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It’s Coming Back! Strava Begins Bluetooth Sensor Beta Test

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A year ago Strava killed off sensor support, earning the ire of millions…perhaps even if they rarely used the feature. As users, our collective annoyance was more about principle than anything else. It also didn’t help that Strava’s reasoning at the time basically threw their own development/engineering team under the bus, making them look incompetent, saying then “Supporting Bluetooth devices was causing the app to crash during recording, whether or not a sensor was connected. Disabling this feature significantly improves recording stability for all athletes.”

Well, good news is here: Bluetooth sensor support is coming back.

To what extent, and when, and to whom, or even what’s changed circumstance or tech-wise….is all a wee bit fuzzy.

The only statement Strava’s willing to give, is saying the following:

“For a small part of the Strava community, BLE support — especially for heart rate — continues to be a high value feature and frequent feature request. We’re exploring how to bring it back in a way that works for these athletes and the community at large.”

Ultimately, the core thing to know is that as of today Strava is *SLOWLY* starting to roll it out in beta to random people (and, some non-random people, like me). Beginning about two hours ago, with the latest Strava app updates, you may get offered the ability to pair Bluetooth (BLE) heart rate sensors to the Strava iOS and Android apps.

Here’s a super quick video on how it works:

So let’s do a short tour: ‘What’s old is new again!’ Edition:

How it works:

Assuming you get selected as one of the anointed ones (where no precise qualification criteria exists), then using it is silly easy. First, you’ll load up the record screen like you’re going to record a ride directly within Strava (that’s pressing the ‘Record’ button at the bottom center). This will then show your location as usual. However, you’ll notice a new ‘heart’ icon along the bottom row. Simply tap that.

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Now it’ll ask for permission to access Bluetooth, so it can find your Bluetooth Smart sensors. After you’ve agreed to Strava using your goods, then it’ll enumerate a list of nearby and turned on Bluetooth Smart HR sensors. It won’t show any other sensor types in my testing.

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Now, simply tap on a sensor, and it’ll add it to the list of ‘your sensors’. After which, you’ll also see the icon at the bottom of the record screen has changed and shows your heart rate:

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Next, start your activity and do your thing. Your heart rate is displayed in real-time on the main data page (also known as…the only data page). You’ll also see the HR sensor shown in the ‘Settings’ page as well. It’ll also remember previously saved sensors, and automatically re-connect to them for the next session, so you don’t have to re-pair again. You can also easily remove the sensors that are paired in the same sensors menu that you saw above. Easy stuff.

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One odd quirk though of Strava’s activity recording feature is you can’t actually make a non-GPS activity. Meaning, you can’t actually make an indoor activity. Which…yeah. Strava says you can modify it to be an indoor activity later, but really, it’s bizarre (and has always been bizarre).

Once you’re done, you simply save it like normal. It’ll then show up on your activity feed like normal.

I’ll be doing a longer workout in a short bit to see if there’s any data consistency quirks to be aware of, but in my short test thus far, things seem normal.

Wrap-Up:

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This is a good move, and I appreciate it. Do I use Bluetooth sensors with Strava frequently? No, not generally. But I’m probably not normal either. I’m currently wearing two watches and an extra sensor band. However, there are lots of people that use Strava to record their workouts and want an extra layer of data but don’t want to buy a watch (my brother is one of those people actually). Sure, they could have used a 3rd party app from Wahoo or otherwise, but it’s rarely a good idea to push core functionality out of your own app. This looks to start to realize that.

It also seems to be part of Strava’s long efforts this year to Make Strava Great Again with new feature after new feature after new feature…following years of nothingness. I mean, unless you’re not a paying subscriber – in which case this year has been mostly a disaster for you. While the Segments bits got all the media attention, the reality is that Strava has continued to slowly remove features from non-paying members each month…as many of you send me notes about.

We don’t know though whether this will be a Strava Subscriber feature or not actually, Strava’s not saying. So perhaps non-subscribers will get something out of this. Or, perhaps you’ll lose some more features to make up for it. I don’t know.

But what I do know is that this post is already too long, and being Friday night – I’ve got pizzas to make with the kiddos.

With that – thanks for reading!

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36 Comments

  1. Lo and behold. About time (again). And yes – removing it and admit utter incompetence was and still is awful. Now… I hope it being beta and just heartrate currently that other BLE sensors will be supported, too. Using the app in a pinch (cycling headunit fubar, forgot to charge or simply wanting to check /test the powermeter with a different means) was always nice to have.

  2. Basson

    Good – but how to make Strava REALLY REALLY better: Stop all those feeds of who joined which challenge and clubs 😉 (Or give one an option to ignore this silliness)

    During the last week of every month one has to scroll and scroll and scroll (did I mention scroll?) past this – some people (eg I) really don’t care about who joined what, and who is AGAIN going for a 5k challenge this month. (On top of it, some seems to join every available club, what is the use!))

    :)))))

  3. skyline

    would be nice if it connected to gym-kit treadmills!

  4. Belmont

    From what I remember, the feature was kinda tucked-away anyway in previous iterations and it always felt like a faff to get it enabled. Good to see they’re putting it front and center this time.

