Strava Live Segments
Today was a bitterly frustrating experience. This article started out as a detailed look at Hammerhead Karoo’s pretty new implemention of STRAVA Live Segments but got a bit out of hand as the introduction of other devices wasted a whole day.
In essence, STRAVA Live Segments are usually just your favourite ‘tiny routes’ that are copied to your bike computer. As you approach your nearest, favourite ‘tiny route’ you are warned; once you are on the ‘tiny route’/segment you are given in-segment performance stats and some further stats when you’ve finished it a few 10’s of seconds later. That sounds pretty simple, huh? OK your GPS device manufacturer has to copy the tiny routes from a 3rd party service using published APIs but…hey…it’s 2020 and America put a man on the moon 50 years ago. Compared to that it’s definitely simple.
I spent a whole day doing this with a Garmin Edge 820, Polar Grit X, Wahoo Elemnt Bolt and Hammerhead Karoo using my STRAVA Premium Account. In the past, I have successfully used STRAVA Live Segments on other devices including Garmin watches and with 3rd party tools, namely my favourite Xert segment hunter. I would class myself as ‘not a novice’ with this tech. Yet still, I had problems with this tech…at least I did with Garmin’s implementation of it.
I decided to get everything working on 4 GPS devices for a starred segment on my local street. Then I planned to go to nearby Bushy Park (home of parkrun) for a 1km segment where I just happen to be 4secs off the KOM, albeit from my self-imagined glory days. Nevertheless, a bit of exercise in the sunshine by cycling up and down a bit and taking some pretty pictures seemed like a nice thing to do. I knew the pictures would involve reflections and black screens as different devices’ screens would be facing in slightly different directions. #That’sLife
Problem: I just couldn’t get the Garmin 820’s Live Segments to work. Indeed the sole cause of my frustration was the Garmin but my frustrations spilt out and spoiled my whole day. I rebooted the Garmin, I re-linked it to STRAVA. I re-synced it to a smartphone and re-synced through Garmin Express. I created new starred segments. Naturally VERY EARLY ON I realised I had to bin my segment connection to Garmin’s flavour of segments, naturally, I knew I had to entirely and manually delete STRAVA segments from the Garmin Edge itself. Naturally. The Edge eventually looked like it might, possibly, perhaps work. Of course, it didn’t, even though it implied onscreen it was about to work…maybe…perhaps. Nah.
The other devices worked well. First time. C’mon Garmin. Sort out your expensive devices, please.
Garmin was the first to introduce STRAVA Live Segments on the 520/820 in about 1925. The developer fixed a few bugs and then went on to work on something else. (It was 2015). Perhaps Garmin’s flavour of STRAVA Live Segments was then left to fester in a dusty cupboard? (source: garmin.com)
Less than a year later, Wahoo rolled out a similar service (2016), others followed suit. IIRC Polar had it on the V800, removed it for the Vantage launch and then re-introduced it to the Vantage at the end of 2019, finally carrying the feature over to the similar Polar Grit X a few weeks ago. Polar also has it on the V650 (April 2018).
Hammerhead hasn’t quite rolled it out yet, it’ll be this week and I have it here.
All the vendors implement STRAVA Live Segments in a broadly similar way. You authorize the STRAVA connection either online or on your bike computer’s smartphone app and then pretty much the same information is displayed on the bike computer. It’s just precisely HOW that information is displayed and exactly HOW the STRAVA functionality is interacted with which differs. For example,
- Is your PR displayed, a recent PR, your PR from the last 5 attempts?
- Is your target the one you set in STRAVA or that of a buddy or the next person up on the STRAVA leaderboard.
- A slightly inaccurate GPS can miss the start of a segment, a segment-within-a-segment might not be handled well or a segment summary might be displayed for too long before another segment is encountered.
Yes, there can be many subtle differences.
Here is an overview of many of the STRAVA Live Segments as offered by several device manufacturers. I’ll put a bit more detail on the new Hammerhead Karoo functionality as that was the original/newsworthy point of this article.
Strava Live Segment on the Hammerhead Karoo
The Karoo has a nice map view of all your favourited segments. I do know where all my favourites are…but the Karoo looks pretty when it reminds me
Perhaps you had been tasked with a specific Segment-hunting and beating experience by a friend and didn’t know how to get to the segment? Well, once you’ve favourited it you can tap on it with the Karoo and be routed to the start.
Karoo’s presentation of the whole favourite segment challenge experience is very pretty. Easily the prettiest of ANY implementation from ANY manufacturer. However, the in-segment experience needs to be more performance focussed and ‘in your face with the key stats’. At least that’s my opinion.
The pretty progress chart can be swiped away to just show your current position vs your target position on the map, which is probably the best option if you are embarking on a strenuous effort.
It’s very difficult for me to get imagery of all the screens as some disappear too quickly, these 4 images from Hammerhead should help elaborate a little more and might even show you screen animations if your device supports it.
So far we’ve just seen the pretty stuff from Hammerhead. It’s not really anything too unusual or clever. However, a REALLY cool performance feature lets you change which targets are displayed on the map as you race the segment. You can choose to show your PR/PB, the KOM, your recent best effort, and even the best effort ahead/behind you of your followers. That last one would be handy for those of us competing over chosen club segments.
