James Koole

Strava Adds Messaging

Is Strava finally realizing its potential as a "social network for athletes"? I think it's getting there.

This week Strava added a new Messaging feature to its mobile apps. It allows athletes on Strava to message each other and provides an alternative to using apps like Signal, WhatsApp or iMessage.

You might be wondering why Strava would bother with messaging at this point. There are so many options for athletes to message each other already. Do we really need yet another option?

I've been on Strava for over ten years now and I've been looking forward to it developing into a more complete service not just for individual athletes but for groups and crews. The addition of messaging is a very smart move by Strava and it's a huge step in Strava finally becoming the full-blown social network for athletes.

Bringing It All Together

Our running group was founded during the pandemic as the lockdowns lifted and a few of us were able to get together on Sunday mornings to run. We called it the Socially Distanced Run Crew (SDRC) with a nod to the whole social distancing, six-foot apart thing that we all were practicing in early 2020.

We started out using Apple's iMessage platform, but when a couple of Android users joined as we were able to have bigger group runs under the local government restrictions, we moved to Signal as it was cross-platform and also "not Facebook".

We leveraged a few other Strava features to run our group including setting up a private Group page in Strava, posted our upcoming events (and RSVPs) and creating and sharing routes. Photos from our runs were also posted into the group to share amongst members.

While a lot of our group activity was taking place on Strava, messaging was still on Signal and that made it possible for one runner in our group to not even have a Strava account at all.

When messaging hit Strava this week, the first thing we did was to recreate our group chat from Signal on Strava. We instantly realized that we were probably mostly done with Signal since the integration of Strava features like route sharing was far better.

Not Perfect, But Close

We did find a few things lacking in Strava Messaging, but Strava is aware and I'd expect them to quickly add the remaining tent-pole features.

  1. Photos - You can't share photos on Strava messaging yet. That's a pretty important feature for us. Until it's added, we'll either share those on Signal, or in the Strava Group where we've occasionally posted photos over the last few years.
  2. Group chat for our Strava Club - I would have expected that Strava messaging would have allowed for a Club or Group chat to be automatically set up. Apparently that is on the roadmap, but until it arrives, we are using a group chat we made in Strava Messaging by just manually adding all the members of our crew. It lacks an avatar, but otherwise works fine.
  3. Messaging on the web - This is something Strava has been doing a bit too much lately with new features getting added to the iOS and Android apps, but not to the web interface. I'm hoping that web messaging comes soon because sometimes it's nice to be able to read and send a few messages from the website rather than typing on the small phone screen.

A One-Stop-Shop for Running Groups

What Strava Messaging offered our run group is a way to move our entire social experience for our club into Strava. It has basically everything we need to stay in touch with the ability to post our runs, coordinate events, make routes, discuss our experiences and now, to chat with each other. You could even keep something like a run blog in Strava using their Posts feature, although it lacks RSS feeds for posts which I think is key for a blogging platform.

The one member of our crew that has resisted creating a Strava account is going to have to decide whether they want to stay plugged into the group or not. If that sounds like something from 15 years ago when Facebook opened up to the world outside of college campuses, then you get my point about Strava becoming a full-fledged social network for athletes.