Bad news, Strava fans. According to the company’s website, the popular cycling and running app is moving a few of its previously free features behind a paywall.
Namely, the free version of Strava is now limited to activity tracking, support for devices like the Apple Watch, and the app’s community features. Features like route planning, segment leaderboards (though the top 10 view will remain free), matched runs, training logs, and monthly activity trends and comparisons will now require a subscription. As for its existing subscription model, Strava is doing away with its Summit brand and packs. Going forward, the app will either be a free or paid version.
For now, you can get a free trial for 60 days. After, Strava will cost $5 a month, when you pay annually or $8 per month if you pay monthly. As for whether this is a sign that eventually all of Strava’s features will get locked behind a paywall? Only time will tell, but Strava’s founders Mark Gainey and Michael Horvath promised in an announcement post that a free version will always exist.
While the move makes sense, the timing does raise a few eyebrows. Given limited exercise options during the global pandemic, the majority of fitness apps and services have either offered extended free trial periods for premium services or figured out how to offer premium features to free users. For example, Fitbit has made some of its subscription-only content free for all users, while Peloton had temporarily extended the free trial for its app to 90 days.
In their blog, Gainey and Horvath write that Strava is “not yet a profitable company.” The post also explains that the features that they chose to move to the paid version were “especially complex and expensive to maintain.”
“This focus on subscription ensures that Strava can serve athletes decades from now, and in an up-front way that honors the support of the athletes we serve today,” Gainey and Horvath write. “We plan to take what we earn from these changes and reinvest straight back into building more and better features—not devising ways to fill up your feed with ads or sell your personal information.”
On that front, Strava is at least somewhat credible. The company has rolled out over 50 updates and improvements in 2020, including Apple Watch syncing and new maps, while removing “Sponsored Integrations” from the feed.
That said, while the company was quick to downplay the monthly cost—the announcement blog equates it to a “couple energy bars”—it’s still likely to rankle at least some Strava devotees. If the Strava subreddit is any indication, the backlash has already begun. Generally, moving previously free features behind a paywall is a harder pill to swallow than just introducing a fancy new paid feature or subscription tier outright—as Wink recently found out. In this specific case, segment leaderboards and route building were features that set it apart from other running and cycling apps. As annoying as it may be that Strava will now require users to pay for its best features, it’s also one that felt, unfortunately, inevitable.