The Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast
The Cycling Roundtable Podcast

17th March 2024

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 349: Turn on Strava for everyday journeys, it could reshape streets for the better 

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Tom Knights, Strava MetroLINKS:


Carlton Reid  0:13  
Welcome to Episode 349 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Sunday 17th of March 2024.

David Bernstein  0:28  
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e-bikes for every type of rider. Whether you're commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit That's t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid  1:03  
I'm Carlton Reid. On today's show, I'm talking with Tom Knights. He's the senior manager of partnerships and marketing for Strava Metro. This is a super-useful active travel city-making dataset-service from the athlete tracking app. And if you bristled at the word athlete, because you think there's no sport in transport, listen on ... 

Strava metro was very, very

insistent in 2020. About how successful cycling and and walking in all active mode because of the pandemic and the blog posting was, you know, we're very pained to say this. However, you know, it's really, really, we're going crackers with the amount of cycling as you know, the bike boom, yeah, what did go amazing. Now, the bike industry right now is famously and woefully massively down in the dumps. So what have you seen with usage? So what has happened since 2022? actual usage of bicycles not just, you know, we know the sales are bad. Is the usage bad also? 

Tom Knights  2:21  
Yeah, that's a really good question. And actually like to say the kind of the free, the free, free call to Strava Metro kind of suddenly going free was actually very well timed, unfortunately, under very difficult circumstances globally. One of the reasons like I say, we kind of made Strava Metro free wasn't actually because of the pandemic and the looming kind of crisis. And obviously, this switch to human powered transportation. It was like, almost like an unfortunate timing, but but obviously beneficial for cities and all the planners that start to use this data. So yes, we definitely saw this huge boom during the kind of 2020 21 era. And thankfully, because a lot of cities and a lot of regions and governments had the foresight to start investing in protecting cycle lanes in safe routes, which we know is one of the biggest barriers to people actually kind of picking up a bicycle. Lot of those initiatives have stayed, and we hope that they've stayed because actually, they've been able to see some of the Strava activity straight through Strava Metro, and then use that against other data sources to start to understand actually, is this being used in terms of trends, and overall, we've definitely seen more of a normalisation but again, what we are seeing is obviously, people looking for alternatives to either commute, and then well, kind of 2024 the word commute looks a bit different than maybe it did in 2019. But anything that's a utility trip, and essentially through safe and accessible infrastructure. That's what we know. And I'm sure you know, from all the kind of conversations you've had over the years, that's the biggest driver to people, making it feel safe. So, long story short, yes, we've definitely seen a normalisation now, in terms of growth 

Carlton Reid  4:06  
Normalisation, that sounds like quite a bit of a euphemism for, for what? 

Tom Knights  4:12  
So I guess the new the new normal as it were, so we've definitely seen that growth. And then now what we've seen, like I say, as people who are consistently cycling now, and then obviously, we hope that through infrastructure improvements into society into communities, that will then also encourage even more folks to pick up a bicycle on that front. 

Carlton Reid  4:33  
I'm gonna carry on digging here, because I think it's quite important. So that graph that was on the Strava Metro, I remember it well, the human powered transportation one Yep. Yeah. So I mean, that was that was great. But, you know, so when you've been normalisation, is that graph, it went up like crazy. And do you mean by normalisation that it went down so well usage is down or has


Tom Knights  5:00  
so not I mean, it's difficult to say but I wouldn't say plateau because we're always seeing kind of growth. And that's what's so exciting a and I can't necessarily kind of say a lot more about the Strava core Strava world because of course, that's a different kind of department as it were. But in terms of the Metro world, and what we're seeing in terms of cycling, in general, we've just seen that spike from 2019 to 2020, that continued growth into 2021. And now what is is probably more of that kind of continuous steady growth. As opposed to that, we I wouldn't say we've definitely seen any kind of drop off as it were on that front. 

Carlton Reid  5:34  
So it's interesting, because we now have metrics that we just didn't have, you know, 10, 15 20 years ago, from an industry perspective, used to be able to track

sales of number of bikes, and but you never knew whether, actually people even though a few bikes sold, actually, people might actually be riding more, potentially. So now we have metrics from from people like you, where you can not only track the number of bikes sold, but you can also track roughly whether people are using those bikes. So that's fascinating information from a market point of view. And the way I'm going from on that is

you've got some high end holiday companies, you know, Glorious Gravel going to Sri Lanka, Namibia, all these amazing places with people who got clearly a lot of money and a fair bit of time. Yeah, still getting out there cycling. So when we haven't seen that end shift at all. But no, that's the rarefied end, isn't it? That's like, Yeah, from from a metro point of view.

Tom Knights  6:42  
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I in terms of, you know, think travel and tourism, that is obviously a kind of luxury. And, you know, for kind of people a having the kind of means to kind of jump on a plane or to kind of visit and take the time off. And that's great, though, for kind of seeing that, that boom, because we want people to kind of get an introduction to cycling in general. And if that means discovering it on a holiday tour, fantastic. Hopefully, that then translates into cycling into work maybe two or three days a week, or suddenly dropping a car trip once a week, because they've discovered the joy of cycling. But I think January what we're hoping, though, is we see this bike boom, fueled by better and safer streets. That's, that's our kind of main concern is that, if you build it, I know, you've heard this phrase a lot before, you know, if you build it, people will come. And we know that from Strava Metro data, when you look at the kind of streets where there's been investment, the Before and After Effects is amazing. See this kind of increase in trips. Now, of course, you might say, Well hold on Strava growth. But actually, what we're seeing is that Strava Metro data alongside Eco-counter or Telraam data, you can start to kind of normalise and build a model. And I think that's what we're we're hoping that people can start to, as you mentioned, all these amazing datasets start to pull these together, and then really build this picture to kind of tell a different story than perhaps maybe the negative stories are saying in terms of, you know, cycling booms over or no one's using this bike lane, etc. 

Carlton Reid  8:10  
And this is an obvious question, okay. And this is a question that I'm sure you are incredibly well used to batting away, and you know, you're gonna get it. And you, you could almost do it yourself. So that is in your documentation. It's all about athletes. Of course, when you put that into Strava Metro, you're talking about non lycra. I know you discuss this on your blogs, but just just tell me now, why I would be wrong to suggest that Mamils, women on bikes and lycra why the data is robust, even though you talk about athletes? 

Tom Knights  8:53  
Yeah, no, you're quite right. And it's a, it's a really good point. And I suppose, from the data point of view, we're not looking at,

we look at those as activities and people and trips so that the athletes is more of a kind of Strava kind of communications in a playful way to call our community athletes, and you've probably seen various different messages over the years about, you know, if you're an athlete, you're on Strava. And, and essentially, there is a lot of truth in that, you know, we want anyone who moves through human powered transportation, or through moves and find their joy in discovering movement ways we would define as an athlete, you know, anyone who is doing that, now appreciating the world of transportation planning and bike lanes and commuting, you might not think, you know, cycling across the Waterloo Bridge in the morning at 830. You're an athlete, but essentially, from a metro point of view, what we're looking to do is see these community based trips as data points, like say that can be used for improving infrastructure on that front. And I think the way that actually I would position it personally is often thinking, well, everyone who uploads a ride on to Strava is a human powered counter, because through through Metro

That's going towards some kind of better cause in terms of funding and reviewing active travel investment.

But I do understand your point about you know, Mamil. And you know, a lot of drivers growth in the early days was fueled by that amazing core set of athletes. And you know, I grew up in this town called Dorking, which you're probably familiar with, from the classic ride, sorry, and I'm very familiar, you know, the weekends kind of seeing, you know, the the kind of, I say the kind of more sportive rides coming through the town. But actually, what that served is actually an inspiration for more people's go. Actually, that was quite fun. I should try that. And I think the data we're seeing through Year in Sport that we've done anecdotally, through Metro data, that actually we've got a lot more 18 to 34 year olds, who are now also discovering the joy of active transportation.

And again, Metro data is telling us that it's not just, you know, the weekend, you know, the Saturday morning at 10am, in the Surrey Hills or on the the kind of Yorkshire Dales it's actually taking place on the streets of Manchester, or the streets of London, etc. And I think that's what we're hoping is that story through community or athletes, as you know, we're calling it that that helps planners to see that trend is is not just, you know, the kind of Lycra

brigade Who are you know, cycling and I would all use what the same people that are cycling at the weekends, you know, on the kind of right sorry, classics or up in the Yorkshire Dales are also the same people that are using bike lanes. And equally as important when we're thinking about counting.

Carlton Reid  11:30  
Of course, you're not getting

the invisible in American terms, it's called the invisible cyclists. So these are often Latino.

Basically poor people on bikes, who are definitely not going to be using Strava. But going to using bikes, and then they call them invisible cyclists, because

they're not on bicycles that perhaps

an enthusiast would ride, but they are using bicycles and all power to their elbow, but power to their knees. Now, you're not capturing them. So if you're not capturing a significant number of people who are using

the roads, does that not suggest that you're missing an important chunk of people who are not using? You just can't capture everybody? And how important is that?

