How to Use Strava Flyby to Hone Race Craft


, by Chris Case

The Strava Labs feature allows you to visualize where you gain or lose time relative to other athletes, which can help you refine pacing and race strategy.

Hidden beneath the ride stats and the kudos is a relatively unknown Strava feature called Flyby. Think of it as a drone-eye view of your activity—and also the activities of anyone else who was in your vicinity during a portion of your run, ride… or any activity you track (assuming that they, too, uploaded to Strava and have their Flyby privacy controls set to ‘Everyone’).

Sure, this feature can help you figure out who it was that sped past when you were in the middle of your interval.

Did Sepp Kuss just fly by?! A little Strava sleuthing can help you determine if it was, in fact, the Durango Kid.

STRAVA LABS: Check out some of the other side projects we've been working on...

But it has even more value as a race analysis tool, if you know how to take advantage of all of its functionality. Want to see where you’re losing time to your competitors in a parkrun or cyclocross race? Flyby can help. Are you curious to know where and how the race-winning attack went during the state championship road race? See it happen before your very eyes with Flyby.

Analyze your training and racing with Strava's Flyby.

The components

At first, Flyby can seem a little overwhelming. There’s a lot going on, and many variables can be adjusted. A quick review of the various pieces will help you get the most out of this tool.

To start, there are the Playback Controls, in the upper left. These allow you to play/pause, and step forward or backward through time one click at a time. You can also change the playback speed.

Below is the list of other Strava athletes you crossed paths with, color-coded based on how much time you spent on the same or similar activity (see below).

The Flyby color codes.

Each athlete is also color-coded. To see their route Flyby overlaid on the map, simply check the box next to their name.

All this information gets displayed on the map, which shows your position at a given time and the full path of every selected activity. Press play to see it all come to life. Adjust the playback speed to more easily analyze when and where a particular move might have taken place, for example. More on that in a second.

Finally, there’s the time-gap comparison graphic where you view the route elevation and compare time and distance gaps. This is the special ingredient of Flyby.

RELATED: How to Use Strava to Optimize Your Training

This comparison tool displays the distance and elevation you are at, at a given time within your activity. Other athletes’ activities are projected onto your activity path along all sections where you traveled the same path. Each colored line plots the time gaps between a selected activity and the main activity. The main activity appears as a flat black line.

Post-race analysis

Let’s look at two examples of how you might improve your pacing or racecraft by doing a post-race Flyby analysis.

First, imagine you’ve just come in second in the regional time trial championships. Determined not to let that happen again, you want to find out your weaknesses and strengths against the winner. Cue up your ride, and select just you and your rival to make the analysis as clean as possible.

Remember, since you are looking at the graphics on your account, you will be considered the baseline, depicted as the straight black line in the time-gap comparison graphic. Your competitor will be compared to you, and their line projected above your black line since they were gaining time on you.

Think of Flyby as a drone-eye view of your activity—and also the activities of anyone else who was in your vicinity during a portion of your run, ride… or any activity you track

The default playback speed is 60x. Bring that down to about 10x in this instance. Now, as the Flyby begins, you will slowly watch your competitor pull away. This is where you’ll want to take notes on how and where they gained time.

Did they gain on the flats or on the hills? Did they gain time in any technical sections? And were there any places on course where you took back time?

The answers to these questions can inform what you might work on to close the gap, or come out on top the next time you face off. Perhaps you maintained the time gap on the climbs but they were able to surge ahead after cresting those climbs. This could inform your pacing strategy or your training—maybe your 1-minute power is fine, but your sustainable power is a weakness. Now you have a better idea that’s something that can be worked on.

Likewise, if they were gaining time in corners, it might be worth spending more time on the TT bike to improve your handling skills. Which brings us to our next example.

DID YOU READ? How to Use Strava’s Fitness & Freshness Tool

Next, imagine you’ve just completed a hilly circuit road race. You weren’t happy with your result, and you think it might have something more to do with technical skills and less to do with your engine.

After playback, you realize you were getting gapped in the technical sections of the course. Generally, there’s an easy next step based on that finding: spend more time working on cornering and overall bike handling skills.

You also notice that while you could climb with the best racers in the field, you were letting gaps open up on the descents. Building the confidence to hold wheels on descents can also be improved.

Photography by: Daniel Jędzura

Your gut instinct about how the race played out was confirmed through Flyby. You were able to chase back when the road flattened, but you had to burn several matches to do so. After several laps on the same circuit, Flyby revealed that you were unable to climb with the best anymore—but it wasn’t so much about the climbing itself but rather all the chasing you had to do to catch up to the field after the descents.

MORE FROM CHRIS: How to Create Effective Training and Performance Goals

Ask yourself several questions to go along with this conclusion:

  • How was your fueling during this race?

  • Were there times when you could have been fueling to limit the damages of chasing back?

  • How were your climbing tactics?

  • Could you have done something more to conserve energy on the climbs in order to have more matches to burn to chase back?

Again, the answers will inform your future training and, therefore, how you might improve your performances at races.

Finally, this type of post-race analysis can be useful to understand who was strong in the field. This is especially helpful if you race the same athletes week after week. Ask yourself: Where am I relative to the pack, and is it always the same?

If you start to see the same themes from year to year, and it’s a consistent race that you’re doing, then you can better prepare for a specific race based on the terrain, the competition, right down to where racers tend to go hard and where they rest.

So next time you fly by them as if you were the Durango Kid.

Related Tags

More Stories