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Becky Jo’s Carfree Life: Strava Struggles and Stats


north portland bike ride

Data is fun.

A couple summers ago, our family would go on big bike outings down and around the Smith & Bybee Wetlands area (it’s fun, you should try it!). My tweens and husbeast would go speeding up ahead of me, while I struggled behind, pulling the hard-bottom Burley trailer, our picnic stuff, and our kindergartner. It was easily over a hundred pounds.

I’d get home afterwards and my husbeast and I would compare notes and it would just irk me that Strava recorded me having a leisurely bike ride with minimal effort while it recorded him, half as sweaty, as having a vigorous one. I looked all over the app trying to find a way to change some sort of effort or cargo-pulling settings, but there was no such thing.

I have no plans on going pro. I realize I am privileged to say I don’t diet or track much of anything health-related in any earnest effort, but data sure is fun. Why is it that just because the data is there to observe, we need it? Or we need it to be correct? It’s not like I was going to change anything in my life if the data was accurate. I just wanted my little gold star, dammit

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Apple Watch data.

This summer I pulled the Burley trailer out one last time with the now-70-lbs-7-year-old and off we went to the Peninsula Park Rose Garden before I sold it. It was a great trailer but needed to be passed on. Since my youngest couldn’t quite ride her bike on her own yet, I got a tandem-trailer. Again, I’m pulling 70 lbs. and Strava thinks I’m barely putting in effort.

Meanwhile, I have the Apple Watch health app synced with Strava and that seems to be giving me way more effort than I really deserve to a trip to the grocery store and back. While I realize Apple is looking at my heart rate and Strava is just looking at my mileage, I’m suspect of the accuracy. I’d like to think maybe Apple is trying to make it up to me for all those rides where Strava called me lazy.

Do you track your mileage? If so, why? What do you use? If not, why? Is it just a giant time-suck of poking around on the app? Or is it a good way to track wear and tear of your bike and other gear like we do with running shoes? (Runners often use apps to track mileage for training, but also it helps us know when shoes have hit max usage.)

There’s a part two to this Strava thing that’s washing around my head with all I’m learning here by reading BikePortland. My professional background has always been in the world of marketing, but I went to school for finance. That means I like to see hard numbers. I also love social science and I love to put those two things together.

Here’s what I’m thinking about: If Strava releases their data every year, and it shows 44% of the entirety of Portland Strava users are logging as commuters (which means the remaining 54% of all Portland users are logging as recreational), wouldn’t it behoove us to consistently use Strava for every little commute trip?

Wouldn’t statistics showing higher usage of alternative forms of transportation as daily commute from a third-party be helpful to people pushing for more bike lanes (and proving to PBOT and ODOT that we exist)? What do you think?

— Becky Jo, @beckyjopdx on Twitter.
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