Friday, November 11, 2011

Bike Telemetry's huge haul of Strava KOMs?

I uploaded some rides to Strava over the last couple of days and was overjoyed to find that I had set KOMs on many of the big name climbs in the Bay Area: Sierra Road, Page Mill Road, Highway 9, and even a Bohlman/On Orbit variant! I had a top 4 on Old La Honda which is my benchmark climb, and the most contested climb on Strava. Usually I'm happy with a sub-20 on OLH, and finish ahead of median in the Low Key Hill Climb series but never challenge at the front. So how did I go from mid-pack to achieving such an impressive haul of Strava KOMs?

In fact, this didn't require any additional cycling effort from me at all and didn't involve any cheating. I simply stopped competing in the present, and started competing in the past.

To do this I gathered up all my old pre-Strava ride data and uploaded it in bulk to Strava. Each activity on Strava is matched to segments and then ranked according to the historical record for that segment, i.e. only against activities that pre-date yours. So for the achievements for your activity (KOMs, overall rankings, PRs, etc.), you are not ranked against any more recent activity - they simply did not exist at that time. Once your activity has been uploaded and been awarded achievements, those achievements stay in place for all time. They are not taken away by any faster activities that are uploaded (neither earlier nor later activities). So there can be many KOMs awarded for a particular segment. In fact, the history of KOM achievements for a particular segment is not necessarily going to be monotonically decreasing when activities are not uploaded in their historical order. Of course, for the all-time KOM and other standings your old activities will be ranked against all other activities on that segment, so you will need some really competitive older times to compete for all-time standings.

Uploading your old data can be done fairly efficiently. It does take some effort, but at lot less effort than it was to do all those rides in the first place! Most "historic" data will likely be from older Garmin units, probably the Garmin Edge 205/305 or the later 605/705. Ideally you want the TCX files from these activities. If you used Garmin Training Center software on your PC, you can export them from there. If you used SportTracks there is a TCX exporter plug-in that you can use. You have to export per file, but it can be done pretty quickly. Otherwise if you have them on-line at Garmin Connect or MapMyRide you will probably have to export from their web site to files, maybe in TCX or GPX format. If you have a new Garmin, such as a 500 or 800, you want the FIT files from the device. Regardless of the GPS you are using, it is a really good idea to back up the original activity data as files to your PC in their original format (e.g. TCX or FIT) so that you have a complete archive of your data in case you ever need to upload it in the future. For Strava you can then bulk upload these files by mailing them as attachments to If you use gmail you can attach many files on an email in one go by selecting a batch of files in the file selector. Once you've uploaded them you can scan through the summaries, looking for KOMs and other historical achievements.

One other thing. There is a first-mover advantage to this. If you upload sooner, there will be fewer older rides and you have a better chance of getting achievements. But as more people upload their old data, there will be more older activities to be ranked against. Currently there is lots of Strava data in 2011 and 2010, quite a bit in 2009, but it gets pretty sparse going back beyond that. Someone out there probably has an Old La Honda KOM sitting in their data. It doesn't even need a fast time. All you need is a recorded GPS activity prior to the current oldest Old La Honda ride, and you will claim that prize regardless of your time since there will be no earlier activities to be ranked against. If you were an early Garmin adopter and did a lot of riding you can clean up. But remember you want to upload your data before bragging to your friends, so that you can get first mover advantage over them.

If you can't compete in the present, try competing in the past!

KOM on Sierra Road

KOM on Page Mill Road:

KOM on Highway 9:

KOM on Bohlman-Norton-Kittridge-Quickert-On Orbit-Bohlman:

4th overall on Old La Honda:

2nd overall on Montebello:

Top Ten on Mount Hamilton: