The New Strava Routes v. RideWithGPS Comparison…..

For some years(!), I plodded along loading maps into my Garmin from the Garmin Connect (free) service, thinking it’s all from Garmin – it must be good.    It caused me to have a somewhat jaundiced with of how good Garmin on-bike navigation was.  I felt it was “just about OK but at a huge price”.

Lots of guys at the Club instead use RideWithGPS.  In a fit of pique one day when Garmin missed a turn again, I decided to pay for a RideWithGPS subscription.  It was a revelation and moved my opinion of the Garmin navigation from “good to great”. Actually better than that – RWGPS plus Garmin navigation is fantastic!   By the way, the key issue turned out to be to transfer the file from the PC to the Garmin in “TCX Format”…  which you have to pay £1 a week for on RWGPS, but was never mentioned as  I recall on Garmin Connect.  But this RWGPS/Garmin combination is is pure gold.

Just now, May 2020, Strava have announced a huge upgrade to their route planning program known as “Strava Routes”.  I looked at this last September for the Cardiff sportive, but at that time it was still definitely inferior. It is a LOT better now – and planning a route plus getting it loaded into the Garmin (as a TCX file!!) was, at last, a breeze.  Reasonably comparable with the RideWithGPS experience.  You end up paying two subscriptions now though – about £1 a week each (maybe less) and I suppose I was vaguely thinking I might now be able to drop down to just one subscription – and that ‘one’ would be Strava.

Possibly in the meantime, RideWithGPS have enhanced theirs so that Routes (aka Courses) are loaded wirelessly via wifi (or possibly magic) into the Garmin.  I will eventually try that out, but my brain is just full up with tech for the moment. You know how its gets!   So on both systems, I map out a route, download it as a TCX file into my PC’s downloads folder, then simply copy it into the Garmin’s ‘new files’ folder when it is plugged in.  Works fine.

So how did the Strava perform on the bike?

Is a TCX file the same from Strava as from RidewithGPS?  No – I don’t think so!!

Today’s experiences:-

  • the bike seemed to start up in full map mode with Strava and I had to manually find my dashboard, …where with RWGPS the bike starts straight away in the dashboard and turn by turn immediately was set properly.  I’m surprised this is in the TCX file, but maybe its is.
  • When I looked, the turn-by-turn list seemed empty or short our something… it didn’t look right anyway.
  • It was a climby route today, but I don’t think the predictive climb graph was offered.  Well. I’m not sure, but it didn’t feel  “normal”
  • I don’t enjoy the virtual partner feature and I don’t notice it normally on RWGPS.  I thought this would be  a Garmin setting,  but perhaps there is something in the TCX file that can set it too. Anyway – its flashed some Virtual Partner messages to me which I didn’t ask for.
  • Although “liveTrack” gave its start and end massages, nothing actually was received on the PC in the house.  To be fair, this has iffy reliaiblity anyway, so this might have been an incidental error…  but usually it either doesn’t work at all or it loses connection mid ride. I’ve never before had the start and end messages, but nothing received at HQ’s monitor.  I’d be surprised if this was anything to do with Strava’s TCX file – but well, who knows!!
  • You know, I’m really not sure that the turn by turn prompts were as timely – and in some cases seemed to have less data.
  • At one point I noticed a turn by turn prompt had lost about 15% of the lower screen to show something a bit like the hill climb graph (except it was flat there).  I’d rather have distance and time to turning!
  • To be fair, it did pick up both my trick junctions.  The left to St Julian’s Road from Tonbridge Road is a “straight on” on the map and Garmin Connect used to miss this. Both RWGPS and Strava picked this up correctly. The second trick junction is Ashcroft Road into Brittains Lane.  It looks like a cross roads but the instructions have to check two turnings ahead because it is mapped as a staggered junction.  RWGPS is immaculate on showing you two steps ahead – just as good as a car.  Anyway, Strava did pick this up – but gave the first destination road as Oaks Lane – the road you cross over. I’ll have to double check how RWGPS handles this – I feel it says “Brittains Lane” and not “Oaks Lane” which I feel is what the rider wants to know.  However, Murphy’s law says they are both the same and I never noticed.
  • Strava missed an instruction for straight ahead at the One Tree Hill cross roads junction.
  • When I plotted the ride, I placed one dot on St Botolphs and one a long way forward on St Julians road.  Out on the bike, half way up Set Botolphs Hill it was telling me the destination street was St Julians.  I feel on RWGPS it names the next street you use, not the next dot on your route plot.
  • I’d swear Strava missed an instruction for the 90 degree left turn from Tonbridge Road into Gracious Lane.  Surely I would have heard the beeps, or looked down to check the Garmin gear display as I rounded the corner.