Tom Knights  12:27  
Yeah, really, really good point. And I guess a couple of bits on that is that

essentially no data set, you know, the world is accurate, you think about a, you know, a bicycle counsellor on the embankment or, you know, in the middle of Manchester, or even in the rural area, you know, if someone doesn't go through that specific kind of counting station, as it were, you're not being picked up in the count. And I think that's what Strava Metro is really kind of aiming to do is essentially colouring the map with all the blank spots that aren't being picked up. And being free, which is, again, one of these kind of opportunities to kind of get this data into the masses, allows transportation planners allows Safe Streets advocates, anyone who's focused on transportation equity and environmental racism to dive into that data and go, Okay, looks like actually, there's people going through this counting station here. But actually, Strava Metro is also showing us that people are going down this route. So what's interesting what's going on there. And again, you're quite right to call out that the heat map, for example, in, you know, maybe underrepresented areas, or places that don't necessarily have the same political will have, you know,

more affluent areas who have perhaps built cycle lanes or made their streets more attractive from things like heat islands, you think about kind of cities outside of the UK that suffer a lot from high temperatures, you know, the streets are not necessarily designed for being walkable and bikable. That's what we're really hoping we can also use the Strava data to show what's not happening, as well as what's happening. And again, a lot of the work that Metro is involved in is ties back into this kind of social impact piece. It's not just, you know, we obviously want this data to be used by, you know, transportation planners, but we're also hoping we can start to, you know, work a lot more with, you know, say advocacy groups, anyone likes easy, bold environmental racism and transportation equity, to really kind of look at that data, and metrics looks, it's been designed that anyone including myself, I'm not a geospatial professional, but I can see, you know, through a map and looking at certain areas where people are cycling and when they're not cycling, but also we want to build a product and I can't really, you know, say I'm not necessarily holding the Strava product side, but we want to build an experience, which is all encompassing for everyone on there, but I definitely understand your point about the barriers to entry, you know, just in general, you cycling you need to have a bike to join Strava you need a mobile phone that supports you know, obviously your Strava although we do have connections with lots of fitness devices, but again, that comes at a cost, but hopefully, the more people that learn about

Metro and the authenticity and the kind of the fact that it's free. The fact that Strava is free to join, it gives people a sense of empowerment that actually, I can change something that's happening on my street. And that's a big part of the messaging that, you know, I'm working on, and certainly have been working on for the last five years, because as you say,

maybe the association with Strava is it's just for athletes, or people who are doing k runs, and Q RMS, etc. But actually, what we're seeing is that more and more people are turning to Strava, to kind of log their activities, and hopefully through when they learn about Metro, they'll realise that they're actually changing their communities, because that data is really kind of playing a part in helping to shape your better infrastructure or, essentially, build a political case for more investment. 

Carlton Reid  15:45  
Good point. So somebody like me, who's been a Strava member since 2013 I discovered by looking into my profile this morning, 

Tom Knights  15:53  
and then thank you for your long term membership. 

Carlton Reid  15:57  
I would say, I'm not a frequent updater. But I should be, shouldn't I? So what you're saying is people like me who have it on our phones, don't use it, you know, because I don't consider myself an athlete. Yeah, that should be turning on, for even everyday journeys, because it helps.

Tom Knights  16:18  
So I've been, you know, I'd have that in writing. And, as it quite, you know, when we kind of go out to advocacy kind of events and talk to kind of people because I think, as you've just said, you know, the more people that discover about this, you know, cycle of like Strava, being free and then wanting to make streets better. And then Metro, obviously, enabling that, we think there's a really compelling story. And I genuinely there's, this is such a passionate thing to kind of work on. And I think we're very lucky, you know, part of the metro team to be able to have these conversations with partners all over the world. And I think we are we've met at Velo-city a couple of times before. And the one thing that comes up all the time at these conferences is, you know, how are we measuring it? Or how do we win the case for safer streets? And, you know, this is our answer to that and to say, well, let's come together and bring all these amazing datasets that are available out there. You know, let's build a case and get people to see that this is available. 

Carlton Reid  17:12  
And those datasets, the expectation is, from your point of view, that a transportation planning department will be using multiple sources, they won't be just using Metro. They'll be using their own counting devices, hopefully, if they've got them. And they'll be plotting everything. And they'll have some sort of, will they have a desktop with everything on? Or have they got like a look at lots of different screens? 

Tom Knights  17:40  
Yeah, so what we hear from from foreigners, they use a lot of geospatial kind of software, you know, there's obviously various different enterprise kind of grade level software and data analytics tools where you can always ingest multiple sorts of data. So we make extracting the data from from Metro, which is, I'm sure, hopefully, everyone realises completely anonymized, obviously, and then also aggregated, we make that very easy for partners to essentially download, and then upload back into, like, say, all of this data planning tools.

And obviously, you know, there's multiple data sets out there. And largely, like I say, we use the same mapping tools as well. So OpenStreetMap is really important, you know, in terms of, actually, how do you paint a picture of your infrastructure in your area. And like, say, planners will then use that to build reports to kind of maybe produce research, and then essentially come up with this kind of our number, which says, you know, for every X number of trips on Strava, you can say that there's 100 trips of normal, non non Strava usage, for example, send your Strava.

But, and we've seen a couple of examples that, you know, the Office of National Statistics have done that, in rural remote areas, Transport for London, have been using it to kind of model traffic lights through London and the timing that you get on green times, you know, and it's not just Strava D. So you don't want to build cities just around one particular user. But that's why being like I say, a free tool to do that allows us to kind of

plug into all these other datasets. 

Unknown Speaker  19:12  
Let's let's go backwards a little bit into

Carlton Reid  19:16  
that, that I'll use your term, the athlete, so you basically got a rider? Yeah, going along. I'll use like, even though I'm like to 50 miles away. I'll use London as an example. So going along the Embankment. Yeah, yeah, yes, you've anonymized all the data. So this is not you know, you know, you don't know this particular person on a bike at all. You can't track anything. But you can see at a granular level, whether they are on the road or whether they are on the Embankment cycleway, and you can see where they make that you know, sudden turn like there's a there's a few turns on the embankment where you've got to make quite a shift to get on to the cycleway. So you in Strava Metro, you can see that too.


Tom Knights  20:01  
Exactly that so we can see, like I say the, I think there's something like 420 million edges in the whole world. So edge is referred to as streets on OpenStreetMap. And if you've got some enthusiastic mapping listeners on this podcast, hopefully they might be able to write in and correct me in some tell me how many exactly edges there are. But if you think about the world as all of these kind of different edges and routes that are built up, where there's been a Strava activity gone over the top of that, and, of course, where there's been a minimum of free, which allows us to kind of aggregate those activities, we can exactly that show you where people have turned left, how many trips went off, on a certain direction? Was this route busier because of a road closure one week? Or was this route more improved year on year because of a safer kind of passageway? You know, I appreciate we're talkinh about cycling here. But if you think about running and walking, you know, was this improved? Because there was better lighting? Or were more people using this pathway, because, you know, there was a kind of nice new path put down. So I think this is like it's this kind of colouring in the map with all the other kind of datasets that are available. And then Strava can kind of tell you that picture of where, you know, there has been activity. 

Carlton Reid  21:12  
So when Nick Ferrari goes on the radio and says, I got stuck behind a cyclist on the Embankment, they should be on the cycleway. You could or anybody could go to Strava Metro, and say, well, actually, that must have been just a completely

unusual person. Because look, 99.9% of of cyclists are going on to the cycleway. And here look, we can show you the heat map where that is happening. That's what you can do? 

Tom Knights  21:42  
Exactly that. And like I say you want one colour, I would say is it's not anyone. So that was one of the caveats to the authenticity of the kind of Metro project. And I know that word authenticity thrown a lot you know about but that the only reason Metro works is because the Strava community buy into this idea that the data has been used for something good, not for commercial purposes. So not anyone can access Metro, but TfL can access it, for example, in your example of the bike lanes in London, London cycling campaign could access this because of course, you know, they're involved in advocacy work.

Unfortunately, LBC wouldn't be able to access this, because obviously they're using it for other purposes.

But actually anyone involved in safe infrastructure, and we hope that this is it, you know, when the the transportation teams, all these different medical authorities or local authorities can actually go, actually what we have seen on the street is that X percentage of people are using this bike lane on there. And that's, that's what I think it's going to take to kind of not win the argument, but really convinced people that bike lanes are being used, and they're a good investment. They're just incredibly efficient, because you never see anyone in traffic. And then yes, people are constantly moving. 

Carlton Reid  22:53  
Yes. Now, I know you're not on this side of it. So it's a slightly unfair question to ask, but I'd like one I'd like you to tell me about anyway. So at the end, not not now. But at the end, I'd like you to go through and just tell people how much it costs to, you know, go the full fat version of Strava. But before you do that, and that's going to be the end anyway, just let's just, you know, just confirm this right now, you do not need to use Strava Metro for is free for transportation planners, anybody else. But you don't need any, you're not going to get hassled to become a pro member.

To be one of these people like me who just want to do good for the community by turning metro or Strava on for our normal daily rides, you won't be charged for that you can get a free membership that will do everything apart from all the pro level stuff that you don't need anyway, if you're just one of these lapsed people?

Tom Knights  23:56  
Yeah, it's possible. And so, you know, Strava is like has always operated on that kind of freemium model, as it were, that you know, at its simplest, you can download the app, join the community upload rise. And then if you've made that road public, so I should have added that caveat as well, that will contribute to metric because of course, you know, people might want to hide the start or the end of their journeys, they won't count. Some people might want to also hide a certain route. But hopefully, like say when they hear about the project and go actually, this is a pretty good idea, I should start uploading my routes and maybe, you know, further down the line as they kind of start to explore Strava they want to kind of look at a route or they want to kind of go oh, that could be quite a good tool to have because I've got more into my cycling journey, then yes, of course. Strava is open for them. But at its source and Metro, they are both free. 

Carlton Reid  24:46  
Mm hmm. Okay. At this point, I would like to cut away to my colleague, David who will give a short break. 

David Bernstein  24:56  
This podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles.

