Bicycle Paradise and Hey, Strava…You’re a Bunch of Dicks

So remember last year when I hit the “I’ve lost 100 pounds” mark? What a great day that was! The reward I promised myself was a new bike of my very own. What better way to celebrate the first 100 pound loss of my journey than to give myself something that encourages physical activity, right? Right! So there I was…picturing myself with a cute little beach cruiser with a basket and a cute little bell…in the perfect shade of light blue. Adorbs!

There was just one problem: HMH is a total bike snob.

HMH is a mountain biker. Actually, we don’t have mountains in Texas. He’s a trail biker. He loves the idea of riding for miles and miles through the open country, down dirt roads and across abandoned railroad tracks. He loves to be out in nature. With the dirt. And the bugs. And the snakes.

Me? I enjoy viewing nature through the window while I’m curled up with a good book. I have no need to be out in it. I don’t want nature crawling up my pant leg and biting me behind the knee. I don’t want nature croaking at me from a pond or scaring the crap out of me when I ride by at an inopportune time. I like nature to behave itself…and if I have to be out in nature, I prefer a concrete bike path to enjoy it from. I don’t want to tear across the dirt, blissfully unaware of the muddy pothole that’s about to impale my lady bits on my water bottle holder – because, trust me, if that’s shit’s gonna happen…it’s gonna happen to me.

You can imagine, then, that there was some significant disagreement in the Hot Mess household last year when it was time to buy my bike.

“I just want a cute little beach cruiser…nothing fancy,” I said as I headed to Target.

“You’re not coming home with a bike from Target. I won’t have a crap bike in this house,” HMH grumbled.

“Babe,” I said, “I don’t need a fancy, sporty bike. I just want a cute little beach cruiser.”

“Target bikes are crap. We’ll get you a good bike. Trust me.”

And then HMH would whip out his smart phone and start showing me pictures of what I’m sure were all very nice bikes…but they were ugly. Sporty black and blue with neon crap on them. Thick, knobby tires or weird handle bars. I just wanted a cute little cruiser!!!

We argued about it for weeks and weeks until the whole thing just sucked all the fun and joy out of it for me. And I gave up. And then winter came and there was no point arguing anymore because I couldn’t ride a bike in the icy Texas winter. So poo. Forget about it.

But now the weather has started warming up…and I started thinking about getting on the bike trail again. We live fairly close to a cute little bike trail that runs adjacent to several neighborhoods. It’s a nice little ride.

HMH and I went bike shopping at his bike shop. No cruisers. *sniff* Almost all of the bikes they had were too big for me. Apparently I have short legs, even though I’m 5’7″ tall…so I’m not a dinky person. I tried a couple but the seats hit me too high in the girly bits (and the seats were lowered all the way). Finally, I saw it. Over on the side of a row of too-snazzy looking bikes was a non-threatening looking, pearl white beauty. I threw my leg over the seat and…wow! I didn’t feel like I was going to fall!! I felt like going for a ride!!! Yay!!! I left the store feeling confident that there was a bike out there that I could ride. There was hope for me!

The next week I had a really hectic time at work. It was Friday. I’d been running rampant all day. By the time I left the office I was really ready to scream. I just wanted to come home and relax…but when I came home, HMH had some news for me.

“I broke something,” he said to me, all solemn.

Crap. Now what? Can’t I just get home and unwind in peace. Damn it, we can’t have nice things!!!

HMH led me out to the garage. The garage is full of his crap, not mine…and I was busy trying to figure out what he possibly could have broken out there that I’d care about. He opened the garage and I found myself staring at my new bike. Surprise!!!

Check out my sweet new ride, baby!
Check out my sweet new ride, baby!

I’ve been having fun with it ever since…including playing with apps that track my bike rides.

Since HMH and a few other friends and family members use Strava to track their bike rides, it was the natural choice for me. I loaded it up and I’ve been tracking all my rides since. Yesterday, however, I smelled a rat. A big, fat, gooey rat. Let me explain…

I log my food intake on My Fitness Pal and I was delighted when I saw that I could link Strava with it so that my exercise was automatically logged. Yay!!! Then HMH and I went on a big bike ride yesterday. Well, probably not big for y’all, but for someone like me it was monumental. We rode 8.7 miles! That’s my longest ride yet. I felt quite accomplished. So imagine my surprise when I get home and My Fitness Pal has logged that I burned a very underwhelming 262 calories for all the work I did.