Conclusion : Strava Routes is still a bit lumpy as an experience for the time being.  One could manage with it though, but if the best on the planet costs you £1  a week, why not use RWGPS.  I am sure that both will improve with upgrades and it surely would be a good idea to consolidate two subscriptions down to one…. but for now I’ll stick to paying both.  RWGPS is marginally more confidence inspiring for the time being.


Strava Matched Rides – First Impression


Strava have just introduced a new feature called Matched Rides – and it’s great for my needs!

I seem to be for ever trying to recover my form.  At the minute, I’m on a rehab programme based around three rides – long medium and short.

But how do you know if you’re improving on a programme like that?  By speed? By power? By elapsed time?

Anyway – along comes “Matched Rides”!!  I thought to compare rides they would all have to be identical.  I’ve done a medium-ish kind of ride five times in the last five weeks – they are not completely identical though – small variations abound. However, Strava seems to spot they are “near enough” and groups them together.

Then it puts all the results together so you can see them… with a posh little graph that will go up or down.  Thank heavens mine has been going up.

Then the brilliant thing – it shows the RE score (“Relative Effort”) for each ride!!  So you can see that on May 4th I did it as the same speed as this week – 12.9mph.  However, the RE score on May 4th was 135, but this week it was 100 !!  Likewise, the first attempt on this route  I managed only 12.4mph and the RE was 187 !!

Message to me :-

1/ It’s working

2/ Keep going !!!






Covid-19 : Salutation Etiquette !!

Have you noticed – since lockdown there are far more cyclists and walkers about…. and they are much more likely to bid you “Hi” than ever before!!

I’ve started trying to acknowledge everybody I see.

I find “morning!” an easy salutation to manage.  The problem with cycling later in the day is that a greeting of  “afternoon”  has three syllables not two – and I often am too creased to manage it.  So now I switch to “Hi” !!  The challenge has been what time of day to switch to “Hi”…  If you shout “morning” after midday a surprising number of people shout “afternoon” back to correct you – and they are usually walkers!!  I think cyclists are usually too tired to notice what time of day it is!!  Anyway – once the day gets to about 1130am I now switch to “Hi” !!

I must say I find if you make a greeting to a passing road cyclist – often just the wave of a hand, or uphill just the lifting of a finger on the bars!! – then about 98% seem to respond. All very friendly and supportive.

I find hailing pedestrians seems much more successful than it ever used to be.  At least two thirds of them seem to respond.

But here’s the odd thing – cyclists with straight handlebars respond least !!  Maybe a third. Now why is that ??!!  Do they find road cyclists unapproachable?? Are they aloof?? If you have straight handlebars, is it more dangerous to wave??  I don’t know!!

Do your own sampling and let me know!!

The Rehab Program….!! “Long-Medium-Short-Repeat !!

I seem to have hardly cycled in 2019.  Partly this was down to building a house – which is an “on it every day” job if there ever was one!   The other thing is that pelvic challenges arising from my crash in 2013 seemed to re-occur – and for 2 to 3 weeks in 2019 I couldn’t even climb the stairs at our temporary home.

I did just one 2019 event – a sportive in Cardiff – which was 50 miles/3200ft along a big saw-tooth… no flat bits almost at all !!  I trained at that distance and climbing in Kent and managed to get round OK – but afterwards I properly paid the price.  So 2020 is really starting from ground zero again.

I did a bit of reading of the thousands of training programs that are out there. I chose one which seemed to resonate with me.  Very simple – you try and do three rides a week (I’m initially targeting 100 miles a week) and you do the rides specifically in the sequence Long then Medium then Short.

I guess we would normally think of building up – short medium long.  The idea of this program though  is that whenever the Long Ride is due, your body is best recovered as it is preceded by a “short” ride.

So far I’m enjoying it – I’m doing 53 miles/32 miles/15miles.  I have a variety of climbing in there.  I try to repeat routes a fair bit – so that I can see improvement.

My goal ??  To try and get my fitness back up to “Club Level” by the time Meridian Cycling Club rides start top again after Covid-19…  There’s a way to go yet!



