Opinion: Strava Sucks the Soul out of Mountain Biking

Editor’s Note: Bob Ward has been riding mountain bikes since 1985. Over the years he’s authored three guidebooks, owned and operated a mountain bike tour company, and much more. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.

I was out riding one of my local singletrack loop combos in South Lake Tahoe, California, the other day. While grinding up a singletrack climb, another rider appeared, headed in the opposite direction. This section was steep enough that if I was to dismount, I would have a bit of a challenge to get going again, so I assumed that this other rider would yield the right of way to the climber.

I was wrong. While I kept going, so did the descender, and when he passed, we actually hit handlebars. I came to a stop and wanted to say something, but the dude just kept flying down the trail. I mumbled something under my breathe and continued on my ride. I wasn’t going to let some jerk that was unaware of the rules of the trail ruin my ride.

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The incident was totally out of my mind by the time I completed the loop portion of the ride, until I noticed the same dude chilling on a rock. I decided I wasn’t going to say anything, but he spoke up and said he was sorry for clipping me. I answered with a “you know; you are supposed to yield to the uphill rider.”

To which he responded, “I know that and I usually do, but I was working on a personal best Strava time.”

While it was nice of him to apologize, in my mind, he was pleading innocent by means of the temporary asshole defense induced by Strava. We chatted for a few minutes, and the guy did seem like an ok dude, other than the fact that he was under the influence of that soul-sucking app.

Riding under the influence of Strava can give you tunnel vision.
Riding under the influence of Strava can give you tunnel vision.

I don’t like to use the word “hate,” but I will go as far as saying that I strongly dislike Strava. While the concept of tracking one’s ride is great, the changes that it induces in some people do way more harm to the mountain bike community than good. It truly turns some bikers into assholes, and a-holes on bikes are the biggest threat to keeping trails open to us. I have witnessed this transformation before my very eyes, sometimes with my own friends. In some cases, it can be a temporary Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type thing, but many are permanently trapped in this madness.

See Also: The Strava Effect on Mountain Biking

For many of us, mountain biking is a “soul” sport. We groove on all aspects of the ride, from the challenge of the terrain to enjoying the good feeling of being in the outdoors. If I see something cool along the trail or a nice view, I stop to enjoy it. When I come up to another trail user–human or canine–I slow down and say hello.

On the other hand, Strava puts blinders on many riders, and all they see is the trail right in front of them, and damn anyone or anything that should happen to get in their way and potentially slow down their average speed.

Look at yourself in the mirror. Has Strava sucked the soul out of your mountain biking? If so, it is easy to remedy: just delete the app and become one with the trail again.

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