It hasn’t happened. The pandemic happened. I’m riding outside again but I’m been keeping speed for indoors and Zwift. I still think I don’t want to risk anything bad happening during a pandemic. I would feel like an idiot hurting myself on my bike in these circumstances. Okay, I always feel like an idiot hurting myself on my bike but the extra COVID-19 oomph puts it over the edge.
The latest “uh oh” email–Dethroned!–tells me I lost the a London segment I’ve held as the fastest woman since 2014. I love how Strava suggests you message the rider and congratulate them. Um, no?
(Update: The person took it down. Her average speed on the segment according to Strava was 67 km/hr. LIkely she left her Garmin on in the car. It happens.)
There are now just 4 London QOMs in my Strava trophy case. Mostly they’re flat and of a certain distance. This one is 800 metres. I like that distance. It’s also flat. I like that too. Though I did have one uphill, see I got an uphill QOM! But it didn’t stick for too long. I think the blog’s Kim Solga has it now!
What’s Strava? Strava is a ride/run tracking app. You can either use it on its own or share your Garmin bike computer data with it.
What’s a Strava segment? Segments are one of Strava’s coolest features. Segments are user-created, user-edited, and designate a portion of route where users can compete for time.
What’s a QOM?
“KOM or QOM Crown: If you achieve the fastest time on a segment, you’ll receive a special crown, meaning that you are the KOM or QOM of that segment (acronyms stand for King of the Mountain and Queen of the Mountain). This crown is awarded at the time of upload if you are at that time the leader on the segment. Since Achievement Awards do not refresh in real time, even if someone later beats your time, you will still be able to see the gold crown on that activity page.
Your KOM/QOM crowns are stored in a special list on Strava for your reference. “My KOMs” or “My QOMs” is a page stored under “KOMs/CRs” or “QOMs/CRs” accessed from your Profile page. It will keep a current list of all the KOMs or QOMs you currently hold.
Note: if you tie for a KOM/QOM, you will not be awarded the KOM/QOM crown, and the crown will not be recorded in the “My KOMs/QOMs” list”
Why do I care?
I’m not offering this discussion up as reasons for you to care. You can totally not care about speed or relative-to-others speed when you’re riding your bike. You can enjoy riding without a bike computer or with a bike computer and not uploading rides to Strava. Or you can have a bike computer, upload rides to Strava and still not care about QOMs. You might not have a competitive bone in your body or you might have one but think you’re happier not indulging it. There are lots of different ways to be in the world and I’m good with most of them.
But, true confession here, I do care. It’s fun and motivational for me to try to go faster than others have gone. I’m happy to restrict the others to “other women.” Kim has an interesting post about QOMs and KOMs here.
I like getting it out of my system on Zwift or chasings QOMs. Aside from sprinting with Coach Chris and friends and playfully racing friends up hills, I mostly don’t try to go faster than the people with whom I’m riding. I view riding with others as a cooperative thing.
It’s good for me to be reminded of my strengths–sprinting, for example–as I’m not the typical age or weight of a speedy road cyclist. I feel motivated by segments in a way that I don’t feel motivated by doing sprint intervals on my own. They make me work harder. I also like comparing my speeds on segments over time. See I’m getting faster: Using Strava segments to tack progress over time.
But there are limits to my downhill speed caused by real world practical concerns like FEAR OF DEATH. Years ago, in Canberra, Australia (I was there on sabbatical) I did a course on safely descending at speed and I’ve gotten better with time. Interested? There are some good tips here.
I follow more experienced riders downhill and follow their lines. I don’t brake that often. Still though I don’t pedal hard downhill. Did I mention FEAR OF DEATH?
But this winter and last I’ve been riding on a trainer in the virtual world created by Zwift. One joy of Zwift riding is that you can’t crash. It’s not just that you don’t actually crash. You don’t virtually crash either. There’s no crashing at all. So there’s no reason not to keep up your watts as you zoom downhill.
My efforts in the virtual Yorkshire, speeding down hills unlocked a new achievement for me, DAREDEVIL, for exceeding 50 mph.
Me a Daredevil? I think my kids are likely laughing. But I can be a virtual Daredevil it turns out.
“Uh oh,” says Strava. “You just lost your QOM.” I’m not driving back to London, or in the case of this afternoon’s “uh oh” email to Kincardine, to keep them. You can’t expect to keep QOMs forever but still it’s been bugging me. I don’t like to have an empty Strava trophy cabinet! Pout.
