It’s the latest hi-tech kit designed to help sprint cyclists go even faster.
But a mobile phone app, which maps riders’ performance in the saddle using GPS, is inadvertently inspiring reckless cyclists to treat Lancashire’s main roads like race tracks.
Thousands of amateurs are now using Strava to get an instant measure of their pedal prowess and help push themselves towards the top of the leaderboard.
Yet the man who co-designed Preston’s Guild Wheel cycle and walking route fears the clamour to be best of the bunch over measured sections of the county’s busiest roads could be an accident waiting to happen.
“I’m all for cycle racing, it’s a terrific sport,” said Peter Ward, who was awarded the MBE for services to cycling last year. “But it has to be in controlled circumstances and, from the sound of it, there aren’t many safeguards doing it this way.
“On the open road you never know when a pedestrian or a car is going to come out in front of you. I dread to think what could happen if there was a collision. Someone could be killed.” Strava helps riders – and runners – keep up to speed with how they stack up against thousands of other athletes using satellite technology. It gives valuable statistics in the endless search for improvement.
But instead of velodromes and running tracks, the competitors are out there on the public highways, mixing with traffic and other road users.
And Peter Ward believes that without the safeguards of organised time trials, the sprint to be Lancashire’s best – albeit unofficially – is a dangerous technology-driven trend.
His own Guild Wheel is one of the routes being used by cyclists to push themselves to the limit, something which saddens the 79-year-old former international racer.
But just as worrying are the numbers of busy main roads around the county which have become impromptu time trial courses for thousands of riders testing themselves against each other.
“The Guild Wheel was never intended as a race track and neither were the city’s streets,” he said. “To me these cyclists are just posers. If they want to race and see how they compare to other riders then there are plenty of organised races, especially time trials, they could enter which are properly marshalled and supervised.
“The Guild Wheel was designed as a leisure route. Yet these cyclists are bombing round there trying to set the best time and putting other people in danger. There is going to be a serious accident.”
As our map illustrates, almost 2,000 riders have tackled the 1.2km section of road known as the Riversway Rumble near the Preston dock estate and logged their results on Strava.
Penwortham Hill has proved to be a popular climb, with almost 1,000 grinding their way to the summit. Similarly Cinnamon Hill at Walton-le-Dale which has been attempted 3,443 times by riders chasing the title of King of the Mountains.
Garstang Road, Watling Street Road, Tulketh Brow, Strand Road and the London Road Climb have all attracted large numbers of cyclists keen to set the fastest time while dodging the traffic.
Riders in their thousands have tackled sections of the Guild Wheel at full pelt.
And even the complete 21-mile circuit has been attempted at speed, with a Preston cyclist setting the fastest time of one hour, eight minutes and 44 seconds.
But perhaps the most inappropriate time trial course in Preston – tackled by more than 1,100 riders – is a 400-metre stretch of the driveway to the city’s crematorium in Ribbleton, with speeds of up to 29mph reached. A Strava spokesperson said: “We believe it’s critical for cyclists, runners and pedestrians to have respect for one another, especially on shared-use paths like the one you referenced.”
“To provide some insight into how Strava works, athletes on Strava can create what we call segments (essentially a stretch of road or trail) to see how they compare to others who took the same route. As our community of athletes creates these segments, we also give them the tools to self-regulate by allowing them to “flag” any segment they believe to be hazardous.
“Every cyclist is responsible for their own safety and the safety of those around them. We ask all Strava athletes to exercise common sense when they are running and riding and to encourage good behavior within our community.
Lancashire Police declined to talk about the concerns raised by Peter Ward.