The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e-bikes for every type of rider. Whether you're commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit That's t e r n to learn more.  This podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern understand that while a large cargo bike can carry oodles of stuff, many of us prefer something a little more manageable. That's why they've come up with the HSD e-cargobike for folks with big aspirations to go car free, delivered in a compact size, with its rear shock, 280 kilos, and a combined hauling capacity of 180 kilos. The robust new HSD is stable and easy to manoeuvre, even when under load. And with its Bosch eBIKE SYSTEM tested and certified to meet the highest UL standards for electric and fire safety you'll be able to share many worryfree adventures with a loved one whether it's your kiddo or Nan. Visit www.ternbicycles. That's te r n turn to learn more

Carlton Reid  25:57  
Thanks, David. And we're back with Tom Knights of Strava Metro, and I was looking at your LinkedIn profile. And as you do when you when you want to talk to somebody and you want to find out their background, and you've kind of similar background to me, in that you did classics you did you did like nothing to do with what you're doing in your day job. You did like it will tell me what you did it was Exeter University exactly what you did. 

So I kind of found found myself essentially looking at degree subjects where, you know, I was interested in more the kind of anthropological aspects of history and actually Classical Studies, and I'm always very much told by classic students that classics versus Classical Studies is a very different subjects. Obviously, one focuses heavily on Latin language in Greek texts, whereas Classical Studies is more about, you know, the discovery of what was going on during the Roman Empire in the Greek Empire period. So that was always a passion of mine about kind of understanding society, and maybe what was the kind of political kind of themes at the time and, you know, fascinated about some communities on there. And, of course, the story for the dad joke, but like, most people, when you study history, there's no future in it.

I'll use that.

Tom Knights  27:24  
But yeah, obviously, you know, that allowed me, you know, I suppose to back in the kind of early 2000s, when I was at university, you know, it was a very privileged time, when they weren't necessarily crippling university fees and structure. So it allowed me to kind of study a subject, which was more of a passion project. But of course, you know, didn't necessarily elude me into kind of a specific career working in British museum or on an archaeological site in antiquity.

And actually, in hindsight, I think geography would have been more of my passion, because that's ultimately what's kind of landed me in this area of transportation and maps and bicycles. Geography was always my kind of first passion. 

Carlton Reid  28:04  
But you're a man after my own heart, because I did a degree, that was nothing connected to what I eventually did. And that was religious studies and comparative religion. And I did Hebrew, as well. So I did do a not a classic language, but I did a language that was known to antiquity. I'd say, yeah, we've come similar backgrounds. But then you've if you look at your career progression, it went very quickly from something that's completely useless to and affect your career. If I look at your career arc has been certainly tech. So from the very first it was you went from classics, blummin' heck,, to tech, that's that's a leap. And then you've carried on that, that that trajectory. 

Tom Knights  28:45  
Yeah, definitely, I think that kind of, you know, almost juxtaposes the kind of interest in history, but I think a lot of my friends maybe went into, you know, in the early 2000s, like most people kind of found their way going into financial services, I'd always kind of been more interested in the world of tech and technology. And then working my way up through various kind of research firms and kind of people teams in that world of headhunting and kind of early days of, of search, when it comes to kind of jobs and careers. Allow me I suppose just to suppose learn a lot more about the world of tech, and then actually through interviewing people and and candidates and helping people on their search journey. That then opened my eyes into this whole world of kind of software, which again, early 2000s was really interesting, and then tied into that passion for sports and maps and mapping, landed, actually initially at a company when I lived in Hong Kong for five or six years, which was doing event registration for marathons and five K's and stuff like that, which is obviously very relevant to the Strava world nowadays. But it was when Strava Metro came along and said that they were looking for someone to essentially grow the community on Strava Metro in Europe. It was too good an opportunity not to kind of put my CV forward so

You know, tied into all my passions around mapping and transportation.

Carlton Reid  30:04  
And, and getting out there and doing stuff. As in Yes. Being an athlete if you want to use that term.

Tom Knights  30:11  
Exactly. And you know, that's a it's an interesting point to kind of call up. But essentially the the advice, actually the CEO at the time, who was a gentleman called James, and actually Michael Hogarth, the founder of Strava, they said, The most important thing you can do in this role at Strava Metro is get out there and see bike lanes and infrastructure, or really understand what the kind of partners are doing. So over the last five years, that's kind of allowed me to get involved and actually see some of these projects. And you know, one of the best moments of the year or certainly at conferences, or events we go to whenever there's a bike parade, and I've never had a bike tour or a technical tour around the cities that you can visit, and you can really start to see the, you know, how those numbers come to life, actually, in the physical world, because, again, we've focused a lot on on this talk, we talked a lot about the Embankment. But actually, there's a whole multitude of examples around the European continent, and also across the world of bike lanes, which we visited and gone. Gosh, that's really interesting, what innovative design and oh, look at how that impacted this number of people. 

Carlton Reid  31:13  
Tell me about your day them. So you've got somebody flagged out that yes, sometimes travelling around a bit. So what what do you do, Tom, scribe, what you actually do to people who don't know what you might be doing day to day? 

Tom Knights  31:28  
I love it. So my biggest kind of responsibility is to grow the awareness of Strava Metro. And obviously, the more people that hear about Metro, hopefully, from listening to this, the more people might go, okay, that's really interesting. I didn't know that. So essentially, that's our, our main focus is to speak to the folks that active travel England through to the city of Paris, and obviously, the, the onset of zoom and online meetings has made that a lot more accessible now, which is great. So as much as I'd love to go visit all these places, a lot of them are done by kind of video conferencing, which is allowed us to scale and obviously tell the story in a kind of much more scalable way. But where possible, I'll always try and visit partners and learn about what they're doing on the ground. And then actually, one of the biggest kind of

tasks this time around is to then how do we communicate these back to the Strava community, and then get all these 120 million athletes who are on Strava, to actually learn about these projects that their movement has contributed to, because that's going to be the power of when they understand that your cycles work, even though it's providing you with your exercise or your means of transportation. It's also having a big impact on how, for example, you transport Greater Manchester or Transport for London to building your roads and your cycling. So if it helps with that extra bit of motivation, to get out of bed on a kind of cold January morning to kind of, you know, get cycling or walking to work, then, you know, we've done our job. 

Carlton Reid  32:57  
Isn't there an argument and I am playing devil's advocate here a little bit, council employee, a transportation but oh, maybe a councillor could actually use your data, which shows us lots and lots of people using a certain road? At a certain time? Yeah. And you would say,

to a council?

Officer? Well, look, we need to improve this route. Because look, how many cyclists are using it, we need to improve that. So it's more comfortable besides blah, blah, blah. But, you know, a councillor could use that exact same argument and say, Well, why do we need to improve anything? You're just telling me there's loads of cyclists using this road? Great, job done?

Tom Knights  33:44  
Well, I think the answer that is the kind of the theory that maybe, you know, a lot of highways and motorways around the world have used, which is what more lanes will fix it. And what did what happens when you get one more loan, we'll fix it, you get more cars driving? Well, I think the principle for that applies in terms of, if you keep fixing and increasing the number of cycle paths and bike lanes, then you'll see an increase in even more cyclists on there. So that would be my kind of caveat to say is, you know, the same way that we saw, you know, mass growth of roads and kind of infrastructure around the country, the same way that you could, if you keep investing, you'll, you'll see those increases come even more, as well. So it's just the start. I think this is the kind of the key point. And, you know, this has only really been what I've been in the industry for what five or six years intended, specifically around the world of transportation planning. And I've, I've read your in as another student of history, read your history of bike lanes, and what we're seeing is nothing new. You know, this obviously happened in the 1920s, as you've written about, it's happened, you know, the early 1950s. And we hope that obviously, this bike boom is going to continue, but we know that the secret to that is obviously infrastructure, but the extra secret sauce and I'm gonna say this with my Strava hat on so apologies is that you know,

other people keep other people motivated. And that's where Strava comes into it as a motivation machine. 

Carlton Reid  35:06  
So that game, gamification of it almost. Exactly, which is a good segue, thank you very much into my next question, which will be at the White House. So that's a that's a gamification, so, so just tell me exactly I know it's not UK, but this is a, this is a podcast that goes ... it's very popular in America. So Strava, not Strava Metro, but Strava is working with the White House on something. So just tell us what what you're doing. And then the gameifacation angle of that? 

Tom Knights  35:34  
Yeah. So from obviously, my understanding internally of the team that's been working on that is very similar to other kind of projects or campaigns, or let's say gamification, or challenges that we would work on this time, though, there's obviously a social impact cause attached to it, I think what's happened and from what I understand is that the White House, obviously have a campaign or a kind of cause that they're looking to mobilise the community on, they had a commercial partner in work, which is, you know, obviously, kind of, I suppose, helping to kind of measure that through the through the wearable side. But the White House is partnering with Strava, to support physical activity, as part of its challenges to end hunger and build healthier communities. Now, as part of the social impact strategy, let's say the call to action is to raise awareness of that campaign through movement. And obviously, that movement there is on Strava. And it's very similar to lots of other campaigns that we might work with, from brands, but also also other charities, you know, that might want to also mobilise their community on Strava, through that kind of challenge format. 

Carlton Reid  36:38  
So that's a US initiative. Obviously, it's the White House as in the White House. What other stuff might you be doing UK or maybe even worldwide, similar to that? 

Tom Knights  36:50  
Well, I think ultimately, it's if if we've done our job, right, and you know, the more people that learn about these challenges for good for social impact, we hope that people will start to see Strava as a platform, where they can actually start to tell their message to what's a very engaged community. You know, like I say, not every cyclist is on Strava. But we do have, you know, in the UK, again, I'm going to correct myself on every one in seven adults has joined Strava, or something around 15% of the population. So that's not everyone, but it is a very engaged audience. It's bonkers, actually. So how many What's that in millions? Is that like 10 million downloads or something, I will come back with some specific figures. And James can help with that.

