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How to Use Strava: A Guide to Strava’s Popular Features

By Mark David Hartley   /  Last updated - March 15, 2022   /  Blog, Guide, Reviews

Over the past decade, technology developers have been using the popularity of smartphones and tracking devices to create exciting new ways to exercise. Sports watches and smartphone training apps have exploded in popularity, and leading the charge is Strava, the world’s number one cycling app for tracking rides and socializing with other cyclists.

What Is Strava & How to Use It?

Strava app logo

Strava is a software platform and mobile app used by athletes to develop training programs, track performance, and socialize with other users. It’s become very popular amongst runners and cyclists, largely due to competitive features that allow you to take part in challenges against other users. The name Strava is derived from the Swedish word for ‘strive’, which the founders chose because it epitomizes their attitude and ambition to build an engaging and inspiring community of athletes.

The social features play an important role in the widespread success of the app, which is used by over 73 million athletes in 195 countries around the world.

By using the GPS navigational hardware present on almost all smartphones or activity trackers like cycle computers, the Strava route planner tracks your movements as you run or cycle and displays your route on a digital map. It accurately records your speed, distance, and time, even if your phone is locked and in your pocket. 

Getting Started with Strava

Strava on website and mobile

Strava website vs. mobile app interface.

Anybody with a compatible laptop or smartphone can use Strava, simply visit the website or download the app and set up a free account. A free account lets you create a profile, access activity tracking, social media features, and local events. For power users, there’s also Strava Summit, a paid subscription service that provides added extras like performance analysis and custom goals.

How to Use Strava

  1. Download the mobile app

This can be done from Google Play for Android users or the Appstore for iPhone users. You can also download it from this link: https://www.strava.com/mobile

  1. Sign in and create an account.

You can sign in using Facebook, Google, or any email address.

For smartwatch users, you can sign up online at: https://www.strava.com/register/free

  1. Confirm your account

After completing registration, you’ll receive a confirmation email with an activation link that must be clicked to start using Strava.

  1. Update profile 

Once logged in, you can fill in your profile information, like name, photo, location, etc. You can update this data at a later time, so you can skip through most of it for now.

    1. Ready to go

You’re ready to go! You can now start an activity or further customize settings like privacy controls, data permissions, and email notifications.

Strava Privacy Controls and Data Permissions

For users who are concerned about online privacy, take some time to customize your Strava Privacy Controls and Data Permissions. Since Strava tracks your location, this can be particularly important for people living in unsafe areas.

Strava privacy control

Strava’s Privacy Settings let you choose how public you want your profile to be.

Privacy Zones

With this function, you can hide sensitive areas from your activity tracking, such as your home or work.

Strava Global Heatmap

The Strava Global Heatmap shows areas in the world that enjoy the most Strava activity. Although it doesn’t show personal information, it could be used to find where individual users exercise, so you may want to deactivate it.

Training Log

You can set the details of your training activity to private or public.

Strava on Smartphone or Smartwatch: Recording a Ride

You can record your Strava routes with your smartphone or by connecting Strava to your smartwatch or bicycle computer. Alternatively, you can manually enter ride information into the Strava map after completion. 

Strava interface

Recording and viewing an activity on Strava is straightforward.

Smartphone

Using the Strava app on a smartphone, simply tap Record, select Ride, click Start, and start cycling. There are a few customizable options you can set, like audio cues and auto-pause. 

Fitness Tracker (Smartwatch or cycling computer)

To connect your smartwatch or cycling computer, you must select the Connect a device to Strava option, which is under Settings > Applications > Link other Services.

Depending on your type of device, you should have the option to either track activity or upload recorded activity to Strava. You can use Strava with any smart cycling computer, such as Garmin or Wahoo.

How to connect Garmin to Strava: Uploading a Ride

Garmin Connect

  • To use a Garmin Connect with Strava, activate Bluetooth on your Garmin device and go to Settings > Connected Apps > Strava
  • Allow permission to “Upload your activities from Garmin Connect to Strava”
  • This will automatically begin uploading your saved Garmin activity to Strava.

Garmin Express

  • With Garmin Express, download and install the app on your computer and add your device.
  • Visit strava.com/upload/device and authorize a link from your Garmin app to Strava.
  • Any new activity uploaded from your Garmin Express will now sync to Strava.

Pricing: Strava Free vs. Paid

Strava free vs. paid

Strava free vs. paid features compared. The subscription is worth it for the avid rider.

Strava comes in two versions, the free version and a subscription called Strava Summit. Since the free version offers so many features, many people ask whether the Strava subscription is worth it? Here we look at some of the Strava premium features that come with the subscription version and compare it to the free version.

How much does Strava cost?

A Strava Summit membership costs $5.00 per month or $59.99 per year (£6.99/month or £47.99/year for UK-based users).

You can also get a 60-day Strava free trial of the Summit membership so you can test out all the extra features without an immediate commitment.

