Category Archives: Strava Segments

Strava Strangeness

Monday night I arrived home after creating a new Strava segment. It had been awhile since I created one. I also wanted to see the data from the KOM attempt. What I didn’t expect was to go back in time!

I received a text from a friend asking if I had uploaded a ride from 2013. What? I wondered if it had something to do with me creating that segment and then Strava going back and looking through my history to build the new leaderboard. That would be kind of weird though.

The conversation ended and I put it out of my mind. Perhaps it was just an anomaly that just affected that one ride. It was time to write Tuesday’s blog post.

As usual, I sent the link out on social media. The link on Facebook generated some comments. The first comment from Matt Jaeggli confused me.

fbthreadI couldn’t understand why Matt would say that. I didn’t think I had given the indication that I had done the segment for the first time Monday evening. Just two days earlier I had written about my attempts on the segment as I tried to learn the best technique to get a good time.

When Edward commented, I suddenly realized what happened. It appears that quite a few of people who were one place behind me got notifications. My guess is that Matt also got a notification, and, like Edward, assumed that was the segment I referenced.

Then David Curran chimed in and mentioned that he got a notice as well. However, it wasn’t from me. So, I gather this was something that affected a number of accounts.

Did any of you also receive a notice that you “lost a KOM” on Monday evening June 29, 2015? Anyone have any information on what causes these Strava burps? I can’t recall this happening before.

I’d rather be sending those messages to Strava users with future KOMs, not ones from years past.

Strava Segment: Pait Is Almost Home!

I freely admit that I enjoy Strava. I do try not to let it go to my head. However, not only does Strava give me a way to scratch my competitive itch, it also gives me fodder for If you tried to write something in a blog nearly everyday, you would be looking for subject matter as well!

Having said that, my favorite Strava segment KOMs are not necessarily the ones I’m aiming to get. Today’s installment in the Strava Segment series is a perfect example of that. It is a KOM I am glad I’ve managed to grab because it has my name on it!

I created the segment some time ago. It is a nice little climb up East North Street from Stone Avenue. I didn’t pay much attention to the stretch because it was just a way to get to and from Cleveland Park which is where I spent many an hour when I first began riding on the road.

I don’t even recall what prompted me to create it. However, I do remember the day I got the first KOM. It was a day I took my fixed gear to the park. Perhaps I rode it around to some other spots as well. The thing I do remember was coming home with a huge storm brewing.

The clouds were rolling and the wind was starting to pick up. I’m assuming I had a tailwind. Rain was imminent and I didn’t want to get caught in it. Thunder was sounding very close!

I turned off of Stone Avenue onto East North Street and started to sprint up the road with the fixie. About time I was halfway through the segment, there was one of those lightning/thunder claps where there was little time between the two. If I needed any motivation to keep going, that was it!

I had that track gear humming along and the momentum of the crank being pulled around by the turning of the rear wheel allowed me to keep pace going. Of course, I wasn’t thinking about trying to get a KOM. I was just trying to get home!

Yet, there it was. When I uploaded the data, I found that I had the KOM by 1:39. However, that wasn’t the end of the story.

Because I landed the KOM on a fixed gear, I figured that surely I would be able to get a faster time on my lighter road bike. Nope. It didn’t happen. It wasn’t because I wasn’t trying!

My Strava history has a long list of attempts and a few of them came close. None of them were able to break the barrier. That is until this one.

I wasn’t trying for the KOM. This ride was for capturing video I needed for the Pilot Road Golf Course Climb segment. I then thought I would spin down Main Street Greenville and capture some video of that route. This led me down Park Avenue which crosses Stove Avenue and then becomes East North Street.

As I approached the intersection, I saw that the light was going to be green. “Hmmmm,” I thought to myself, “I might as well use this opportunity to capture some video for a Pait Is Almost Home Strava segment.” Even then, I did not expect to land a KOM. I just wanted to have a good representative effort.

It would appear that the big difference was the speed I was able to carry through the intersection. Rather than turning right off of Stone Ave and scrubbing speed, I was able to come barreling over Stone Avenue and carry that momentum up the lower portion of the segment.

Still, that wasn’t all. I remember having a moment of realization that I was maintaining my power. Yeah, it was hurting a little, but it was one of those instances when you could feel the power overwhelming any pain you might feel. I knew it was going to be a good time.

Arriving home, I was most interested in seeing what would happen with the Pilot Road Golf Course Climb. When I first saw the crown, I thought I had landed it. Then I was surprised to see that the KOM was actually for Pait Is Almost Home… not just that, but I had finished the segment in 1:33. That was 6 seconds faster that my previous one that I thought I would never beat!

Hopefully, that one will hold for a little bit. Other than those instances where people forget to turn off their Strava apps when they are driving home along East North, I think the combination of effort and perfect timing with the light at the start will allow it to last for some time. The closest currently is Chris Uberti at 1:41.

It might fall at some point, but I will have plenty more opportunities in the future and more importantly, many memories of nearing home along that stretch after completing some incredible rides. Whether fast or slow, it is a segment I always enjoy because I am almost home.

Strava Segment: Pilot Road Golf Course Climb

The Pilot Road Golf Course Climb Strava segment is one I have ridden many times, but one of which I have never paid much attention. It got my attention about a month ago when riding with my pals from Sunshine Cycle Shop on a Saturday morning shop ride. Then my attention was sealed when I saw John James give it a good effort. I knew I would have to go for the KOM.

The first time I noticed that a segment existed there was when Neal Herring attacked me that Saturday morning. Zac Webb had suddenly upped the pace and I jumped on his wheel. I was pretty tired having just raced on Zwift the day before. Then Neal came sprinting around me and I was left dragging myself behind them.

I made my plans to go back to the location and give the segment a try. Before I could do so, I noticed that John James tied for the KOM. I got to thinking that he might have been out to give Neal his comeuppance after attempting to attack on the shop ride. He bested Neal by over 10 seconds on his attempt. Now I was intrigued.

I wanted go into my first attempt turning the pedals with purpose. Needless to say, I took the KOM, but also opened a can of worms. My winning time was 10 seconds faster than John’s. You can read about it here: Strava App of Garmin. I knew immediately I was going to have to try it again to vindicate my effort.

So it was that I took off at lunch on Friday with plans to head up to Asheville with the Beautiful Redhead. Saturday was our 23 wedding anniversary and we figured a trip up to the mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway was in in order. The temperature was nearly 10 degrees cooler there.

However, I had a window of time to jump on the bike and go out to Pilot Road to give the segment a try. I was curious to see how it would go. It was hitting 90 degrees and the sun was bright. I had only ridden once this week… so I could be fresh or I could be sluggish.

There was only one way to find out. I followed the same route I did the previous week when the Strava phone app recorded a 46 second time. This time I was running both the Strava app and the Garmin.

My purpose was to 1) see if the Strava app was consistent — if wrong, and 2) compare the two options to see in which one I had the most confidence. Of course, that would only work if I could replicate my earlier effort. The ideal situation would be that I would ride an equivalent route and get a similar time on the Strava app while getting a time close to that on the Garmin.

My legs were feeling good and I was ready for the test. I let the terrain help me build momentum after turning onto Pilot Road. I kept looking for the break in the trees and then the tree line that indicated the start of the segment.

At that point it was time to just put my head down and push. Right off the start I knew I lost some time as an off camber right turn caused me to let up on the wattage. I got back into it up the graduate climb into the left turn that indicates the start of the steeper grade.

This time as soon as I started to feel the resistance building in my drivetrain, I hit the shifter to ease on my gears. It didn’t really seem to matter as the grade still made my cadence drop. I kept pushing until I thought I was nearing the segment end. With my heart rate hitting 180 bpm, I let off and coasted.

Looking back I realize that I let off sooner than the line. That — and the problematic left turn — probably caused me to land the 47 second time that showed up on my Strava app. However, that was only 1 second off the earlier Strava app time.

My first question was answered. It appears that on this segment the Strava app was at least consistent. It was yet to be seen if the Garmin would match.

I loaded the .fit file to Strava and awaited the result. There it was… 49 seconds. So, the Garmin recorded a time 2 seconds slower than the Strava app.

So, the bad news was that my 46 second time was taking advantage of wonky mobile phone GPS readings. The good news was that I still landed the KOM! It was nice to be vindicated by getting the top spot, even if it was slower.

48 seconds? I think I could do it. When I look at the video, I can see a couple of places where I left time on the road. I think I could do it faster…

It also means that someone else could probably do it faster.

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.

Strava Segment: Little Hill Near Cleveland Park

A few days ago in my post If at first you don’t succeed: More Power, I wrote of my frustrations with a certain segment near Cleveland Park. As a matter of fact, it is named Little Hill Near Cleveland Park on Strava. Today it is our next installment in the Strava Segment Series.

Several years ago, I created a segment video, but video and software has improved since then. So, I went out yesterday and captured an attempt. Unfortunately, I did so after a pretty hard effort up the CVS side of Paris Mountain and after putting out watts recording another segment for the series. You can tell by the way my power drops off at the end.

I do not know who created this segment. I discovered back in 2012 while KOM hunting. Strava was new to me then. It was like firing a shot gun into a huge flock of ducks. It was easy to find segments I had not done before, and at that time it wasn’t too hard landing KOMs as well.

This one fell to me with a time of 31 seconds. I hoped that the segment would be hidden for a bit seeing how it was not the normal loop around the park. Unfortunately, in less than three days, I lost it. Ben Renkema took the KOM with a time of 30 seconds.