On on, on our team, but Yeah, certainly, we obviously are in the millions of users in the UK. And of course, that's a really engaged community who are using Strava a for their movement, but also then can attach that through a challenge for a social impact campaign, or brand campaign. And again, these challenges are completely optional for people to dive into should they wish to. And I think that's one of the kind of key things to get at the Strava community, you know, having that say and what they do, and that's what's probably kept people coming back stronger over time, is that they get they have a choice in what they can join. And the challenges that the the team in Bristol, who in the UK run those operations for similar to the White House challenge, they do a fantastic job of making sure that there's some really exciting challenges to come onto the platform and keep people motivated.

Carlton Reid  38:26  
So can you now tell me

the different pricing options, so people are like, they've got the free version? They maybe like me that don't.

They will now start using the free version a bit more for the reasons we've discussed before. But if you wanted to up the game, what would you be paying? And what would you be getting? 

Tom Knights  38:46  
So for UK based users, obviously Strava premium is an option and that it costs £8.99 per month, or £54.99 per year. Obviously, there's a freemium model, in terms of the kind of ability to join Strava and not have to, like, say, necessarily choose to subscribe. But again, the compelling products, and the opportunity that the product team in the US and all the amazing kind of engineers that work on Strava have built an experience that should you wish to subscribe. There's a really compelling reason to mostly through our amazing routing, mapping discovery tools, looking at new routes to explore. Obviously, like saying you've got access to

technical data, should you wish to kind of see things like your heart rate and health and kind of segments and leaderboards, etc. So there's something on Strava for a lot of folks, and of course, you know, that community element and clubs and groups is really exciting. And another way for local authorities and governments to really drive engagement back to Metro, for example. 

Carlton Reid  39:54  
And then you got things like integration with fat map so you can like do all sorts of stuff with that as well because it's

Strava. Did you buy fat map? Is that was that? 

Tom Knights  40:02  
Yeah, so there was a strategic acquisition of fat map and you know, the the, that's

the exact date has been going on for the last year. So again, all these amazing tools and some mapping tools are such a good driver for people to discover the world around them. And I think that's what's really exciting is that, you know, yes, you might go on a bike ride and you know, kind of cycle from A to B on one of the cycle highways. But at the weekend, that same bike hopefully, is being used to then go, that that route is quite interesting, or I saw my friend do that route. You know, the other day that looks like I could probably do that I've got a spare couple of hours. And it's basically just keeping people active. Again, you've probably heard this one for every minute spent on Strava, you can attribute 30 minutes of activity back to your kind of daily life. So rather than that, and that's because you could you look at heat map, you see, you're in an unusual destination, you don't you're you're at your bike, and you fire up the heat map. It's like, everybody's gone that way. That way, then is that what you mean? Yeah, essentially, you know, like I say, you might, or it might just be on your activity feed that, you know, kind of been suggested a route or suggested a, an area to kind of move through. And I think that's what's really exciting is when you get somewhere new, you know that there's a community, because obviously, we're a global community that has cycled there before. And I say you can either look at the heat map, or you might be able to see someone's route. And they've recommended it as a kind of place to ride. That inspiration you get from not just

like, say, scrolling through maybe another social network or Doom scrolling, should I say, hopefully, that movement and inspiration of people being active for something that's going to be a positive driver for people being, you know, engaged on Strava. 

Carlton Reid  41:44  
There is another active travel analogy, which sometimes gets wheeled out. And that is, you can't tell

why you need a bridge from the number of people swimming across the river. Because they aren't going to swim across the river with a bike, they probably aren't going to swim across the river full stop. But when you put a bridge in it suddenly get, you know, the heat map would go crazy. But once you put the bridge in, so is any of your cleverness your your text, can any of it can I spot? Well, if you only had something here, it would open up, you know, is this something that you can pinpoint that you can say that a bridge analogy can be used? 

Tom Knights  42:25  
Absolutely. And thank you so much for asking that, because that's something we just updated last year in our metro product that obviously the planners and the transportation teams can see. And a lot of it ties back into some of the the kind of accessibility transportation equity, environmental racism that we talked about. What we've shown is that, when you put a pin on the map, we've also been able to kind of draw almost like a kind of circle around what's accessible within say, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, etc. And people can see data within that kind of circle, which, again, will show you that where there's a massive motorway with no bridge crossing, that's that part of the community can't access the park on the other side of it, or where there's, for example, a big brownfield site where there's been industrial use, it's not safe to cycle through. So people have kind of diverted around it, we had a really good example, actually, recently in Germany, where, you know, there was a curb on the side of a bike lane. And you could see very clearly actually three desire lines on the on the actual grass and the verge that people were kind of going off this curb through the woods to kind of cut out maybe a mile. And again, using Strava, Metro, this German transportation team who are based in Frankfurt, actually, I'll share the example with you because it's fascinating see how even at a really small local level, these little changes can make a massive difference. And they're not expensive to do, I think it only cost them something a couple of 1000 euros to drop the curb, because they then saw that that was having an impact on where people were then cycling. So you know, the famous analogy of when it snows, you can really see the designs of cars. Actually, when you look at the design on the heat map, and then in turn, look at that on Strava, you can start to see Oh, that's interesting. And again, another great example that was Hartfordshire county council had a bicycle counsellor in one location. And they realised that the Strava count was actually higher than the bicycle counter. And they thought well hold on what's happening there. And actually, there was a kind of dangerous crossing just slightly further up from this bicycle counter. And they were able to then use the Strava data to kind of, I suppose understand that actually, people were going this way because it was a safer journey. And that's the these are the kind of insights that yes, we want to do the big high level projects and you know, make sure that we get new infrastructure and cycleways across major cities. But actually the really exciting ones when local advocacy groups or local councils who don't necessarily have big budgets for you to accessing data can make these small changes and really improve these kind of everyday life for their community. 

Carlton Reid  44:56  
Can the Netherlands which obviously every week, look

Up to is like, the absolute nirvana of cycling. Do you like do you have like, Dutch people go, Oh, we could use this. It's like, Jesus, they even removing even more, you haven't done so. So basically, can you improve the Dutch cycle network? 

Tom Knights  45:15  
Yeah, definitely. And actually, we've had some interesting conversations with the folks over in Copenhagen, and obviously, in Amsterdam, and across the Netherlands as well. So not just Denmark and Holland. But, of course, the Netherlands is such a stays a bellwether of the cycling industry, but they're always looking at new ways to improve, you know, the technology that they're using and counting data. We are in Leuven, just at the end of November for the policy network events. And again, we are understanding that the kind of technical university they are leaving, we've been using metro to kind of understand, you know, and this is a really forward thinking Belgium city, which has got great cycle access, but they still need data to understand and counter. So rather than, you know, developing another app to count people, and getting the community to download it, they've seen that correlation between actually Strava and Strava, Metro.

So again, they don't need to necessarily go and kind of reinvent the wheel, so to speak with, you know, building another kind of engagement tool with local community to get them to join, because Metro is hopefully fulfilling that service.

Carlton Reid  46:20  
Brilliant, Tom that's been absolutely fascinating. And we could go on for a good amount of time, probably on Classics literature, even while we discussed, what's your Roman Empire? Yes, exactly.

But we can't, because we people just won't listen to 10 hours of us chatting away.

Tom Knights  46:42  
I'm sure they will. 

Carlton Reid  46:43  
Now, could you tell us where people can find out? I'm sure people know where you can get onto Strava. But how they find out about Strava Metro, and and maybe how they can contact you? 

Tom Knights  46:56  
Yeah, definitely. So the best way to get in touch with myself and travel metric is on And then on that website, you'll be able to learn more about case studies about how cities how researchers, communities have used the actual kind of practical steps of the data. There's also some frequently asked questions on there about you know, privacy and how the data is used, etc. And then most importantly, there's an apply button. So you can click apply for access. And then what we ask is that a you're a organisation that is involved in working to improve active transportation. If you're a consultancy, or an engineering firm, we also accept those applications as well. As long as you're under contract with say, for example, the local government or the city authority, we know that Metro kind of appearing as a line item as it were.

And then, again, like saying, at its source, transportation planners around the world can can access, we ask that you use a work email, not a Gmail email. So normally an org or, etc. And then just a short abstract, essentially, of how you're going to use the data. And so then we know that it's being used for a positive kind of cause, and then you will give you access to the area of interest that you've selected. Be it London, Birmingham, Somerset, wherever it is, as long as there's been Strava activity, you can start to really start to see trends and patterns, then hopefully feed that into other datasets to build the infrastructure. 

Carlton Reid  48:20  
And or whatever his email address will just be rejected out of hand, that's nefarious use? 

Tom Knights  48:28  
Yeah, I reserve the right not to comment on on LBC and Nick.

Carlton Reid  48:34  
Thanks for listening to Episode 349 of the Spokesen podcast brought to you in association with Tern bicycles. Show notes and more can be found at The next episode – 350 – will be out next month. Meanwhile, get out there and ride ...


Direct download: The_Spokesmen_349.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:18pm MDT

10th March 2024

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 348: Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett of Komoot

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett


Carlton Reid  0:13  
Welcome to Episode 348 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Sunday 10th of MARCH(!) 2024.

