This week, Strava rolled out a new feature that creates automated routes from any location on earth. While its full usefulness will have to wait until we can travel again, Summit subscribers can discover routes from their current location, or from any entered address around the globe (for future exploration).
Once the starting location has been chosen, you can specify the desired details of the route: Activity (run or ride), Distance (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 10, 13, 20 or 30 miles), Elevation (any, flat or hilly), and Surface (any, paved or dirt). The program then leverages Strava’s database of three billion activities logged by 50 million athletes to connect what they call “edges”—any section of a road/path/trail between intersections that has been covered by a Strava user—to create a runnable loop that matches your criteria. You are given three suggested route options, complete with estimated time for completion based on your recent activities, or you can draw your own.
You can then save the route and, when ready, follow it on the app or sync it to a Garmin that has route-tracking capability.
We’ve only been exploring the feature for a few days, and not, of course, when traveling, but we’ve been able to make a few observations:
First, the main advantage this feature seems to have over user-supplied routes is that it will start wherever you are. Thus, you can find a loop and head out the door from any hotel or relative’s house that you find yourself in, and can be confident that someone else has run on each segment.
One weakness seems to be that the program prefers to draw a pretty map loop rather than select good running paths (which, you would think, would be revealed by the volume of traffic on them). When we explored addresses in cities we know, often the first suggestion would be a loop that covers many city streets where you’d have to stop for lights and dodge pedestrians. While it wasn’t one we’d normally run every day, it may be appropriate for a tourist runner looking to see more of the location instead of getting in an uninterrupted run.
Frequently one of the subsequent options, however—maybe an out and back or u- or y-shaped route—would stick closer to traffic-free paths or parks. And, the program seems to do better at selecting loops we’d want to run when we opted for hilly and dirt routes.
We’ll look forward to seeing the technology develop and using it to explore when we’re in a location we don’t know. For now, its worth checking out if you’re a Strava Summit member, or signing up for the free trial to see if it is worth a membership.