11081415_10155344543340603_93107765442339886_nHere is Ben taking his first win of the year. He is known as a pretty good racer. He is another one of those guys around that have made it into the pro ranks having raced for Kenda Pro Cycling back in 2009. He currently races with the Elite Finish-Strong Team that is based here in Greenville. However, he is probably best known as the husband of Christy Red Rocket who can do stuff like this… 😉

Of course, I’ll keep slugging away in hopes that I can knock off that one second. I can’t imagine getting up that incline in 29 seconds. Seems the best I can hope for is a tie.

With my luck, Ben will probably read this and go out there and lay down a 29er — and I don’t mean wheel size. This is another instance where the combination of power and weight gives him a distinct advantage — not to mention experience and overall athleticism.

Still, hope remains that on a certain day I will be able to pop a perfect effort up the .1 mile distance with an average 8% grade. The key is going to be to hit the bottom with loads of momentum and then saving a bit for the final push at the end.

What time can you get on his Little Hill Near Cleveland Park?

If at first you don’t succeed: More power!

There are those certain Strava segments that I just can’t get over. Try as I might, I just can’t get that extra oomph to get me over the top. The little hill near Cleveland Park is one of those.


Try as I might, I cannot get below 31 seconds. As you can see, it isn’t as though I have not tried. I’ve gone after it with different bikes. I have attempted it in big gearing and small. I got to the point where I just stopped trying.

Sunday afternoon I was out for an easy ride down town. It was actually a mistake that I ended up down in Cleveland Park. I made a wrong turn on the other side of Greenville. To get back home, I had to take the route through the park.

On a lark, I went for it as the lead in for an all-out attack on the climb was possible. I felt good. I started thinking about it as I headed for home. Maybe… just maybe… it was good enough.

Nope. As you can see above, June 7, 2015 shows 31s at 911 watts. I once again hit the 31s wall.

So, I went out again on Monday to try once more. The obsession was setting in again. I hoped by changing up my approach with my gearing I could at least tie with Ben Renkema for the KOM.

I took along my GoPro in hopes of creating an updated Strava Segment video in my series. Unfortunately, my Garmin 1000 was out of battery. I had to pull out an order 705 for the ride.

I got the Garmin going and then headed out. I enjoyed the morning and rode around the Cleveland Street area to warm up before the attempt. Then it was time to give it a go.

I started the GoPro and big ringed it down toward the traffic light that marks the turn onto Ridgeland Drive. If the light was green, then the attempt was a go. If it was red, then I would have to abort as you need the speed to get momentum for the first kick up.

The light was green and I attacked still in my 53×11. As soon as I felt resistance growing, I hit my SRAM shifter to pop two gears lower in the back. This kept me from feeling bogged down and allowed me to keep going over the top.

I had also been running the Strava iPhone app and expected to get some sort of announcement on my time. However, it never came. I can only assume that the heavy canopy of trees caused an issue.

I stopped to look. No way. Once again I landed a 31s attempt. Arrrrrggggghhhh! Well, at least I got my video.

You will notice there is no video with this post. The reason is that while the GoPro worked perfectly, the Garmin 705 did not maintain a connection with my power meter. I had no power data from the climb. Without it, I couldn’t create my video.

Maybe someone else will read this and like Ron Babington did on another segment in Cleveland Park, they will figure a way to break the spell. It could be that there is just someone else out there that has the right power-to-weight ratio to overcome the gravity that seems to be holding me down.


Hmmmmm, maybe if I lost a few pounds…

Strava Segment: Piney Mountain Road Climb Eastside

Last week I told the story of taking back my Strava segment on Lowndes Hill Road. I’m still waiting for Chris Uberti to show up and strip me of my KOM. Don’t worry, I don’t have a big head about it. Someone took care of that on the Piney Mountain Road Climb Eastside segment.

This is another segment that I created. It was added to Strava back when my then coach Jim Cunningham had me doing repeats of this climb in preparation for the River Falls Race. I held the KOM for sometime. Then my time fell to a rider by 10 seconds!

Winston David is well known in these parts. If for no other reason, he seems to be the perennial first finisher of the Gran Fondo Hincapie. He is a pro rider with the Lupus Racing Team. You’ll see he owns his share of Strava KOMs — including Caesar’s Head (full) and Skyuka Mountain Road Climb. He is also a level 2 cycling coach and pretty much all around good guy.


Photograph by Justin Keck

Lest you think this comes easy, you should check out Winston’s activities on Strava. It is obvious his ability comes from blue-collar-hard-work. As I was prepping to write this report, I took a look at one of his recent workouts. It confirms that fact.

At first I thought I was looking at a broken record when I saw the number of repeats he did of the first kick up Paris Mountain’s Altamont Road. How about 8 of them and then throw in a couple climbs of the mountain and a loop out around northern Greenville County and then topping it off with another climb up Altamont. It was only 83 miles and nearly 9000 feet climbing.

