Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Strava Stalking: Enforcing the Rules or Sinister Surveillance?

Ever wondered about the other people you see out cycling going the other way, the people you overtook, or the ones that overtook you? Maybe it was them that stole your KOM, or who are a couple of seconds ahead of you on a segment? Or maybe they were breaking The Rules: not acknowledging you with a friendly wave being the worst crime known to cycling humanity. Or, heaven-forfend, they were wearing a yellow jersey or world championship jersey. Sacrilege.  If only you could find out you these miscreants were: you could leave comments on their rides to educate them about the rules of the road. Or track them down on their usual training rides and give them chapter and verse.

Perhaps for sensible reasons this was impossible on Strava...until now. Strava Labs' Activity Playback now lets you to see who everyone else was that you saw whilst out cycling. So, if you want to, its quite easy to find out if it really is those Rapha wearing cyclists who are the most unsociable. And if you wanted to, you could explain the error of their ways.

I'm not sure Strava have fully thought through this. For a start, there doesn't seem to be a way of opting out - Strava users who hide their data from all but their friends are still included on the Playback. And its all a bit 1984.  'Strava Stalking' could become a new phenomenon: where that might lead to could be serious. No doubt, the first Strava Stalking stories are being written for the Daily Mail right now...

But perhaps there are more positive uses the Activity Playback could be put to. Watching some of my own rides, I was struck by the number of 'near misses' as opposed to 'flybys'. Sometimes other cyclists seemed to be just in front or just behind. A live version would be useful - if you've blown up, you could be told that someone else is a mile behind, so just wait up and sit on the wheel when it comes past to recover.

UPDATE: I emailed Strava about privacy issues - they said that making a ride private excludes riders from the Activity Playback, but also from segment leaderboards - which is kind of the main purpose of Strava.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Disrupting my digital self

Disaster. On my way to perform a FTP test, my power meter failed. What? A power meter measures how much power you generate whilst pedalling a bike. A Functional Threshold Test (FTP) tells you how much power you should generate when exercising (when doing intervals for example). An FTP test involves cycling as hard as possible for 20 mins - not exactly a pleasant experience.

Powerless, I still did the 20min effort - you can see it here:

But dataless, my digital self is disrupted.

No data means I don't know how fit I am compared to the last time I did the test. No data means I don't know what sort of power I need to aim for when out cycling, when riding up hills or doing intervals. Disruption means that my training diary which calculates levels of fitness, recovery and form is now inaccurate, incomparable.

But data can be felt too. Controlling power is hard: knowing the numbers doesn't mean they can be rigorously managed: worked towards in a more or less kind of way.

So maybe it doesn't matter after all. But Im still annoyed: when I finished the test, miraculously, the power meter started working again. Technology...