So is Strava premium worth it? Let’s see what you get.

Popular Strava Premium & Free Features

Strava Heatmap

Strava heatmap feature

Strava’s Heatmap feature lets you see the most popular cycling routes in your area.

The Strava Heat Map reveals the most active areas of all Strava users without any personally identifiable information.

A public Heat Map is available on all versions of Strava but Summit members get personal heat maps.

Strava Flyby

Strava Flyby lets you playback your activity and see the activity of other FlyBy users near you.

You can set the Privacy Controls to ‘Everyone’ or ‘No One’ depending on who you want to see your activity. When set to Everyone, any internet user can view all your Strava activity.

Strava Route Builder & Strava Art

Strava art

Create incredible Strava art using the Route Builder feature. Source: Strav.art | Gustavo Lyra

The Strava Route Builder allows you to quickly and easily create routes with the swipe of a finger. 

The feature gave rise to Strava art, in which users plot a route that creates an image when viewed in completion. Then they go out and complete the activity, drawing the art with their movements.

The activity has become extremely popular and now has a dedicated website: https://www.strav.art/home

Strava Beacon

Strava Beacon is a safety feature available to Summit users only. It allows you to share your real-time location with a friend so they can keep a ‘virtual’ eye on you while you exercise. This is useful for cyclists who train in potentially dangerous areas, as your friend would notice if you stop for no reason or go off-course unexpectedly.

Strava Live Segments

Strava live segments

The Strava Live Segments feature lets you track your performance on a specific segment in real time.

With Live Segments, you get real-time updates of your performance while riding, like comparisons to your previous best times or the top results of the leaderboard.

The King of the Mountain (KOM) or Queen of the Mountain (QOM) leaderboards are popular challenges based on how quickly cyclists can climb certain segments. Learn how to create a Strava segment.

Strava Challenges and Goals

A Strava goal-setting feature is available to Summit members, allowing you to create weekly or monthly goals that the app will push you towards achieving.

Strava also releases unique challenges regularly, which motivate users to compete against each other and work harder towards their goals. One popular challenge you can complete on the Strava cycling app is Everesting, which involves cycling the same hill over and over until you reach a total climbing height of 29,029 feet (8,848 meters) – the height of Mount Everest.

Strava Relative Effort & Suffer Score

Strava relative effort feature

Keep track of your progress with the Strava Relative Effort feature.

Summit members can access an advanced Strava feature called Relative Effort, which is an update of its previous Suffer Score feature. The Relative Effort feature lets you compare your effort using heart rate data recorded by athletic training devices. The Strava heart rate monitor can be connected to any wearable device with these sensors, like a Fitbit or Apple Watch. It determines Strava heart rate zones based on your maximum heart rate.

Strava Training Plans

Strava Training Plans is a feature available to Summit members, providing access to a training dashboard and training log. You can choose from a range of different four-week training plans with weekly volumes of five to twelve hours.

FAQ

Is Strava free?

Yes, Strava is available as a free version that includes the most used features and a paid version called Strava Summit. Heavy users who wish to access advanced features like Challenges and Training Plans can purchase a Strava Summit subscription for $5.00 per month or $59.99 per year.

How to create a segment on Strava?

You can create a segment in the Analysis section of Strava by clicking Create Segment and selecting one of your pre-recorded activities. You can then create a new segment by choosing the start point, end point, and any additional points in between. 

How do I delete my Strava account?

If you want to delete your Strava account for whatever reason, you can do so in the Strava app or on the Strava.com website. Simply go to Settings > My Account > Get Started, and click on Download or Delete Your Account. You can then choose to delete your Strava account.

Does Strava work with an Apple watch?

Yes, you can connect your Apple Watch to Strava by connecting it to the Apple Health app. This syncs your training activity between the two apps. To do so, go to the Strava app on your iPhone and select Settings > Applications > Health > Connect. Then tick the Send to Health option.

How to connect Zwift to Strava?

If you compete in the popular online multiplayer cycling game Zwift, you can sync your Zwift cycling activity with your Strava account. To do so, log into your Zwift account and go to My Profile > Settings > Connections > Connect to Strava

Is Strava premium worth it?

If you are a heavy Strava user who wants to get deeply involved with the community, compete in challenges and attempt to win competitions like KOM and QOM, then you’ll appreciate the Strava Premium features. However, the majority of light users find the Free version adequate for their needs.

How to cancel my Strava subscription?

If you have a Strava Summit subscription and decide you no longer need the advanced features, you can easily change back to the free version. Simply go to My Account > Membership > Change Membership. In Manage Membership, select Cancel Summit Membership and Downgrade to the free plan.

How accurate is Strava?

The data that feeds Strava comes directly from the GPS of your device, whether it be a phone, smartwatch, or cycling computer. Therefore, the data is only as accurate as the device feeding it. However, modern GPS tracking systems are usually highly accurate to within a few centimeters.

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