyclist who was hit by a drunk driver. I’m also into photography.
What are you most proud of?
B: I found the guy who is about to become my son-in-law through Strava. I met him first at a race called Boggs in May of 2014. I said, “Wow I really like this kid, he’d be good with my daughter.” I subtly hinted around at the time and then we became friends on Strava. We did a few rides together, and that’s how my daughter saw him on Strava – she’s on the app for running. They met about a year and a half later. Fast forward, and they’re getting married June 24. I’m more proud of that than my QOMs, definitely.
D: I am happy to be the world leader for Strava KOMs, but most important to me than the 4000 KOMs I have are my 514 cycling wins in races and overall series titles for MTB Downhill, Dual Slalom, Road Events, Cyclocross, MTB XC, Enduro, and Duathlon. Also being a three time NCNCA BAR (Best All-Around Rider) Champion, which is really hard to achieve, and only a few racers have done the past 20 years.
Any other words of wisdom?
B: I am 56 years old. I’m super stoked I can do what I do and grateful for it. I’m super thankful. Both my parents passed from Alzheimer’s and dementia. I try to beat that with physical fitness and being as active as I can. I’m a cancer survivor, I’ve had heart surgery. When I’m coaching, I always say all the miles are good miles. “Oh I only did two miles” — that’s two miles. Good miles! Just get up and move.
D: A lot of people take Strava super seriously. I tell people, don’t take it so seriously — it’s just a fun tool to use for your riding. Don’t hate somebody because they beat your KOM. I probably get more KOM-broken notifications than anyone, because I have more KOMs than anyone! I try not to take it too personally if I lose a KOM. And if I get a KOM, I don’t think I’m the greatest rider. Having the most KOMs doesn’t mean I’m the best at anything. It means I like to ride my bike. And I like to ride fast.