Everyone who uses social media knows the routine. You open Facebook, Twitter or Instagram on a weekend morning, perhaps in bed a little later than you should be, and are greeted by maps covered in red lines, posted by friends from their morning run.
Mostly it's a timeline of local parks outlined by the red markings of a personal best 5k, or a riverside trail colored by a Sunday morning bike ride, logged by GPS, timestamped and shared for the world to see.
- Skullcandy Sesh Evo earbuds review: Great for running – and your wallet
- Best fitness trackers for sensitive skin 2020
- Best smartwatch for running 2020
But what if we add some creativity into the mix? This is where so-called 'Strava art' comes in to play. Named after the most popular outdoor exercise tracking app, Strava art sees runners and cyclists create drawings and write messages using the red line of their GPS-tracked run or ride.
Search Twitter or Instagram for '#stravaart' or '#stravart', and the results are often remarkable. There are written messages across parks, from 'Happy 2020' to 'Marry me Emily', sketches of celebrities that are hundreds of miles long, and even maps of entire countries drawn into a few city blocks.
Animals are a popular theme, with enormous horses, dogs, giraffes and dragons drawn across entire towns, or even stretching across miles of open road. Others have drawn cartoon characters and the faces of famous actors; some have taken a topical route and drawn a laptop with a Zoom-like video chat on the screen, embedded below.
Love-hearts are common GPS drawings, often sketched by someone running or cycling, but sometimes on a much larger scale with the use of a kayak and a quiet bay.
Love-heart drawn using a kayak and the Strava appStrava
A regular when it comes to creating elaborate Strava art is Lenny Maughan, whose drew what appears to be a portrait of artist Frida Kahlo in the image below, which was created in San Francisco during a six-hour, 29-mile run.
Strava art created by Lenny MaughanStrava
Then we have British cyclist David Taylor, who drew this huge bicycle on the south coast of the UK. Taylor covered almost 200 miles in the process, during a mammoth ride that took a little over 13 hours to complete.
The drawing took over 13 hours to completeStrava
Taylor is also responsible for this 140-mile drawing of a pony across the south of England, which took him almost eight hours to complete back in 2013:
Strava drawing of a pony took eight hours on a bicycleStrava
There are even more lifelike drawings created by using the 'pausing technique,' where a runner or rider pauses their GPS to stop a line being drawn, moves to where they want the next line to start, then starts their GPS tracking again. This allows for disconnected lines in a drawing, instead of the art being made by one constantly drawn line.
Pausing results in artwork like the one below, published in June 2020 to celebrate the 75th birthday of cycling legend Eddy Merckx. As Gary Cordery, who runs the Strav.art Instagram account explains: "This uses the pause technique to create straight lines... start your GPS, immediately pause it, cycle to end point, unpause it, save ride. This creates a straight line...I call it artistic (stet) licence."
While the above examples were mostly drawn on roads and cycling paths, Strava users can get even more creative in expanses of open space. Here's a great example of what can be drawn with lots of space (and planning):
Equally impressive is this drawing of Luke Skywalker and Yoda, created by runner Gustavo Lyra, during a 20-mile bike ride taking seven hours: