7 reasons why some Strava segments suck (do yours?)

 

My phone buzzes in my pocket. Email. It’s from Strava, and the subject line is the dreaded “Uh oh, someone just took your KOM”. My heart sinks a little and as I click the link to see which segment has been lost, I’m almost inclined to peer through my fingers the way girls watch horror films. Then I realise it’s a segment I wasn’t even aware of, but my time has been beaten by 1 second. The new leader’s time? Just 16 seconds.

I hear others saying the same thing. Perhaps it’s a collective grumpy old man thing, but you can already anticipate people becoming nostalgic about the “good old days” of Strava’s first few years, when it was still a best kept secret. So what’s spoiling Strava segments, and are you guilty of any of them?

1. Keep ‘em to yourself

There are loads of really weird, “unnatural” segments which take in a specific turns at junctions. Most of these really should be private segments, viewable only by those who created them, for their own specific training loops etc.

Should be set to private

Should be set to private

2. Bad start points

The road along the bottom of the image below is flat. The hill starts at the bend (the left turn, where it heads North). So anyone approaching from the East side won’t register at all. I get the impression these are just the result of sloppy segment creation. They simply didn’t pay attention to the start and end points.

bad seg start

Approach the hill from the bottom right, and it won’t track.

3. Dangerous end points, and crosstown traffic

Segments that end in the middle of a junction will mean that someone, sooner or later, will take a stupid risk and place themselves in harm’s way.

We’re probably all familiar with the San Francisco case where a rider collided with a pedestian, who later died. Strava can’t be a scapegoat for people’s stupidity, but it helps if we don’t create bloody stupid segments that cross traffic lights and junctions.

4. What’s in a name?

Actually, quite a lot. To capture the imagination of the local Stravanauts, it helps if a segment has a catchy, or at least memorable name.

5. Is that it?

Given that there is variation in accuracy between GPS tracking devices of up to a few seconds (see my post on the difference between Garmin and the Android app), it makes no sense whatsoever to create such short segments, because anybody in the top 20 could have actually been the fastest. It’s utterly meaningless!

shortseg

Short segments – the KOM on this one is 16 seconds!

6. Pointless proliferation. Daft Duplication. Moronic Multiplicity.

Segments within segments; multiple overlapping, duplicated nonsense. Slight variations with different start and end points.

segs

Segments within segments

Perhaps there needs to be a way for people to vote on the definitive version, and delete all the rest, or at least make them private and visible only to those who created them.

7. Strange, weirdness and wtf?

This idea came from twitter, but straight away I could think of a local segment which falls into this category. Perhaps not annoying, just odd. The segment in the image below is a flat road, yet somehow Strava thinks it’s a cat 4 climb of 8%.

This segment is in actual real life, FLAT. Go figure.

This segment is in actual real life, FLAT. Go figure.

I’m not out to knock Strava – far from it, it’s a great tool, and very motivational for many people.
If these segment issues (especially duplication) are left unchecked, it’s a growing problem that will undermine Strava’s appeal.

Did I miss anything?
What bugs you about some segments?
What do Strava need to do about it (because it’s only getting worse..)
What do we, the users, need to do?

[Tweet "#Strava users - please take note, and don't create dumb segments!"]

Comments

  1. Zach says

    Regarding #7: Some of those weird segments exist from when Strava was really aggressive about auto-creating segments based on elevation. I had a Garmin Edge with a bad elevation sensor and Strava would always create segments based on bad data. I tried deleting them as they were created, but a few have slipped past my guard. I’m sure that’s what happens with other folks. Here is one example: http://app.strava.com/segments/858187

  2. Stuart Edwards says

    Great blog post Alan! Think you’ve captured the essence of what annoys most of us on Strava!

    I tend to find the frequency of stupid segments increases in direct proportion to the lack of elevation variance. IE – if you live somewhere largely flat then Strava has no real meaning and you’ll have a tendency to create silly pointless segments, like a slope up a bridge over a motorway (M62 climb east side – seriously?!).

