I’ve heard of the Strava Effect before, and since I mostly use my bicycle for commuting these days, I always thought I was on top of avoiding it. See, in my mind the Strava Effect was about getting into that head space where your only concern is beating a previous PB – or taking a KOM – on a particular segment. I thought I was above the Strava Effect simply because I was aware that I was moving in traffic and was therefore subject to the inherent idiosyncratic ebb and flow.
To my horror I have noticed a surprising influence has been at work via strava.com. Whenever I upload a commute – which I do as a bit of a habit in order to record physical activity and to motivate myself – I find myself counting the number of achievements on each ride. I find myself taking mental notes of where my performance is generally improving and also trying to work out where I can squeeze some time out of my daily commute … I mean I’d much rather ride for 56 minutes than for a shade over an hour – so beating the hour mark became my first strava-inspired goal.
So despite trying to avoid it, I found myself suffering the consequences of the Strava effect – albeit in a slightly different way than expected.
But I also noticed something else which is perhaps a little more troubling – I started looking for ways to shave even tiny amounts of time off my commute.
This manifested in a number of different ways – once I caught myself track-standing at a light willing it to change thinking “if I can get to the next turn in less than 30 seconds I may just hit my PB!”. I found myself edging to the very front of the ASL – regardless of how many other bikes were there before me – to try to ensure the fastest possible getaway. I started taking short-cuts that would shave off seconds, or avoiding a stretch of road where I know there’s a greater possibility of being slowed by buses, taxis or pedestrians. I started changing my regular route to see if I could find some “marginal gains”.
I had to stop myself and take stock when I realised I was taking a ‘racing line’ in front of a city bus. It would have gone unnoticed had it not been for the Audi that overtook the bus. Ordinarily the Audi driver would have had ample space to pass the bus, pass me, and then move over to the left lane before the next intersection – but since the road bent subtly to the right and I was intent on holding my aggressive line I had drifted into the right hand lane, in front of the Audi. To his credit, and to my shame, he slowed and allowed me some space thinking I was turning right at the next intersection but I merely drifted back over into the left lane and carried on over the intersection without turning.
He stopped me at the following intersection, where we were both turning left, and reminded me – in a friendly, non-threatening tone – that if I wanted to be treated with any kind of respect on London’s roads then I would have to behave accordingly.
I argued, of course, but in the end I had to admit that I was very much in the wrong, very much a ‘Silly Cyclist’ and very much a victim of the Strava Effect.
I apologised sheepishly and moved on, thanking the driver of the Audi for pointing out my error and for not being more hostile towards me. Perhaps he was a cyclist too?
I’d show you the video – but this happened before I started wearing a camera on my commutes. Needless to say, I still upload my rides to Strava, but I no longer study my individual ride performance there … I look at my Activity Summary at the end of each week and that’s usually enough to keep me motivated.
Also, looking at the scales every other weekend is more motivation than Strava could ever provide – since re-starting my cycle commuting I’ve lost almost a stone in weight in a little over two months!
One last passing thought – if you haven’t already, I really think you should read this: http://pvcycling.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/all-i-know-is-this-the-ride-is-inside-you/