Strava App | How to Set Up Strava Cycling App Guide

Strava lives at the intersection of social media and exercise. And with new riders joining

Strava lives at the intersection of social media and exercise. And with new riders joining us in 2020, it’s likely you want to show off your new passion along with millions of other users.

The fitness app tracks your rides, of course, via bike computer, GPS watch, or smartphone. Those who don’t want to share can keep that data to themselves. But where the self-described “social network for athletes” really shines is when you do share your rides with others. With the ability to follow everyone from friends and local crit rivals to pros, Strava is a useful tool for comparing performance and connecting with (and egging on) your fellow riders.

So if your riding buddies won’t shut up about how many KOMs or QOMs they’ve earned, maybe it’s time to give Strava a try. Keep reading as the app and its subscription model continues to evolve with various features for its users.

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1. Starting Out

Strava has both a mobile app and website, but not a desktop application. On your phone or computer, you can follow the initial instructions to set up an account, much like you would for any other online service. Verify your account through your email, then let Strava walk you through syncing it with your Facebook friends and phone contacts. If you have privacy concerns over allowing access from outside services, you can always search for other Strava users manually.

screenshot of strava user using account to make friends

Strava tracks your rides, but you can choose how and whether to share your data with others,

Molly Hurford

2. Customize Your Profile

Access your settings through the gear wheel symbol in the upper-right corner of the app or by clicking your profile on the website. Beyond adding general personal details, take some time to explore each tab on the left-hand side. There you can add the various bikes you plan to use and link outside accounts—other fitness apps like Garmin Connect, Fitbit, and Wahoo connect to Strava—to more easily sync ride data.

3. Privacy and Safety

If you want to know where your personal data is going, make sure to carefully review the “Privacy Controls” and “Data Permissions” tabs in your Strava settings. You can control what other Strava users see on your profile, as well as what Strava itself uses for things like its Global Heatmap—a feature that, reporters discovered in 2018, inadvertently revealed the locations of military bases around the world. You may decide you want to approve each person who follows you, or let only your followers see your ride details.

You can also set “Privacy Zones” around an address of your choice to obscure where your rides begin or end (say, your home or workplace). “These zones are not fixed, so any time you go for a ride it randomly selects a zone to protect around your start and end point,” says Andrew Vontz, Strava’s vice president of communications. “As such, any ride that starts or finishes in this area won’t have the full route mapped and shown online, but will still record all the other relevant data.”

Our Favorite GPS Computers Right Now

4. Sync Your Devices and Upload a Ride

Connecting a device to Strava must be done on the mobile app. Navigate to your settings, then to “Link Other Services,” and select “Connect a new device to Strava.” Choose the company that makes your bike computer or GPS watch, log in, and you’re in business.

Many device makers have their own software that can live on your phone alongside Strava. Garmin computers, for instance, will sync via Bluetooth with the Garmin Connect app, which in turn will connect to your Strava account and automatically upload new ride data there. If you don’t own a tracking device, don’t worry: You can manually add ride entries via the plus sign on the toolbar. Or you can invest in a bike phone mount and let your smartphone be the tracker using the “Record” function.

If you have trouble anywhere in this process, consult Strava Support, which has specific instructions for a whole range of devices.

an unrecognizable mountain biker attaching his phone to a bike mount

SrdjanPavGetty Images

5. Know the Subscription Model

In 2020, Strava streamlined its subscription service, which will no longer consist of different subscription packs. Now, there’s just a single subscription package that includes everything the company has to offer. A Strava subscription costs $5 a month for an annual subscription. New users can get the first two months free when they sign up for the whole year, too.

Along with the subscription changes, the free version of its app will no longer include several popular features of the Strava app, like route building and full segment leaderboards. (Free users can still view the top 10 riders of popular route segments, instead of the entire ranking for each segment.) For more on the changes to the overall service for free users versus paid users, click here.

6. Get Creative

To gain more followers and spur engagement, make your Strava activities unique. Provide detailed descriptions of your ride, give it a creative name, or upload photos taken along the way. If you haven’t ridden in a while but feel your followers deserve an update, you can add personal posts to your feed.

On the website, explore the “My Routes” tool that lets you build out rides before they happen to track distance, elevation, and time. (If you have subscribed to Strava’s membership, you’ll have full access to its Routes builder tool.) Strava’s popularity algorithm will show where other cyclists like to ride along similar routes, so you won’t take any wrong turns. You can even unleash your inner artist and try your hand at Strava art.

strava app   strava art anthony hoyte

Get creative with your rides and try your hand at Strava art.

Anthony Hoyte

7. Get Popular

“If you want to have a large following, it takes time to grow, and you have to be active,” Vontz says. “Don’t just make cool posts and expect people to find you.” Make sure to follow other users and give them kudos (Strava’s version of a “like”). Joining online cycling clubs will also help: Under the “Explore” tab, select “Club” and then choose “Cycling.” Join and complete Strava challenges so you can compare your progress with others on the leaderboard.

If you really want to get out there, Strava provides a tool to share your rides on other social media, letting your followers on Facebook, Instagram, and elsewhere know you’re on Strava. “What makes Strava fun and motivating is the power of the community,” Vontz says. “The more you engage with the community, the more likely you are to keep uploading your activities.”

8. Don’t Get Addicted

As with any social network, it’s easy to get sucked in by the rush of nabbing a KOM, QOM, or flurry of kudos after a hard ride. But don’t forget: You loved riding before you used Strava, and you’ll love it long after we’ve swapped smartphones and apps for the next big thing. Enjoy all the benefits that Strava can offer, but remember to enjoy the rest of the ride.

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