Strava, Garmin, Samsung Watch
When I was buying my new road bike, the question of what bike computer to put on it came up. I had a Sigma bike computer on the bike that had been my primary bicycle, but it would take some work to move it, and its cadence sensor had never worked right. I let the guy at the shop talk me into buying a Garmin Edge 830, along with a cadence sensor that installs right in the frame, and I am very happy with it.
Going through the setup, I installed an app on my Android phone, created a Garmin Connect account, and also a Strava account. Every ride gets recorded, and it automatically gets uploaded to Connect and Strava. I didn’t immediately appreciate the benefits of Strava, but I am starting to get into it now.
Strava would also be great for my hikes. I have occasionally recorded hikes with Samsung Health, but not often. I did some brainstorming about how I could accomplish this in a way that uploads to Strava.
- I could buy a Garmin wearable device
- I could use an app on my Android device
- I have a Samsung Galaxy Watch; could I use that?
I don’t really want to buy a Garmin watch, especially since I already have a perfectly good Samsung watch. However, I don’t use that watch much, and maybe I should consider just using my phone. However, if I’m using my phone to record my hike, will I also be able to enter data and record things in Gaia?
There is supposedly a Strava app for my Watch. There is also one for Android.
I haven’t tried either of these, but it may come back to that if other options don’t work.
The GPS app I use on my phone when hiking is Gaia. The thing I like the most is that any data I record is automatically synchronized with their website. I drop way point pins for trees and other maintenance activities that need to be cleared. I can record a GPS track/route for purposes of documenting a trouble spot or logging what I’ve done. Then later I can review, edit, and export it on the website.
Gaia does not have any automatic connection to Strava. However, I can manually export a GPX file from Gaia, which I can then manually import into Strava to create an activity.
A recorded route and an activity aren’t really the same thing, but they’re close. Yes, they’ll include GPS data, which will reveal my route on a map, and it will include elevation and time/speed data. It won’t include heart rate data.
The other problem with attempting to use Gaia is that there are times I will want to use it for two purposes at once. If I’m out doing trail maintenance or assessment, I will want to use Gaia to record sections of trail and drop way point pins for specific problems on the trail. I won’t be able to do that and record an overall record of my hike at the same time.
The application that comes with Samsung Android devices and Samsung wearables is Samsung Health. It is much like Garmin’s Connect app in the way it presents data. Its exercise sessions are essentially the same thing as an activity in Strava. The data from my phone and my watch are kept together.
It turns out that connecting Samsung Health to Strava is quite easy. It has a built-in function for it.
This seemed like the easiest and best way to accomplish my goal of making my hikes appear on Strava, and this is what I initially chose. However, I had some testing and learning to do.
I needed to turn off workout auto-detection. When I’ve taken my watch with me on a ride, it detects that I am cycling about ten minutes into my ride. If I stop for a few minutes to rest, it concludes that I’m finished, so one ride will often be recorded as two or three rides, and none of them have complete data. It’s also annoying to be told I’m riding a bike in the middle of my ride.
With workout auto-detection disabled, I also needed to learn how to manually record workouts on my watch. It’s easy enough, but I had to look it up. I have to go into the Samsung Health app on my watch (there’s a shortcut from the watch face I use), scroll down, select, select, choose a workout type, and select. Not entirely obvious or straightforward, but I’m sure I’ll have it down after I do it a few times. Also not obvious, but things I had to learn, were how to pause and resume the recording, and how to end and save the recording.
I’m not sure that it was automatic for it to record my GPS location data or my heart rate during my hike. I saw a setting about recording location, and I turned it on, but I didn’t actually try logging a hike without it. In any case, the way I have it configured now did record both of those.
I went on a test hike with it this afternoon, and it did everything I hoped it would. On the status display, it showed the distance I had hiked so far, the elapsed time, my elevation, my heart rate, and other things. It also had music player controls, which I did not use. When I got home, I looked at the Strava dashboard, and my activity had automatically been uploaded.
I should probably give it a test with airplane mode enabled. If I’m on a long hike or backpacking trip, I will be putting my phone into airplane mode. Doing so will cause the watch to want to connect to the network, which will waste its battery life, so I’ll want to put the watch into airplane mode as well. Will it queue the recording until it can be uploaded? Will it queue multiple hikes, over multiple days? Will the queue survive powering off?
Maybe I’m lazy, but I don’t see any need to experiment with the Strava app. Samsung Health seems, so far, to accomplish everything I want. I’ll be wearing my watch on hikes from now on. I had been very close to canceling service for my watch, since I wasn’t using it, but now I’ve found a new reason to keep it.
On an unrelated note, I’m looking at an elevation graph on Strava for the loop trail I most frequently ride. One of the reasons I ride it is because it has hills. I can pick out the steep bits and the long grades. Because I am so familiar with the trail, having ridden it several dozen times, I can picture in my mind the location of all those features. Strava attempts to show the grade at any point, but the data isn’t smooth enough to do it accurately.
Oct 30: I put my watch into airplane mode before recording today’s hike, and took it out of airplane mode after I was finished with the recording. The recorded activity arrived successfully on my phone and to Strava.
Update: Real World
About a month and a half ago, I went on a hike with friends (in the snow; it was beautiful), recording with the Samsung Health app on my watch. Partway through, I discovered that the app had paused the recording and missed a bunch of the hike. Had I pressed a wrong button? I didn’t know, but I was aggravated. Then when I completed the hike, it never uploaded to Strava. The activity was there in Samsung Health, but there was no way for me to instruct it to re-attempt the upload.
That was just too much for me, and I decided to give the Strava app for the Samsung Watch a try. The UI isn’t as nice, and all of the 3rd-party watch faces that have a button for recording a work-out go to Samsung Health instead of Strava. Perhaps worse, the heart rate data seems to be way off. (Looking back at activities recorded by Samsung Health, the problem seems to be only the Strava app.) Then yesterday, the Strava app kept pausing the recording. I figured out it was the touch screen interacting with my wet rain jacket. The recorded activity was missing three miles.
This has me considering a Garmin watch again, particularly one without a touch screen.