We reveal some of the dodgy ways that cyclists can make their rides look just that little bit better on ride sharing websites

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It used to be the case that you could ride your bike and that would be that. Now, we can measure every possible aspect of our rides – speed, distance, cadence, heart rate, power output, elevation, calories burned – and can make it all publicly viewable on the internet. It’s an extrovert cyclist’s dream.

>>> Strava’s mysterious JP returns to crush more pro racers’ KOMs

Like anything else, putting things on public view inevitably means that it will be scrutinised by other people: there’s not much point in uploading your cycling data for all to see if you don’t want anyone to look at it.

Ride logging and comparison website Strava is currently the most popular way for cyclists to share their rides online. We’ll admit that there is some satisfaction in uploading what you consider to have been a good ride to see your friends give you the kudos thumbs up. A job well done with an electronic back slap.

However, it has come to our attention that there are some people who manipulate their rides to polish them up a bit. To make them look a bit better than they really are. And in some cases, a lot better than they really are.

>>> How to take a Strava KOM

This article is dedicated to everyone who has their cherished Strava KOM stolen by someone doing 40mph up a hill, or whose Strava friends are mysteriously posting rides several miles an hour quicker than you reasonably think they are capable of. Let’s out the cheats.

Disclaimer: We absolutely do not condone the use of any of these nefarious activities to falsely inflate your riding prowess.

Have you ever fallen victim to a Strava cheat? Or cheated yourself? Let us know.

1. Miss out the steep hills

One surefire way of looking fast on a Strava ride – at least until someone clicks on the route profile – is to start at the top of a big hill, ride down it, ride around a bit, and then conveniently stop the GPS computer before going back up the hill again.

The rider can then have all the benefit of the 30mph cruise downhill, and none of the average-speed-reducing drawback of the 8mph trawl back up it. When questioned on the odd nature of the ride, the offender will likely offer up an excuse along the lines of “Oh yes, I stopped off there at a friend’s house at the bottom of the last hill and forgot to turn the GPS back on”.

hill-climbing-technique-2

2. Truncate the ride

The close cousin of number one is chopping ‘slow’ bits off the start and finish of your ride. Some people leave off the first mile or two of their ride to give themselves time to warm up before their ‘proper’ effort starts – the one that will be made public. Some people will claim that this isn’t cheating at all, but it’s hardly in the spirit of logging your riding. We want warts and all, good days and bad days, slow bits and fast bits. Let’s see every mile.

3. Digital EPO

We’re not really sure of the mindset of whoever it is behind the Digital EPO website. You can upload your GPS file and simply select how many percent quicker you’d like to have ridden. Then you click a button marked ‘juice my ride’ and it outputs a new file which you can upload to Strava.

The website itself is unrepentant on its facilitation of cheating: “Start raking in the KOM/QOMs,” it says. “You deserve ’em. You made an important contribution to safety by keeping your racing off the street”. Trouble is, the manipulated files often contain spikes in data, which can be detected by the internet electronic anti-doping police who will then get very angry.

>>> Kings and Queens of Strava

4. Driving to a flat bit

This one is inspired by a genuine incident. A rider had just bought a super-expensive, super-light, pro-spec bike, complete with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2. They live at the top of a steep and unavoidable hill, so in order to post a ride of 20mph average to show off their new machine and no doubt justify its expense, they put themselves and the bike in a car, drove less than a mile down the hill, parked up and then rode around a flatter bit to ensure an attractive average.

Then they put the bike back in the car, and drove up the hill home again. And we’re not just telling you this because we’re jealous of their lovely new bike.

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5. Take your GPS computer off and throw it up a hill

This sounds a bit extreme, but again this one originates from a reported incident. One rider was trying to set a fast time up a steep local KOM segment but had all but ground to a halt within sight of the top.

A swift stop, followed by quickly removing their Garmin and throwing it up to the top of the hill as hard as they could ensured a speedy finish to their effort. Their deceit was such that they threw the Garmin into a pre-determined grassy verge to prevent it getting smashed. To be fair, it was a good throw. We won’t let on whether they got the KOM or not, because we can’t endorse this sort of reckless, Garmin-abusing behaviour.

6. In a car/on a motorbike

Receiving a dreaded ‘Uh oh’ email from Strava means that you have lost one of your KOM/QOMs. You know that you pushed it to the absolute limit to get that KOM, and so the news that someone beat your time by three minutes is as welcome as a double puncture on a wet day. A click on the link to their ride reveals a succession of KOMs and an average speed of 32mph after a visit to a car park.

They will claim that they ‘forgot’ to turn their Garmin off after putting their bike in the car, but that didn’t stop them from displaying it unaltered. Others take this further by purposefully setting out in a motorised vehicle and bumbling along at what appears to be riding pace, but a couple of miles an hour above what they are capable of. We’ve heard that mopeds are particularly good at this and receive less attention from agitated drivers stuck behind them.

