Strava: Supporting Runners and Riders with Healthy Competition and a Safety Net

Imagine you’re on a long bike ride. You’re pushing yourself to go that extra bit faster. Climb that next hill smoothly. The weather is amazing. The scenery helps you focus and…

Your tire blows out. Your phone landed in a puddle and it’s fried.

You’re 10 miles from anywhere. When will your family start to worry? What do you do? How will you get help?

If you’re a Strava user and enabled Strava Beacon, your emergency contacts already know that you went out for a ride. They’ll be able to see you haven’t moved for a while and could come and get you. Instead of sending you texts every few minutes to see whether you’re okay or calling if you’re a little later than expected, friends and family can use Beacon to see if you’re still moving along and everything is okay.

Pretty amazing. And certainly something that makes everyone feel that much safer while keeping active.

We had a chance to sit with Ethan Hollinshead, Senior Product Manager, at Strava’s office in San Francisco to talk about Strava, Beacon, and bringing healthy competition from the locker room to an app.

A little bit about Strava

Strava (Swedish for “strive”) started out as a way to bring good-natured locker room banter to friends and teammates, even when apart. The founders, who were formerly collegiate rowers, missed the friendly competition and encouragement that they got from their teammates by trading stories of their latest athletic achievements and adventures. As they discovered new sports such as cycling, they started to envision a way to create that motivating team environment, no matter where their friends were.

Strava tracks your runs, rides and other activities within their app and shares your progress with your connections. A social network for athletes. Strava quickly became popular with competitive cyclists and runners to help track their progress and soon broke into the recreational athlete set as well. But that wasn’t enough. Strava has a huge following, but they knew there was so much more that could be done with their app to make it useful to athletes of all levels.

As Strava has grown to millions of members around the world (including many people here at Infobip), they wanted to find more ways to help people train better and train safer. What if there was a way for the app to let people know you’re out on a run and be able to follow your progress? Then if you ran into trouble, you know that someone knows exactly where you are to send help. That idea became Beacon.

Send out a Beacon

Beacon is a Premium feature for Strava that lets you set three emergency contacts who are sent a text message whenever you start a run or ride. Strava developed Beacon to be a feature you can use on all your runs or rides and give people peace of mind when training.

Here’s what a Beacon message looks like:

The link in the message lets your friends and family see your progress on your run or ride. In one simple message, Beacon achieves three things at once. First, people know when you’re out running or riding so they can mentally keep tabs on you. Next it gives your friends updated info on your progress and location. If you’re late coming home, but are still moving along, things are probably okay. If you’re not moving, then friends and family know exactly where you are to send help. Beacon is a lifeline that gives everyone a real sense of security–athletes and their loved ones. When you’re out being active, athletes can rest assured that Beacon has their back.

You’re wondering, does it actually work? Does it help people? Here’s a real customer testimonial provided by Strava:

From Red M., Sheffield, UK

“On the 2nd of January this year I went for a run over the top of a cliff top near to where I live. It’s a run I’ve done several times, and I’ve used Strava and it’s Premium services for at least the last 4 months. Unfortunately on this run I needed Beacon. Half way through my run on my way down towards the road, I slipped on ice and managed to completely break my leg 4 inches above the ankle. A series of complications led to compartment syndrome which threatened my leg. It was as painful and as serious a situation as I could imagine. What saved me and my leg was the fact that Strava Beacon worked: My girlfriend was one of the contacts on my Beacon service and she was able to relay all the information required to the emergency services.

After 3 and a half weeks in hospital I’m home, with an external frame fitted. I’ve a long year of treatment ahead but, thanks to Strava, I have a leg and a future where I will run again.”

Breaking a leg on a run is bad enough, but compartment syndrome is much, much worse. Because the runner’s girlfriend was able to send help directly to him, doctors saved his leg and possibly his life. This was all thanks to Beacon.

How it works

Beacon works on your smartphone with the built-in messaging app to send the text to your contacts with your location. But more and more athletes run and ride with a fitness tracker or bike computer to track their progress. If you track your run or ride with a device not a smartphone, how does Beacon and Strava help you? This is where Infobip came into help (we’re Strava users too!).

Many fitness wearables and gadgets work and sync with Strava. Users just have to start their ride with their Strava-connected Garmin watch or bike computer and the app will start tracking. In the background, together with Infobip, Strava sends text messages with the same GPS link just as it would if you started the activity on the app. In fact that text message can be sent and received in over 190 countries around the world. So whether you’re running up a volcano in Hawaii, hiking along the Great Wall of China, or riding along the Tour de France, Strava Beacon works for you.

What’s next for Strava?

Strava is already the leading app for cyclists, and is a top app in running. Strava’s vision isn’t just to expand into other sports, but to help support sports better. Strava might have started out as the app for competitive cyclists, but they want to be the app for everything athletic you do. Most of all, help people who are just getting into running, cycling, walking, or anything to get more active, to keep doing it when the going gets rough. Strava wants to be that app to help people get out, get active, and with Beacon, do it safely.

Oct 6th, 2017
5 min read