Hands-on Gear Review

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Strava Review

   
Top Pick Award

Bike Computers

  • Currently 4.2/5
Overall avg rating 4.2 of 5 based on 4 reviews. Most recent review: June 15, 2014
Street Price:   $18 | Compare prices at 1 resellers
Pros:  App on phone, intuitive, social aspect, range of features, KOM
Cons:  Touch screen (no gloves), options while riding, phone exposed to elements, no auto stop option
Best Uses:  General bicycle riding
User Rating:     
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 (3.3 of 5) based on 3 reviews
Recommendations:  67% of reviewers (2/3) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Strava
Review by: David Mackey ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ March 16, 2013  
Overview
STRAVA took OutdoorGearLab’s Top Pick award for a unique alternative to a bike computer: a cycling app. If you ride a bike and want to keep track of those rides, the STRAVA app is for you (heck, it is for everyone). Free of cost and loaded onto your smart phone, STRAVA keeps track of distance, time, elevation, calories, and speed. Third-party components allow heart rate and cadence tracking, and an upgraded membership accesses power output, your suffer score, and GPX file exporting. STRAVA uses GPS to accurately keep track of your route, whether on the roads or on the trails.

The real-time monitoring of metrics isn’t as easy or considered as GPS-specific bike computers like the Garmin Edge 810 or Garmin 200, but STRAVA is a good alternative that provides similar results. The STRAVA website adds a great social aspect to training. It is extremely easy to use, giving in-depth analysis of recent rides and connecting you with friends and strangers alike. You can compare your efforts to yourself, as well as to athletes all around the world.

If you want a tool to record rides from commutes to intense training rides and you already own a smart phone, STRAVA is an excellent choice.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Ease of Use
The STRAVA app is incredibly intuitive and easy to use. Using the iPhone 5, the download took almost no time and was free of charge. Signing in via a Facebook account enables you to see friends already using STRAVA. The only downside to this is adjusting privacy settings through the Facebook web site – not the mobile app or mobile website. You have the option to fill out a quick profile with a photo, age, gender, height, and weight, which plays a role in calculating calories.

When we were ready to ride, the opening screen has a very large ‘start’ button. This starts the timer, and you are ready to roll. The large screen of the iPhone 5 shows elapsed time, distance, and average speed. Although displaying three modes falls short of most of the other computers tested, these are the basic three points of data used when riding.

Most cyclists wear riding gloves year-round, but they are a necessity in the winter. One downside to the touch screen is not having the ability to use it with gloves. During our colder jaunts, instead of removing the two sets of gloves on one hand, we found that the nose will work just fine to start and finish a ride with the touch screen.

Features
Although STRAVA only displays three modes while riding, the range of data collection and features are vast. After finishing a ride, the application uploads it to the STRAVA website. Since the app is GPS based, it gives you a detailed map of exactly the route you have ridden. This includes biking trails in addition to roads.

For each ride, STRAVA tracks distance, moving time, elevation, calories, speed, heart rate, and average temperature. The elevation is shown in chart form, detailing ascents, descents, overall gain (in feet), and max elevation. Speed is also shown in chart form, with average and max speeds included. Heart rate can also bee seen in a chart, showing average and max heart rate. All of these can be overlaid to see how they compare with each other. This is a very useful tool to see how hard you worked on different sections of a ride. A note worth mentioning is that a third-party ANT+ sensor is needed for the iPhone to pick up a heart rate monitor. If you have the iPhone 5, you would also need a Lightning to 30-pin adapter, making the sleek design of the phone much more cumbersome while riding.

For us, a surprisingly fun aspect of STRAVA is the social connectivity of the program. You are able to ‘follow’ other athletes, which shows their recent activities in your feed. Clicking an activity shows the same details you get for your ride, and even does a side-by-side comparison of things like average rides per week, weekly mileage, and all-time stats. We found ourselves checking STRAVA on a regular basis just to see the activities of friends. On more than one occasion it was the deciding factor to get on the road when cold or rain would otherwise have kept us inside. The interface is extremely well done, making it easy to find what you are looking for.

STRAVA has the ability to create ‘segments’ in a ride. These are usually climbs or descents on regular routes that you want to track progress on over time. You can keep these private, or make them public for other riders to see. When public, any cyclist can see these segments. STRAVA keeps a leaderboard of the fastest times, with the top rider earning the KOM (King of the Mountain) badge. You can compare your own efforts on this segment, and then compare to other riders in your area. STRAVA then keeps track of your Achievements by letting you know personal records or if you rank overall on a segment.

You are also able to link to your Instagram account, which will only post pictures you have taken during the time you were engaged in an activity. This way photos of your epic ride, not last night’s bar crawl, end up on your STRAVA account.

The optional Privacy Zone eliminates the origin of rides so that users are not able to see exactly where you live, just the general area.

