Strava Free vs Paid: Is It Worth Upgrading?

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Strava is a popular mapping and activity tracking app that is widely used by athletes worldwide.

Users can take advantage of various exercise data types and track and compare their activities to other athletes on multiple routes. Strava comes in two versions – a free version and a premium version, so is the premium version worth the money?

How does Strava free vs paid compare?

The Strava premium version is worth it for those who regularly engage in outdoor activities like cycling, training, or running. Basic metrics are provided in the free version, while ad-free access to all extra features is available in the premium version for dedicated athletes – including useful tools like GAP analysis.

Some would argue that the accessible version of Strava meets their needs; however, they may be unaware of the additional premium features that could benefit them. What are the core features of the premium version, and who would benefit most from subscribing?

Let’s take an in-depth look at what’s included and why someone may want to make the upgrade.

Strava Free vs Paid Subscription

Strava free vs paid

The free version includes an introduction to Strava, workout tracking and analysis, and social features like clubs and challenges.

In addition, free users can “like” other users’ activities by giving them kudos. 

The most significant change for the average Strava user is that the route creation tool is now paywalled.

Paid users can filter the leaderboard by age, weight, or who they follow. Premium includes ‘matching run’ and ‘matched rides,’ showing whether users are faster or slower than their previous workouts. 

Without paying, a person won’t be able to design Strava routes for their rides or runs. Strava users may want to upgrade to the premium version for additional features, even though the free version has many useful ones.

So what does a subscriber get for $5.00 monthly or $59.99 yearly?

What Is New In The Strava Premium Version?

Numerous enhancements have been made to the routing functionality of the premium service.

Strava has access to much more information about the surfaces users may encounter on their routes due to the new base map. This implies that users may flip between road and unknown surfaces on the map.

When constructing routes, it is now possible to overlay both the global heat map and the segment explorer on top of the base map. This will enable users to explore popular routes among other cyclists or runners.

Users can now do location searches to add waypoints to their routes. In the free edition, users can only create waypoints using a postcode, but paid users can use an actual address. 

Another noteworthy feature of Strava premium is the automated route builder, which enables users to choose a starting position and the desired duration of their run or cycle. It then provides three route alternatives. The routes have avoided dangerous roads and even uncovered a few new roads.

Strava premium provides the athlete with a training journal and compares the subscriber’s monthly activities to prior months. This shows the relative intensities of a person’s sessions over time.

Key Features For Paid Strava Subscribers

The key premium features available to Strava subscribers can be used to train more efficiently:

Strava Segments

The segments are one of the most well-known and best parts of Strava.

Users make segments, which are routes between two points. An athlete’s time between the start and finish markers on these predetermined paths is recorded and compared to other Strava athletes.

The fastest times earn the title of King/Queen of the Mountain (cycling) or Course Record (running). 

Strava premium segment analysis

There are thousands of segments to participate in, often involving laps. Strava users used to see all of these, but now only paid subscribers can see more than their overall position on a segment.

This is fine for most people, but if an athlete wants to be the best, being able to analyze and compare their workouts to that of others is a valuable tool (either overall, within their age bracket, or among friends).

Live Segments are the best thing about Premium, though. This lets users see how they did on any starred segment in real-time on the Strava mobile app and other devices that work with it.

When paired with a bike computer or running watch, this is a great way to beat personal bests (or take it easy if one is not close to matching their fastest time).

Strava Custom Goals

Even though it might sound simple, setting a goal can be all the motivation an athlete needs if they don’t have an event to train for but still want to stay fit. The custom goals feature of Strava Premium lets subscribers set weekly and yearly goals for segments, cycling power, duration, or distance.

Sometimes, they don’t stick to the plan, but the desire to stay on track gives users the motivation they need. This is especially helpful when there aren’t any events taking place. For example, an athlete could set a goal of running 25km and cycling 100km weekly.

Strava custom goals

Strava also collects data from several third-party devices so users can see all their activities in one place. This is helpful if the same company doesn’t make a person’s running watch and bike computer.

Strava Relative Effort

When following a training plan, it’s easy to stick to a schedule without paying attention to what a person’s body needs; this is where the Relative Effort feature can be helpful.

Based on a person’s heart rate data (if they use a heart rate monitor) and perceived exertion, the Premium feature analyzes how their activities affect their body. 

The Relative Effort feature is undoubtedly useful, but when it’s close to the top of the recommended range, it shouldn’t stop a person from going for a run or ride.

It does, however, help to keep these activities from being too intense. It can give athletes early warning signs if they’re doing too much too soon or need to lower their intensity (“Perhaps skip the HIIT today!”), which can help avoid overtraining and injury.

Strava Routes

Each training wearable or cycle computer probably has its online route-planning platform. But most of these require that a person knows where they want to go.

With Strava Premium, a person can make a route from scratch on their desktop, and the mobile app has a handy tool that makes routes based on several preferences a user can set (such as sport, distance, and elevation).

The routes are also pretty good because they use data from other users to keep users on popular paths instead of forcing them onto busy roads, which is especially important when cycling.

Strava Workout Analysis

If an athlete is training for a race and has a time in mind, or if they want to break down each mile of their training, this is a handy feature, especially for pacing.

It is possible to get this information with tools like Garmin Connect or the rival Runkeeper, but you would need to pay for the Premium version of the Strava app if you want this feature.

Strava Power Analysis

Strava Premium’s only feature specific to cycling is the power analysis. It uses data from a power meter to show training load, intensity, power curves, and the amount of time spent in each power zone.

Usually, a power meter is only used to train when it is built into a turbo trainer, but it’s easy to see why it might be helpful to have all this information in one place.

Even though this feature alone wouldn’t be worth the cost, more general features like Strava Segments, Relative Effort, and Routes are good enough to make the subscription worthwhile.

Who Benefits Most From Strava Premium?

Cycling and running are two of the activities that Strava favors. Even though a person can record other activities, like hiking or yoga, Strava is best for analyzing performance and making interesting route comparisons, which cyclists and runners love.

Strava is great for looking at routes, comparing segments (parts of a route), and keeping track of performance and training goals because so many people use it and put in so much data. Here’s a short list of what comes with the subscription:

  • Plans, routes, and suggestions
  • Performance analysis for rides and runs
  • Leaderboards and local legends for the training log segment
  • Live Segments on compatible devices
  • Trends and comparisons of monthly activities
  • Goal setting
  • Training plans and heatmaps
  • Power curve – You can see this if you have a power meter
  • Evaluation of fitness and freshness

Even if someone doesn’t pay for Strava, they can still record, share, and view their activities. This means that Strava can still be used as a training log to collect data from various devices, and a person can still be a part of the community – one of the largest fitness social networks of its kind.

Some people might get this information from their Fitbit, Garmin Connect, or Apple Health device.

If someone works out a lot (professionally), especially running and cycling, there is much within the premium version that they will enjoy. Segments alone are probably worth the price, and data-driven athletes will love the subscription features.

Even if someone doesn’t want to pay, Strava has enough free features to be helpful, primarily if they use devices on multiple platforms or log in more than one way.

Our Verdict: Is Strava Premium Worth It?

Although the free version of Strava is sufficient for the typical user’s needs, the paid premium version of the app includes many features that are especially helpful to serious athletes.

That said, anyone interested in the data provided and who wants to take their running and cycling to the next level would benefit significantly from subscribing to the premium version.

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