David Bernstein  0:28  
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e-bikes for every type of rider. Whether you're commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit That's t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid  1:03  
I'm Carlton Reid. And this is the fourth in a five part series digging into bike navigation apps. There have been shows with folks from Ride With GPS, Bikemap,, and today it's the turn of Komoot.

although as you'll soon hear, in this nearly 90 minute chat with Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett, we also talk a great deal about travelling the world by bike. And that's before, of course, there were smartphone apps to guide you.


welcome to the show. And presumably you're you're in London,

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  1:51  
thank you very much for having me. It's a real pleasure. And yeah, I'm in London, South London to be precise on a very beautiful sunny February morning. 

Carlton Reid  2:01  
It's kind of nice in Newcastle as well. So we're blessed. Now the reason I said that was because a your name. So we can get looking we can discuss that in a second and you can show me how you're you can tell me how to pronounce your, the Danish part of your name correctly. But also because cuz because we're talking here about Komoot and Komoot is a German company. But first of all, how do i pronounce your name correctly? 

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  2:29  
My name is pronounced Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett.

And it's actually not a Danish surname. It's a Faroese surname from the Faroe Islands. So I am I a half British, my father's English my mother is Danish, but my mother is half Faroese, her grandma, my grandmother's from the Faroe Islands, and the Faroe Islands for anyone listening who isn't sure exactly where they are, is a bunch of islands about halfway between Scotland and Iceland. And on the southern most of those islands, called Suðuroyu. There's a kind of like a mountain ridge, behind the village where like my gran and her family are from called CamScanner. And that's where that name is from. So yeah, it's it's ferries surname via Denmark. Wow. Okay, good explanation.

Carlton Reid  3:26  
And because I didn't know any of that, I then didn't go back and check on your, your global world. Crossing cyclist. So I noticed that you went from Iceland? Did you go via the Faroe Islands at all? Yeah.

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  3:45  
So many, many years ago. Now, I spent three years cycling around the world, which was a whole kind of story in episode in itself. And at the very end of that, I wanted to go and seek because my great grandmother was still alive at the time, and she was alive and kicking the pharaohs. So towards the end of this, this, this free journey, I really wanted to go to Iceland cycle there wasn't particularly advisable in the depths of winter, but had a wonderful time nonetheless. And from there, you can take a ferry to the pharaohs. So I did go. I did after sort of not really seeing any family for about three years. I did go and see my great grandmother, which was amazing. It's an incredibly beautiful place. By that point, I had seen an awful lot of devote the world and the pharaohs. You know, just like truly spectacular. And it was really wonderful that I got to go and see my great grandma because she passed away a few months later. So it was all kind of perfect. A really nice kind of like final stop before I returned to the UK. So

Carlton Reid  4:52  
I will admit I haven't read every single one of your blog posts from back then but I'll go backwards and I'll go back and read that one because I'm sure that Under brilliant because I hadn't spotted the Faroese part.

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  5:04  
Yeah, it was a really lovely thing that I got to and then at the very beginning of my, the very beginning of this huge cycle, I left home said goodbye to my dad, my mum lives in Copenhagen. So I started that cycle around the world. I mean, at the time I had, I had no idea. It would be that big a cycle. I was just trying to see how far east I could get. But I wanted to go and visit my mum in Copenhagen. So that was kind of the beginning of the journey. So it was quite nice that I had like pitstop early on, you know, visiting family and it was quite nice that again, towards the very end, I also had a pit stop visiting fan for going home.

Carlton Reid  5:42  
That's your mum also came out and visited you like you as your beach bumming whether that was in somewhere in Indonesia or was in Thailand. Yeah, that's

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  5:50  
right. She came and visited me in. I guess I was in in Thailand, often having seen her for probably a year and a half at that point. So we had a little, very nice, relaxing beach holiday, catching up, and most importantly, not doing any cycling at the time.

Carlton Reid  6:07  
And I'm sure she's treating you as well. It was, yeah, yeah. Know that for a fact, because we treated our son when he was doing stuff like that. Right. So let's get back to what we're meant to be talking about here, Jonathan, that is Komoot. So before we do that, I mean, give us the history of Komoot, because, you know, would you have used it on your? So yeah, this is 2015 to 2017. Yeah, yep.

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  6:37  
So I think I was unfortunately, I was a little bit too early. Cuz it's been around the apps been around for about a decade now. Set up by six, six friends from Germany and Austria. They have, I guess they will kind of united by a love of both tech. And also nature, they will come from the fringes of like, beautiful parts of Europe. But a very clever bunch. Yeah, excited about like the future of tech and where it intersects with, like, you know, all aspects of reality in our day to day lives. So Komoot is a German company. But going back to your your opening comment is a German company, but we consider ourselves very much a global or at least a European company, people, the people who work for Komoot are spread out across all of Europe. So we have quite an international outlook on the world, I would say.

Carlton Reid  7:39  
Was that right from beginning? Or was it very localised to begin with, and then only gradually did become international?

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  7:45  
Definitely, it was a gradual thing. I think Komoot I can't quite was before my time, the point because Komoot's fully remote. So one point switched and thought, Well, why not sort of recruit from across the entire continent instead of one country. And for a good number of years Komoot has been conscience consciously, international. So like had the app, the product translated to English a long time ago, we now have it available in half a dozen languages. So like, that obviously takes time and resources, but it's quite important for us to allow as many people as possible around the world to like, understand and interact with and interact with the app. So in terms of my own journey in cycling, I was kind of a bit too early on in the process is quite, it's quite funny actually, when I, when I first left, I really was not a cyclist. In 2015, when I left home, it all came together very quickly. And this was sort of the blogging, end of those blogging, glory years, I think around 2010 to the mid teens. So anyway, I found some resources online, and people were saying, Oh, you can buy a cycling computer and use that. I didn't really have much cash at the time. So I picked the cheapest cycling computer that looked like it might do the job. And it was this. This Garmin device, I can't quite recall what it was called. But you couldn't load base maps onto it, you could create a route somewhere and export a GPX file and then you could have this line to follow it. And I I was just following the North Sea coast coastline, on the way up to Scandinavia. And I spent a lot of time getting very lost. And after about three weeks on the road, I met someone who was was like, you know, you can just use your phone for this. And I didn't have mobile data across Europe. It was like before, it was quite so easy to connect to everywhere. But it hadn't even occurred to me that I could use my phone as a GPS device that it had this functionality, which feels a bit silly in hindsight, but why would I have I lived a sort of normal city life where I was always online at the time. And I hadn't realised that I could download load these map files from Open Street Map. And so I could kind of work out where I was at all times. So when I had that revelation, it was kind of blew my mind and things became a lot easier. And as we might discuss later, fast forward almost 10 years, it's now even easier than ever to have this these good quality maps offline and also to sync them with devices. But it's funny to look at where computers now, compared to my very rudimentary experiences, yeah, almost a decade ago.

Carlton Reid  10:30  
So the first time I came across, Komoot in certainly, you know, seared into my consciousness when my son was cycling back from China. Yeah. And I had all sorts of other ways of doing routes. But he was insistent that he was using Komoot. So all the way back from from China in some pretty hairy paid places, but parts of the world some of which I can see that you've cycled through as well. He was using Komoot and I need to ask him why he was he was using it but he did found it find it very valuable and certainly very valuable in those hairy parts of the world because it was drawing down some pretty ok maps. And it was giving him obviously really good information. So here's the pitch. Jonathan, why why use komoot? Why Why would world tourists use Komoot and why would that non well tourists want to use Komoot just you know, bumbling around the the Yorkshire lanes or the Norfolk coast towards why those two users might might wait. They want to use Komoot.

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  11:41  
It's really that's really cool to hear that just used Komoot for that. I've watched his like video of that long journey. It's so amazing. And they're very nice to Komoot was able to help that little bit. And I know that you've travelled a lot by bike as well, I think is funny. You know, especially with bikes, and especially with bike touring, it's been around, you know, it's been a thing for a very long time. It wasn't really that long ago that people were relying on paper maps. But that's in the same way that people used to, you know, drive around with British people with A to Z you know, in the car. And that already feels like such a such an outdated thing. I think a lot of very young people will this is probably a fact that a lot of young people don't know how to read maps in the same way that older generations do. So I would say for bike touring, it's, it's kind of like I sometimes why would you not embrace the technology that we have now, when I was cycling around the world, I did not really do any complex route planning on my phone. But now, we have commute and some similar apps and products. It's incredibly easy. The commute app is really intuitive, the algorithms are very sophisticated, it's very easy to find multiple options, but to find very suitable options, from A to B, even in parts of the world, where some of the map data is, is less comprehensive. And you can do all of this from your phone really easily. You don't have to drag paper maps around, you can very easily forecast how long it will take to get from A to B, you can very easily find out where might be a nice detour to take. There's just a lot less guesswork involved. So for the bike tour, it's a really powerful tool. But I would also say for the recreational user popping around the local lanes in the British countryside, for example, or a beginner, we have, we have a lot of tools that make it really easy to find a suitable route based on your ability. So while we have the route planner, which is great for finding ATV rides, whether that's like 100 miles, or whether that's 2000 miles across a continent, for the casual users who are doing like, you know, regular recreational loops. On our discover interface, we have, within just a few clicks, you can find routes that are based on your preferred sport type, whether you're gravel riding or road cycling, if you like hilly, hilly routes or flatter routes, or whether you're a hiker as well, because we accommodate for, you know, hiking as well. So you have these options that are tailor made for your needs within just a couple of clicks. And you can go and someone who's cycling across a continent probably understands how maps work probably enjoys looking at them, probably enjoys the process of, of stitching a route together. But for a lot of other users. That's not a priority for them. They just want to spend the time outside, having a good time without anything to worry about.