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  • JohnDavids

    Strava is great for what its intended to be a social network for cyclists, runners and others, KOM’s are just a fun gauge of your performance, of course there are always knuckleheads that game the system to get a better ranking to stroke their own ego.. news flash no one cares.. , anyone who’s serious about competing is out there racing. it’s that simple, if you really want to be King of the “Hill” then sign up for your local road/mountian bike or foot race and show everyone live in person what you can do…

  • Cornellius Maximilianus

    I am on Strava but at 99% of my rides I never chase KOMs, I do have 200 KOMs and most of them were unintentional, I am just happy to ride my bike and stop at cafeterias to have coffee and snacks, taking photos. When someone takes over my KOM I never go and rechase it back. I like strava because I makes me ride more, I think riding many miles a year is better than KOMs

  • austinmiles

    I stole a KOM on a very popular steep hill by mistakenly not turning off my strava at the parking lot. (there is a trailhead for MTB that starts mid hill) I tried to correct it but couldn’t. I felt guilty but it was only about a week or so before someone stole it back I can only assume by doing the same thing.

  • Jay

    I really struggle to understand the mentality of these cyclists. If it’s done with the intent of a lighthearted banter and joke around pub with mates then that’s fair enough but if it’s done seriously so they can feel good about themselves then it’s even worse then Lance Armstrong because at least he got vast sums of money and fame for doping but for a Strava KOM where we don’t even know half of the riders on the leaderboard table, it’s pretty sad and pathetic.

  • Simon

    Plenty of sad people out there who upload strava and brag about it non stop like it means anything – it doesnt. I know people who target segments based on wind direction on the day to get a good time and heaven help the poor sod that genuinely beat them as they will be ruthlessly pushed down the pecking order again. This might require additional training or assistance from a chain gang-esque lead out but it will be taken back.

    Personally I just like strava to record my miles, monitor improvement (sometimes), the social aspect, to find new routes and have fun. The people riding dangerously to get a good time would be doing the same if strava didn’t exist as they would still be bragging to their friends.

  • avtechnician

    The truth is there will always be someone come along who is just simply a better cyclist. Even the pros get beat eventually. Then the poor losers whinge to make excuses. Haters gonna hate.

  • dale

    Fear? what are you on about? police have warned cyclists not to activate their strava whenst living their house as thieves can use the info to find and nick your bike.

  • Eric Sims Jr.

    I started using Strava over MapMyRide last year, and I dig it. I will never compete for a KOM, but I like to see where I am at with the top guys on the list. Further, Strava keeps track of my training in an easy concise way. Strava is great. I do not care about clowns cheating.

  • Eric Sims Jr.

    Stop with the fear. No one cares where cyclists live.

  • Vespertine

    Agreed, I am using other tools these days, Strava is becoming a bit of a bore.

  • Ralph Horque

    LOL. I’m bitching because I’ll never get a KOM? Yeah, alright, have it your way, sir.

  • Ralph Horque

    It’s so easy to cheat on Strava, it’s almost pointless anyway.

  • David Taylor

    Strava is a great way of keeping track of your own rides and what your mates are up to and checking out world record attempts like Steve Abrahams. You’ll only keep a KOM/QOM until someone younger/fitter comes along and that will eventually always happen. The pro’s are in a totally different league to most of us but it’s fun to see just how fast the ones on Strava really are (e.g. Laurens Ten Dam, Dani King etc) and then know that if they ever come your way, bang go all your KOM’s. Several of us around the world use it to show GPS drawings, for fun. So mostly, don’t take it too seriously, use it for fun, after all that’s what cycling is all about too.

  • dodgerking

    “2. Truncate the ride”

    I do not do this, but technically that is not cheating. Pros don’t count the warmup portion of a ride either. Do runners or sprinters count the warm up laps they do? No.

    Besides, taking off the first couple of miles on a century ride is not going to effect your average pace much anyway. It will actually just take a couple of miles off the ride. I rather count as many miles as possible than worry about my average pace going from 20.1 mph to 20 mph.

  • SFBay2

    I love Strava. I enjoy looking at the rankings, simply because it provides a benchmark for what’s possible. When I’m planning a new route, I can generally assume I’ll finish at around the 25th percentile of previous riders.

    More than that, the heat map inspires me to take new MTB routes I never knew existed. I rank in the lower half of the rankings, and that’s fine. It’s just a fun social/planning tool.

  • Vertigo

    You missed an obvious one. Set the auto pause speed high – that way your averages will always be higher than the people you ride with!

  • lee

    About 2 yr back strava was believable but now is a bit of a joke…

    I’m not bothered about my placings on whatever erroneous section but i am on about 3 which’re close to me’ and I’ve had the the koms since i put them on..

    If they went to s.1 who done them at something verging on STUPID if pull them and do a private section for me and me only and that’s MY area that i immeasurably love to ride and when I’m going good i can really do em real fast.. like I’ve been doing for years…

    Happy cycling all – stay safe out there!

  • Dan

    those that have to point it out…

    I’m secure enough in my manhood.

  • andrew perrott

    ultimately you’re only cheating yourself so I can’t see the big deal

  • boo

    I use it for tracking my workouts and progress however fast they may be. Odd you weren’t interested in KOMs/sections, but stopped looking at it because some others were?