Time to start focusing on some Guelph Strava segments I think!
(Oh, are you reading this and wondering what I’m talking about? What’s Strava? What’s a QOM? Look here and here.)
Back to my search for a Guelph QOM.
Here’s a likely candidate Vic to Ring. That’s the 1.1 km stretch of Stone between Victoria and the entrance to university parking. It’s part of my usual “long way to work” ride.
I noticed the other day that I’ve been getting faster on it. I’ve been getting PRs on the segment for awhile. Look below and you can see my times range from 3:18 to 1:54 this summer. I often ride with people a bit slower than me and that’s the last stretch of possible speed before getting to work. I like to get it out of my system. I tell people I’m riding with that I’ll meet them at the turn into campus parking, and whee zoom ahead.
On the upside, it’s flat. It’s also in a bike lane. There are no obstacles other than occasional gravel in the bike lane. There are some Strava segments on routes I regularly ride that I’ll never get because of things like train tracks. I don’t like to cross those at speed. On the downside, it’s after a traffic light and I’m starting from a stand still. Oh and it ends at a traffic light and if it’s red I tend to slow in advance.
My personal best is 1:54. The holder of the QOM currently did it in 1:39. I’m 9th of 158 women to record a time on the segment. I’m 126th of 874 people on the segment. The fastest time is held by a man at 1:29.
Other than waiting for a good tailwind, what’s my strategy?
My average speed is about 36 km/hr. The QOM holder is doing it at about 41 km/hr. That’s a big gap. I get up to 42 or 43 pretty quickly but I can’t maintain it. A few hundred meters from the turn I start slowing. So the thing I’m going to work on is maintaining the higher speed for longer. A kilometer is a tough distance that way. It’s too long to be an all out sprint effort.
Oh, I’m also going to time the light so I’m not starting from a standstill. That’ll make a difference too.
At the other end I’m going to try not to slow for the red. Instead I’ll turn right on red while going quickly if I have to.
(Having Chris Helwig in front me would also help, of course. A couple of my London QOMs were achieved riding fast on Chris’s wheel. And I don’t know if that is how the current QOM holder did it. Lots of QOMs are achieved on group rides and you’re not going to go in later and take off the crown. Fair enough.)
Will I get it? I don’t know. I’ll try really hard. I’ll get fitter as a result of trying. Given a certain amount of luck–tailwinds and traffic lights–I’ve got a good shot at it. Wish me luck! And Kim Solga, stick to Hamilton QOMs please ..
Of all the comments on Facebook when I shared this news, as one does, I liked my partner Jeff’s response best, “it’s early days.” It’s the start of the cycling season and time to rebuild fitness I’m not going to worry about QOMs just yet
Later, I’ll worry. Here’s my post about end of season QOM hunting.
There are two ways to be best on a particular segment of a ride on Strava, all time best and best so far this year. I laughed yesterday because I’m currently the fastest woman riding up the hill to campus in 2017. That’s because so far this year I’m the only woman who’s ridden up the hill and who uses Strava. My time is 1:14, not even close to my own personal best of 44 seconds. That was in October 2015
It’s not bad overall, 7th, but I plan to move up the list this summer. Kim currently holds the all time QOM at 29 seconds. I think that one is safe in her hands
You need to get a good run at it, have the traffic light timed perfectly, and not have any students or geese walk out in front of you. I’m usually too fearful to go all out. But maybe on the weekend, or early in the morning, maybe…
Wish me luck!
Here’s how I feel end of season about Strava QOMs.
Heading out with a group of women and a cycling coach the other night, we got to chatting about QOM and KOM possibilities. It was a nice night and there was a strong tailwind. When he suggested Adelaide North I was skeptical. It’s uphill, not short and steep, but longish. And it’s the kind of hill that other cyclists don’t really notice but on which I get dropped on the way out of town. It’s so significant in my psyche that I even blogged about it here when I first started to make progress on it, getting faster over time.
(I tend to assume readers of the blog know why relative speed on hills eludes me. Speed on hills is all power to weight ratio and while I’m reasonably powerful, I weigh too much to climb besides most other cyclists. See why I want to be smaller here and wishing for weight loss.)
It’s not like I don’t have any QOMs but in the past it’s been the downhill segments that have been my forte. See do downhill segments count?
