Strava war

There is a Strava segment outside my apartment. I made it. Until a few days ago, only three people had ever ridden it, and two of those rides were before it became a segment.

Let’s get this straight. There is no reason for anyone to ride up the street, Ravenspur. It parallels Hawthorne and doesn’t go anywhere except to my apartment. It is steep as snot, but there are fifty dozen better climbs within a half-mile that can logically be incorporated into your ride. Among its other drawbacks, once you reach the end you have to make a left onto crazy-busy Hawthorne across four lanes of speeding traffic.

Why segmentize it? Because I don’t ride with a Garmin and I wanted to know how fast I could go up it. Oh, and to also sneak myself a little KOM-action, because I hardly have any left. “What the heck,” I thought. “No one ever rides up this street. It’ll be a nice little vanity-KOM that I can take out, polish, and caress for a few months, maybe longer.”

Uh-oh, looks like YOU SUCK!

So you can imagine my chagrin when, four days ago, I got the dreaded message. “Uh-oh! Your KOM was recently devoured whole by Spencer! Enjoy the rest of the day, gnawing on your own liver!”

If it had been anyone else I would have felt sad, despondent, and very blue. This is because I’ve never retaken a lost KOM. But to have it taken away by Spencer, a dude with eight entire pages of KOM’s, was infinitely worse. Why? Because one of the best Strava riders in our neighborhood had targeted me and my piddly KOM. It was important enough for him to track my activities, drill down to my rides, and wrench the precious little KOM from my soft, chubby hands.

I’m sure the moment he took it, the elaborately programmed disco ball in his living room went off, the stereo began playing “We are the Champions” by Queen, and he threw on his ermine robes and tinsel crown as he paraded naked in front of the mirror.

My sad face transformed into one of violent rage, and I set out to reclaim what was rightfully mine.

The devil is in the details

One of the things that was going to make my retake so hard was the very nature of the street. Coming home from work I’m headed uphill, and have to turn left across two lanes of fast, oncoming traffic in order to begin the short but steep climb. This means that when I set the KOM, I did it from an extremely slow starting speed. Spencer’s time was twenty-two seconds, one second faster than mine, and I knew that in order to claw back two seconds over a .1-mile segment it would take everything I had.

As I approached the left hand turn I slowed, hoping for a break in traffic so that I wouldn’t have to unclip before hitting Ravenspur. Sure enough, the timing was good and I slid through. The bump is quite steep, so I had it in my 39 x 25 and instantly ramped it up to max rpm. By the time I hit the finish, I could barely see. I got off my bike and, unable to stand, had to lean on the top tube to keep from falling down.

But I smiled. “Take that, Spencer.”

Imagine my shock when I uploaded my iPhone data and saw that not only was Spencer still the owner of my own little personal front-door segment, but my hardest effort ever was a full second slower than my earlier best time of 23 seconds. Now the devastation was complete, and a part of me died that day. I wiped away the tears and ambled to the dinner table while my family consoled me.

“It’s okay, you don’t suck at everything!” said Mrs. Wankmeister.

“I’m proud of you, Dad, because you’re helping me learn through failure,” said my supportive 15-year-old.

The spirit of a warrior

The next day I woke grim and determined. The day flew by, and I hastened it by leaving the office an hour early. My legs felt light, strong, powerful, rested. I warmed up on the ride home, doing quick bursts on Anza and two steady efforts on Via Valmonte and Silver Spur.

When I moved into the left-hand turn lane, I was going a solid ten miles per hour. Magically, a breach appeared in the oncoming traffic. Perfectly geared in my 53 x 21, I launched up Ravenspur. This time there was no question. I raced to the top, collapsing as I had the day before, but secure in the knowledge that I’d reclaimed my KOM.

As I whipped out my iPhone I crowed to Mrs. Wankmeister. “Finally put ol’ Snotnose back where he belongs!” She had no idea what I was talking about, but nodded and smiled.

What happened next was too terrible for words, and I collapsed in a heap, sobbing. My “record time” was a full second slower than the day before, which was already a second slower than my all-time best. The better I rode, the slower I went. A couple of hours later, after I’d stopped crying, I called Derek the Destroyer. Through chokes and half-sobs I explained my problem.

“Dude,” he said. “You’re never gonna get that KOM back.”

“I’m not?”


“Why not?”

“These Strava geeks grab the segments strategically.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“The two biggest factors are temperature and wind. Go back and look at the time of day he took it. It was in the morning, when it’s cooler. You’re always going up that thing at the end of the day, when it’s hot. What were you wearing today?”

“I had on my long-sleeve winter jersey from my morning commute into work. I was sweating like crazy.”

“Your body won’t produce the same wattage when it’s 80 degrees as it will when it’s 70, or 60, or 50.”

“You’re joking.”

“No, I’m not. That’s why you never see any of the Strava geeks take the hard climbs during a group ride. Do you actually know this guy?”

“I’ve never seen him, in fact.”

“It’s not that they’re stronger riders, it’s that they’re better Strava riders. Also, go back and look at your segment. Is there only one approach?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re coming at it uphill, right?”

“Yeah. It’s a ball-breaker.”

