MapMyRide aims for Strava’s KOM

The original online fitness mapping company steps into the social fray to compete against Strava with new Courses feature

Editor’s Note: owner Competitor Group Inc. recently partnered with MapMyFitness and will soon introduce integrated MapMyRide features across many of the company’s websites and events.

The battle for King of the Mountain status is fought on local climbs and boardrooms alike.

MapMyFitness, the company that sparked online fitness tracking, has entered the virtual competition fray looking to one-up, the website that made competing against anyone who’s ever ridden the same road as simple as having an iPhone.

The company behind has launched its Courses platform, which keeps track of rides across the world and ranks performances of its users via GPS devices. The Courses service — MapMyRide’s answer to social training site — is available across disciplines, from cycling to running to winter sports. Velo Magazine named Strava its “Technical Innovation of the Year” in 2011.

“There’s this whole quantified self movement, where everybody is tracking more and more data, and that in itself is motivating,” said Robin Thurston, co-founder and chief product officer of MapMyFitness. “It’s making people more accountable. It’s bringing a community together. As you bring a community together, it’s making people ride more and be more competitive.

The main difference users will see between Courses and Strava is that the MapMyFitness version goes beyond ranking times up climbs and awarding King of the Mountain designations accordingly; it uses a points-based system, meaning the rider with the most trips up the local climb could be the highest-ranked rider on the climb, without logging the single fastest time. Virtual polka dots come with consistency, in this case.

“Our system is more like the Tour de France climb classification,” said Thurston. “You can either increase your PR or you can broaden the types of climbs that you do to earn points, even if you’re 10th or 12th. We think there’s an embedded incentive for people to ride more.”

So, unlike Strava, there are subjectivities, and pros that come through a given town and blister every climb once won’t necessarily hold the KOMs. If that proves to be a better approach remains to be seen, but Thurston is betting it will motivate people to ride more.

There are myriad categories on Courses, such as the Guru feature, which awards those who ride a given course the most, and Speed Kings and Queens, designations for riders who are consistently fast on “official” descents.

The MapMyFitness database currently boasts more than 50 million mapped routes, one million official climbs and more than 30,000 actual event routes featuring Courses functionality.

The company’s size gives it a huge pool to draw from — it has 9.5 million users, three million of which are cyclists. Strava doesn’t release official data on numbers of users.

“It’s community. We’re building the largest fitness social network in the world,” Thurston said. “We’re really excited about being involved with clubs, about being involved in this one step deeper than we are now.

Riders can also set goals on the new platform, and hold themselves accountable. Thurston aims to ride 1,200 miles in 45 days, for example. “We’re seeing massive use of our personal challenges,” he said.

Courses also uses Google Maps’ latest technology, which enables users to create new Courses directly from their iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Mobile or iPad.

The Google API 3 integration also provides route details like traffic patterns and temperature in real time, which will help users better plan and experience activities.

The MapMyFitness group is picking up speed. Monday, June 11, marked the global rollout of the new software, and the company just received a $9 million investment [including a strategic partnership with Competitor Group —Ed.]. The company maintains offices in Denver and Austin, Texas, and is looking to add another 30 employees to the crew of 80 on staff now.

MapMyFitness’ new offerings are certainly compelling, but if they pay off is yet to be seen — there’s no doubt they’ve spotted Strava a few points in this competition (Strava launched in April 2009). Thurston, though, is optimistic.

“The great part about all of this — the competition to me is a really, really good thing,” he said.

He’s certain the brain trust at the competition will see what they’ve rolled out and up their game as well: “Bottom line, this competition is really good.”