Reinventing the Ice Cube Tray – The Luxury of Cold Drinks !!!

Quite a long time ago I bought a couple of those Camelbak insulated bottles.  I was not too impressed to be honest.  I’ve not tried them with winter hot drinks, but with cold drinks the ice cubes have probably melted within an hour.  So I usually say that they keep the drink “a bit cooler, a bit longer”.

Now I’ve had a huge rethink based upon something quite unexpected.  Don’t you find that ice cube trays have been pretty much the same for decades? You know – a tray… a tray with big compartments that are awkward to fill, that you have to run under the tap to get out – with a thump and a squeeze…. then you get a couple of ice cubes big enough to sink the Titanic. And then there’s the debate of whether to refill it this time or not… and if you do , does it spill any in the freezer!!  But you just do it don’t you?  That’s the way ice cubes work!!

Until now……

Just recently I bought one of those little under the counter freezers from Liebherr.  By the way, did you know that all of Miele’s fridges and freezers and manufactured by Liebherr?? Anyway, like all new freezers, it had the obligatory free ice cube tray included in the purchase.

Blimey – look at this – it’s like something from NASA.






Now let me introduce you to this. For a start, it has a clip-on lid on it.

When you fill most ice cube trays, they are flat when you fill them…. this one, you stand on edge to fill it.

You can see the lid quite well in this photo above, and you put the lid on BEFORE you fill it!!  In this photo, you can see the water level at about two and a half cubes upon from the bottom. There is a “fill line” right there – difficult to see in the photo.  So no more guessing how much water to use – just up to the fill line.

How do you get the water in??


like this. Along one narrow edge (“the top”) there is a hole in the side of the tray.  No lid needed, as it traps just the right amount of water inside.

… the water enters the tray through that hole you can see in the centre…  you fill it to the level you see in the first photo.  Then tip the tray flat and the water travels through those little channels you can see above – filling the ice cube moulds to exactly the right level.

…the photo above is the ice cube tray full and sealed – ready to pop in the freezer with no spills.

Then when it’s time to go for a ride, you take the tray out of the freezer and release the side clips. Because the moulds are very tapered they just easily plop out into the lid – you release the clips and there’s the ice ready for your bottle.

  1. ….So pretty neat but why is it good for cycling??
  • the ice cubes are a tad smaller than I’m used to, so fit down the neck of the water bottle with ease
  • the whole tray of ice is around 2/3rds of a cycling water bottle (probably 500ml in a 650ml bottle
  • you just put the lot in
  • make a completely fresh tray


So  I put one tablespoon, not three, of SiS Go drinks powder in the bottom of the bottle first and add about a quarter a bottle of water. Then chuck all the ice in.

Simpleton that I am I should have worked out that if my drinks were not cold enough, long enough, I just had to put more ice in.  I still had a bit of ice left after a three hour ride in 21 degrees yesterday.  Glorious!!


The Old Post Office at Marden

Very hot day but a lovely ride.  I’ll talk more about the coffee shop next time, but very impressed for deep Kent. Try the Old Post Office at Marden.

The vegan flapjack was a wow actually!

The reminds me ….New joke … “How do you know if someone is Vegan?”

Answer … “Because they tell you!”   ho ho !!

Plus the coffee shop has an excellent bathroom!! Better than at home!!  And they let cyclists fill their water bottle.  Loads of extra seating upstairs but quite a lot downstairs too.

The day was horribly hot and humid – 84F degrees.  Ugh. I melted.  So very slightly slow!!










































Down to Marden Again – OK but Slower by 5 minutes in 4 hours






Back to training for the Cardiff Giro again – down to Marden for the 52 mile roll with 3100 ft of climbing.

Nice ride actually, but wondering if these two fitbit screens go some way to the lost 5 minutes. I had really good range and could have gone another ten at least.

I’m staggeringly short of sleep (stress about my house build I think).  About 5 hours a night average…. sometimes less.  Ughhh.  Very tired.

I’ve only recently recovered from a heavy cold.  But looking at my resting heart rate in the few days there might be something on there.  It looks as if I’m trying to deal with something in the background.  My resting heart rate used to be around 55-56.

It turns out there is a new coffee house in the Old Post Office at Marden.  I’m going to give that a try in the next few days.  I sandwiched today at my favourite little cafe in Yalding – fab as usual.