If you have used any of these sketchy Strava 'doping' strategies, it’s time to take a long look in the mirror.
Four years ago, on the last gruelling day of a pretty arduous six-day charity ride, my husband Dave rolled up to me before the first big climb of the day - a 9% grade, 2.1km leg burner - and surreptitiously slipped his Garmin into my jersey pocket.
It was all in fun: He wanted to see his friend Bob (who was also on the ride) in shock after beating him on the Strava leaderboard. Strava was still relatively new at the time - I wasn’t on it, nor had I seen it - so I played along. Dave (or I should say I) beat Bob by more than a minute and a half. We all laughed about it over beers later.
Today, neither of us would even think about conspiring in that type of deceit. Strava has gotten so big that such a prank would feel more like cutting a racecourse than punking a pal. It’s gotten so big, in fact, that such “Strava doping” is becoming a concern.
Within any given cycling community, there are rumors of someone driving really slowly up a local climb only to get the KOM shortly thereafter, or someone posting up a performance that could only happen if they suddenly shed 4.5kg and added a motor. People have literally lost their lives chasing Strava segments - hell, there are even third-party apps that claim to help you juice your data.
Time out, everyone: We need to talk.
Strava can be fun. Strava can be motivational. Strava can be a great training tool. But if you download an app for the express purpose of fudging your data, you really have a problem. We actually went in search of comment from Strava dopers (reformed or otherwise), but as one might expect, no one is talking. “I think people who do it probably have rationalised it to the point that they don’t think they’re cheating,” said Bill Schieken of Crosshairs Cycling .
“We're confident that tampering like this is minimal, and I'm sure it would be hard to find the few individuals that may do this,” said Strava spokesman Brian Holcombe when I asked for his thoughts. “To protect the integrity of Strava's community, athletes are empowered to flag activities that are inconsistent with human-powered effort. Strava also has technology in place to detect fraudulent activity,” he assured me. Because really, what else could he say?
Strava doping is likely (hopefully) not widespread, and I’m sure the occasional non-legit Strava score is an accident (a friend of mine once used his girlfriend’s Garmin when his was dead, bagging about a dozen QOMs - many of them mine - at the end of the day). But well, Strava is a sport and a game, and when there’s a sport and a game, you have cheaters… or at the very least, rule benders.