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We've all heard it: "STRAVA has ruined mountain biking!" or "I hate riding now because everyone has STRAVA."


Well, let me be the first to tell all STRAVA-whiners one thing: STRAVA didn't ruin your riding, YOU ruined your riding. The rest of us are just happy to be on two wheels.

Now before you get your undies all tangled up in elite purist frustration, let's have a little chat about the original intents and purposes of STRAVA. It was originally created as a training tool for a phone that would eliminate having to carry yet ANOTHER device (hello, Garmin) and more weight in an effort to track speeds, performance and improvement for cyclists. We need to remember that leaderboards were added to the app as a performance incentive and a fun feature to compare times on certain areas, but they were never built as an a*shole permission slip to excuse ridiculous behavior.

The reason we all ride is personal enjoyment. Sure, friendly competition with our buddies gets factored in, but at the end of the day, progression and improving on our own skills and speed is what makes bikes so fun, isn't it? Part of that may be using STRAVA to gauge our progress, and so what? If it works and makes your riding more fun because you can measurably clock progress, then why not use it? When going from abject terror of that 20 foot table to launching a 40-foot road gap, it's funny to look back and reflect on just how far we've progressed – seeing where we started is part of where the best feelings about riding come from. It's what drives us to rehike a segment of trail and session out that crazy booter with the fishhook turn exit and it's what makes us want to get back on the bike when we short that booter and end up penguin-sliding our way across dirt and rocks. It's what makes us get up at ungodly hours of the morning to watch our favorite athletes, and it's what makes those athletes chase dreams around the globe for next-to-nothing wages and a promise of eventual physical pain. Even on the race course or the slope bike or in the video segments and photos, it's not about what the other guys or gals are doing to make themselves faster or better or stronger or more stylie; it's about what we're doing as people to push ourselves to the very farthest we can. It's a human drive that dates back to the birth of our species. It's the reason that Columbus sailed and Sir Edmund Hilary climbed Everest and why we went to the moon: just to see if we could. It may be survival that drives us to work and eat, but it's our innate curiosity that pushes us to succeed and progress, and we want to be able to measure it all. Infinite possibility is what has pushed the human race forward and it will be up to us to determine the ruination of mountain biking, not some training application on a smart phone or the STRAVa*sholes who live and die by the KOM.

Strava or no Strava, there will always be that jerk that wants to race everybody or who nukes down a multi-use trail. Even without STRAVA, there will always be guys that publicly brag about their times on a segment or challenge other riders in dangerous areas, or place blame and use excuses for their behavior ("STRAVA made me do it"). No matter what, cycling will always have our jerks who cannot control their jerkishness. The only difference is how we allow ourselves to feel about these jerks and whether or not we let them dictate our attitudes and feelings towards riding and our own progression. The difference between STRAVA ruining mountain biking and the pre-technology riders ruining mountain biking is only one thing: perspective. No one can ruin our ride without us letting them.

Those STRAVA jerks are the ones who lose out in the end anyway, because they're missing out on why riding is fun and why mountain biking is so much more than a pretend score on an app. Those STRAVA kids whose only goal in life is to beat KOM segments have forgotten that who they are isn't tied into how fast they can go on any given segment or trail. Some of these folks have pinned their entire sense of self on winning a random, abstract contest that isn't all that accurate... And frankly? That's sad. Because riding isn't about how fast you go. It's not about how cool we look, how big we huck or who we know.

It's not about 'winning' a segment or being KOM. It's only ever about how much damn fun you have on two wheels.
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