Cyclists are competing with online strangers at the expense of their fellow road users because of virtual league tables, claims new research presented at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) international conference in London.
Smartphone apps like Strava are encouraging cyclists to ride faster, further, more often – and less carefully, says the research, presented at the conference by Dr Paul Barratt of Staffordshire University.
These anti-social riders are disrupting cycle clubs' weekend social rides with members sprinting for sections of the route, rather than cycling as part of a close group.
Dr Barratt said: "Whilst cycling club social rides have always tended to culminate in a short sprint, members are now jumping off the front of the group many times throughout a ride in order to bag a fast ‘segment'."
Dr Barratt added that cyclists can easily become addicted to similar apps and end up relying on the feedback they provide: "No matter your ability, Strava can be a real source of achievement. Even ‘purists' that resist the technology at first can soon become hooked."
However, as well as being motivational, cycling apps can also be a source of negative feedback, particularly if the weather and fitness is not in their favour and their cycling ability appears to be worsening, said Barratt.
"There's a lot of bravado surrounding Strava. But the league tables ignore the subjectivity of the road and rider. People don't generally mind a bit of wind assistance - as long as it helps push them up the league table."