So, it should come as no surprise that back when Winston first came onto Strava, he put the hurt on me with a number of segments I was holding close. This was one of them. As a matter of fact, he crushed me so badly that for a couple of years I didn’t even attempt to take it back.

My good time on Lowndes Hill against Uberti emboldened me to go out and give it another try. My PR and the top time for several months was one minute and fifty-nine seconds. Knowing how hard I worked to get that time back then, I just didn’t see how I could overtake Winston’s time of one minute and forty-nine seconds.

Not only would this show me how I compared to Winston, but it would also tell me how I was riding now in 2015 compared to how I was back in 2012. So I started out for the ride with two goals… 1) get a PR, and 2) get as close as possible to Winston’s time. I honestly did not think I’d accomplish either.

I hit the start hard averaging about 600 watts for the first half of the climb while spinning at well over 100 rpm. Looking back at the effort comparison, I see that I was staying neck-and-neck with Winston to that point. Even at that moment, I was feeling strong and my confidence grew.

Then the real teeth of the climb started to bite down on my legs. You can see it in the video. My wattage and cadence began to drop. Now I was doing between 400 and 500 watts with my cadence around 85 rpm.

I could sense I was losing momentum, so I attempted to give myself a shot. Like the heart rate of a dying man on an operating table after getting hit with a defibrillator, my power rose for a moment before falling. While I never flatlined, my power slowly diminished for the rest of the attempt. Even as the road began to level off, I could only muster a top of 400 watts.


There in the last third of the climb I lost six seconds. However, on the good side, I did land my PR by besting my previous time by four seconds. I can’t help but think there is another second or two I could gain… I’ll likely try again, but I do think Winston’s time is safe for awhile!

Standing on top of the world for a little while

If you are reading this update about yesterday’s blog post, then you know something good must have happened. Yep, I went out and bested Chris Uberti on the Lowndes Hill Road Climb. However, that was not the best part of the ride.

After posting yesterday, I dropped a gratuitous link onto Uberti’s twitter feed.

Chris saw the tweet and responded…

I knew then that I needed to get out there and give it a try. When Chris got back into town from racing, I figured he’d find his way over there on a training ride and actually attempt the climb at speed. I communicated my intentions.

@cuberti Well, I guess I’d better get out there and grab it before you get back in town. At least I could hold it for a few days.

So I headed out on my ride, but I didn’t ride in the direction of the segment. Instead, I headed toward Paris Mountain. It was such a beautiful day, I didn’t want to spend it slaving over a Strava segment. I’d save that for the way home. I’m glad I did. I got to enjoy this…

Click the image to see the full gallery on Facebook.

Click the image to see the full gallery on Facebook.

Ultimately, that lead me back to Lowndes Hill Road. Since I had ridden at a leisurely pace, I felt I stood a pretty good chance of laying down a good time. It was time to give it a go. I had my doubts as I started getting up to speed.

This was the first time I had turned my legs at this pace since the start of the ride. They didn’t feel very snappy. When I hit the first portion of the climb, I couldn’t quite read my body. I knew I was spinning at a good cadence. It seemed that I was putting out decent power.

Still, I felt kind of bogged down. I found myself dropping into the seat and then telling myself to get back up and keep my momentum. At one point as I was digging toward the top, I could tell there was a car behind me. However, I just held my line and kept plugging. Thankfully, I think the driver could tell I what I was trying to do and they did not crowd me or go into a road rage.

Honestly, when I reached the top, I didn’t know how I might have done. I figured that I had to have improved over my last time, but it could have been by only a fraction. I’d have to get home before I could know the answer.

My Garmin 1000 uploaded my data as soon as I stopped the ride in my driveway. So, by the time I got off my bicycle, the Strava activity was active. I brought it up on my phone. I could see one trophy in the ride summary. That was a good thing.

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 9.57.51 AM

I scrolled down to the last listed segment and there is was… the KOM crown! Next I took a look at the time: One minute and twenty-nine seconds. I now held a 2 second lead over Chris.

On my effort 10 days ago, I averaged 22.2 mph over the half mile. It took an average of 539 watts over 1:32 to record that speed. I think a key thing I take from this is that my average cadence for that attempt was 69 rpm with my highest effort being 95 rpm.

I gained 3 seconds on that attempt with yesterday’s effort. I averaged 22.9 mph over the distance with an average of 593 watts. My cadence was definitely a difference maker. I averaged  82 rpm during the effort and got up to 114 rpm at one point.

Could I do it faster? Actually, I think I could. However, I’m not sure how significant it would be. I can just see that I really dropped off toward the end instead of pushing through. Of course, that is the story of my life!

Now it is time to see what Chris can do…