“Is it possible to hit it by coming down Hawthorne and turning right? You’d have a huge head of steam there, wouldn’t you?”

“Oh, come on. There’s no way Spencer would do that. It’s a completely different attempt, doing a standing start up a 13 percent grade versus hitting the climb after a 25 mph sweeping turn. Nobody’s a big enough wanker to coordinate temperature, wind, and a downhill just to rob me of my one silly KOM.”

Derek laughed. “If you say so.”

The terrible team of titans

I opened up Strava, unwilling to believe what I’d just heard, and there it was. Spencer had hit the Lungpopper segment on the Hawthorne downhill, after dropping off Highridge. A more evil, sneaky, dastardly, unsportsmanlike thing I couldn’t imagine.

This morning after the NPR I was rolling around the Hill with Manslaughter, the Destroyer, Jake, and Whatshisname. They were very curious about the segment. As we discussed the awfulness of the whole thing, a gleam appeared in Manslaughter’s eye. “Whattaya say we go and ‘pay Spencer a visit’?”

Soon enough we were charging up Via del Monte. When we turned left on Hawthorne and hit the downhill the speed ratcheted up. I signaled the turn and one by one we swooped through it, then jumped as hard as we could, scattered across the road.

When Spencer checks his email later today, he’s gonna have to go looking for six spare seconds, because that’s how many he now needs to climb back atop the leaderboard. The Destroyer, Jake, and Manslaughter are ahead of him, too. And my front-door segment KOM? It’s back where it belongs. And just in case you’re thinking about coming out and taking it away, I’ll tell you right now: I have a car, and I’m not afraid to use it.

65 thoughts on “Strava war”

      1. to be honest you never know what will happen.. hopefully you can get more KOM in your area… if i have a smart phone i would love to use this app or even with a garmin…. oh well congrats and happy riding

        1. I don’t care about any KOM anywhere on planet Earth except Lungpopper. It is mine. The next time it gets snatched away, I’m reclaiming it with my car. The next time someone retakes it with their car, I’m giving my phone to Josh and instructing him to retake it on his Ducati. Never again! The Lungpopper is MINE, ALL MINE!

  1. Do I have to put a computer on the handlebar grippy thingies first, before the Strava whatchamacalliit goes on? Or is there a category for
    bikes with exposed brake cables and down tube shifters? Does anyone remember when “grabbing a gear” meant actually REACHING for the down tube? RIP Bob Cook.

    1. Here’s the thing: Many stravstraps only learned about bicycling AFTER they learned about Strava.

      As a previous poster noted, it’s cock-punch time!

    Sheila Fretwell
    Strava Customer Support
    Hi Chris,

    Thank you for sending us your feedback about this segment. This system is in place to keep the competition safe on Strava, and it relies on the feedback of our users. Because we are not in a position to evaluate the hazards present on a given segment, we have to take the comments associated with segments flagged as hazardous very seriously.

    We understand that the current functionality of this feature is limiting, as after one person flags a segment as Hazardous, the entire leaderboard is removed for all users. This can be frustrating because what one user thinks is a hazardous segment might not be judged the same way by another user. We are working on ways to increase this functionality in the future, but for now we are unfortunately unable to remove the flag from this particular segment, as the comments do indicate a legitimate potential hazard.

    Thanks for your patience while we work on improving this experience.
    Strava Support Team

    September 26, 2013 02:53 pm
    Chris Cain Law ..

    Thank you for your response and explanation.

    As a personal injury attorney who fights for cyclists, I can truly appreciate that strava prefers to err on the side of prudence. I understand. That said, I can assure you that this stretch of roadway is completely safe for cycling.

    Can you tell me more about the comment that indicates this segment is dangerous? The only hazard I have seen is injury to the ego of the guy who flagged it. He is currently sitting in second place on the leaderboard.

    1. The segment was clearly dangerous from the outset, as you note. His ego got all road-rashed and butthurt. If that’s not deadly, I don’t know what is.

      Funny shit!

    2. I know a few of those “flagged segments”…. that mysteriously popped up after I reclaimed said KOM…..
      On a bike trail… no intersections or stops. And then there’s the “mysteriously disappearing” ones…
      When said owner deletes it because of his manhood being challenged.

      Suck it up. After all…there’s Allways another “Ben Bostrom” moving into the neighborhood…. blasted 140lb racers… go away and leave my hood” alone :p

      1. Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
        Who’s the weakest of them all?
        Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
        KOM’s like mine can’t fall.

  3. Hmmmmm….downhill approach & a sprint less than 30 seconds….sounds like my kind of climb….I better go check

  4. “I’m proud of you, Dad, because you’re helping me learn through failure,” Those words could’ve come from my teenage son, too! I had a good hard laugh….Thanks for another great post today, Seth!

      1. I have aged doggy-doo, churned from the mountain bikiest dog who ever graced a wine label, and guaranteed to include a few syrah seeds.

  5. The Strava experience distilled into one awesome prank! I’ve got a buddy who was one of the first riders to use Strava in his rural town, and consequently has a lot of the KOM’s in the area. One of the other guys in town goes out and does rides with douchy titles like “Hunting for KOM’s”. Whenever this guy takes one, my buddy goes out the very next day and takes it back. We get a laugh about it all the time.

