Riding home for Christmas: Meet the cyclist making festive bike-powered Strava art

'The reindeer came to 220km so I cut its body and legs off!'

Anthony Hoyte's reindeer (Background image: Getty)
(Image credit: Universal Images Group via Getty)

Strava is popular with all levels of cyclists, from the pros down to those who only occasionally get their bike out for a spin.

The social media app for cyclists allows people to track their rides and sometimes also show off if they've put in a particularly impressive shift.

However, one cyclist, called Anthony Hoyte, uses Strava to express his artistic side through riding his bike. The heritage consultant from just outside of Cheltenham has been constructing drawings using Strava since 2016, devising elaborate and impressive illustrations.

His creations have amassed thousands of likes and 5,000 followers on Strava (opens in new tab), with Hoyte riding around various UK locations as the canvasses for his masterpieces.

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Christmas is used as a particular inspiration, Hoyte having made various festive drawings over the years. His latest is a reindeer, which saw him ride nearly 80 miles around London for a whopping nine hours.

We caught up with Anthony Hoyles to find out more about how these works of cycling art come together.

Hi Anthony, what first inspired you to create art through bike rides on Strava?

I'd seen Strava art done by others and thought it was pretty cool so I thought I'd see if I could do it. I trained as a designer originally, and saw it as an opportunity to tap into that creativity. My first effort, back in 2016, was pretty rudimentary, but I enjoyed the challenge and process of trying to find something in the street pattern. It then became quite addictive, trying to make ever more complex 'drawings'.

Were there any teething problems with figuring out how to do it?

I was hampered at first by the fact that I didn't have a GPS, so the first few drawings were done with a big list of instructions - 'start outside the church; turn right just after Homebase; go to the end of street and then retrace steps back as far as the newsagent and turn left' - that kind of thing!

How long does it tend to take to complete each drawing? Is the planning more time consuming than the actual riding or vice versa?

How long is a piece of string?! The planning takes way longer than the riding, but some come to me much more quickly than others. For all but the Christmas ones, I am starting without any idea of what I want to draw. I just look at the maps, until something jumps out at me. If I see something in the road pattern that looks like a nose, for example, then I try and find eyes and everything else to go with it.

The Christmas ones are much more tricky because I'm trying to find specific festive things in the road pattern. That's essentially why they've ended up so big - the bigger you go the more roads you have to work with.

Anthony Hoyte's Strava Santa

When I'm planning them, I spend quite a lot of time on Google, and on Streetview, figuring out if I can actually cross a junction, or whether I can cut across a car park or something.

Once I've planned a route, I map it out on Ride with GPS, load it onto my Wahoo (I've got one now!), and just follow the directions.

Do you always use the same bike for every drawing? What do you ride?

Most of them have been done on an old Felt road bike. However, the weather was so rubbish when I did the reindeer, and I had to tramp over so much rough ground, that I think I might have to invest in a CX/gravel bike with disc brakes!

What's been your favourite drawing so far? And was it because of how it turned out or because you enjoyed the ride?

My favourites are last year's Santa, the pair of elephants I did in Birmingham in 2016, and the flock of birds I did in Bristol in 2017 (which won the Bristol Cycling Festival Strava Art Competition). None of them are really that enjoyable to ride (too congested), although nice weather makes all the difference. I was particularly pleased with how those ones came out though.

Anthony Hoyte's 'face-to-face' in Birmingham

Generally speaking, how many kilometres do you cycle per drawing? Is there one that's been the longest by far?

It can be anything between 27km and 142km - that was the 2017 snowman. I had actually planned out the whole reindeer this year, but it came to 220km, which I decided was just too far, so I cut its body and legs off!

Are there any plans for future images? Can you share anything with us?

I do have one planned in Manchester but you'll have to wait and see what it is! The big challenge will be next Christmas. I'm not sure I can surpass the last three years' festive efforts.

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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.

Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).

I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.