Okay, sure…I’m a big fat girl still. It takes some seriously lame leg pumping to get my ass up any kind of incline. It’s almost embarrassing. Except I don’t care…because I’m too proud of myself to care…and I’ve got HMH behind me saying “You’re doing GREAT, babe! You’re awesome!!”

How can I argue with the best husband in the world? I can’t.


Feeling rather dramatic and badass on the trail
Feeling rather dramatic and bad-ass on the trail

Anyway…it seemed a little hinky to me that I did so much work pedaling up those treacherously moderate inclines and I only burned 262 calories. And let me just make a quick point here: it’s not that I want to burn more calories so that I can eat more. Not at all. It’s that I worked my ass off and I want proper damn credit. That’s all it is. And 262 seemed like a pretty crappy number when I know how hard I was working.

I decided to wear my heart rate monitor the next time we went out. I should mention that I don’t have one of those cruddy $30 monitors that attempts to monitor my heart rate through my wrist. Nope. I’ve got the one that straps around your chest and next to my heart…listening. There’s a wristband display that shows me what the heart rate monitor is detecting. I’ve programmed it with my height, weight and age…so it knows all my secrets.

Strava, by comparison, knows my height and weight. There is no device settled near my heart. It’s an app on my phone that tracks my speed and route via GPS.

So Strava said I burned 262 calories for 69 minutes worth of bike riding at less than 10 mph. (I did go over 10 mph at times, but my average was less than 10 mph). Then I went directly into My Fitness Pal and logged 69 minutes worth of bike riding at less than 10 mph…and guess what?

I burned 563 calories.


Exact same time. Exact speed and activity. Totally different number. Who should I believe? I turned to Google…sort of. I searched “How many calories did I burn?” and came up with half a dozen websites that have free activity/calorie burn calculators. Every single one of them had my calorie burn at upwards of 500 calories. Excellent. Finally, as if there was any doubt at that point, I checked my heart rate monitor. 560 calories burned.

Up your ass, Strava dicks!

Above, the Strava version of my bike ride. Below, the My Fitness Pal version.
Above, the Strava version of my bike ride. Below, the My Fitness Pal version.

Further research revealed several forums in which various users expressed similar experiences with Strava tracking their calorie burn either way too low or, in some cases, way too high. Their app needs a little work.

I’ll continue to use Strava to map my rides…but that’s it. I have family and friends on it who send me kudos for bike rides…and I think that’s fun…but I’m not going to believe their calorie burn bullshit anymore, that’s for sure. And that’s my point in writing this blog post today: do your research before you believe whatever app you’re using to track your health and fitness.

It chaps my ass even more that there are fellow hot messes out there who might be just starting out with this kind of thing. They might not know enough about fitness and calorie burn to raise an eyebrow at that 262 blinking back at them. They might think that 262 is correct. Perhaps they’ll only feel discouraged…and that can be the beginning of the end for some people without a strong support system. False information can put a crack in your morale. Believe me, I know.

Just a smidge of the trail I ride
Just a smidge of the trail I ride

So if you don’t have someone riding behind you and cheering you on, take heed here and do some research. If everything’s on the level, you can rely on your app to track your numbers and focus on the things that require your energy. If it’s not on the level, at least you’ll know before you get used to it and find a solution that works for you.

We have enough to deal with between trying to tame our food demons, eating healthy and living an active life. Why make it harder on ourselves than we need to?

Life is an open road. Pedal faster…and enjoy it. (But make sure your damn apps aren’t lying to you!)

Want a super cute bell like the one on my bike? Here it is!

1 thought on “Bicycle Paradise and Hey, Strava…You’re a Bunch of Dicks

  1. LOL! I think our husbands were separated at birth. I too wanted a cute little beach cruiser (they are SOO pretty!!), but my husband insisted I choose something more ‘durable’ in case I did want to do some trail riding. I also encountered the same difficulty you did…legs too short and on my tippy toes with most bikes, but we finally found a good fit with a Trek Neko S. Pretty teal and silver. Now if I can only figure out how to use all these flippin’ gears….

    Happy cruising!!

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