When I first started writing this blog one of my earliest posts was about a cycling app / website called Strava. Strava is an app / website that enables you to log all your rides and runs up to the cloud and then tracks your performance along “segments” (sub sections of your route) and ranks your ride on a leaderboard not only against yourself but against every other rider who has done that “segment” including your mates. I posed the question “Is Strava evil?” given the way it gamifies every ride – but the conclusion I reached was no. I use Strava to push myself, and encourage my mates to go smash it as well – all while maintaining an upright position on the bike. The top of a segment leaderboard is appointed the Segment KOM – King Of the Mountain, and in all my riding I have yet to achieve this feat. I have managed to squeeze into the top 10 several times and even jumped on the podium on one of my local routes, but never the KOM.

So visiting my folks on the weekend gave me an opportunity to bring my bike, go out for a ride on my old stomping grounds and see if I could not nab a KOM.

The first aim of my ride was not to get any Strava KOMs but get in a short and intense ride for an hour. I wanted to see what average speed I could hold on my new Shimano DuraAce 9000 C24 wheels. I have ridden a couple of hundred kilometers on them now and they really are a factor. Everyone writes in the forums about the performance advantage of lighter and stiffer wheels. What they also mention is the cost of lighter and stiffer wheels. This cost has to date been prohibitive for me to upgrade, until recently when I was forced to get new wheels as a result of 5 year old rear wheel failing with multiple stress factors around the spokes. But with 450 grams of weight shaved off the bike in all the right places and a stiffer construct, I find myself performing marginally better on the bike with the new setup. I will write up a detailed review later, but the new wheels rock.

To do this high(er – the pros would eat me up) speed ride, I mapped out a route I used to ride when I was younger and would use riding as part of my cross-training for other sports. The route doesn’t include any traffic lights, but it does include a number of short and sharp hills that in some cases get up to 8-9% gradient. It would be 3 laps of a 10km circuit. Best part is that there are no traffic lights on this route and it is mostly local roads so little traffic. On the first few warmup kms I was feeling good, and stretched the legs out a bit. I was consistently hitting 35-37kph (21.7-23mph) on the flats, so feeling quite good. Then I got to the hilly stuff and my speed dropped. I was targeting for a 30kph average for the ride, but that dropped when I hit the hills. I was going to have to lift it.

On the final section of the lap there is a long straight which, while undulating, has a total drop of around 30m in elevation. The best bit about this section of tarmac is that it has been freshly sealed and is quite smooth. As I approach the road, I saw that there was no traffic and I remembered that there was a Strava KOM on this segment that was worth a chase. I punched it! The segment is 1.1km long, so tough going to maintain full power. I put my head down and burned my legs up. I was a bit naughty when I realised that I had actually exceed the road speed limit and was maintaining that speed for over 600m. I got over the first bump followed by the second, and then put my head down for the final 300m. I was gone by that stage, but my momentum carried me past the segment finish. It wasn’t until I got back to my parent’s house and connected the Garmin into the computer to upload the ride that I realised I had just earned my first Strava KOM.

49.1kph (30mph) for 1.1km

I was chuffed! And the next nearest rider was a couple of kph slower. I fell just short of my 30kph average speed for the ride (at 29.9kph), but it was a good hitout. I got a second place on one of the segments too up a bugger of a climb that runs for 600m and gets up over 10% gradient. But my climbing still has to improve greatly. Now the gauntlet has been set on my KOM and others will chase, while I chase the KOM on that second placed climb.

I am feeling good in the saddle with the Amy Gillett Gran Fondo now only 46 days away. But I still have to get some solid riding in before then.

Strava isn’t evil anymore  🙂