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Last year, the pandemic sparked a sports boom, with many new athletes joining Strava and jumping on their bikes to rack up miles. This year was no different. The popular tracking app gained 2 million new subscribers each month, according to new data compiled by in the Strava Year in Sport 2021 report.
Strava researchers collected data from October of 2020 to September of 2021 to find the biggest trends of the year. Then we sorted through the data to find out how cyclists stayed active, on and off the bike. How do you stack up to the stats?
The sports boom continues
This year 95 million athletes around the world recorded 20 billion miles, with cyclists accounting for more than half those miles — a total of 10.5 billion miles to be exact. And in the US, riders recorded 1.3 billion miles.
Cyclists didn’t just go far — they also crushed some serious elevation and speed. Globally, riders hit a total elevation gain of 480.2 billion feet, and 57.7 billion feet nationally. Impressive, but how fast did the average cyclist ride, you ask? According to the app’s researchers, cyclists using Strava averaged 12.3 mph, with those identifying as male averaging 12.7 mph and those identifying as female averaging 11 mph.
As the sports boom continued, so did the uncertainty of the pandemic. While that led to restrictions and closures for some of our favorite cross-training activities — namely, downhill skiing and snowboarding, which dropped by 37 percent — it didn’t stop cyclists from riding or even trying other snow sports. In fact, Nordic and backcountry skiing had the biggest increase in activity uploads amongst Strava users in 2021.
That’s a good thing, because Megan Roche, MD, physician and run coach with Strava tells Bicycling, that backcountry and Nordic skiing are perfect complements to cycling, considering how much these activities strengthen the legs. “It’s an incredible form of cross training,” she says.
Cyclists walk this way
Another cross-training activity cyclists turned to in 2021: walking. Seventy percent of cyclists took a break from their bikes to go for a stroll — with U.S. users walking an average of 2.5 hours per week — while 40 percent of walkers swapped their sneakers for a ride on their two-wheeler.
If you’re looking for some way to move your body on recovery days, walking is always a smart choice. “Rest days from cycling are really important,” says Roche. “Getting the body moving and the blood flowing to the legs through some light walking can be really helpful for keeping that active recovery.”
Even better: Walking is a great way to get you up from your desk and break up the monotony of that work-from-home life. “If someone is sitting for a long time, doing Zoom calls, mixing up the day with some short walks can be a great mental and physical health benefit,” Roche says.
To top off the benefits of squeezing in some walks between rides, the Strava report also found that cyclists who dedicate time to walking are more than 16 percent more likely to remain active six months later, compared to those who don’t walk. So get stepping!
Working out through hard times
This year wasn’t without its challenges. In addition to the ongoing pandemic, many athletes continued to work hard despite the extreme weather events — heat, cold, storms — and other weather-related disasters, such as wildfires. The Strava report shows this, as indoor activities increased by 55 percent during a major heavy snowstorm in Madrid, and when Nagano, Japan experienced heavy flooding in August, indoor activities jumped up 56 percent.
One thing that seems to drive people to keep moving, despite what’s going on in the world: goals, with a side of competition. According to the Strava report, twice as many athletes participated in digital challenges (like hitting certain mileage goals in a month or working out a designated number of days per week), compared to last year. These digital challenges also motivated people to stay active, considering half of all group challenge participants uploaded more in the 30 days after joining a challenge than the 30 days prior.
“Exercise is just taking this really exciting upswing in the US,” says Roche. “These have been really challenging times and people are responding to that by exercising, by getting outdoors, by doing these things that are mentally and physically strong for their body and also developing community.”
With 95 million people currently using Strava, it’s easy to find a community on the platform, plus have a place to connect with people who share a love for sports like cycling. So, let’s keep riding (and sharing) right through 2022.
And if you need a place to start building on your own stats know that setting goals in 2022 is the way to go: Strava reports that athletes who set New Year’s goals in 2021 were two hours more active in January than those who didn’t set those resolutions. Jot ’em down, record your progress, and just keep crushing those miles.
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