On the way out we discussed our plan. Chris led me out and so I didn’t get the segment solo. But lots of the segments are held by people riding in big groups. I won’t feel guilty about it.
We weren’t sure we made it. We went out fast and I kind of died at the end. It’s just under 1 km, as track cyclists like to call it, the toughest distance in cycling. Too long to be a sprint really.
When we uploaded Garmin files after our ride, I was surprised to see that I’d gotten it. I thought I might be fifth or sixth, not first.
Tonight I’m logging on to the Garmin website to manually enter my bike commutes to the university campus where I work.
Usually I connect my bike computer and all of my rides appear complete with lots of pretty data–heart rate, speed, elevation, cadence, etc.
But my time on the bike path is different. I decided not to use my Garmin.
Why enter it at all then? I’m trying to track how far I ride in a given year and for that purpose all the kilometers count. Last year I rode 3675 kms but I didn’t count commutes. I’m aiming for 5000 this year. See How much do you ride in a year? But I might need to be more ambitious. So far this year I’m at 1,811.9 km and I’ve got a cycling holiday, the bike rally, a MEC century and a Gran Fondo or two ahead of me.
I’ve written before about my conscious decision to put safety before speed on my morning commute. See When is a race not a race. But the problem is if I’m using the Garmin I’m aware of speed and I’d rather set the numbers aside. I don’t even want to see my average speed. Nor do I want to know how I fare on some of the silliest Strava segments out there.
The spray painted “Banana Kingdom” on our pathway is a Strava segment. Great. It’s also the section of the path with the most off leash dogs. The bridge to the university is a segment, all 100 meters of it, complete with buses and students on skateboards.
I’m not officially complaining. It’s a multi-use pathway.
(My favorite story. I say “on your left” without thinking, to a very young girl on a bike. She wails back, “But I don’t know my left from my right.” “Just stay right where you are. It’ll be fine.”)
We’ve all got complaints. My friend Julie, a very serious runner, was injured when she was hit by a bike. One of the two times I landed in hospital because of a cycling incident I was hit by another cyclist. But my pet peeves are those expanding dog leashes (see why here) and also runners wearing headphones who can’t hear my bell or my yell.
I’ve “come off my bike” as cyclists say (why we say that is a whole other blog post, it implies “didn’t crash and I’m really okay” and it reassures our worried partners) a few times over the many years I’ve been riding a bike and all of the serious ones were either on my commute or on the pathway. (I blogged about the worst one, knock on wood, here.)
One even happened when I was riding with Tracy. I’ll let her tell the story:
“We set out on our ride, heading first to the long bike path from downtown to Byron. It’s a multi-use path actually, not just for bikes. Shortly into our 50K (!!) ride, a dude on a skateboard lost control of his board and it crossed the path right into Sam and her bike. She went down hard and fast, no time to unclip. Ouch.
It turns out the path is not actually the safer place to be if you’re on a bike. There is much more unpredictable stuff that goes on there — dogs or kids darting across in front of you, skateboards, pedestrians taking up more than their share of the space, roller bladers who are struggling up hills and are impossible to pass, other cylcists blasting past with no warning.
Shaken but not deterred, Sam assessed the damage as surface injuries only (she’s so tough!) and said she’d continue.”
Tracy’s full report on the rest of that ride is here.
Ever since that day long boards have made me nervous. I slow down and give them a wide berth. I know lots of cyclists who ride quickly on the pathway. Not me. I tend to noodle along, being passed by young men in flip flops who seem to delight in flying past the woman on her cross bike (my commuter) with clip in sandals.
Excellent timing for our last Thursday evening intermediate ride of the season with Coach Chris.
Next week our fun 40 km loop won’t be possible. It’ll be dark by 5:30 pm and while I ride with lights in the city, I’m leery of fast riding on country roads at that time of the day in the dark.
I’m not that scared of cold and I’ve got my cyclocross bike for bad weather but from here on in it will be longer weekend rides, weekday commuting some days, and time on the trainer and rollers.
We had a lovely ride, our small but mighty group of three. I’m glad Cheryl, of Happy is the New Healthy, decided to break her rule of never riding in single digit weather. Yes, it was cool. Yes, it was windy. But there was also some talking and laughing and planning for the winter and discussions of spring.
There was also a failed attempt to take back my Strava segment from Kim but I’ve added that to my spring “to do” list as well. You’ve been warned!