Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fixing Strava elevation data

For some reason, Strava actually trust the data that comes from their users. More specifically they use the elevation data from the user’s ride when the user creates a segment. From a technical point of view, this is definitely the easiest thing to do, but unfortunately GPS devices do occasionally lose their mind, so the data can be a mess. This can lead to garbage segment data, like this. A glance at the elevation profile makes it obvious that something is amiss. This dodgy data then means any derived data is also dubious, such as the climb category and the VAM numbers. The KOM rider on this particular segment has a VAM of 9,992 which is over 5 times what a drugged up Lance Armstrong could achieve. Even my average VAM on category 4 climbs is over 1,000 which suggests I could make a good fist of keeping up with a bunch of professional cyclists. Which I couldn’t. Ever.

In an ideal world, Strava would fix up these dodgy segments in some way. One fix would be to average out all the elevation data from every rider who has ridden a segment. Alternatively, they could use the elevation data from one of the mapping services. Finally, they could make it easier to report bad data.

So whilst we wait for Strava to fix this issue, I thought I’d have a play with the second option. My Strava segment search tool now has the ability to view segments as well as view them on Strava. This is what the example segment looks like. It use Google Maps to calculate the elevation of the segment and adds that to the elevation profile, along with calculated statistics.

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