  5. Dave

    Strava is turning into Garmin, LOL. Weren’t the Strava founders part of a company that was bought by Garmin and did not want to hang around?

  6. Evan

    Does it sync RR if you the HRM-PRO or -DUAL?

  7. Raivydas Sukys

    Why polar h10 is a best heart rate chest strap?

  8. apple watch guy

    Does this new feature work with Apple Watch for you?

    • Apple Watch doesn’t show up in the list, no, but you can use the Strava Apple Watch app, which then gets HR via the Apple Watch recording. But that doesn’t cover the mapping side.

      (Note: I haven’t however tried the Strava Apple Watch app concurrently, so maybe that’ll work somehow).

  9. Willy

    Just a heads up, it’s “earn the ire”, not “irk the ire”, which would mean “annoying the anger”

    • Indeed. Basically I had written it one way (irking millions), and then tweaked the wording (going with ‘ire’ instead) and forgot to fix the first half of the sentence. Doh.

      Thanks!

  10. Jeffrey F.

    This past year, since they pulled sensor support, the reliability of the app to perform Strava’s most-basic core feature — record the ride/run — has gotten so much worse. Often, the recording just stops for no apparent reason. I’ll finish a 200km ride, pull up the app to finish the activity, and see “total distance: 5.7km”. Other apps on the same phone that record the track at the same time never have trouble, but Strava fails about a third of the time.

    I’d been able to talk a number of hard-core (but old-school) cyclists into giving Strava a try, and universally they were surprised to find out how much they liked what it brought to their world, but because it would fail to record so often, it wasn’t reliable and so they just let it go. )-:

  11. Rusty

    Doesn’t really help matters unless they bring back support for other BLE devices such as a Wahoo cadence sensor.

  12. Nice to know (although I rarely used it).

    What’s really needed on Strava: A better way to sort out all those E-Bike-Cheaters.
    E-Bike sells blow up this year and most of new Strava-users seem to be electric riders (in our area). And unfortunately a lot of them don’t care (or don’t know) about the correct activity mode.

    Strava should force all new bike-users to add a bike and to add a checkmark for E-Bike, so all rides will be an “E-Bike-Ride” by default.
    Also, if a rider is flagged several times by several people, all his past rides should be categorised as e-bike-rides as well.

  13. Joseph

    Ray,
    Unrelated question to Strava: I gave up on heart rate chest straps years ago because when I swam it always kept either falling off or moving downward. I am pretty happy with my Polar OH1 for swims and others activities. but I was thinking of trying the heart rate strap again. I like have having mulitple connections either ANT, BLE, or both without being tied down to one particular brand. Do you have any recommendations?

    • Yeah, I’d go with Polar H10, Garmin HRM-DUAL, or Wahoo TICKR.

    • Joseph

      How are these with swimming as far as movement?

    • Oh, they’re all useless in swimming because they can’t broadcast to the watch through the water. Sorry, I thought you were talking outside of swimming.

      Garmin’s HRM-PRO and Wahoo’s TICKR X (as well as the Polar H10) can save activity data. In the case of Garmin though, it’s really only if you have one of their watches. Whereas Wahoo can push to any platform, and Polar can push to their own platform.

    • Joseph

      Not, sure but I thought my old Polar V800 and chest straps used to transmit heart rate in water. I stopped using the chest straps because it would not stay put.

    • DavidM

      Hi.
      Anyone had success using the Polar H10 while swimming? I tried a few times to capture data using the offline mode and Polar Beat app. Every time I entered the water the data stopped. Started again outside the water

  14. JL-PHL

    Related to HRMs, what’s the story with quality or supply issues at Wahoo? The new TIKR and X have been ‘out of stock’ for months and reviews suggest many early hardware failures. Just a COVID supply chain issue or a QA issue?

  15. Rob

    Thank goodness. Been hoping and waiting. Strava was becoming a upload platform only as nobody could use it as the actual tracking app. With sensor integration back, they’ll gain a lot more subscriptions from those not using bike computers or Garmin watches

  16. Hans

    I don’t have a watch or a modern bike computer, but I do have a Bluetooth HR strap, so I just use the free Wahoo app to record my activities (including HR) and then sync them to Strava from the Wahoo app. Easy peasy. It adds a step or two, but it’s really quite simple. Yes, it would be nice if I didn’t have to go through the extra step, but it’s quite low on my list of problems.

  17. Leo sho-silva

    If I remember correctly Strava heart rate didplayed average heart as opposed to actual hr which isn’t usable with HR training.

  18. Jan Jaap Burggraaf

    This is exactly what I’ve been waiting for. Thanks for posting this. I’m trying to run a sub 3:00:00 marathon in a month, and use my heartrate as guidance. I have a fitbit (charge 3), but it rarely registers my heartrate correct for an entire run. Especially interval runs and the higher end of my heart rate often get missed. During a marathon, it is essential that your heartrate stays nice and low for the first part. I bought a Wahoo Tickr for this cause.

    Therefore it is great if you don’t need to look at your watch continously, but just hear your current heartrate as a part of the strava audio cue. Can you confirm that that is a possibility again with this update? Thanks in advance 🙂