I have leisure and athletic activity on my brain, and so
Thursday morning I popped into the San Francisco headquarters of Strava, the
fitness app devoted to cycling, running, and lots of other trackable
activities.

I am an on-again/off-again (currently on-again) non-paying
Strava user. As a nowhere-close-to-elite athlete, I really like the features
that track and record rides and runs. I sort of like the sharing aspect. I’m
not ready to pay the $8 a month or $60 a year for Strava’s analytical and other
tools, and I’m probably not unique in that decision. James Quarles, the
company’s CEO, says there are 44 million Strava members (growing by a million a
month), 82% of whom are outside the U.S. The private company, which has raised
a total of $70 million in its decade of existence, doesn’t disclose how many
pay.

The company feels vibrant. Quarles walked me through
Strava’s impressive locker room and bike-parking facility. I almost felt sorry
for the employees who don’t ride to work. The company has a wonderful tagline.
“We want to be the home of your active life,” says Quarles. It also sees itself
as the Switzerland of athletic apps, playing nicely with Garmin, FitBit, Nike,
Apple, and scores of apps that focus as intently on other sports as Strava does
on cycling and running.

It’s an important moment in “fitness tech.” Apple pivoted
its watch toward health applications with huge success. FitBit—I’m a
well-documented FitBit fanatic: Ask me about my sleep and resting heart rate
next time your see me—is struggling.
(FitBit was the steady hero of my 2015 feature on Jawbone; four-plus
years is an eternity in the hardware business.) And Garmin, the pride and joy
of Olathe, Kansas’s technology industry, is killing
it
.

***

If a robot had written my essay yesterday it undoubtedly
would have gotten the name of Ian McEwen’s novel correct. It is Machines Like Me. The human who goofed
regrets the error.

Speaking of robots, the machine in the novel, whose name just happens to be Adam, needs to recharge at the end of the each day. I need far more than that from time to time, so I’m taking most of the next two weeks to recharge. You’ll be in good hands with Aaron and an ensemble of my other colleagues.

Adam Lashinsky

On Twitter: @adamlashinsky

Email: [email protected]

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