    I wish after a ride you could click a little ignore button next to segments that don’t interest you and Strava wouldn’t bother telling you about them in future.

    I do a largely flat 60 mile training route around Cheshire on a regular basis. I came back last time to find I had THIRTY achievements! THIRTY! That’s a PB, 2nd PB, 3rd PB, KOM, or podium place every 2 miles on a flat route I’m just using to put distance in my legs! There are only 2, maybe at a push 3 segments on the route that warrant any interest at all!

    Regarding point 7 – there is a way to report way out Strava sego like that to Strava and they will look at them – I guess they rely on users with local knowledge to help QA the segments and its really in our best interests to do so! I’ll see if I can look it up and post back.

    • rmcmurray says

      You can actually click a little ignore button – it is labelled “Hide”. It will stop that segment from showing up in your results in the future, and won’t add you to the leaderboard or give you any achievements. As an added bonus, if enough people click “Hide” for a certain segment, then it becomes a hidden segment, and the people who come after you also need never concern themselves with it!

      Check out https://strava.zendesk.com/entries/20945957-Hide-Unhide-Segments.

    • Alan says

      That’s definitely part of the solution. People could be more selective, perhaps, and hide more of the silly segments, which would eventually help to de-clutter everything.

  3. Stuart Edwards says

    Here we go – blog post from Ben on VeloViewer in depth about point 7, including how to report crazy elevation values to Strava so they can rectify it!

  4. dex says

    There are several local segments in my area that people have created, where rather than just focus on the hill, they seem to add a lead into it and a tail added over the top of the hill. I assume if you’re climbing is not great, as long as you have a fast lead in and a fast section over the top, the average “appears” good for the hill segment. Either that or its the Sloppy Segments you mentioned above. Strava is certainly fun, but I can’t take it seriously. I use Training Peaks/WKO+ and Multi File Analysis for serious personal comparisons of hills or other segments.

    • Ade says

      I think a lot of the time the reason for that is the lack of accuracy in the strava segment matching. I find ridewithgps to have a far more accurate method of creating segments.

  5. says

    Ah yes, there are definitely some segments, which are kind of annoying. I think you are partly right with that collective grumpy old man thing, which we all may more or less guilty of. And in kind of thinking so or trying to rectify some segments we may partly add to the problem – at least to the part of the multitude of segments for a given stretch of road.

    How often is there the auto created segment of a bunch of riders, which rode a climb and visited a restaurant or parking lot at the summit. Thus this segment includes the last few metres to the parking lot and overrides the normal “right” one. Result is that normal tours don’t match against this new segment.
    I once wrote to the support to cut the last few meters of deviation from the normal road of such an segment. But to no avail – they couldn’t (wouldn’t?) help me. Result? Of course I carefully created a new handmade segment for this climb and clicked the hide button for the other segment.

    Isn’t there some sort of functionality to have only popular segments shown? I.e. if enough people click “hide” for silly segments on their recorded rides, they don’t automatically appear also on newly uploaded rides?

    I also once made a suggestion, that local riders should have higher priority over segments. Or that from at least 10 (or any other arbitrary number of) rides of the segment, the person with the highest number of rides for that segemend should or could become “mayor” of said segment. Reasoning, that such a person is a local, knows the area best and has a high interesest in such a segment (or just, that in this area shouldn’t be a public segment). So he should be able to correct a segment, delete it from publicity or rename it. There is more than one segment which is just created in some other language just because someone from abroad once visited that area. May be cultural enriching, but maybe also add to the clutter…

  6. says

    Great post, you’ve covered most of my pet peeves. One that you didn’t mention: ending a segment right at the top of a climb, or even just beyond the top. Lots of people stop and rest or regroup at the top of a climb, and a badly-placed segment termination will catch this and include it in the segment time. Put the end point a few dozen meters below the crest of the hill, and you can still capture the important part of the climb without including a bunch of stoppage time at the top.