  • chickeee

    that’s not how the Strava privacy setting works

  • Bob

    we didn’t have all that techno stuff back in the day – you used to ‘get the miles in’ and fill in a wall chart they printed in CW once a year, then boast to your mates on the club run you ‘did 400’ last week

  • nooney

    How funny was that I laughed at a few of them, you gotta be really sad to go to those extremes, but why do that, you haven’t earned it so it means nothing, Strava is just a good social site for cyclist, I would not use it as a serious training tool, but it’s good for use as a icloud if you like, pull your data back and load it into WKO+ if your rig crashes.

  • ANDYRAKE

    I don’t worry about who’s the best or who owns a KOM, for me the best thing about Strava is competing against yourself and trying to beat your own PB’s now and then. There’s no point in cheating, just kidding yourself.

  • Anthony Jackson

    I find the hills as a good measure of my form before a road race. We all have our best efforts up some hills, but when I beat my best I know my training is going well and that the time on my turbo isnt wasted.

  • Anthony Jackson

    To all those that they say it makes it unsafe, or its just a peeing contest etc etc. Im on strava. I use to gauge how my riding is going. Yes, I own a power meter and often thats enough proof to myself. But I use segments (all uphill) to see how my form is coming along. Lat night I managed to knock 10secs off a 3min climb from last year. Despite feeling tired and fatigued this week, it makes me happy to know I still have something for the race at the weekend.

    NB. I also use my turbo and my local 10mile TT to gauge my form…. that and actual road races. Its not just a social site, it provides me some good times.

    But, finally, it is good fun to have a blast on a Saturday morning for a few hours with your mates.

  • Joel

    Average speed is more impressive than a KOM. A lot of people pootle about and then bury themselves on the segment(s), bit sad I’d say.

  • Joel

    People abuse that though, like when they flag a straight, slow road for no reason.

    People will always make another segment too.

  • Vespertine

    I am not sure what they apply, not sure how they would apply both a terrain model and a weighted average though. If they do apply an average it will indeed be weighted as DGPS is notoriously bad at height calculation. Either way it is an absolute certainty that an iPhone and a Garmin will give different elevations for a hill and they will be recorded as different on Strava.

  • Prot

    I believe Strava applies the same height profile to all rides on a segment. So all riders face the same virtual hill. (I would guess they use a global digital terrain model AND a weighted average height from all the GPS tracks people have uploaded.)

  • Vespertine

    They missed out the simplest but most effective. Use a device incapable of recording barometric pressure, like a phone. This way the very unreliable GPS height will default to estimated elevations which are much more often than not greater than reality. If you want KOM’s and vertical metres, use a phone for your rides.

  • Vespertine

    Well said.

  • Vespertine

    They do have a feature where segments can essentially be flagged if they are dangerous, lots of red lights or heavy traffic. They will then become incontestable. In my opinion if a rider is foolish enough not to follow the rules of the road they will do it with or without Strava.

  • Phillip Mercer

    While I am keen to check out my mates PRs and KOMs, I’ve never really bothered to look at their average speed unless its over 160kms at which point no one is turning on late or off early…

  • Mark

    strava has privacy settings that auto block out areas around where you live (you enter whatever address you want); no need to truncate the ride whatsoever.

  • dale

    2. Truncate the ride
    this is the one where criminals find out where the good bikes are, starting a mile from your house is sensible.

  • Mark Webster

    I stopped looking at Strava, all the uphill sections in my area have the same time as the descent. It also encourages just riding 2 miles to a segment, smashing it and riding home again. My times are slow, usually because I’m on an 80mile ride instead of sitting at home looking for sections.

  • David Chadderton

    I agree. I have been one inch away from chucking my, non-Strava, bike computer into the parts bin several times. The HRM went into there a long time ago. I know I am not killing myself when riding and I can feel how my performance is going. Reg Harris never had a bike computer.

  • Ralph Horque

    Strava sucks. It encourages unsafe and unlawful riding. I am not the fastest person, and I always obey stop signs, and I’m secure enough in my manhood.

  • Thiago Corrêa

    Yes, for those who need to pee in front of others to prove something.
    For the rest, it’s a excelent tool to analyze efforts and manage training, to get better than ourselves.

  • Mr K

    I ‘log’ my rides to compete with myself….did the Wiggle French Revolution over 20 mins quicker this year….still crap compared to most….but beat myself and proud. I will never make a racer or even half decent club cyclist…but enjoy the personal goals and the gains….and at least I can look myself in a mirror and say I did my best.

  • fed up

    Well said. strava is just who can pee highest on the inter web

  • Crydda

    Harmless enough, of course, but rather pathetic, all the same. I’m not on Strava – nobody is going to mistake me for Alberto Contador, even in bad light, on a foggy day, anyway.
    I’m too old to care about what others can or cannot do, but I’m still competitive with myself and probably push myself harder now, than I did twenty years ago, but I don’t feel the need to broadcast it.

  • fed up

    You make all of those things sound like a bad thing !