Strava Tips and Tricks

(Written by: Adam Millar)

Almost every cyclist is familiar with Strava these days, even if you’re not a regular user. It’s become ubiquitous in our cycling community and serves many different functions for many different people. I use the platform multiple times a day, and it’s a huge part of bike riding for me. That said, Strava isn’t the best at communicating their features and functionality, and there’s a lot that can be done with Strava that maybe isn’t obvious. Here’s a few of my favourite “hidden” features, and insight into when, why, and how I use them. Some of these require a Strava Premium subscription; I’m sorry if that’s a sensitive subject for you, but that’s an entirely different discussion. 

Sauce for Strava

  • Strava is infinitely more powerful when using the desktop version. Exhibit A of this is the Chrome extension called Sauce for Strava. There are many extensions that can enhance your Strava experience, but I find this one to have the best features without cluttering the screen.
  • Sauce will give you many further breakdowns of your data, including things like: Normalized Power, watts per kilogram, VAM, kJ/h, and more. It also gives a quick display of power curve figures for your ride, to see where you did your best work on that ride.
  • Add the Sauce extension to your Chrome browser, and explore all of the features it has. Lots to be discovered for the data nerds.
  • (Editors note: Sauce also allows you to hide things like challenges, promotions, and virtual activities, which is useful if you're like me and don't like having your feed flooded with Zwift in the summer.)

Route Building

Strava recently overhauled their Route Builder, and made it a feature available to Premium subscribers only, sorry not sorry. Like most things in this blog, Route Builder is best utilized on the desktop version of Strava. Here’s a quick list of things that have changed:

  • You can choose a preferred surface: paved, or unpaved, and it will default to your preference when connecting two waypoints on the route. There’s also a display along the bottom to show the percentages of your route that are paved, unpaved, or “not specified”. In my experience, this data is pretty reliable but not perfect. The only way to know for sure which surface a road is, is to ride it.
  • Heatmaps are automatically displayed so you can see if that road you chose is a popular cycling route (probably a decent road) or hardly ever ridden (maybe heavy traffic, bad pavement, etc). A great way to stay safe and ride the good roads.
  • You can choose to minimize or maximize elevation. Looking for hills? Or maybe you want to avoid hills at all costs? This feature does the work for you. 

Personally, I make routes for almost all of my rides, even when I know the roads very well. I love knowing what’s on the menu before clipping in. It’s also an easier way to explore the area around you without getting lost or ending up on a bad road. And when it comes to traveling or riding in a new area, routes are paramount. Here are some of my tricks for making the most of your rides in unfamiliar places:

When heading out for a ride in somewhere completely new to you, route options could be endless. One process I’ve adopted is to:

  1. Find a popular local segment, maybe a climb or interesting stretch of road
  2. View the full leaderboard for the segment and filter for a more recent timeframe, maybe “This Week” or “This Month”
  3. Recognize any names on that leaderboard? Maybe a friend or local pro? Even if there aren’t any familiar names, click through the ride files for a handful of athletes that rode this interesting segment you’re looking at. Look for things like:
  • Similar start/end location to you 
  • Similar ride distance/elevation to your desired ride
  • Did they have a cafe stop? Maybe work that into your plan as well
  • Even things like temperature changes - was it much colder at the top of the climb? Or maybe they started at 6am and it was cold, but soon warmed up? Knowing things like this can make your own ride much more enjoyable
  • One last bit here, when you’ve found a local athlete’s ride that you like, you can do one of two things: create your own route with heavy inspiration from them, or just save their exact ride as a route and use that. Just click the “ . . . “ on the left side of the screen, and click “Create Route”

  • Bonus tip: not sure if a certain stretch of road is rideable? Find a segment along the road, check to see if anyone has ridden it this week, month, year. If nobody has ridden it recently, it probably isn’t rideable. Take a peek at their ride data on the segment too. Did they have to get off and walk? That might be worth avoiding.

Flybys (Desktop only)

  • Lots will know, but flybys are a great way to determine who that rider was that ripped past you at 400w. You can also use flybys to source some new route options from people who rode in the same area as you that day.
  • For racers, flybys are basically a replay of the race. See when the break went, who was in it, when they got brought back etc. 
  • Open any ride, yours or someone else’s, and click “View Flybys” to see who you might’ve crossed paths with on that day

More Strava Labs Projects 

These are projects that Strava began work on but never truly released them to the masses. Sometimes they can be pretty wonky and glitch out, because they’re not refined. Try refreshing the page, clearing your browsing history and cached data, or using an Incognito window if the feature isn’t working properly.

  • Kodos: for a data nerd who wants to see who has given them the most kudos over the years, or which ride garnered the most appreciation 
  • Roster: see who you’ve spent the most time riding with, or the least time. Do you spend more time riding alone? Or with others? 
  • Global Heatmaps: probably isn’t new to most people, but if you’re traveling to a new city and wanna see where people tend to ride, this will tell you. 

Sadly, one of the coolest projects in my opinion, never seems to work for me. Achievement Map is intended to show a geo-clustered representation of where your KOM/QOMs have been achieved. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I can never seem to generate a map display. Let me know if you can figure it out!

Fit File Tools

Each time you record an activity on your Garmin/Wahoo, or other device, it’s captured as a .fit file. This website has a handful of tools to help you alter, fix, and merge files together. THis isn’t a website you’ll be visiting every day, but sometimes our files get corrupted or other weird things happen, and this website proves ever-useful. Here are some of my favourite uses of

  • Splice two activities together: did you accidentally end your ride at the cafe? Instead of uploading two 50km rides, you can splice them together to get that pure metric century bliss and reap all of the kudos.
  • Crop activities: Strava has added this functionality recently, but if you forget to end your ride after getting in the car, or if you wanna delete that soft-pedal home after the group ride so your lauded average speed isn’t RUINED, you can crop your ride to include just the important bits.
  • Changing date/time: did you call in sick from work to ride but don’t want to upload to Strava just in case your boss sees it? Change the upload date to last weekend and nobody will know! Or if you’re supposed to be a work by 9am but went out to ride instead, change the time to 5am and tell the boss you were stuck in traffic. 
  • Data stripper: maybe you’re doing the secret treinings and don’t want your competitors to see the big watts you’re throwing down? Delete the power data from you file so it will forever be a mystery how many watties you did up Rattlesnake.
  • Peak remover: sometimes our power meters and heart rate monitors go crazy and show 2000W (no, you’re not actually doing Curt Harnett-level watts), or 250bpm on the heart rate, which is a very dangerous number to be seeing. This feature can delete those data spikes so as to not ruin you personal best or max power/heart rate settings. 
  • There’s and handful of other features, check them out and the next time your .fit file is acting weird and things don’t look right, might be able to fix them.