Strava overhauls Routes feature with loop suggestions

by Dave Rome


Strava has been keeping rather busy as of late with a flurry of app updates and new features. The latest is something dubbed Routes – a paid subscriber-only feature that draws on the ride data of Strava’s some 3 billion activities and 50 million users to suggest popular activity routes.

Available in the latest app update, Routes sits within the “Explore” tab and allows you to find recommendations through a series of filters, including, location, distance, elevation (flat, hilly, etc) and surface (pavement, dirt, etc). The previously available function to draw your own routes remains, too.

The app will spit out three personalised ride recommendations that match your selection criteria and from there you’re able to view the estimated ride time based on your recent activity pace, elevation and surface changes and an optional heat map overlay to see the popularity. The chosen Route can then be used in the app, or pushed to Wahoo Elemnt and select Garmin devices (compatibility with other devices is TBC).

“We use map matching to snap GPS pings to known edges (roads and trails) to establish popular waypoints… our route recommendations are based on a robust database of activities that allow for higher quality of route recommendations,” Strava wrote in a press release.

Strava combines these known edges with open-source map data from OpenStreetMap, along with its popularity data (the same data that makes up Strava’s heat maps), and your preferences for distance, elevation and surface type to find a suitable looped route.

The newly updated Routes feature is currently in a beta stage.

This is all great on paper, but a quick play with the beta version shows there’s still plenty room for improvement. One suggested ride out of Boulder would result in a $250 fine and a whole lot of dirty looks from hikers, while another route suggested using a private road that we know from experience is far from friendly to cyclists (not quite rocking chair and shotgun, but not great).

Strava has also kept pretty hush-hush about how they’re specifically employing user data to put forward useful and useable routes where varying surfaces are concerned. One theory is that Strava is using bike type to designate the surface of the route, but they could also be using average speed or similar to determine such things.

It’s still early days for this new premium feature, and Strava is openly asking for feedback on how to further improve it. While the refinement may take some time, Strava surely already has the data to make Routes quite a valuable tool, and perhaps enough to entice people away from free memberships.

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