How can you tell the difference between the Strava athlete and the racing cyclist? We've found a few key differences.
The last several years have seen the emergence of a new breed of cyclist.
Not the climber, or sprinter. Not even the puncheur, rouleur, or humble all-rounder. It’s the Strava athlete. They’re hiding in plain sight. You may not recognise them because they look like your classic racing cyclist. They’re chiselled, lean, fast, and resplendent in top-shelf gear. But don't let their similarities fool you. They're very different.
We’ve done some exhaustive anthropological research, and here’s our guide to Strava athletes Vs racers.
1. RACING ATTITUDE
Not everything is a race for racers. Racers race. So when not racing, they tend to just chill.
“Just chill” is in short supply for the Strava athlete because everything is always a race. The cause of that is, paradoxically, not racing.
Accelerating from the lights is a race, getting to the top of a hill is a race, uploading their ride is a race, and you bet your sweaty chamois that clipping in is a race.
The prize is clear: fame, adulation, the relevance! The digital thumbs, the little golden crown, the “Ermagherd buddeh, u soo fast!” Nothing, NOTHING compares to that feeling. Certainly not winning a race...
Strava athletes are immediately recognisable by their (rim brake) carbon clinchers that spend most of their time getting shipped back to the manufacturer after delamination.
The Strava athlete wants carbon rims cuz Strava gainz, but not tubs cuz punctures. Plus aluminium is for poor people. Strava athletes are easily recognisable in the wild with their carbon clinchers shrieking in pain down twisty descents; brake pads glazed, resin melting, rim beads warping. At the bottom, their rims will resemble a frypan with burnt scrambled eggs on it. It’s all good though; “I got a PR on the way up… and they’re still under warranty.” Just like their last 3 sets.
Racers have 2 sets of wheels: tubs and some nondescript aluminium clinchers. You know the kind; roughly 1,500g, 24 spokes, and shallow rim. They’re reliable as an elderly labrador, trustworthy as Peter Sagan’s hairdresser, and safer than your own couch.
Racers know when they need to reach terminal velocity, and when they just need wheels that won’t leave them stranded.
3. POWER METERS
Power meters are the modern cycling status symbol. They’re like photographing your latte with a flagship smartphone, in that coffee place that only you know about. Except power meters are supposed to be a functional measurement tool.
Your average Strava athlete uses their power meter (a Stages, 4iiii, or some sort of Kickstarter boondoggle) to pace their local climbs. There are only 2 power metrics that matter to the Strava athlete: maximum watts, and average watts for their favourite hill. Anything beyond that is just .... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The racer will bore you into a vegetative state with the knowledge of power data getting beamed from their SRM, Quarq, or Power2Max. It’s all TSSs, F4Ps, FTPs, Fitness and Freshness, over-unders, and F7D-4s (I might have made that one up). Racers doing power training are the worst. All ride lengths and intensities are determined before they leave home. The goal isn’t to have a nice time on a bike, it’s to make sure Training Peaks doesn’t give them a yellow box and tsk tsk at them for riding for too long.
Racers don’t have a bike room or shed, they have a graveyard. Horrific places of evil filled with shredded kit, cracked helmets, smashed frames, and mangled wheels. They’re all sacrifices to the cruel and fickle Saint Criterium. The evil Lord Kermesse.
On quiet nights you can still hear the sound of carbon hitting the tarmac.
Strava athletes keep their bikes in immaculate condition. Derailleurs remain un-scratched, wheels are straight as an arrow, and there’s nary a pinhole in sight on their colossal kit collection. Helmets have no scuffs. Everything is baby-wiped to a lightly oiled sheen.
5. NUMBERS OBSESSION
The racer and Strava athlete are both obsessed with numbers, but in a very different way.
Your Strava athlete is all about the “number harvesting” in the absence of a race schedule to plot out the year. Number Harvesting is the practice amassing numbers as a measure of cycling prowess. Distance, vertical metres, and hours in the saddle must all be high as possible. It’s not about the quality of your riding, rather that your number pile at the end of the day/week/month/year is as large as possible.
The racer cares about how few kilometers they can do to accommodate their base kms, efforts, and manage fitness and freshness. Sure, it might only be March but the racer’s current riding is probably aimed at peaking in November.
How do you tell the Strava athlete from the racer? Let us know in the comments below.