Sun. Jun 7th, 2020

Strava changes: The day the segment died

4 min read

In the last week Strava has made some big changes to their platform that have caused quite a stir in the global running and cycling communities. What happens next for Strava and the endurance sports communities will certainly be interesting viewing.

Strava began in 2009 and is the leading platform for cyclists and runners to load their activity to view and analyse their data. Over the course of the past decade Strava has grown it’s user base exponentially and earlier this year announced passing 50 million users worldwide and 3 billion activities uploaded to the platform. At the time of their press release in February they were still acquiring an average of 1 million new users per month. The negative for Strava is they are still only converting 3% of their user base to their paid subscription model. Changes made this week aimed at making Strava a profitable business.

Strava’s popularity was fast tracked many years ago when they introduced ‘segments’ a patented product where users compete over short distances during their run or ride and Strava build a leaderboard of users that have ‘competed’ on the segments. It’s made gamification of loading activities on Strava a way of life millions of people and competing for segments a past time and a motivation for many. So what does taking this feature (and others) off the their free platform do for Strava long term? Effectively hiding the leaderboards to 97% of their users.

Changes made to Strava that were previously part of their free package are;

  • Overall segment leaderboards (Top 10 view is still free) 
  • Comparing, filtering and analyzing segment efforts
  • Route planning on strava.com
  • Matched Runs: Analyze performance on identical runs over time
  • Training Log for Android and strava.com
  • Monthly activity trends and comparisons

A Strava subscription costs AUD $6.83 per month or $81.98 annually with Strava offering a generous 60 day trial.

So what happens to the Strava community of they can’t convert a large percentage of their free users to paid subscribers?

Firstly, the segment is dead or at very least on life support. While many athletes are regularly out there chasing the CR on their local Strava segments, these aren’t for everyone. There are many uses for segments for athletes outside of competing for the top 10 of the leaderboard. Average runners often use segments to test their fitness over their regular routes. I personally analyse my fitness over segments on my regular hill repeat sessions that have segments on the hills I run. Without the ability to analyse an individual performance over time on these segments they instantly become redundant to measuring training effect.

If you are an average runner competing for segments may or may not be something that drives you. If you are competing for segments and motivated by them you’ll likely be competing with a reduced subset of the Strava community. If you are still motivated by segments you will get regularity of performance of your runs and easily be able to measure your performance over time.

While the subscription service isn’t over priced and represents good value, for many it is difficult to stomach paying for something that has always been free. If you remain on the free service you still have many great features, however it becomes more a data log for your activities and a way to view your peers training. Will this be enough to keep Strava as the number one endurance sports platform.

There are certainly other options to log your runs. There are the obvious communities on Garmin, Suunto and the other gps hardware manufacturers. All these brands offer a service that you load your activies and measure performance quite well. What they miss is the community that Strava provides.

If you simply want a data log that you can measure your runs and analyse performance arguably a platforms like Training Peaks or Final Surge offer more. With the ability to load coaching plans and give more detail analysis of activity these platforms may see greater growth if the new Strava changes aren’t well received.

The choice will be determined by each individual athlete. Either you;

  • Convert to a Strava subscription
  • Continue on free Strava with a reduced feature set
  • Move to an alternative platform

Whatever you choose the future of the endurance sports communities will be different due to this weeks changes made by Strava. Whether these changes have a positive impact on Strava’s profitability and therefore long term future will ultimately judge whether these are good or bad changes. At least for now we can stop worrying about receive the dreaded ‘Uh oh! You just lost your CR’ notifications.

Long live the segment.

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