6 Signs You Need a Strava Intervention

If you have used any of these sketchy Strava doping strategies, it’s time to take a long look in the mirror.

Selene Yeager |

If you have used any of these sketchy Strava doping strategies, it’s time to take a long look in the mirror. – By Selene Yeager

Photograph by Sean Denny via Flickr
Photograph by Sean Denny via Flickr

Four years ago, on the last gruelling day of a pretty arduous six-day charity ride, my husband Dave rolled up to me before the first big climb of the day – a category 3, 9-percent grade, 3-kilometre leg burner – and surreptitiously slipped his Garmin into my jersey pocket.

It was all in fun: He wanted to see his friend Bob (who was also on the ride) in shock after beating him on the Strava leaderboard. Strava was still relatively new at the time – I wasn’t on it, nor had I seen it – so I played along. Dave (or I should say I) beat Bob by more than a minute and a half. We all laughed about it over beers later.

Today, neither of us would even think about conspiring in that type of deceit. Strava has gotten so big that such a prank would feel more like cutting a racecourse than punking a pal. It’s gotten so big, in fact, that such “Strava doping” is becoming a concern. Within any given cycling community, there are rumors of someone driving really slowly up a local climb only to get the QOM shortly thereafter, or someone posting up a performance that could only happen if they suddenly shed 5 kilograms and added a motor. People have literally lost their lives chasing Strava segments – hell, there are even third-party apps that claim to help you juice your data.

Time out, everyone: We need to talk.

Strava can be fun. Strava can be motivational. Strava can be a great training tool. But if you download an app for the express purpose of fudging your data, you really have a problem. We actually went in search of comment from Strava dopers (reformed or otherwise), but as one might expect, no one is talking. “I think people who do it probably have rationalised it to the point that they don’t think they’re cheating,” said Bill Schieken of Crosshairs Cycling as I solicited his assistance.

“We’re confident that tampering like this is minimal, and I’m sure it would be hard to find the few individuals that may do this,” said Strava spokesman Brian Holcombe when I asked for his thoughts. “To protect the integrity of Strava’s community, athletes are empowered to flag activities that are inconsistent with human-powered effort. Strava also has technology in place to detect fraudulent activity,” he assured me. Because really, what else could he say?

Strava doping is likely (hopefully) not widespread, and I’m sure the occasional non-legit Strava score is an accident (a friend of mine once used his girlfriend’s Garmin when his was dead, bagging about a dozen QOMs—many of them mine—at the end of the day). But well, Strava is a sport and a game, and when there’s a sport and a game, you have cheaters… or at the very least, rule benders.

Without further ado, here are the top Strava doping strategies we’ve heard rumour of. If you see yourself reflected in any of these, close your account and ride unplugged for at least three months to detox. Come back once you’ve seen the light.

The Huck

You’re nearly at the top of Hell’s Gate Hill. You can see the big oak at the summit. You also see that you’re seconds from a PR and finally beating your nemesis – that accountant in the next town who rides a Dogma F8. You untwist your Garmin and huck it up the hill. If you’ve got a good arm – and aim – the record is yours.

I tried this one just to see if it could work. It could. But it’s also pretty hard to chuck your computer with true aim when you’re hypoxic. You’re also tossing a pretty expensive piece of gear that may not survive repeated bounces off the tarmac. If you use Strava on your smartphone and you huck your phone, you should really just cancel your account.

The Trail Simplifier

You’re so close to nabbing the KOM on the Snake Trail – except for that one $%^&ing rock that throws you off your line and sets you back a precious second or two. Remove the rock and you’ve got a direct path to a PR. We actually see this happening on trails all over the place. If you’re guilty of moving rocks and logs, knock it off. If you continue your manipulative ways, know that we all hate you for screwing up our favorite trails in the name of an ego boost.

The Skitch

You’re not such a great climber and you’re sick of all your buddies rocketing off every little incline in the never-ending quest for golden trophies and crowns. So when a buddy drives by on Goat’s Blood Mountain, you hang onto his side view mirror – you know, just to chat for a bit. We won’t flog you in the town square for a little skitch that bumps you from 400th to 358th on the leaderboard. But we recommend a serious gut check if it becomes repeat behaviour.

The Imposture

You give a faster rider your Garmin for the day. Won’t they all be surprised when they get those “Uh, oh…” messages in their inbox? It’s all fun and games until all your friends think you’re a jackass.

The Drive By

Screw that chick who just stole your QOM. You get in the car, press record on your app and drive really, really slowly up Hogback Hill to steal it back.

The Flat-Out No-Justification-Humanly-Possible App Cheat

You download a data fudging app from Digitalepo.com (yes that’s a real site) and cook the books for the KOM.

Look deep inside your soul and ask what your self worth is ravelled around. Then quit Strava for a month and go volunteer at a homeless shelter for a while.

Still can’t manage to get yourself off the Strava sauce? Kindly take up kitesurfing.

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