Carlton Reid  14:55  
There are a number of navigation apps some some of which seem to you know, be very popular in North America. Akka and some that are more popular in, in Europe. So that ecosystem seems to be very, very healthy. There are a number of apps going for the same kind of thing you know, from, you know, including one man bands like So, all of these different apps that are out there, how are people choosing? Do you think people are going through a list? And they're gonna go, Oh, I've tried that one, try that we're all like this one? Or do you think they just find one? And then they just keep on using that one come? What may? How do you think this ecosystem works?

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  15:39  
Gosh, that's a very good question. And a very big question. I think for a lot of people, it's probably a question of what they used first. And that's, that goes beyond just these, like app based kind of routing platforms, if someone is very used to using was successful, use paper maps for decades, or if someone in the UK is, you know, swears by Ordnance Survey. And they've always had, you know, good experience doing that, there'll be unlikely to change unless you give them a very compelling argument or a good example. So I think a lot of people, what they first start using, becomes the thing that they become familiar, familiarity is so important, same of a lot of like tech or products that we use day to day, we're quite hesitant to change our routines. I also think within that ecosystem, people's preferences probably change quite a lot based on if they have a bad experience as well. Same with all types of different, you know, products that we consume, you know, there's probably many things that you've used day to day for years, and suddenly when it breaks or something goes wrong, you decide I want to try something different. And then I would also say the local element probably plays a significant part in it. You mentioned in like other regions, or for example, North America, the market is in a different, like perhaps different status for us or you know, different other products that are available for people, I think a lot of it depends on the local side of it has to do with your peers. So like who you explore with you trusting your your recommendation of those you go out with, or the people who give you a great experience outdoors. But also whether or not the product is is localised and translated into your language that also makes a big difference people find rightly so it's reassuring when the product is as easy to understand gives a different level of trust. So I think those are a few of the factors, that that kind of changed the state of play. But overall, I would say that it's really, it's a good thing. There are a lot of incredible, incredibly bright minds and have great innovative companies in a kind of overlapping space, often with a slightly different objective. And, you know, that's, that's just great for the consumer, because it means that we're all kept on our toes, constantly looking for ways to improve those

Carlton Reid  18:08  
variety of companies out there, some are chosen by for instance, you know, cycle travel companies. So when you go on a on a cycle holiday, they will, they will choose to partner with a navigation app company, and then they will send you all the routes on that. So you're basically you're almost tied in on that particular holiday to that particular navigation app. Good thing, bad thing. So is that something that it's incredibly important to discover who are actually giving these links out and and calm them? Because you know, you go on a North American owned psychology company in say, Italy. And even though you're in Europe, you're using in effect and American app, because it's an American company that's leading those tours. So is that something that you are you as in Komoot? Or your your, your your colleagues and commute are actively trying to partner with these key companies? Yeah,

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  19:15  
there are. I mean, there are a lot of ways that we might sort of acquire new users. And by that, I mean, like reaching people and giving them their first experience on commute, those kinds of partnerships. I guess they probably represent like a smaller percentage of the ways to reach people. But that doesn't mean that they're not important. Particularly because if that partner whether it's a tour operator, or you know, a hotel or someone who's running a hotel, or even an event organiser, if they trust in Khumbu, and you know, I would say in Europe is you're far more likely to find that stuff that information presented to you via commitment than anyone else. That's great. because it's just reassures the, you know, the user that people look for that kind of reassurance from those those kind of places of authority. So those partnerships are really important to us. And we do work with a lot of tourism organisations, maybe even like hotels, tour operators, we do have quite a lot of active partnerships. And it's great for us because we reach that audience. But it's really good for us, we put a lot of effort into the people that do choose to work with us on educational tools, so that they understand it coming inside out, and can then give their users good experience. And that remains like super important for any of those types of partnerships

Carlton Reid  20:39  
can notice. If you get a bradt guidebook, a cycling guidebook, and it's you know, to the lanes of East Anglia, or whatever have you Yeah. Well, you're flicking through this, this book. And there's a little QR code. You open that up, I know, there's your route in Komoot via the Bradt guidebook. So what else have you got? Who else are you apart from Bradt, what else you out there in like a published terms?

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  21:10  
Well, it's just a good question off the top of my head. And when I struggle to think of them, but quite a lot of I mean, of course, is difficult because we are so you know, across the whole of the continent. There are some amazing publications and magazines that we've partnered with across Germany, France, Italy, Spain. And I think one thing that's really nice at the stage that commutes that is, particularly within certain segments, in Europe, we are, it would almost be strange for the user to have the route presented to them in a different way. Because they're so familiar with commute. That's what they use for their group rides. That's what they use for the events they sign up to. That's what they do for their day to day riding. And so a lot of those partners like they will present stuff on Komoot, regardless, like we'd always like to help them present the stuff in the best kind of best way possible. But they're still going to be reaching out and using Komoot, simply because it's a really nice, easy way to share and present routes with your kind of users or participants.

Carlton Reid  22:16  
And what do you do for Komoot? So what is the community part of your job title? What is what is? What does that involve? Yes, so

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  22:25  
I'm the global community manager komoot. The global part is, well, global, but it's in particular, it's about the gaps between. So we have a team of community managers spread out. In some of the markets where we have more kind of community oriented stuff going on, we have more people. So there's, there's a couple of two or three people in Germany, we have a couple of community managers in the UK, I'm kind of filling in the gaps between a lot of the markets that are growing for us, but aren't quite at the same same kind of stage just yet. And then the community, part of it is kind of two things. One thing is our external partnerships. So that could be with events and event organisers that could be with the kind of inspiring individuals that we work with, because they have, you know, a great platform, or they have a very inspiring story to tell, or they're great at motivating people that that follow them. And then on the other side of that, I have a lot of focus, particularly these days on our core community. So Komoot is, while we're really lucky that we have such a huge audience, audience, we've got about 37 million users. So there's a lot of people. And not all of those people are, you know, active every day or using commute to connect with other people and share their stories within the community. But we have millions of people who are and I spend a lot of time, as do my colleagues on how do we give these people? Like how do we reward them for their contributions? How do we motivate them to share more? How do we make sure that people are getting fed the right inspirational content based on their preferences? So elevating our kind of, and looking after our core community is also a significant part of my role.

Carlton Reid  24:22  
So can you is it gonna kind of go slightly backwards into your background as well, if you if you are going to set out on a kind of track that you started in 2015? Are you going to do that now? For instance, could you open up Komoot and say, you know, do me a route from London all around the world back again? Or do you have to do it in stages? How would you use if you're going to be doing it again? How would you use commute?

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  24:55  
I think I think doing a route around the world probably possible but That's an awful lot of information for for one file. So I will probably break it down into smaller segments, which is to be fair, exactly what I did when I cycled around the world, and what most people probably would. And so when I when I left home, and sometimes thinking about cycling around the world is quite kind of overwhelmingly big kind of concept to navigate. But I would break it down into really small parts. So I knew that I wanted to cycle from London to Copenhagen. I knew that I wanted to visit a friend in Amsterdam, for example. So to begin with, I would focus on how do I get from London to Amsterdam, that's a kind of more sensible, you know, if you break it down to blocks, the whole thing becomes a lot more manageable, both in terms of logistics, but also mentally. So I will do the same on Komoot. One thing that sets you apart from some similar, some similar platforms is that we have a variety of different sport types you can choose from. So if you go on the route planner, you'll see that even for cycling, there's a few variations. There's like road cycling, gravel riding, bike touring, mountain biking. And that's really important because well, even even within bike tours, people have different preferences. If someone wants to get to Amsterdam, in you know, two or three days, on a road bike, credit card, touring, staying in hotels, they might want to be thinking, you know, they want to have the mindset of a road cyclists, they want to choose quick, efficient routes, they're on 25 mil tires, they don't really want to be going down toe puffs, no matter how they're graded. So these different algorithms think slightly differently, which I think is is really important. I would personally I would, for the way I was touring leisurely, I would be on the bike touring mode. But no, that's it's just important to point out there's different types based on your kind of bike and you're writing preferences. We have a tool called the multi day tour planner, so I could pick from London to Amsterdam. And then I could divide it up into let's say, I want to do it in four days, or I know that I want to do about six hours of cycling a day, I can divide it up and it takes into account the elevation on the way. So it has like a kind of consistent breakdown, which is really helpful when you're trying to forecast when you might get to a certain location. The other tool that I would definitely would be using on the route planner. One of our features is the sport specific overlays. And then you can overlay the long distance or National Cycle routes, which is super helpful. I do this and I'm always toggling between these wherever I'm out hiking or cycling, it just means at a cursory glance, I can see the long distance routes. So for example, I was at the time following loosely one of the EuroVelo. The common which number is the one that goes up along that coast. Well, I can see that overlaid on the map. And so I can compare that against the route that I'm plotting, I can make sure that I'm like loosely following it that that makes a real big difference. Both when I'm long distance touring, or if I'm even just kind of out exploring in the south of England. So those are a few of the main tools that I would use. The final thing I would add, I wouldn't have such a rudimentary cycling computer, I would still have, I'd still have one. The Garmin that I have now is far more modern and has base maps. And we actually have an app designed for Garmin specifically. And with that, I can create the date the routes on my phone. And I can just press one button send to device and I can load up the IQ app on my Garmin device. And the route will just go bing. And here it is. And if I want to change my route, halfway through the day, I can now just update it on commute on the app on my phone and press updates. And I'll get a little notification and my route will be updated. So if I wanted to cut my day short, we'll go to a different hotel or campsite an evening. And that feature is so cool. And I think if I'd had that all those years ago, there would have been a lot less faffing involved, which would have been wonderful.

