I originally thought that the title of this post was going to be “Is My Garmin Evil?”, having only just purchased a Garmin Edge 800 GPS bicycle trip computer earlier this year. Previously I had a crappy old Trek trip computer that kept on losing the link to the cadence sensor. Finally it gave up the ghost and I splurged on a Garmin. It is not the most user friendly interface, and I was surprised how chunky it was when I got it. But what a cool little gadget! After finally figuring out how to configure my custom screens, and setting up a few bike profiles (I have three – ‘Road Steed’, ‘MTB Steed’, ‘MTB Steed + Potatoes’ i.e. Pok), it has brought a level of visibility and tracking to my rides that I never had before. At first it told me to stop eating the pies and pedal faster, but being able to track my routes (or not when the steed is locked into the indoor trainer) has been absolute gold dust.

My Garmin Edge 800

So after getting the device, I set up a Garmin Connect account and religiously logged every ride into the cloud. Even reviewed my rides on the player to great enjoyment – only to get blown away after reviewing a TT ride that Dave Zabriskie did in this year’s Tour of California.

But here is where the devil steps in. I was quite proud of my GPS purchase, feeling like I stepped up into the big leagues, so was talking a lot about it with my fellow cycling colleagues at work. That is when one of them – AC you know who you are – piped up and said “Your ride doesn’t exist unless it is on Strava!” The darkness started descending…

I replied “Strava? What is Strava? Can you spell that? What is the URL?” So now my interest was piqued, in a terrible way. I was busting to get home and jump on the net to check out this “Strava”. The devil now had me hook line and sinker. I created an account, and loved the fact that it called me an athlete. At this point I had no idea about segments and leaderboards, but I was a happy little cyclist. I uploaded my first ride – this year’s 40km Ride Around the Lake (www.ridearoundthelake.org.au) and was pretty chuffed that I was 3rd in my time after setting off in the last group and giving it a good belting. But as others started logging their rides I noticed I finished 5 out of 6. OK not so good.

So I thought to myself, ‘Surely there are routes that I could be the KOM on’. So off I went to discover how bad a rider I was. It is pretty disheartening to see yourself in the lower half of the leaderboard by a good 15km/hr slower than the top dogs on a route that you have belted out and is one of your local rides. Disheartening is an understatement, totally deflating is probably the more accurate description. But the evil that Strava plays on is the competitive nature of every cyclist – I gotta go faster and beat that time!

The good part of Strava is that it has motivated me. Motivated me to keep riding, upping the kilometres, and religiously tracking every one of my rides. The evil part is what it has done to my regular night training rides. I scope out my route, analyse the segments on Strava and then for a short 300-600m or so in the middle of my ride I try to go out and absolutely smash it. Just for a KOM. Of course the Strava trophies will keep piling up, and I get PRs, and my followers give me the kudos. But I reckon I am going to write myself off one day trying to get one of these KOMs.

There is a route around Canada Bay, commonly known as the Bay Run, which has numerous segments marked up on it. I targeted one segment in particular because it is a good indicator of how I am progressing -the N-S route along the Iron Cove duplication bridge. 400m of paved flat goodness. My first couple of feeble attempts were not well thought out, I was hitting the start of the segment at less than 30km/hr, no chance for a Top 10 let alone a KOM. But then I had an ingenious scheme. I had just finished the two day 200km Sydney Ride to Conquer Cancer (http://sy12.conquercancer.org.au/site/TR/Events/Sydney2012?px=1142452&pg=personal&fr_id=1070) the weekend previous – and after months of training with a pretty good hit-out on the ride, I had steel in my legs and bravado in my ride. To add to my scheming, I plotted a new route that dropped me in from the North on Victoria Road and allowed me to get up to 45km/hr at the start of the segment. I got on the route and absolutely buried myself as deep as I could go. I got to about 50m to go and ran out of steam but the momentum I had gained carried me fairly well in my mind at the time. I couldn’t wait to get home and connect up the Garmin to see if I had any success. This is the truly evil part – I rushed home, kicked my wife of the laptop, and plugged in the GPS into the USB slot…. Uploaded new rides… then boom 3rd place! Awesome, 3rd place! 50.3km/hr! Awesome! Quick let’s check out the Leaderboard in more detail – WHAT! The guy who was in first place clocked 100km/hr? How could this be? Is he the spawn of the devil? how could this be? He bettered the one other guy that was ahead of me by 48km/hr.

I was fuming.

I told my wife that this guy had to be a friend of the devil. How could he have possibly logged that fast a ride. He was faster than Cav, Griepel, Sagan, and Farrar all rolled into one. He was robbing me of a 2nd place.

At that point my wife, with the cold hard sense of someone who couldn’t give a sh!t about this website informed me “he must have left his GPS on his bike while he had it connected to his roof racks on his car.” My wife is not stupid. And with that she shook her head and left me in front of the website to suck eggs.

So is Strava evil? Maybe not, because it has motivated me to ride and train. The daily updates I get from all my cycling buddies get me fired up. But listen here Mr 100km/hr Speed Demon, I have you in my cross-hairs. Time to giddy up and spin a bit.


Lucifer: Father of Pok – go spend a week’s wages and buy a power meter.