  6. Tom 'Tassie' Hall

    Hot Tip: Garmins read different to iPhones/Androids. You may have seen some scrupulous Stravanoids uploading two rides, 1 from iPhone and then one form Garmin, and then deleting the slower ride.

    F&*k that, just get Dan Martin for the tow-in!

    1. I’ve already hired him to be “on call” the minute some wanker rips Lungpopper out of my greedy little hands. This is serious stuff.

    2. Yup, time to get geeky. What you are describing is “GPS drift.” Basically, the GPS chip in a smartphone tends to be less accurate than that in a Garmin, and so will cause you to “enter” the segment later or “exit” the segment sooner, and bingo, Strava looks at the GPS data and thinks you rode the segment faster than your buddy with the Garmin, even though you were both riding side-by-side the whole time. And let’s not even get started on the website digitalEPO. OK, geek session concluded.

      1. It’s true, because even though I got the KOM with my iPhone, Manslaughter started behind me and finished in front, but only got second using his Garmin. So we had a KOM-off this morning on the ‘cross course down by Malaga Cove. He stomped my head in.

      2. Yup, and on most Garmins you can change how it records the data: once per second or “smart mode” where it records less frequently unless it detects a change in direction or speed. Who the eff knows.

      3. Yea, you should see what using the phone App vs. the Garmin does for vertical gain. All of a sudden the rest of the group I was riding with, dropped and came back for finish with 8k+ in total gain and go home with a bitchy 5. It’s totally tragic! I mean, do you know what that does to a man’s self-esteem!?!
        I just wanna cut myself! Ahhhhh!

  7. Boy are you pathetic. Man up and quit the whining. So what if your KOM is taken. If you want anything badly, go and get it. Actions speak louder than words.

    1. I am so sad reading this. Very sad face now. That KOM was the most important thing I ever had in my whole life, and someone took it away from me.

      Tigergirl, you are a mean person. EXTRA SAD FACE.

  8. Aw, dude. Congrats. I took Coronel recently from Mr. Spencer on one of these Strava wankathons. Asian on asian crime, apparently punishable by cock-punch. Don’t threatren me with a good time!

  9. Great timing for this, Seth. Bicycling has an article (amazingly in-depth and researched) on the Bay Area rider who killed himself trying to reclaim a KOM on a downhill segment. Sadly, the psychological profile of the rider matched that of a few well-known, local Strava-KOM-Addicts. You know, terrible group rider and obsessed with the virtual reality/electronic game qualities of Strava.

    1. It’s not just the bizarre psychological makeup of the rider. When you commit to take a KOM you’re on a public street going absolutely full bore, and shit can happen even if you’re a fantastic bike handler. We took the turn so hot that we wound up in the other lane and if there had been oncoming traffic it would have been horrible. Yeah, but I got the KOM. And that’s what matters in life. Fucked up stuff …

  10. Here’s a good example of a ride that was designed from the start with the sole purpose of bagging Strava KOMs:

    Follow the little dot around the map, and you will see what I mean – the ride itself was less than 20miles, the route taken is looks like it was devised by shaking an Etch-a-Sketch, darting here and there wherever a short Strava segment lurked, multiple passes at some, no effort in between. To each their own I suppose.

    1. No KOM-bagging segment on earth is more baggish than my sweet little Lungpopper. So leave it alone, okay?

  11. There are Strava douchebags everywhere. I know, as I used to be one. I now know that the only legitimate KOM is in a group ride where you’re at or near the front, taking your share of pulls on the ride. There is one rider here in Vegas (James Pile “of Shit”, who takes all the segments with the wind and drafting behind cars. You can tell if you look at his performance for the segment and you notice that his speed suddenly picks up to the speed of traffic, only to drop back to a mortal speed later on. He’s never seen on group rides and never races. We have another one here who I will not name who was taking steroids/PED’s just to take KOM’s. The only thing I ever did to enhance my times were riding with the wind. Forget the temps, I had one KOM that I did in 105 degree heat towards the end of a 70 mile ride that stood for more than 2 years, and it was uphill and 3 miles long. Most of my KOM’s were set in group rides, but I got so tired of the locals sucking my wheel and always waiting for me to jump before they would even attempt to exert extra energy. This caused me to leave cycling for more than a year. I’m back riding, but with a smile and fuck Strava KOM’s. It’s just a dick waving contest anyways. We’ll see if my mindset changes as I lose weight and get back into riding shape.As far as that James Pile dude, someone needs to hack into his Strava account and delete all of his rides!

    1. Jon, the concept of a “legitimate” KOM is silly since bike rides can’t be normalized like runs. Wind, group ride dynamics, race conditions, vehicle drafting, road surface temps, etc. Anyway, just have fun and, um, ignore the “douchebags?”

  12. So funny…love this read. I live in PV, and Spencer (last name shall not be named–we know who you are) lives near me. We have swapped KOMs a couple times t00–and the usage of downhills before lungpoppers has been employed. Good stuff!

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