A guide to using Strava to find and use interesting routes

Strava is primarily designed to be an app to record your sporting activity- mostly cycling, running, or hiking, and sharing this between your friends. The sharing features of Strava mean it is also a perfect way to find great routes that friends have done or tell others about a nice route you have discovered. This is a guide to show you how to use some useful features in Strava that we use on our led rides with Hornbeam JoyRiders and Cycle Sisters to share our routes between Ride Leaders and with riders.

How do I record a ride?

A basic question that you have probably figured out already, but just in case here’s how to do it and a few pointers for common mistakes.

1. In Strava click on the ‘+’ sign at the bottom right of the screen and select record activity. OR you can click on the three lines on the top left of the screen to bring up menu options and select record activity.

2. Select Start when you’re ready to start recording

Useful things to note:

  • A recording will auto pause (stop recording) when you stop cycling (unless you actively switch this function off). When you restart cycling it will start recording again. However if you have pressed ‘stop’ to stop recording, say whilst at a café, you will need to restart recording manually
  • If you forget to restart recording and then remember later, you can do so and Strava will draw a straight line (literally as the crow flies) between the points at which you stopped and started recording.

What’s the difference between an activity and a route?

An activity is a recording of an actual ride you’ve done.

A route is a map of a ride which you can follow whilst riding.

This is an important distinction because you can see other people’s rides in your Activity Feed on Strava and see where they went, but if it hasn’t been set as a route you won’t be able to follow their ride yourself on Strava. If you’re really good at remembering routes and just looking at your friend’s journey on the map via their activity recording is enough, then great. If like me, you’re not so good, then you need to take a couple more steps to convert a recorded activity into something you can follow whilst riding.

How do I create a route from an activity?

So you’ve been sent a lovely ride from your friend, or you found it on your activity feed. You want to follow the same ride. Here’s how to do it on Strava.

  1. Get out your laptop or PC. You can’t do this on your phone…
  2. Find the ‘activity’ and open it up on the Strava website. If it’s an old ride that isn’t in your friend’s recent Activity Feed you might need to get them to send you a link and then email the link to yourself so that you can open it up on your laptop.
  3. With the activity on screen, on the left hand side you will see a menu sidebar, the last icon of which looks like a spanner. Click on this and select Create Route.
  4. Strava will then create the route for you while you wait
  5. Save the route- give it a name that makes sense to you as the default is whatever it was saved as by your friend, which might just be ‘Morning ride’ etc. Not so useful a name for a route you want to refer to later..
  6. You can now find this route on your phone. See below for how to follow this route.

How do I find and follow my routes?

  1. In the Strava app, click on the three lines at the top left of the screen to get to the menu.
  2. Click on your name at the top of the menu to get to your own profile
  3. On your profile page, scroll down to the bottom and select routes
  4. This brings up all the routes you have saved. Find the route you want and select use route. The recording screen then comes up.
  5. Select Start and on the map that you can see Strava will simultaneously record your ride and show you a blue line which is the route to follow.

Useful tip:

Note that Strava is not designed to be a navigational tool. At present, the screen doesn’t automatically move as you progress along the ride. This can be, well, quite annoying to say the least! You will find yourself swiping along the screen to get to the next bit, missing a bit as you swiped too far, swiping back…..need I go on? This is something you (kind of) get the hang of- but if you can get the hang of using an app such as Komoot to store routes to follow it will be easier (see below for more on this).

How do I find and follow someone else’s route?

  1. First find your friend whose route you want to follow. They must be one of your friends on Strava. You can find them by clicking on your profile and then clicking on ‘following’ or ‘followers’ (nb I am not sure if there is a difference in ability to see routes according to whether they are following you or you are following them! You can definitely see the routes if you are following them)
  2. Once on your friend’s profile, scroll down to the bottom and click on routes.
  3. All their routes will now appear. You can either select ‘use route’ to use immediately, or you can click on the star icon, and the route will be saved under your own profile for future use.

How do I create a route from a Strava activity and put it into Komoot?

The advantage of putting the route into Komoot is that Komoot is a much better navigational tool. This is largely because that’s what it’s designed to be, whereas Strava is primarily an activity tracker. So basically, if you put the Strava route you like into Komoot, you will get audible instructions for turns, but better still the screen will change as you progress along the route instead of you having to swipe your phone repeatedly as you go along (as mentioned before, this is quite annoying to do…). It’s fairly easy to do this process once you’ve done it once so don’t be put off by the description below and talk of ‘GPX files’ and exporting stuff.

The description below refers to using Google Chrome, there may be small differences with other browsers.

  1. First you need the GPX file from Strava. How you get this depends on if it’s your ‘activity’ or ‘route’. Either way, to get the GPX file it needs to be one your activities or routes, not someone else’s. If it’s someone else’s, you need to follow the relevant steps above to save it as your route.
  2. If it’s your own activity, find the activity on the desktop site and click on the spanner icon. Click ‘Export GPX’ and then the GPX file will automatically download.
  3. If it’s your own route, find the route on the desktop site (Click on Dashboard, and select ‘My Routes’). With the route on screen, at the top will be a button that says ‘Export GPX’- click on this and the GPX will automatically download.
  4. Now open a new tab and log into the Komoot website. On the top right there is a ‘+’ sign, click on this and select ‘Import a GPS File’.
  5. You will now have a window in which you can drag and drop the GPX file you exported earlier. In Google Chrome the file will be at the bottom of your screen.
  6. Click Next, and you can then choose to either review the route (ie make changes) or save it.
  7. You can now find this route in the Komoot app on your phone, under planned routes.

How do I create a route from scratch?

To create a route you need to go to the desktop version of Strava.

  1. Log in
  2. At the top right of the screen is a ‘+’ sign, click on this and select Create Route
  3. This then takes you to the Route builder. Search for a location in the search bar at the top left of the screen
  4. Once you have a map of the rough area you want to plan your route for, click on the start point
  5. Click on the next part of the ride where you want to go. Strava will automatically calculate a route to that point. If it doesn’t select the way you want to go, then undo the last point you added. Then choose a point closer to the last point, and hopefully it will reroute to the way you want to go. This will take a bit of trial and error.
  6. Once you’ve finished select save at the top right and fill in the details and save it.
  7. This route will now appear under your routes and you can access it on your app on your phone.

How do I change my privacy settings?

Here is a really useful blog post on how to change your privacy settings. It describes a number of settings you can control, the most interesting of which that are relevant here are how to set up zones so that people can’t see your home address or work address; and how to set your activities to be private by default.

Note that you can also change the settings on each activity you record- when you are saving a ride, you can select who can see it, with options for no-one else, followers only, or everyone.