It seems to have become the common belief of serious cyclists that you should track and report all of your rides with Strava.
When you track your rides, you can easily compare yourselves to others to see if you're faster or slower than them on certain parts of a route. If you're the fastest, you get a virtual crown, either as King of the Mountain (KOM) or Queen of the Mountain (QOM). These results can be made private or public.
Last month I deleted my Strava account and started riding my bike offline again—not tracking anything—a return to the old school.
Today, I am simply riding on feel.
Even when set to private results, Strava's offer of constant, immediate access to tools and reports encourages you to constantly compare and seek validation for your efforts. Both outcomes steal the basic, most elementary joys of riding a bike.
Instead of rolling through sections (or segments, in the language of Strava) at a speed that feels right, you're driven to sprint as hard as you can in order to climb the Strava social ladder. When you don't succeed at bettering your score from last time, it's deflating.
I'm a competitive person by nature. I want to win. I want to be first. This is part of why I took up bike racing 20+ years ago; I'm motivated to compete and seek victory above others.
Yet, Strava is different than a real bike race. You don't win a bike race by being the fastest rider on a particular section of the trail or road. You win a bike race by being the fastest, smartest and toughest over a particular distance; an achievement that requires a lot of strategy and tactics, getting in the right moves and once in a while, being in the right place at the right time.
Whereas bike racing leaves me with a feeling of accomplishment - even when I finish near last place at this point in my life - Strava always left me feeling empty.
At first the exit from Strava's community was hard, and I guess that was the saddest and most revealing part. I was clearly hooked on Strava.
Back then I would be riding and thinking, "I wonder if I'll be faster than..." and catch myself comparing my effort to others or previous efforts of my own. That's weird.
It's also confusing and embarrassing.
It took a few weeks to shake my mind loose, but I got there. Now I just go for bike rides where I enjoy the scenery, the company I'm with and the effort that I feel I'm naturally putting in. If I feel good, I push it. If I don't, then I don't. If I desire to compete, I'll sign up for a race.
Power meters, heart rate monitors or journaling in detail your training program? Sure. I've had and used them all, but I don't need any as I no longer ride and race at that level.
Strava, and other types of comparative, social tracking products are fine, but not for me.
If these tools make you happy, use them.
They don't make me happy, so I won't.