Strava app or Garmin

People, it is hot as blazes here in Greenville, SC. We are in the midst of a week of temperatures in the upper-nineties. Those of you who live in this area know that means humidity is also on the rise. It can sometimes be suffocating and makes you question the sanity of riding your bicycle.

After work yesterday I decided that it had to be done. It was one of those times when my emotions said, “Oh, just take the day off. You’re not feeling very strong right now. You need the rest.” My reason argued back, “The reason you feel this way is because you haven’t been on the bicycle since Saturday. You need to get your body moving again!”

I listened to reason and pulled together my gear for the ride. As I did so, I thought through my objectives for the ride. The goal would be to get out there and get my legs loose. If I felt good, I would head over to a segment I had seen John James attempt. It could be a good one for some video to make a new Strava Segment installment.

Riding Garminless.

Riding Garminless.

The bike was ready. I loaded the GoPro and then turned on my Garmin. Drat! The Garmin was showing the low battery warning. It must have been that the cord was not correctly attached.

Well, that would mean no Strava Segment video. I needed the data captured by the Garmin to create the overlay on the video. This time I would not attempt to use the older Garmin 705 that I have. Last time I tried that it didn’t stay connected to my power meter. This ride would have to be a Strava iPhone app ride.

I’m not a fan of using the app for recording my rides. Why? First, I get no power, heart rate, or cadence readings. Since I use the Strava training program, I need that data in order for the ride to count when measuring my fitness/freshness. The ride counts as a rest day no matter how hard I ride.

Second, I just don’t trust it. iPhone GPS signals can be notoriously flaky. This is accentuated even more when it is in your back jersey pocket while you’re riding through varying terrain covered with shade trees. In the high-stakes world of Segment Hunting, this can be problematic.

I don’t have a lot of proof on this. It is more a bias on my part. There have been some attempts I’ve seen on Strava recorded on apps that have stretched my willingness to believe. However, more often than not the times are pretty close to reality — and times recorded by devices such as the Garmin. Still, in the back of my mind, there is always a question mark.

A primary objective of the day was finding roads with shade!

A primary objective of the day was finding roads with shade!

So it was that this question mark popped up at the end of the sentence of my ride. I left the house seeking routes that provided as much shade as possible. That actually led me toward my original objective: Pilot Road Golf Course climb.

As I neared the start, I decided to give it a go… Garmin, video or not. You come down a slight descent as you hit the line. I was in my 53×11 and cranking hard at that point. Of course, I was flying blind and had no idea of speed, wattage, etc. However, I felt fast.

I was able to keep my momentum up a gentle incline through a wooded area and into a pretty noticeable left hand turn. Then I hit the more drastic part of the grade. I had not shifted out of the 53X11 and slowly I began to feel myself begin to bog down. However, I was able to keep the wheels turning and by the finish, I felt pretty good about the effort.

Taking a break over beautiful Greenville.

Taking a break over beautiful Greenville.

Later in the ride while stopped along the side of Altamont Road taking a picture of downtown Greenville, I looked at the Strava segment list of my ride. There the app listed all the segments I had passed through during my ride to this point (one of the nice things about the app). I did a double take!

The app told me I had covered the .3 mile distance in 46 seconds. This would be nearly 10 seconds faster than the time I saw John James score a couple days earlier. Hmmmm, typically, John and I are pretty close on these shorter distances (while he cleans my clock on the longer ones).

Sure enough, it wasn’t long after I got home and finalized the ride that John added a comment to my ride on Strava.

Wow, I would like to believe your KOM is correct, but that seems off. 26.9 avg up that at 578. I did 22.8 at 575.

The truth is I agreed with him. Though while I might question the data of the effort, I wasn’t ready to give up on the time of the effort. The iPhone GPS might provide flaky speed data, but the time covered from point A to point B is more absolute. Granted, if the phone incorrectly marks point A and point B, that could be a problem.

So, I replied…

That is estimated power. I didn’t have my Garmin. I’m curious to see what it would be with my Garmin. I’m not really claiming that KOM until I can give it a go with the more data.

I could tell John was analyzing my effort because he came back with another retort to my attempt.

Somehow you sprinted over 38 mph up hill.

I agree that was suspect. However, there is an explanation and also something else to consider. The higher speed reading was a small spike in speed. It also was not at a time when I was going up hill. It was during the period where I was descending. I will grant you that 38 mph is most likely incorrect, but a 33 to 35 mph speed at that point was very possible.

Then Matt Jaeggli chimed in.

I tried it for the first time this morning. Came into the corner where it starts at 33 and I consider myself a pretty decent descender/cornerer.

Man, now they were ganging up on me! The problem is, I completely understood their skepticism. I was skeptical! However, the major point for me was how close was the effort to being accurate?

That sounds more reasonable, Matt. The point is this, the phone often gives wonky readings, but for the most part is NORMALLY within a second or two of a Garmin recorded effort. Time between point A and point B is what it is regardless of speed readings between. I just know I uncorked on that segment and until I can go out and give the same effort with my Garmin, I’m leaving this one as a place holder. 😉

Do I really think I covered that segment in 46 seconds? No. However, do I think I got a good time… even a KOM winning time? I sure do. The ultimate question for me is how close was I to that time? Could it be that I will go out with the Garmin and find out that I actually did surprise myself and land a 46 second time?

There is only one way to find out.