Editor’s note: Beginning today and continuing through year’s end VeloNews.com will present selections from the January 2012 issue of Velo, the magazine’s 24th annual awards issue. It’s only a sampler — so if you want the full scoop, pick up a copy of the January 2012 edition of Velo.
Technical Innovation of the year: Strava
In the technology world, they say a company has made it when its name becomes a verb — think Google, Facebook or Skype. In 2011 “social fitness” web application Strava joined that elite group.
At the outset of the year, most folks weren’t familiar with Strava, which allows users to compare GPS ride data with previous rides, and other riders. When Kenda- Geargrinder offered Spencer Gaddy a 2011 contract after he won a team-sponsored Strava contest, we were skeptical. By the end of 2011, cyclists around the world were “Strava-ing” rides, oftentimes before they’d taken the time to get out of their chamois. (If a member of the Velo edit staff doesn’t “Strava” their lunch ride, we joke that the training didn’t count.)
What makes Strava so innovative — and addicting — is its comparative data segments feature, which allows users to designate any stretch of road, or trail, as a commonly ridden segment.
Once a segment is created, Strava combs through its considerable database and ranks every recorded ride along those endpoints.
Anyone who has ever recorded their fastest time on a local climb or time trial route is familiar with the concept, but Strava takes it to the next level, recording your times, and everyone else’s, and allowing premium (paying) customers to sort by age, gender and weight. It’s competitive cycling without a starting gun, race number or license. Depending on your device, biofeedback data such as heart rate, cadence and power are also displayed and analyzed.
Strava works best when using Garmin Forerunner or Edge devices and paying the $60 per year for the premium membership — but neither is a necessity. Anyone with an iPhone or Android phone can download the free app, record their ride data via the phone’s GPS, and upload unlimited activities per month.
Strava’s partnerships with pro racers like Tim Johnson and Ted King allow users to follow them, just like they can follow a riding buddy, or any other member — hence the social fitness label.
And Strava’s partnership with events like the Amgen Tour of California and Leadville Trail MTB 100 allow amateurs to rate their performances on the official race route against those of the top pros.
Strava wouldn’t disclose its membership numbers, but did tell us that it has grown 25 times in 2011, meaning that guy who just dropped you on your local climb — he’s probably uploading his rides while still in his chamois, too.
Tech Blunder of the Year: Sky’s gear choice on the Angliru
On a climb famed for breaking legs with extremely steep, sustained pitches, Team Sky got it wrong when it came to gearing for the climb up the Angliru at the 2011 Vuelta a España.
Part of this was due to a lack of preparation, and part of it was due to equipment choices by two of its top riders, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. The team’s use of Osymetric chainrings made it impossible to achieve gearing similar to stage (and eventual overall) winner Juanjo Cobo.
Cobo rode a 34×32 (28.3 gear inches) setup, and while both Froome and Wiggins also rode a 32-tooth cog, they matched it with a 38-tooth chainring. The resulting 31.6 gear inches wasn’t quite low enough for the British pair.
Because of the exaggerated shape of the Osymetric rings, the smallest size that will fit on a 110mm (compact) crank is 38. At top dead center, Osymetric claims its 38 feels like a 35, but between 1 and 5 o’clock it feels more like a 41-tooth ring.
Froome said after the fact that “we could have used smaller gears yesterday. Even with different gearing, it’s never going to be easy when it’s 23 percent. We hadn’t seen the climb before, but all the guys were talking about it.”
As it was, both Sky riders struggled the most on the steepest pitches of the Angrilu. On a day where seconds mattered in the overall, this small difference influenced the order of the final podium. Cobo finished the race 13 seconds ahead of Froome, which included the 20-second time bonus Cobo took atop the Angrilu.
Coming on Tuesday: Domestic Road Ride of the Year.