  7. says

    Hill segments should be at least 1km and at least 4%. Flat segments should be at least 10km or have a valid geographical meaning, like from one town to another. I think the idea above about local riders moderating segments is the way to go. Here in the Pyrenees riders come on holiday and create new segments which duplicate existing ones or are just plain ridiculous, how about “Half Tourmalet after steak dinner” http://app.strava.com/segments/937835

    • Ade says

      Fantastic! I’ll be over that way this summer. I’ll definitely be having a go at the “Half Tourmalet after steak dinner”

      Kidding ;)

  8. jochta says

    There’s been a proliferation of autocreated “climbs” recently starting from tens or even hundreds of metres below sea level and have gradients of hundreds of percent. Usually on completely flat roads. I’ve noticed it checks for climbs when you upload new rides, I’m guessing it’s creating these from the starts of rides when the GPS hasn’t got a good elevation fix yet. Surely it’s not too hard to check before they are created that the elevations and gradients are sensible. I’m getting bored of flagging them or getting them fixed.

    Also a minimum distance requirement for segments would be easy to implement. Segments of 100m with KOMs of 1s are utterly pointless.

  9. Henrik says

    Strava is great!

    Strava has a lot of things that should be improved. Kind of surprised they haven’t improved them yet.

    I agree to a lot of the items listed above. The most frustrating for me is:
    - Invalid elevation profiles on segments
    - Missing community driven improvements
    - Segments improvements.
    - Auto-generating of segments
    - “Dead segments” in Segment Explorer etc.

    Elevation profile are often wrong due to people tracking with phone etc. I use Garmin Edge 800 and want to improve a segment by replace a bad recorded elevation profile with my correct elevation profile. NOT POSSIBLE! Tried to contact support as well (which BTW are great), NOT POSSIBLE for them either. Correct elevation profiles are essential for getting a correct understanding of the segment. It is also used to calculate category, VAM, grade etc…

    A lot of the segments are often not optimized, e.g. not a good start / end point etc. If you haven’t created it, it isn’t possible to improve it. I have used the comment box, but the problem is that no-one read the comments. At least should the owner of the segments be notified when someone post a comment. It should be possible to vote on comments, so we can focus on the important segments – I assume I can decide which segments I want to delete…. (would have been nice)

    Why do Strava have auto-generating at segments? Never understood that. It is so simple to create (meaningful) segments

    There should be some filtering on the segment explorer also. Often it should segments ridden by 1 person in 2010 etc. Not very interesting.

    But still, Strava is the best.
    But part of that is also due to they have an API, and great web site like
    veloviewer.com & raceshape.com exists

  10. Darren W says

    Hills and testing sprints with a good distance on the flat are the way to go. I agree with all of the points Alan has raised. I hide all the daft ones that pop up on my regular routes. It’s strange to see KOMs appear on my profile because another segment on the same piece of Tarmac has appeared which is usually a lot smaller and just sits within the original. Turning to either the right or left for a short distance at the top of climbs is a bugbear of mine. I want to improve on the hills, I use strava to help me understand how this is happening. Because some segments go up the hill then slightly left or right at a junction I have to make a mental note of which way to go. The last one from me is the ones that are created to get a KOM on the profile. Ridden once by the creator. There should be a probationary period for segments. If there are no other riders completing it “regularly” then it goes auto private and goes from segment explorer. This should be rolling. A minimum number or rides by x amount of riders within a given time period. Finally, local moderators are needed, the whole of the STRAVA map will soon look like the centre of London….now that’s a nightmare. Pop half a mile down to the local shop and spend hours looking at the 50 odd segments you went through!

  11. ikejunior says

    Cyclists like to make routes themselves and ride them. Cycling is supposed to be about feeling free being on the road and loving the ride and knowing that you just beat your best time in a park short sprint or monster climb that YOU ride is awesome. There may be a lot of extra segments but there are a lot of cyclists. While we may not make the greatest segments doesn’t mean we should stop. The app was created for all cyclists if you cant handle seeing some extra segments don’t use it. Ride hard or ride home!

  12. Chris says

    Strava might consider a minimum distance for a segment of say at least .4 or .5 of a mile-that would end all the silly short segments and clean things up a bit.

  13. says

    So does you think sprinters should be excluded from strava then Alan? After all one of the most prestigious of all sporting titles the 100m sprint, lasts less than 10 secs. Not to mention when cycling off road Chris, shorter segments are more meaningful [and longer in time] when compared to on road times.

    There’s a a short sharp road climb near me which isn’t that hard to simply cycle up in say 1.10min. But is a complete killer if you sprint up it, even with momentum from the short drop in to it before climb kicks up. I used to test myself on it because of that, usually on way back from an long XC ride.
    It’s now unsurprisingly a Strava segment and KOM is 18 secs and I’ve got a 20 secs time on it. Which I’m fairly pleased with as I did it on a 38lb Cove G-spot and the 4 guys ahead of me have profile pics featuring whippet like skinny tire bikes. :-) The bike [and me] are unsurprisingly a bit rubbish on even slightly longer climbs though it has to be said. For example a mere 0.3 mile road climb just down from my house is too far in distance for to ever get in the top 10 if I’m on my lump of lard as maintaing a flat out maximum power sprint upwards with a heavy downhill bike is too much, over even that ‘short’ a distance. Heck the segment is hard work on my hard tail MTB and I only just scraped into the top 10% with 39th place.

    Those objecting to other people’s quirky segments are also missing the point that different people like different things, ride different bikes, have different goals. So simply hide anything that does not interest you and the world will be alright again. :D

  14. Shaun says

    Mate, I don’t know what you are whinging about. Strava imports history when new segments are made so I don’t think it really matters if some dingbat wants to make a few more senseless segments.
    I think strava should lead it unchecked. In the end it is a bit of fun. We can all draft, wait for a tailwind or do a short blast for a known segment. Overcomplicating it all will only stuff it up. Personally 5 minute plus segments are my favourite where there is a real battle of technical skill and endurance.

  15. Rodrigo says

    Maybe a bit old topic to comment, but I’ve just started using strava recently, and I had to comment about the accuracy and veracity of some segments. I am a runner and I am on third in one segment I usually run. The thing is, the guy at the top has made it reaching 60 Km/h (37mph) for around 25% of the distance, and achieved a top speed of 85Km/h (53mph). This is clearly not possible for someone running, and hard even for someone cycling.

    • Al Thompson says

      Hi Rodrigo, you know you can flag rides as suspicious, right? Once you flag a ride, it gets removed from the leaderboards immediately… It sucks when people want to deliberately cheat on strava, doesn’t it?

  16. Paul says

    Hi there
    Firstly, Finding the website great.

    However, there does seem to be a lot of cyclist snobbery (it seems more from the comments that the original post mostly). Not all of us can spare hours to go on miles of cycling. so all of this “should be 10km if flat” is utterly stupid to an average joe bloggs.
    Furthermore, many cyclists use this app for commuting – I do. My commute is 3.4 miles long total. So I create segments that allow me to make the every day journey interesting and to try an push myself to do better both on route to work and back. I am sure some of my segments are the type that annoy people, but they are invaluable to me (and others I have noticed commute the same route daily).

    So please just remember that not all cyclists are 20 mile and more hill climbers. Some of us are just getting on with normal life, trying to stay or get fit and make a dull everyday journey more fun!

    Having said that, one annoying pet peeve of mine is that my commute back home is uphill (yes that is annoying…but not my point…keep reading) – some days I have climbed 124feet, some days it is 248 feet…. its the same blinking route everyday! how can it be different …. forget double the height. I don’t even mount curbs or anything silly like that!

    anyway – happy cycling
    Paul

    • al says

      Use private segments for them then instead, that’s what they’re for. Then you can compete against yourself without other people seeing the segment

  17. james d says

    It would be nice to be abke to start a large looping segment at any point. Theres a lovely 14 km circuit near me. Many people ride it but join near to where they live. Comparing circuit times regardles of starting point would be a nice option and reduce the number of overlapping segments.

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