Carlton Reid  29:14  
Yeah, I use that the other day, in fact. So I had a Garmin unit and I had I was navigating with Komoot hadn't actually changed the route because I just got on my bike after 70 miles because the wind was about 50 miles an hour ahead of me. But still, I was using it and it was neat that so I agree. So the map, I've got the app open here now and in other apps, you have a choice of quite a few maps. But here I don't I see the the Komoot map. I see a satellite map but then there's no like Ordnance Survey for the UK. So because your is that because you were an international brand and that's just what on market, yeah, there's no point just offering an OS just for one market. I mean,

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  30:03  
you could obviously you could argue for it. And in the UK, a lot of people aren't really familiar with and put a lot of trust into Ordnance Survey, commutes sort of core foundation revolves around OpenStreetMap, we are such committed believers of the Open Street Map Project. And it's really at the core of everything we do. And we are constantly looking for ways that, you know, we can help to enrich the data that's there or help to facilitate improvements to it. And you're right, I think, because we are active in so many different countries, we could protect, we could try and add all of these different national maps. But the the user experience would become quite convoluted. You know, if I travel a lot using commute, I quite like knowing that I can get my head around the commute render of OpenStreetMap, which is our like, primary map, and then we have satellite map. I like being familiar with it, I like knowing that the sort of routing algorithms will give me consistent results in different places. And that's quite important to ask that we still give people like a quite a not simple, but like, you know, familiar user experience that doesn't become overwhelming or confusing for them. But we really, we really, I should stress that we like, especially in the markets where we are most active in the quality of the OpenStreetMap data is is really amazing. And it's always improving. And it always is, yeah, enough for us to give people a really good experience.

Carlton Reid  31:40  
Maybe it's it's an age thing then because I mean, I grew up with OS maps, maybe people who are younger than me and not so hide bound, you know, as you could you have seen before, you know, people are no longer using paper maps, if I've grown up as a user of paper maps, and I no longer use paper maps, but I use the Ordnance Survey maps on my, my phone, it generally tends to be if I'm like trying to visualise an area, then me will as somebody who has grown up with that kind of Ordnance Survey mind map, I would I would default to Ordnance Survey as that's how I explain, you know, my, my where I am. So to me that's like, wow, I need I need, you know, I need iOS to know exactly where I am. It's great to have the Open Street Map. It's lovely. And the commute version of it. But still like, Yeah, but where am I? And I need that something's very familiar. But that might just be you know, people have an older generation. And that that is obvious to my son to Josh, that had zero relevance. And he probably wouldn't know his way around and OS map, but you don't know his way around, you know, the Komoot map really well. So do you think that's just telling me Jonathan, is this just me? Is it just me because I'm very, very old?

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  33:00  
If I frame my answer, as well, to be careful, I think your Ordnance Survey specifically as a very particular place in the British sort of, well, the psyche of how we spend how we map the country, is equivalent in other countries. I'll give you an example because I sometimes almost feel like as a outdoorsy person who likes Grim Adventures and is British and spends a lot of time exploring the British outside. I, you know, I should be more familiar with Ordnance Survey I confess, I have grown up in London. I didn't kind of do much outdoorsy stuff at school. Honestly, I've never really used Ordnance Survey I am, when when I started to explore, there was sort of these phone based solutions available for me right away sort of 10 years ago, revolving around OpenStreetMap. I do spend a lot of time hiking and walking for leisure. And I've just never found that I that I needed it. I'm super familiar with OpenStreetMap. I'm now an expert in how Komoot works. And so it's just funny, I think it's like different types of people, for sure, especially in the UK, but I would say also globally, is just very different, like different generations who have grown up, especially have the sort of, you know, even for example of Google Maps is sort of omnipresent in our exploring of the world and navigating I'm talking about everything now from public transport to driving. And even like the sort of sat nav, the satnavifacation, I'm sure that's not a word, but how we drive a car around the world has now had a massive influence on on people hiking and cycling. A lot of people would prefer to hike with turn by turn instructions on their phone and find that far more easy to get their head around than navigating from a paper map and pen The people could argue that that's, that's not as good. But I think if you embrace, you know, the quality of the map data and you embrace it, this actually helps a lot more people explore because there are less boundaries or sorry, less. Yeah, sort of less friction points. So less obstacles for them to to get over to outside. I'm not sure that's necessarily such a bad thing.

Carlton Reid  35:23  
And let's go slightly backwards in that. The name Komoot is a pun on commute. So when it was originally developed, was it as an internal city thing? Or was it always, you know, this is meant to explore the world with or was that explore the world with just something that came afterwards and is the name a bit of a misnomer,

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  35:56  
is actually a bit of a misnomer, partly because it's actually like a Komoot is derived from, I think it's called the Valsa dialect, which is the region that the founders are from and it's just like as far as I understand it, a casual greeting means something like simple and practical. And so it's a it's actually slightly misleading, because that's the origin of Komoot, obviously, was

Carlton Reid  36:22  
Nothing at all to do with commute. Well,

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  36:25  
I don't, I mean, it's not sure if it's a good or a bad thing that they're so similar, but that's the origin of the name Komoot. It doesn't, and the sort of the product and the philosophy doesn't come from commuting at all, it's about spending time outside. Of course, you could probably interpret that in many ways. Perhaps this is an alternative way of you know, commuting in nature. As it happens, many people use commute as part of their commute within town because they want to find a more scenic way of getting from A to B. But that's not the that was never the objective of the company and and still that isn't the case.

Carlton Reid  37:05  
Right? Interesting. So I got that wrong that Well,

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  37:10  
I also had one for a very long day if that makes you feel better.

Carlton Reid  37:15  
It does Thank you very much.

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  37:17  
I'm afraid now that you'll really struggle to pronounce Komoot without saying Komoot because it's only a matter of time before for that becomes a riddle itself.

Carlton Reid  37:26  
Well, of course Google isn't I think it's a mathematical term isn't it? So would have been familiar to some people but most people it's not it's not familiar terms. It's just these unusual term. So anything that's slightly unusual is better for a website you know name so the fact that you kind of spelling this and you people think it means there's but doesn't but they remember anyway so that's that's the trick just remembering it. So if it's if it helps some people doing all that must be Komoot Oh, yes, he spelt with a K. And other people's know it as a, you know, a greeting in a certain language. That's also okay. So it's however you get your name remembered?

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  38:03  
Yeah, very much so.

Carlton Reid  38:06  
So at this point, I'd like to actually cut away and let my colleague take over and we'll be back in a few minutes. So take it away, David.

David Bernstein  38:16  
This podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern understand that while a large cargo bike can carry oodles of stuff, many of us prefer something a little more manageable. That's why they've come up with the HSD e-cargobike for folks with big aspirations to go car free, delivered in a compact size, with its rear shock, 280 kilos, and a combined hauling capacity of 180 kilos. The robust new HSD is stable and easy to manoeuvre, even when under load. And with its Bosch eBIKE SYSTEM tested and certified to meet the highest UL standards for electric and fire safety you'll be able to share many worryfree adventures with a loved one whether it's your kiddo or Nan. Visit www.ternbicycles. That's te r n turn to learn more.

Carlton Reid  39:17  
Thanks, David and we are back with with with Jonathan of Komoot we've discovered that it doesn't mean commute and that's it you want it to mean commute. It can mean whatever you want. But Jonathan is he's the community Global Community Manager for Komoot and he's if anybody's going around the world on their bicycle or wandering around the world on the bicycle and they wanted to use commute then then clearly Jonathan would be a good guy to to learn from Andy certainly in a pretty good job for for the kind of company commute is because Jonathan, you went round the world well, we have touched on this but now let's let's explore this in in greater detail. So we've got the Komoot out of the way. Let's let's, let's talk about what where you've come from and why are you working for for Komoot? So we laughed before. Could you mention the fact that when you started, you were much of a cyclist? And I was kind of thinking, Yeah, that's right, because of what the amount of kit you took to begin with is the kind of the classic. And I made this exact same mistake when I started my cycle touring adventures many, many, many years ago, you take too much kit. So you had an enormous amount of kit. And you had a kind of an old school bike, you were you on steel, you're on a bicycle that I would have been familiar with in the 1980s, you know, a Dawes Super Galaxy,  classic touring bike of a while ago. And then you you you've, you've clearly learned a lot. In that time that you're away, but you started reading your blog, you basically picked this bike, you didn't seem to know much about cycling, and then like, a week later, you're, you're off touring the world. So describe it. Have I got that? completely correct, you were pretty much a novice, and then you went cycled around the world.

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  41:18  
That is, that is pretty much it. It's almost embarrassing to admit how little preparation or knowledge I had prior to leaving, but I think I was just blessed with youthful naivety time, and I didn't have high expectations at all, I just wanted an adventure. And there are very few simpler ways of finding one than grabbing a bike and kind of just heading off without a plan.

Carlton Reid  41:44  
Or when it's classic, absolutely classic, the way the way that kind of developed. But let's let's find out what were you doing at the time? How long were you expecting to do? You didn't have any plans at all. We literally tried to go around the world, we didn't know how long was going to take? Or were you just going to cycle and see where you got to and then just what you might give up at some point. What What were you doing? How old were you and what were you doing at the time.