So there we have it, a cool-looking and performance-innovative implementation of STRAVA Live Segments from Hammerhead on the Karoo. Let’s briefly look at some of the competitors.
Strava Live Segments on the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt
I’ve used the Wahoo quite a lot for Live Segments, especially over the last year. It does the job. It just works. It sometimes starts the segment in the wrong place (GPS inaccuracy) but STRAVA sorts that out at their end in any case. Perhaps my criticism of most of the implementations of STRAVA Live Segments, including that from Wahoo, is that the athlete is just simply trying too hard for those 10 or 60 seconds of eye-popping segment craziness to look at the screen, at least that describes me. Perhaps on a longer segment, I have more time to glance down to see my AHEAD OF KOM/QOM stats? (Who am I kidding…it’s always behind the QOM/KOM)
Strava Live Segments on the Polar Grit X
It’s trickier using the Grit X both when running and when cycling, simply because of the small screen size. Either it’s on your wrist and the wrist needs raising and turning when you are going flat out OR you have to take your eyes off the road to find that tiny screen strapped to your handlebars.
To be fair to Polar, I do find the in-segment info reasonably good. On the second image here you can see I’m 57 seconds behind my PR and that is visually represented by the cyclist’s distance from the orange PR-dot.
Strava Live Segments on the Polar V650
Lots of people don’t like the Polar V650. I do, mainly because I picked one up quite a long time after launch when lots of functionality had been added. In fact, I think I got one just as the STRAVA Live Segment support for it was released.
OK, it hasn’t got proper routable maps but it has got a highly decent implementation of STRAVA Live Segments. The screens are nice and clear when they need to be. Yet still, the in-segment experience is a cluttered page of numbers, although on reflection that can probably be customised.
STRAVA Live Segment on the Sigma Rox 12.0
My experience with the STRAVA Live Segments on the Rox 12.0 in 2019 impressed me the most at the time. Other than the map view of nearby segments, I guess there is nothing too new here but it just seemed to be able to do everything I could think STRAVA Live segments should do. OK, in hindsight one or two tiny tweaks could be made but it’s pretty much as good as it needs to be.
STRAVA Live Segments on the Mio Cyclo 505 HC and 605 HC
Mio Cyclo supports STRAVA Live segments on several devices. I have the 505 and Mio Cyclo 605 HC top-end bikenav models but I haven’t any Live Segment images or content, maybe I could dig them out of the cupboard to show off their AWESOME screens?
STRAVA Live Segments on Lezyne
I have no content to share here but Lezyne do support SLS on their top-end devices (still sub $200 for those!!)
STRAVA Live Segments on the Garmin Edge 820
This almost worked…eventually. The Edge did correctly recognise the nearest/chosen segment and did correctly show me the distance to the end of the segment. Well, except when I actually got ONTO the segment, then it simply showed me the entire distance of the segment regardless of where I actually was on it, nor did it alert me to the start of the segment. I did have GPS+GALLEO selected for ‘maximum’ accuracy but even with clear skies, I was left wondering if the Edge simply couldn’t detect the start of the segment. At least that’s how it seemed, but the image below clearly shows the Edge displayed ‘SEGMENT IN PROGRESS’. #ItShouldBeSimple
STRAVA Live Segments on the Garmin Edge 530
These images are from the newer Edge 530 where I got things working much more easily with STRAVA Live Segments last year.
Here are some screens to give you a flavour both of the 530 and in Garmin Connect Mobile.
And here’s the bit where you enable the screen which, if you remember, ONLY POPS UP FOR YOUR favourites
XERT Segment Hunter
I might add an image of the segment hunter in action on my Edge, I was surprised to find I haven’t actually written about it. DCR also covered XERT (link to dcrainmaker.com) and he didn’t cover the segment hunter there either #DoubleBizarre.
Link to: baronbiosys (aka Xert)
Wahoo Elemnt ROAM
Segments on the ROAM look better than the earlier ELEMNTs but work in the same way. Coincendentally my Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM Review has images from the same segment.
STRAVA Live Segments on the STRAVA app and Garmin Edge 1030 Plus
This is a very nice implementation from Hammerhead. It certainly looks the best and works very sweetly.
I would add that many people might say it superficially appeared to be the best. Personally, I would say that perhaps I prefer the visual simplicity and ‘just works’ nature of the Wahoo Bolt’s offering yet my favourite for a ‘proper’ performance-orientated attempt on a segment PR would favour XERT’s segment hunter which also has the advantage of not requiring a STRAVA premium account (although there are limitations because of that). XERT dynamically paces you through the segment based on your instantaneous maximum power available which changes as you fatigue.
However, even with XERT, the perennial problem for me remains “How do you get proper, non-visual feedback” on your performance. I simply can’t keep looking at a screen and a ‘too fast’ beep doesn’t tell me how much ‘too fast’ I am. OK I could buy a HUD or someone could add more visual or audible cues to the headset to tell me exactly how to slow down or speed up but even then isn’t that surely just ‘tech too far’ for what is, after all, supposed to just be a bit of friendly competitive fun?
I leave it at that.
I’d add a buy link to the Karoo but they’ve all sold out. A new one will come later in the year.