Strava Cycling (free for iPhone and Android; iPhone version reviewed here) puts a new spin on bicycling tracking apps by comparing segments of your ride to other Strava users who have ridden the same stretch. Flick on the app, hop on your bike, and Strava will record where you go, how fast you travel, your change in elevation, and a few other metrics. At the end of the ride, you’ll see your route divided into defined segments, and, when you select one, you can see where you stand on a leaderboard that pits your time on the segment against other Strava users’. It’s highly intriguing, but the app has a few serious flaws that quickly put a damper on the experience.
The main problem is that all your activity is public by default. If you use your real name and start marking segments that you ride regularly, you could be giving away your home address, work address, and other places that you might want to keep private. You can make your profile private so that only users you approve can see where you ride, and there’s a feature in the full website that lets you hide certain locations that you mark, such as “home” and “work.” I appreciate that these privacy options are available, but I didn’t like being hit by the realization that I might need them after having used the app for several days.
Privacy concerns aside, I was captivated to see that my time crossing the Queensboro Bridge left me 44th out of 207 female Strava riders, but that I hit fifth place crossing the John Jay Byrne Bridge (holler!). And the competition is fierce. Looking at some of the record times for a couple of segments in Manhattan, I thought, “The only way I’d hit that speed is in an ambulance.” If you’re into competition, Strava is the most compelling bicycling app I’ve founnd.
But when it comes to just tracking rides, Strava seems to do the bare minimum. It gets the job done, but not nearly with the same rigor as Cyclemeter ($4.99), our Editors’ Choice for bicycling apps for the iPhone. For example, Strava doesn’t have an auto-pause, or a delay start countdown, which many riders like so that they can turn on the app to start recording, but still have a few seconds to then put their phone into place. These are pretty standard features in most bicycling apps, including Cyclemeter and Runtastic Road Bike PRO ($4.99). Strava also can’t connect to your music, as Cyclemeter and Runtastic Road Bike PRO can.
Strava offers a Premium subscription ($59 per year or $6 per month) to enrich its free app. Premium adds goals progress, which is the ability to set time or distance goals, such as bike 75 miles every week, as well as performance goals (ride a certain segment in a set amount of time), and track your progress. Premium users also get some sophisticated heart rate monitoring options, like the ability to set a “suffer score” or custom heart rate zone to quantify “suffering” or levels of intensity. See Strava’s website for more premium features.
While I enjoyed seeing how fast other Strava users ride in my area, the app isn’t the best for tracking your rides. Cyclemeter not only collects the most data, but also offers the best customization options. You can set up Cyclemeter to display as much or as little information as you want. For serious cyclists, it’s by far the most comprehensive app—but it’s only available on iPhone. Another app I recommend—and one that’s available on Android, too—is Runtastic Road Bike PRO, particularly for riders who aren’t necessarily pro racers and therefore don’t need every single metric under the sun, but do want to track their rides and make sense of their data.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc