AT THE TIME OF my visit, Strava seemed to have its hands full with technical rather than legal problems. The biggest concerns are managing the global growth of users, applying postprocessing to clean up the accuracy of GPS, and trying to manage the explosion of devices using the service. The company is also busy trying to figure out how to lure more women (initially, Strava had only kings of its mountains, not queens) and runners to the site, primarily by bringing in more of both to work for the company. As with men and women, there’s occasionally a Mars/Venus issue in trying to crack the varying mindsets of runners and cyclists. “From a community perspective, runners tend to run alone,” says Horvath. “That means Strava has a larger role to play in connecting one runner to others.” Rather than KOMs, runners have CRs, or course records. With runners, the whole route tends to become a segment. “It’s more about the total effort,” says Horvath. Triathletes loom as a next logical target audience, once swimming can be cracked.
Apart from lawsuits and riders turning docile multiuse paths into time-trial courses, the biggest challenge for Strava may simply be engaging the rest of us—those riders who are likely to never crack the top of the leaderboards. “That’s one of the things we’re trying to do,” says Horvath. “Now that there are thousands of people in the leaderboards, we need to make it relevant to the person not in the top 10.” He talks about making the site, currently focused on the postride experience, more fully integrated into one’s total training regimen: “Not about how close are you to getting on the leaderboard, but how close are you getting to your goal.”
Users, he says, are already asking for the ability to add photos to their feeds. For riders like Bone, who view their rides as a means of expression, he sees promise in Strava providing a kind of larger travel narrative rather than just data. “I love it when someone says, ‘I was in Malibu a couple of weeks ago and didn’t know where to go, so I looked on your Strava feed and did all of your rides and ate burritos at this place.’”
Strava’s challenge is no different from the one cycling itself often faces: Does its quantitative focus come at the risk of losing its soul? Squire, the climber from Devon, notes that while he “wouldn’t not be on Strava,” he wonders if the way it’s changed riding is always for the good. “I’ve kind of lost the small pleasure of going out on my bike for the sake of going out,” he says.
In July, after booking another vacation, Squire beat Toone in the Rapha Rising challenge—the goal of which was to match the cumulative climbing total for the Tour de France’s Pyrenees stages. He climbed nearly five times what the riders in France did.
Tom Vanderbilt wrote about American companies insourcing jobs in September.