We’ve all seen profiles of many climbs over the years and when looked at individually, taking note of the elevation gain and distance, you can get a good idea of the severity of the climb, especially when they are coloured by the gradient. If you show two of these profiles next to each other then because the elevation and distance scales are usually very different it is very hard to get a feel for how one compares to the other. Last year I tweeted out images of a few climbs sharing the same scales but had to do lots of manually resizing to get them to be correct. Now we have a built in way to compare any segment/climb with any other.
You’ll now find a “Compare” tab on any of your Segment Details pages. Head over to this tab and you’ll see two ways to add other segments to the comparison graphic, either from the drop down list of famous climbs from around the world or by pasting in the segment number (or Strava/VeloViewer Segment Details page URL).
The graphic created is a png image so you’re more than welcome to save them and share them on social media but please do leave the logos in place 🙂
- Use your segment list to find the segment you wish to compare and right click on the segment name and copy the link address.
- Find segments you haven’t previously completed using the Strava Segment Explorer or from the segment list of your Routes.
- To remove segments from the comparison, select the segment from the drop down list (ones added by number/URL will appear at the bottom of the list) and press the button next to the list.
- Alt+Click the button next to the drop down list to open the selected segment’s details page.
Note: Only PRO (and PRO+) users can use the option to compare using a segment number/URL. Free users can only compare with climbs in the provided drop down.
Below the comparison graphic you will see the following options:
- Align start – This aligns the elevation at the start of each segment. Useful for a direct comparison of gradients but often equally interesting to have the difference in starting elevation shown.
- Opacity – Use this slider to add a bit of transparency to each of the profiles incase one is blocking some detail of others.
- Simplify – The lower the amount of simplification the more detail you will see (although it can show more errors in the data). If you increase the slider all the way to the right then it will break all segments up into 1km long sections.
The sharp eyed amongst you will have already spotted the VVOM metric on the images I’ve been sharing for the Tour and as some have guessed, this is a measure for the severity of the segment/activity/route.
VVOM stands for VeloViewer Objective Measure and it isn’t a coincidence that the higher the VVOM of a climb, the more likely you are to vom 😉
I first wrote the algorithm for VVOM alongside the DS’s of TeamSky at the start of the 2016 season to provide a value as to the difficulty for a GC rider of each stage/race they have on their calendar. The calculation used in the values you will see is a bit simpler as it removes some of the specific additional weightings for where the climbing occurs along the parcours.
So basically the VVOM calculation takes into account the gradients along the parcours including the elevation at which they occur.
It is very much an objective measure purely looking at the stats of the climbing and doesn’t take into account the road surface. Although it can imply a “difficulty” of a climb, as we all know, how difficult we find a climb depends greatly on how hard we ride up it and if we’ve got the best gearing on the bike. My most painful climb was Monsal Hill Climb a few years back and that is a tiny climb with a VVOM of just 1.6 although in my defence I was trying quite hard.
Worth remembering that the VVOM will be massively affected by the quality of the data being analysed. If the data isn’t barometrically recorded (see below) then you’ll most likely get a very over-inflated VVOM.
Things to be aware of!
Bad elevation data
Always a pain but many older segments have been created by people using data recorded with non-barometric devices (e.g. phones) so the elevation is calculated from external sources by Strava which can result in some very extreme profiles e.g.:
Best thing to do is look for another, similar segment which has better quality data to compare.
Strava has updated the way it calculates elevation so, where available, it uses averages from barometric data uploaded to the site so it is much more accurate in lots of places these days.
What counts as a max gradient probably warrants a blog post all to itself as there are so many things that can influence how that is measured both physically and from the data. Just use the max gradient as a rough guide for gearing requirements.
When a segment is created it just uses the lat/lng and elevation values recorded by the GPS device. Anyone that has used a barometric device and has pressed the start recording button before it has a proper lock on the satellites will sometimes see a big discrepancy in the absolute elevation values along their recording. The amount of elevation gain will be reliable as once started the barometer will provide accurate changes to elevation (unless the hole is blocked by water!) but you might well be 100m below sea level for the whole ride. So it is worth double checking the min or max elevation of a segment against a known elevation to make sure the elevation values are reliable. Of course if you use the “Align start” option this isn’t an issue (although it could still affect the VVOM for the segment).