Strava Routes and Heatmap: Find New Places to Go


, by Howard Calvert

We’ve all been there — whether running or cycling, planning a new route can be effortful and time-consuming. So, instead of putting in the time to map out somewhere new, we default to the same old tried-and-tested loops time and time again. After a while, things can get a little stale — the same junctions to cross, the same hills to climb, the same views you end up taking zero notice of.

If this sounds like you, it’s time for change.

Strava can help you plan routes in two ways: via Strava Routes and the Global Heatmap.

Both are perfect if you need to fire up with inspirational new ideas for where to run or ride, or if you’re trying to find somewhere to get active when you’re visiting a new place, for example on vacation or work trips.

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Strava Routes

If you’re using Strava via your mobile app, go to Maps and you’ll see Routes as an option.

Here, top local routes are instantly recommended for you (based on routes members of the local community are uploading to Strava), complete with a map of the route, distance, elevation profile, difficulty, terrain, photographs of sights on the route, and an estimation of how long it will take.

The additional information you can view includes active times — when the route is most popular during the day (useful if you’re running in a city and want to avoid crowds) and by month — and community completion time, e.g. the average time it takes the locals to complete the route.

Once you’ve chosen your route, simply press start and you’re away — arrows on the map show you the direction of travel, and you can experience new roads, new trails, and new sights without having to put any thought into where you’re heading.

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Global Heatmap

This one is a little more under-the-radar way of finding hidden routes you may not be aware of, and is particularly useful for mountain bikers and trail runners who are heading into the wilderness and searching for new singletrack to link together on a route.

The key is to use Strava’s unique Heatmap feature. Go to ‘Create a route’ and you can step your route-building up a notch.

Ensure that Global Heatmap is toggled on, choose your activity under ‘routing preferences’ and you’ll see your local area illuminated with blue Heatmap lines (you can also change the colour on the main Global Heatmap feature) — the darker the line, the more often the section of trail is used. This combines all the workouts that have been saved publicly over the past 13 months, so you can instantly see which sections are popular with other Strava users.

Heatmaps are available to all Strava users, but only subscribers can zoom in to see the finer details on the map.

This is where some detective work comes in — if you’re looking to ride or run in a section of forest or moorland where you suspect singletrack may exist but is not marked on a map, with the Heatmap visible you’ll see the wiggly blue lines where other people have ridden or run.

That is the hidden gold you are searching for. By highlighting the footpaths, downhill sections and winding singletrack you may have otherwise missed, you can create a route that takes in sections of road and trail that other outdoor adventurers are using but you are yet to experience.

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You can also do this via your smartphone while out on the trails — if you want to stop and find a section of trail or road to run, you can easily find it by clicking Maps, and you’ll see the Heatmap surrounding your current location. Simply point yourself towards it and guide yourself to it using your dot location onscreen.

The other handy toggle is switching ‘Segments’ on Strava Routes, as this will reveal all the segments in the area of the map you’re viewing, helping you to locate sections of trail and road that are popular with other users.

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