Newly published research warns that cyclists can get so obsessed with their bike computer it threatens their domestic relationships.
The study by Dr Paul Barratt, social scientist at Staffordshire University and a member of Leek CC says the “increased frequency and/or durations of cycling can have a negative effect on familial relationships and conjugal contributions.”
In particular he highlights the Rapha Festive 500, the Strava challenge to cover 500km between Christmas and the New Year. “It’s an awful time for a game to be influencing people to be away from their loved ones,” Barratt tells Cycling Weekly, “It does take people away from their responsibilities around the home or away from people they care about.”
Barratt’s concerns come from interviews with 20 Strava-using club cyclists from Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Cheshire. They also kept diaries about how they feel about the app. What they revealed triggered alarm bells.
“For those in relationships with familial responsibilities the household balance may be altered,” his study says, “Whilst the fitness and health of some improve, the opportunities and wellbeing of others is likely to suffer.”
Barratt uses Strava himself and negotiates carefully to make sure he does his fair share at home. “With three children, I’m highly aware that it’s not fair to be out of the home regularly for long periods of time,” he says, “So it’s definitely a balance for my own contribution around the house, giving my wife time to do her own things and for me to do activities with the kids.”
Strava could add features to help cyclists maintain a balance with home life, says Barratt. “It could give extra kudos if you post a photo of doing the ironing or playing with the kids after a ride,” he suggests lightly, “Of maybe a Domestique reward if you lead a group of less fit cyclists.”
Cycling Weekly contacted Strava for comment but they have declined to do so.
Healthy competition: A qualitative study investigating persuasive technologies and the gamification of cycling by Paul Barratt is published by the peer-reviewed journal Health and Place
Max Glaskin is an award-winning freelance journalist who tweets about cycling and science as @CyclingScience1.
He is author of Cycling Science (published by Frances Lincoln UK, Chicago University Press USA, and seven other languages).