The Social Fitness Tool Race (Winning: Strava)

One of the great tools of the web (and mobile) has been the emergence of social tools with an exercise-centered focus.  As a competitive data geek who loves to play outdoors, these tools really excite me.  I bought my first heart rate monitor (HRM)  – an old Polar that had two functions, time and current HR – back in the mid-90’s.  My newest heart rate monitors  (Garmin 305 for running and and Garmin 800 for cycling) can do everything from GPS-based route guidance to tracking power output, elevation, temperature, and, of course, heart rate.  They’re amazing and on top of all that they record all the data and make it easily uploaded to the web.  Enter social exercise.

The Garmin 305 was the first GPS/HRM tool I used in conjunction with a web-based UI; Garmin Connect.  Connect is a wonderful tool for tracking your progress, recording milestones, and logging goals but it offers zero social-functionality.  I’ve written about the social shortfalls of Garmin before.  To fill the void I turned to DailyMile.com which has a gorgeous UI.  I’m connected to more of my friends via DailyMile than any other exercise tool, which does add a lot of value.  There are, however, a lot of shortfalls to DailyMile.  It’s buggy, events are dated, interactions are limited, and, in general, it seems to be falling behind in the race to track races.  As a member for nearly two years I have seen very little progress toward product revisions.  Enter Strava.

I don’t recall how I initially found out about Strava but I’m quickly becoming hooked.  Yes, it’s still buggy (it doesn’t always handle Garmin data inputs well), they don’t allow tagging rides (no way to track how many miles I log with Cooper) and the user base (among my circles) is still quite small, but the biggest advantage is that they’re USING the data that’s uploaded.  The coolest feature of Strava, in my opinion, is the “segments”.  Strava uses all of their data points to identify popular hills, sprint zones, and other competitive areas to rank performances.  You win badges for your performance and the #1 spots maintain the “King (or Queen) of the Mountain” badge.  For the competitive spirits, this is very intriguing and motivating.  My brother and I are currently competing for the KOM title on a local ride we both grew up riding a lot.

I’m currently uploading my events to Garmin Connect, Strava, and DailyMile.  I’ve set some 2012 goals in DailyMile that I haven’t been able to replicate in Strava (tag-based) and DailyMile was very generous in gifting me permenant “Pro” status for free after I reported a bug, but for 2013 I think I’ll be strictly limited to Garmin Connect and Strava.  Hopefully Garmin Connect listens to my wishlist and buys Strava for top-end centralized site [they’ve apparently already partnered within their store].

A few features I wish Strava enabled;

  • Tagging routes.  DailyMile lets you tag routes to be used as a filter in reporting.  I love tracking the miles I log with my dog.  Normally I’d label her as a piece of running equipment, which you can do, but you can’t use more than one tag at a time.
  • Better data handling – While the data seems solid, the mapping seems to break quite frequently.  Sections of the ride are missing from the map or it ends early.
  • Improved Privacy – I like that you can block out a mile around multiple addresses but limiting more data to just friends would make me feel much better about sharing events that leave from my house.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *