9 tips for getting a KOM on Strava

Strava can be very addictive in the way it “gamifies” your riding and encourages competition. It’s satisfying to work hard and see your name at the top of the leaderboard. However, even if you manage to get a top position and earn the coveted KOM/QOM achievement (King/Queen of the Mountain), chances are you won’t stay there for long. Read on for a list of tips to help you improve your times.

And when somebody does take first place, Strava rubs your nose in it by emailing you, telling you who beat you and by how much.

If you’re mildly competitive, you’ll want to think about getting that KOM back, and here’s a few tips to help improve your chances.

    • Get fitter, lose weight. Start with the stupidly obvious. Duh…


    • Use a gps device which allows you to ride against a virtual partner, such as the Garmin Edge 800.This is my best tip, which I’ve used very recently to reclaim a KOM, and for me, represents a very proactive use of the GPS technology.
      To use this feature, you will need to create a course from the  recording of your previous best time, or better still – the current KOM leader. To grab someone else’s data as a gpx file from Strava, you need to use the third party CosmoCatalano tool, and then upload the GPX/TCX file to your Garmin > NewFiles folder, and then select it as a course to follow.
      Turn virtual partner on, and if you tap/hold the screen at the foot of your climb, the times will be zeroed, allowing you to race (virtually) against the actual KOM leader, or your own personal best, depending on what data you load as a course.
      Using this method, you will see, second by second, if you’re falling behind or gaining, allowing you to gauge where to push harder. 
    • Use RaceShape.com to analyse the difference between two riders. This is a very clever site which allows you to compare your ride against anyone else on the leaderboard. You  can then see which particular sections are causing you problems, and come up with a strategy to minimise time lost over crucial sections.
      Also, see my post for other ways to play with your Strava data
    • Know exactly where the segment starts and ends.
      You may crest the hill and then ease off, thinking you’ve done it. Quite often when segments are created, people aren’t too careful about the exact start and end points so they may not be exactly where you think they should be.


    • Start fresh, take it easy getting to the base of the climb, or if you’re really desperate, drive there with the bike in the car, then warm up and go for it.


    • Take advantage of tailwinds. If you’re going out KOM sniping on a windy day, pick your targets accordingly.


    • Get a flying start into a segment. Know exactly where it begins and aim to hit the start at speed. But don’t overcook it too early!


    • Ride in a group, to get the aerodynamic benefit. If you start near the back and finish near the front, you’ll get the best time. Don’t go too hard and save energy for a hard finish. Don’t wipe yourself out too early. Be prepared for the shouts of “Strava slut”.


    • Pedal harder, suggested via twitter.Good advice!


I hope some of the ideas above are useful to somebody. There’s nothing wrong with using your brain to increase your chances of beating your previous times, but humans are odd creatures and some will cheat to get KOM’s. They’re only cheating themselves and it’s not big or clever.
If you suspect someone cheated, you can flag their ride, giving a reason why you believe it must be incorrect. I’ve flagged rides which were obviously recorded from a car or motorcycle, and they get removed from the leaderboard immediately.

It should only be a bit of fun after all, but if it makes us work harder and get faster and fitter, then bring it on. There’s nothing wrong with a good bit of healthy competition between friends.

Please remember, if you do use GPS to record your rides, please  lock down your GPS data, to protect yourself against bicycle thieves

Got any more Strava KOM tips to offer? Please share in the comments.

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  • Luis

    Alan, thank you again for your reply to my question on “gamification of cycling”, and for your excellent posts for cycling/tech/Strava enthusiasts.
    Following your recommendation, I got a Garmin 800 and having using both the the Garmin and an iPhone, and can see small discrepancies in the data from both devices, however, I like the Garmin features much better. One thing I do like about the iPhone thing is that I can set audio alarms, so if my cadence drops below a specified limit, or if my heart rate is moving in our out of a zone, I get a audio/voice alert telling me in clear English what’s happening. I find it a very useful complement to the Garmin device, which is far superior in tracking GPS data.
    Coming back to this post, I had a question for you, since I am very new to the Garmin 800 and not very familiar to all its features. I used Cosmo’s tool and downloaded a TCX file from a user that I want to match or surpass on a specific course. I used Garmin connect to upload the file to my Garmin. A few questions:
    1) Where do you upload the file if you want to do it manually? I see the directory structure of the Garmin, but don’t know exactly where the file should be.
    2) Turning on my Garmin, I can see the the file I uploaded (with Garmin connect) listed under “courses”. If I select it, I can see a map where the course is highlighted, and a green “go” button. What do I have to do from here to turn “Virtual Partner” on and follow the course against the Virtual Competitor? Would the “race” be activated when I get to the beginning GPS coordinate or does it start when I click “Go”?
    My apologies about the newbie question, but you seem to be the most advanced user of the edge 800 that I have found, and have read all your post thus far.
    I am a former investment banking Quant, and I am fascinated by all this technology, and it is giving me ideas about apps I am already programming fusing Strava, Garmin, and EPOC/VO2 Max and Power equations to plan ‘scientific” training . (I am already using the Strava integrator, and already have a successfully experienced transforming myself from Fat to Fit using Quant methodologies)

    • Alan

      Hi Luis,

      The Garmin can also give you alerts if your HR or cadence deviates from the lower or upper limits you set. To access: open the “training” option from the main screen, then “alerts”.

      To answer your questions:
      1) copy the files to the folder called New Files, then restart the unit and the courses will be there in the Courses list.
      2) To activate virtual partner, for a course, hit the spanner icon after selecting the course, then you’ll see the options for the VP, and for guidance etc.
      The unit will recognise when you’re on the same part of the course and will start the comparison between yourself and the “ghost”. If you want to, you can reset the gap to zero at any time by long pressing on the VP screen.

      I look forward to hearing about any developments regarding your ideas!

      Take care

  • eric

    I have a cunning plan to protect some of my hard earned Strava KOMs from unscrupulous KOM hunters. I’ll go for all of the KOMs I can, and there are alot in my area, but make them private. Then come November when the streets and trails are covered in snow, I’ll make those rides with KOM segments public. The result leaves the KOM hunters unable to ride all winter and have to endlessly stare at my name on the top of the board. Mean while I bask in the glory of the strava KOMs, whilst sipping a barley wine….until spring of course when all hell breaks loose on the leadrer board again. Perfectly legit. “Must have been some rides that just didn’t download”….

    • J

      That is a brilliant strategy hahaha. And perfectly legit. It would be hard to resist the temptation to not upload what you can see is a KOM worthy time straight after you do it though – you must have the discipline of a samurai!

    • Alan

      Thanks, I’m glad you like it . Happy KOM hunting!

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  • luis

    You set your Garmin to record every second and not Smart Rec, which to minimise data, strava matches to your data to start and end points of kom segement if your gps point is not close enough to each of these points your activity is not matched at all to the segment, you wont see it on the segments activity.