Switching from Garmin Connect to Strava

Caad 10 has landed.

Caad 10 has landed.

It wasn’t until I found Strava that I realized how bad Garmin Connect is. No social functions at all, no segment comparisons, and a generally dated UI. It seems Garmin too have realized this, as they seem to be trying to fix it. Desperately. Which has resulted in a badly functioning “modern” version of their site, which looks smashing but where nothing works. The complains in the Garmin forums read like a handbook in how to piss off your customers. Garmin has also tried to introduce the brilliant idea of segments, but had to turn them off temporarily because of the heavy server load, and after that there was a warning that segments were up again, but running slowly.

I can add some minor nags: The “personal records” (PR) section at Garmin Connect contains some random distances. Like “40 km”. If a ride was close to 40 km, it will be matched to that PR. (Note that a ride has to be exactly 40 km, it doesn’t just match your fastest 40 km of any ride to this PR.) You don’t know beforehand which distances exist. So naturally I’ve tried to end rides at exactly 80 and 100 km, assuming those would be natural secret distances to unlock and get a PR. But no. So instead, every time I log in, I must look at this “list” of my PR on 40 kilometers. It’s just – irrelevant.

garmin_connect_pr

Add minor bugs. For example, for half a year or so I’ve had a “4” displayed next to my letter box, indicating I have 4 new notifications. So I click on the icon, read the notifications, and the “4” disappears. And then it comes back next time I log in. This is not important, but it adds to the feeling of a badly coded site. As does this warning, which sometimes appears when you are editing the info about a ride:

garmin_bug

All in all, I always had the feeling that a website that collects my GPS data should be able to do much more than simply show the data. And then I found Strava.

Yesterday I decided to pay for a year’s membership at Strava, that’s 59 dollars. I had got an offer from them to have one month’s premium membership for free, but that offer had expired, so it was a non-discounted one-year premium membership I bought. It was my way to vote with my feet – and my wallet – and the deal breaker was this:

In May 2013 I wrote this entry in the “feature request” section of the Garmin forums:

Show all routes on the same map

It would be extremely cool if I could view the routes of all my activities (and/or courses) on one single map (not just starting and end points, since they are usually outside my house anyway).

It would be impressive to see everywhere I went with my bike in a certain area.

And it would be fun to plan where to go next by seeing clearly where I haven’t been yet.

Of course, nothing happened, you can’t expect each and every feature request from the users to be realized. I also figured my idea would demand lots of server power. Which is maybe true. And then, yesterday, I realized what the “heatmaps” at Strava was. It was my feature request at Garmin Connect, implemented at Strava!

strava_heatmaps

It’s actually a much more advanced feature than what I had asked for, because it draws the lines thicker and redder the more times you have biked on a certain road. That’s why they call it a “heatmap”. Here’s mine (the central part of it):

strava_heatmap_karl

To be honest, this wasn’t as interesting as I thought it would be, since I nowadays mostly bike the same round on Tempelhof over and over again. But I’m a man of principles, and it felt good to reward Strava for being just what a GPS site should be. It’s beautiful to see possibilities being developed by those who can. Mankind’s potential being pushed rather than under-stimulated. It makes me happy, whereas the lagging Garmin Connect makes me depressed.

I almost feel sorry for Garmin when I write this, since their problems obviously stem from management problems at their offices. I imagine someone is being shouted to right now. Well, at least they earn fat money while shouting and being shouted to, so one shouldn’t feel too sorry for them.

Garmin makes great hardware but are at a total loss with software. Don’t even get me started on the 90s design of the icons in my 2,5 years old Garmin 800.

New Strava records

strava_pink_dots_plus_1st

1st place (“King of Mountains”) of 58 participants that were matched to the segment “THF pink dots++”, which is the normal CCW round but with a small (200 m) detour along the fences. It’s a shared 1st place, but that’s still a 1st place! I biked together with a helmetless White Bergamont, who afterwards told me (we were both slightly euphoric after two or three fast rounds together) that it was only his third ride after a seven years break from cycling.

strava_suedkurve_CW_10th

Südkurve – clockwise (I usually bike counterclockwise): Place 10 of 221. I had tailwind (like all of us in the top 10 I guess), but wasn’t drafted. Instead I drafted my new friend Simon, whose smartphone GPS had some hickup right then, so he didn’t make it to the list.

And today it’s the final stage of Tour de France.

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