STRAVA also lets you keep track of different bikes and components, which allows easy tracking of how many miles each bike or part has been used.

Although we do not recommend this behavior for obvious safety implications, you do have full functionality of the phone while recording with STRAVA, including taking photos (for your Instagram/STRAVA feed), making calls, and typing texts. We even took a speaker phone call at 20mph without interruption.

There is also an upgraded Premium account that opens up more features. This is $5.99/month or $59.99/year, and is charged through your Apple account. The upgrade gives access to the Suffer Score, a number using heart rate, elevation, speed, and cadence to quantify how hard you have worked on an activity. It also enables Weekly Progress Goals, Leaderboard Filters by age and weight, Power Zone Analysis, and exporting GPX files.

Finally, the STRAVA app is not necessary to keep track of rides on the website. If you currently own a GPS computer like the Garmin Edge 810, 510 or 200, you can upload rides from those computers directly to STRAVA via the website, giving you all of the above features for each ride. STRAVA also keeps track of running activities and can upload from GPS devices like the Garmin 405, 610, 910xt, and more.


Attachment Method
A mount is not needed to keep track of your activities. Many of our uses of the STRAVA app included turning it on and putting it in a pocket until we finished our ride. Most of the detailed information is better gained after the ride is uploaded anyhow. However, there are a variety of third-party bike mounts for the iPhone 5, ranging in price and protection. Most attach to either the bars or the stem. Due to the size of the iPhone 5, this can be somewhat of a hindrance while riding, and weather can play a big part in whether or not you want your phone exposed to the elements.

Best Application
The STRAVA application is great for a variety of cyclists and appeals to a wide range of people. The social aspect works well for friends who keep track of each other’s rides, as well as serious athletes who want to compare themselves to the local competition and national professionals. It is a nice way to track moderate progress, and a powerful training tool to hone technique and see physiological improvements, especially with the Premium account. STRAVA does a good job of making itself relevant to all riders.

Value
STRAVA is based on a ‘Freemium’ model, meaning the standard version is available to everyone at no cost, but the ability to upgrade to a Premium account comes at a price. If you already have a device like an iPhone, STRAVA provides more details and functions than many of the other computers in this review free of charge. Free is an incredible value for what STRAVA provides. If you are an athlete that is interested in the detailed metrics for each ride, the Premium upgrade is well worth the $5.99 (or less) per month for direct comparisons with the Suffer Score, Power Zone Analysis, and Weekly Progress Goals. The main downside is that use of the website requires the ownership of a smart phone or a GPS enabled bike computer.

David Mackey

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: June 15, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (3.3)

67% of 3 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
4 Total Ratings
5 star: 50%  (2)
4 star: 25%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 25%  (1)
Sort 3 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Jun 15, 2014 - 01:44pm
Another useless GPS app. Here’s why:

Innards:
  1. It needs an internet connection in order to show you the track after your run/bike ride. This is ridiculous: the app only needs a GPS signal in order to show me my workout stats. *Maybe* it needs an Internet connection to show it on a map, but why the app relies on a mandatory Internet connection to sync the ‘feed’ is beyond me. The Nike+ Running app works just fine without WiFi and Cellular, as do many other apps.
  1. You cannot edit a workout session, which you sometimes need to do because you answered a phone call right before the start or something. However, that option is only available on your personal webpage.
  1. No auto-pause on incoming calls, no auto Do Not Disturb when firing off the app, only have audio feedback at 0.5 or 1.0 km/miles, or off, but no time or less often intervals. Bit annoying for marathon runners, never mind endurance runners. No audio feedback on cycling.
  1. No countdown to start

GUI:
  1. When tapping ‘Record’ before your Run / Bike ride there’s an option to choose between the two. But it’s a Pull-down menu: this ought to be a slider so it is immediately apparent what that icon does, showing the 2 option without having to tap on it. What’s weird is that your personal webpage on their website has a whole list of activity options.
  1. You can set a ‘Performance Potential’ in your profile. But only for 1 type of workout, while the app was designed for both running and cycling.
  1. The fonts are readable, but way too small. There is a vast amount of empty space, and the choice of orange/red on a black background doesn’t help, it’s all quite difficult to read. And while that may be due to loss of eye sight on my part, the app should be designed to make better use of screen real estate.
  1. When looking at your ride on the map you cannot view it in landscape. Why is this unfortunate? Because you’re not making full use of the display when you have a West/East or East/West track.
  1. In the app you can only choose between cycling or running while the webpage with your workouts has a whole list of activities to choose from (though I would like to know what the difference is between ‘Run’ and ‘Running’).
  1. Your personal webpage shows your workout on a (Google) map. You can’t however zoom in very far, Nike+ does this better. Oddly enough you can zoom in all the way on your iPhone which has Apple Maps.
  1. The activity type colour-coding differs between the webpage and the app. Red for cycling, green for running on the website. In the app they’re both red. Designed without thinking, without testing, without an eye for detail. Which, when someone writes for Apple devices, is, well, odd.
  1. If you don’t have an Internet connection you can still view your ‘Feed’ but the map isn’t displayed; only the track is. Strangely the map is displayed when you tab the ‘expand to full screen’ icon in the top left corner (tapping on the map itself is broken)

GPS:
  1. The GPS obviously relies on the GPS data the iPhone gives access to. Why it takes about a minute to get a fix on where I am where it always instantly works when shooting a picture is beyond me.
  1. The GPS registers my bike ride seemingly fine: anything from 0 km/h to about 35 km/h. After a bike ride I’m always seeing strange peaks at some weird speed, like 80 km/h. No way I did that, so it might be due to a faulty GPS signal. And while the app itself cannot be blamed for what data iOS is giving to the app, I can’t wrap my head around the fact that the designers of the app never tested it themselves. Make no mistake here: it was designed by IT people who have never used the app outdoors, on a full day trip, or doing half a marathon with it. If they did they would have seen these peaks happen in almost every Record, and should understand that it makes the collected data completely useless as your average and max speed is completely off. In their defence, none of these running/cycling apps take the time to write the app in such a way that they delete these weird peaks in impossible speeds/distances, if they wanted to stand out of the crowd Strava would have taken care of this. Alas, it’s yet another useless app, doesn’t matter if it’s free or if they charge $499 for it: the recorded data is useless.
  1. On a 5 hour bike ride the app says my ride was 10 minutes shorter than what my Garmin GPS tells me. While this could be the fault of my Garmin device (which is a total piece of crap, in spite of its $700 price tag; device+maps+subscription) but because they are both using the same satellites one would expect simple times to be the same.
  1. The GPS signal says it works indoors when I have my home WiFi on. Yet my home WiFi isn’t recorded in any database as I have the protecting foil on my windows; no one knows the location of my WiFi yet the app says the GPS signal is strong, but that’s impossible because I am indoors and no other GPS devices or apps on my iPhone work indoors.

So, in short, another useless GPS workout tracking app. In their defence, all these apps are completely useless as they don’t look at what is recorded, what could be wrong with the GPS data, and correct it either automatically or prompt the user to edit out these sudden spikes in speed increase. These developers may hide behind the fact that they cannot influence or guarantee the quality of the information the GPS gives their app, but why is it then that native iOS apps, like the Camera has excellent and instant GPS signals and recordings?

And it doesn’t matter that the app is free; I’d pay good money for a working app, but it doesn’t seem to be available.

Now for the good stuff:
  1. The available voices, they have quite a list of languages, many available as male and female. Great way to brush up on, say, the Thai language.
  1. Your personal webpage looks good, is clear, easy to understand.
  1. The summary of your workouts on the Profile page in the app are nice.
  1. Their website has various import options, also BATCH import from GPS files (max 25 per upload), which is great. Not many apps have this option.
  1. Social: FB, Twitter, mail, thumb-up, comments.
  1. The app supports 5 HW devices: HRM, Power, Speed/Cadence & Footpod. These need to be either BT (Low Energy) (no WiFi), or ANT+, however this isn’t supported natively by the iPhone. There are adapters, but only with the 30-pin, making you need a 2nd adapter for the 5, 5s & 5c. The app also supports Echo & RFLKT.


Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   May 11, 2013 - 06:46pm
SCseagoat · Climber · Santa Cruz
I use both a Garmin 410 and the Strava App when I bike. I use the Wahoo blue tooth heart rate monitor with the Strava App. I'm a data nut. I can upload m Garmin info into Strava app. IMO the Strava app isn't that helpful unless you upgrade to the paid subscription. I don't like that the Strava app doesn't have an auto pause feature. What I REALLY like is you erase some of your tracks if you forgot to turn it off when you are done with a ride. I like the featurex of getting some info on rides before hand, like Category. I found the Strava and Garmin are quite comparable with GPS data on rides. They must use different calorie counting metrics because they are very different. The Strava App for running I find very inaccurate. Compared to my Garmin, on a five mike run the Strava will add up to an extra mile. I'm unsure if its because Im in leafy trail runs or what. I don't use it for runnng anymore. But I do like the bike app.

Susan

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   May 11, 2013 - 05:27pm
J TIURA · Road Biker · CA
For cycling, I love Strava! With the iPhone in a Lifeproof case and mounted on the handlebar, it is secure, visible, and useful for all the other things one does with a smart phone. No need for another expensive gadget. Works ok with gloves on. Fun and inspiring to compare one's time on a course (that you've delineated, or someone else's). I have found that using this app has gotten me doing more, and longer rides.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Strava Cycling App
Strava Cycling App
Credit: Strava
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