Amid the world’s repertoire of arcane arts stands a little known but quite endearing one. Some of the cycling community might have dabbled in it one time or another in their individual courses of redefining cycling for themselves – Strava.
“According to Wikipedia, Strava is a website and mobile app used to track athletic activity via satellite navigation. Its slogan is “The Social Network for Athletes”. Its headquarters are located in San Francisco, California. The most popular activities tracked using the software are cycling and running.”
Whatever athletic field you’re in, you can use Strava to track your movements and plan new routes to conquer. Strava also keeps a backlog of your past achievements so you can feel awed in retrospect at your conquests; it functions like Facebook in the sense that it groups nearby users together and they can like each other’s routes and plan group events etc. What this means for the cycling community is a means of tracking their trek-on-wheels – Strava is indispensable with its Global Positioning System (GPS) in plotting out routes for you whichever new city you venture. Of course, what goes unsaid is the marriage of abundant exercise with Strava cycling-route-mapping.
Of course, where the functional person exists, the creative soul does, too. Some cyclists discovered for themselves the art of Strava-sketching, and strove to outdo their inner gods and one another in plotting out – and conquering – more exquisite routes that gave rise to more exquisite shapes. In Togoparts’ #TOGO517 and #TOGO817, we had Stephen Moore, winner of “Strava Artist” title for his creatively-executed Strava sketches.
On the global stage, a fellow Strava artist sharing his namesake is Canadian Stephen Lund. Short of pulling a rabbit out of his fedora hat, Lund has created extraordinary pieces of magic with red Strava lines. His exquisite images are the result of meticulous planning, having a keen eye to trace out new silhouettes for possible shapes and take his bike in that direction.
“I pore over a map of the city, and when I see a general shape I start to look for roads and routes that complete the details. The challenge is that the roads all have to connect — it has to be one continuous line.”
Lund starts by poring over a map and working out his routes over many hours. Then, he writes turn-by-turn directions that help him to map out the picture as he rides. Once this is done, he cycles to the starting point, turns on his Strava app GPS, and off he goes!
How Lund Discovered Strava Art
In autumn 2014, Lund bought a Garmin. It was his first GPS-tracking device which he wanted to use to track and analyze his performance as a cyclist. However, when he spotted the thin red lines used by the Strava app to map his rides, Lund knew he had stumbled on treasure.
Before sunrise on the early morning of New Year’s Day 2015, Lund set off on his first experiment with Strava: biking a path spelling “Happy 2015” through Victoria, Canada. This is the result of his first feat:
Since then, Lund has gone on to work magic with his pieces. Like a Copperfield of Strava art, Lund has completed over 70 astonishing masterpieces. His repertoire includes various creatures and birds, some fairy-tale characters such as Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, Darth Vadar, and a real-life depiction of Queen Elizabeth.
What differentiates Lund from other Strava cyclists is perhaps the beyond-human distance covered for some of his pieces. He normally does 70km for each image, clocking a total of 5000km since January 2015. However, there is one feat that he’ll not forget: the Mermaid of the Salish Sea. Logging 220km, Lund created his supreme masterpiece over two days in Victoria, Canada.
“She was 220 kilometres of biking, over two days, and I went through three bikes to get her done because I had mechanical issues on two of them,” he said. “I came home and my wife said after the second one, ‘Isn’t this the universe telling you to come back to bed?’ And I said, ‘No, it’s the universe testing my commitment to GPS art.”
Strava Tricks and Trades
No work of art is perfectly laid out for the artist. Often, he has to scrap initial attempts at creation and start all over again. Because Strava functions like a pencil and not eraser, the artist must abandon his first attempt if he rides down a wrong or poorly-planned road. In completing the Mermaid, Lund made two false starts, dragging it out till the third day to finish the image. Throughout the journey, he came across many obstacles such as lack of roads, blockages and such. To complete the Mermaid, he had to use a trick called “connecting the dots” – this involves pausing his Garmin at Point A’s obstacle, and restarting his GPS at Point B when he has figured his way there. (Point A to Point B may involve fence-climbing, bush-whacking, and scaling difficult terrains). Incidentally, “the Mermaid’s face and hair required a great deal of connecting the dots,” Lund confesses.
As a testament to the humility and humanness of Strava art, Lund insists on the term ‘GPS doodles’: “In fact, when I coined the term GPS doodles, I did so because ‘GPS art’ felt a little too lofty and exclusive. Everybody doodles. And anyone can GPS doodle.”
Click here for an article on Lund’s doodles by the Huffington Post.
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