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Four ways Strava can improve your vacations

Lost is so last century. Modern GPS-enabled cycling computers and mapping software mean there’s no reason to blunder around a foreign land, missing the best rides, stuck on some highway and unable to find your hotel.

Strava has a suite of tools perfect for the traveling rider, making the service far more than just a way to race against the Internet. Leaning on its deep database of millions of user-generated routes, Strava now allows travelers to see which roads are popular in a given area, select good mid-ride stops, and export a custom route to a GPS device of their choice. All that’s left is to follow the directions and enjoy the ride.

Global Heatmap

The source of Strava’s power is the Global Heatmap, which overlays a gradient of color to roads and trails ridden by its users, based on the frequency of their use.

When picking a vacation spot or your next ride, start with a broad look at the Heatmap, targeting areas that seem to be ridden frequently, particularly those curvy, smaller roads that see lots of bike traffic.

This doesn’t mean you should immediately select the darkest routes. Often, a road sees lots of bike traffic simply because it connects areas of better riding. The Heatmap is frequently more useful in its medium hues — those roads and trails ridden frequently but not too much so.

Route builder

When opening Strava’s Route Builder, which allows users to design custom routes, immediately turn on the Heatmap option. From there, simply point and click away.

The Route Builder does have a few quirks. It sticks to roads, for example, meaning you can’t build in a hike-a-bike link. And it sometimes won’t let you create routes through tunnels. To get around these, switch to manual mode until the route is past the obstacle.

Distance, elevation, and an estimated ride time are all tallied as you build your route. When finished, simply save and export.

Get local

Strava Local, part of the company’s experimental Labs, uses Heatmap data, popular segments, and destinations with similar activities from its pool of millions of users, then distills that data to provide a guide to major cities. This is currently available in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Milan, Barcelona, Sydney, Melbourne, Sao Paulo, New York, Denver, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

It also matches activities to points of interest, “Top stops” — a coffee shop, a beautiful overlook, a bike shop — and plots them, noting the type of location and the amount of time riders usually spend stopped there. It then connects these stops to Foursquare, where users can add photos and reviews.

GPX to editable route

Saw a buddy’s sweet ride, and now you want to do a similar one? GPX files, such as those created by a Garmin, can now be uploaded to Strava and then edited inside their Route Builder.