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  42:08  
So if I rewind a little bit further, we touched upon it at the beginning of the call. I grew up I grew up in London, but my my Yeah, my father's British, my mother's Danish. We never cycled or I never cycled for fitness. I never cycled for leisure or for exploring. However, I did grow up riding bikes, it was just very much like a functional tool to get around. London is not bike friendly city. But it's a very practical city to get around and manoeuvre by bicycle. So I grew up cycling. I studied music at university. And when I returned to London, I wasn't entirely sure what to do next, like I'm sure plenty of young people. Now, early 20s have the same sort of existential crisis. I was quite fortunate that I'd been working the whole time I was studying and, and while I had an awful lot of debt, I had somehow ended up with, you know, a few grand in the bank accounts saved up so I kind of had this incredible, I was in this incredibly privileged position where I could kind of yeah, go and explore a little bit without having to take the next the next most serious steps in life. I had always travelled a lot that had been a high priority for me, I had done a bit of long distance walking, I was kind of prepared for another long hike. And then kind of had this this moment, this epiphany I suppose, where I thought well, what about cycling that could be I was really interested in human power, not human powered, rather, I was interested in overland travel. So I became kind of fixated by this idea of, of cycling and then bike touring. And, and these were, I think, a wonderful period on internet where you could find all these incredible blogs that were so relatable and so inspiring and so informative as well. And so the sort of recommendations I found online, people said, those galaxies a good bike, found one on on eBay bought it was a good pannier to take Balsam or leave panniers from Argos and got all of this around Christmas. And I left two weeks later and the plan at the time, I'd been sort of telling my peers and family I was gonna cycle to Australia, but it was it was a it was a pipe dream. But it was kind of a joke as well. It was a good way of like picking something so outlandish that people wouldn't take it seriously at all, which was fair enough given that I had never cycled further than about 10 miles. And so I I set off as I said to go and visit my mother, and I said if if this goes well, I will continue heading east and I had a fantastic first month and I continued writing to Turkey. I became very good at living, I would say extremely cheap on the road. I realised that I could probably get quite a long way. And, and yeah, I ended up going all the way to Australia, by which point I was completely broke. But I got a job and worked for a few months there. And then at that point, I, it became very clear to me that I wanted to continue and make it around the world cycle. And so I did that. And Nick got home, just under three years after having left probably having clocked around 50,000 kilometres, which is kind of a mind boggling number when I say out loud,

Carlton Reid  45:32  
huh? There's some people kind of do that in three weeks. I'm exaggerating a little bit, but they do it fast. And, you know, some Komoot users, Markus Stitz, for instance, did on a single speed, etc, etc. But you took three years. Now, it's not that you weren't doing some big mileages, you know, there was there was, you know, I read on your blog, you know, some days you're doing 145 kilometres. And then other days, clearly, you're, you're just doing nothing, because you're just enjoying the location. So you never had any plan to do it in a certain amount of time, you would just basically ebb and flow. It was just whatever the live through it you you kind of did that.

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  46:17  
Yep. And thank goodness, I personally like that. Because otherwise, I think it would be overwhelming to think about and those people who cycle around the world planning on it or trying to break records, I think it must just require so much. That's no fault and pressure, I really was just kind of going for a ride, there was never any pressure, no expectation. If I went home, whenever I was bored, that would have been fine. No one would have judged me. So I was really making up as I went along. And when I left, I had absolutely no plan to spend anywhere near that long on the road knows that I have any plans to cycle all the way around the world. I am a Tura. At heart cycling at that pace is and I've done a lot of more, sort of a dyno extreme bikepacking. I've done a lot of ultralight cycling, I've even tried a few ultra endurance races. But touring at that kind of pace, for me is just the most kind of beautiful ratio in life. Hmm.

Carlton Reid  47:20  
So notice, you've done the Transcontinental. So you have done these, these, these races, but your forte is basically just pootling along.

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  47:30  
Definitely. And if I if I continued to my cycling trajectory in between cycling around the world, and ending up doing what I'm doing currently at Komoot, when I returned home, having spent all of this time on the road, I actually worked as a bicycle courier in London for a short period, which was there's no better way to re calibrate and reintegrate into city living having spent so much time on the road and to get paid to cycle around delivering stuff and exploring, you know, a city even if it's your home city by bike. And I then started working at a company called Apidura. And I know that you're familiar of a producer, because I believe you interviewed the founder of Apidura in this past few years. And I was there for a few years. And that was really, I mean, obviously made sense. I had a lot of touring experience. But that was in 2018, which was really when this hugely significant kind of shift in interest from bike touring to bikepacking. Which you can interpret in many ways. But, but this this shift was really kind of about to explode, and then get even more exaggerated through the pandemic. So I, I had learned so much about travelling by bike and then I learned so much about the benefit of ultralight cycling and these new packing systems that were so different to taking for panniers on a loaded bike. And so I spent four years at the Jura did the roller coaster that was COVID 19. And and that was sort of the segue that led me to Komoot because Komoothas been so involved with bike packing bikepacking as an established but also an emerging sport in the last few years. Because

Carlton Reid  49:19  
you looking at your your bike setup. Back then with the with the Dawes Galaxy, and the bags you had on that was very much old school. And then I can completely identify with that because I'm clearly old school. And that's where I started. So you know, for panniers at least loads of stuff and caring too much, etc, etc. And you look at that now and you think no, you would have the upward Eurostyle you know you'd have the bike packing bags, you probably wouldn't be carrying quite as much Kip, although some of the place you went to. You know I'm thinking of you like your Australia video. and stuff where you're obviously having to pack. I mean, when you go across the desert, you having to pack you know, an enormous amount of water, you've got to have all of the bug kit, you know, you've got to have all of the stuff that's protecting you from the nasties. So you had some times you have gotten better how many it's not an old school versus new school thing. It's just you have to have a lot of kit in some places and and there's no two ways about that. You know? Even if you're doing a transcontinental style, you know, fast route across somewhere, you would still need a fair bit of of kit. But when you were when you started out, okay, actually good point. Did you finish on the same bike?

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  50:43  
I did, I finished on the same bike and I still ride that same Dawes Galaxy as my day to day pub, one around bike.

Carlton Reid  50:51  
Excellent. So it's but it's like Trigger's Broom, you've got you know, you've replaced tonnes of things, or it's still largely the same bike

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  50:58  
is the same frame, the same fork. And that is nice. All That Remains of the original bike.

Carlton Reid  51:05  
So that's pretty good going well done Dawes Super Galaxy. 

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  51:09  
Yeah, there's a lot to be said. Having modern bike so us so reliable in general. But yeah, I'm very much of the steel fan club. That bike has a lot of battle scars, from various sort of unfortunate collisions with other vehicles or just the road or ice. But it's still yet it's still going strong. And, and you're right, I've had the been very lucky to experience travelling by bike in very different forms from the kind of old school bike touring sense where you carry basically your entire house, to super ultra light, you know, bike travel, where you just have a bivy bag, and you sacrifice all levels of comfort. I've also done a lot of off road sort of mountain bike touring, I think the thing that I find so wonderful about bicycle travel in general, is that there's always a new way to do it. And there's absolutely no right or wrong way of doing it, I think it's very easy to get caught up in the the idea of I must be a lightweight bike packer, or I must do it in this particular way. But really, there's no right or wrong way of doing it. We're all very different, we all travel for very different reasons. And there's different ways of, of packing for it. And, and even if I refer back to commute and the way that we're set up, we give people the tools to, to pick, you know, they can pick the fast road route, if they want, or they can pick the meandering route, they can pick the most direct one, or they can pick the most leisurely one up over the mountains. I think this whole kind of space is really set up for the user to be able to customise you know, what they're doing, and how they're carrying it based on what their objectives is. And I think that's what's really kind of charming about the whole two wheeled travel thing.

Carlton Reid  53:02  
See, I'm a historian of many things, but including cycling, and Thomas Stevens, if you hadn't if you've come across that name in in the past, but he was basically a big wheel rider. So what would people would call Penny farthings. And this is 1880s. And the kit he had, the amount of kit he had and how it was packed is very much like bikepacking You know, it's the big pannier bags, that's pretty much the 70s and 80s thing, you know, really, really old and I was calling that old school, but genuinely old school. So 1880 stuff is you know, Apidura-style, incredibly lightweight, hard to carrying anything at all kind of touring. So that's that's kind of where cycle touring started. And we've kind of come full circle in many ways. And so people are going out there with incredibly minimal bits of of kit and somehow surviving. So when you did your your your your cirumnavigation, and you had all this enormous kit, where you jettison bits as you're going along. And just in case you didn't you don't really need this you pick it up basically you became an expert. Just cook you're having to carry this stuff. And because you haven't to carry it, you quickly learn I don't need that Chuck it

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  54:30  
Yeah, and I did get rid of an awful lot of stuff. I had some some very questionable belongings with me. Like I had my my, I mean, I was on quite a budget when I left and and while I was going so it's sort of just what am I sacrificing a bit of weight for a cheaper option, but I had like my, my mother's old coat which was this like not anything resembling a down jacket, this monstrous thing that took up half a pannier. I had a pair of jeans with me to wear like when I was off the bike. So much unpractical. kind of clothing thing, I even had like a sort of smart casual shirt, I thought I would like to dress up like a non bike person when I was in town for a weekend, or things that I would never do now. And I did get rid of a lot of this stuff slowly. And as time went on out kind of improved things a bit as they broke. But then there was a lot of things that I wouldn't change, like I travelled with, I mean, I had like a cutting board with me so that I could chop vegetables up when I was camping, and had little film canisters, filmed of spices and a proper source bird. And so I could like, eat well, and, and I wouldn't, again, a lot of bikepackers could turn a nose up at that and think God's this person's just sort of like a moving kitchen. But I you know, for such a long period of the bike, I wouldn't, I wouldn't change that at all. And on and I know that the sort of, especially at the moment with the sort of influences bikepacking has had on on taking existing cyclists and making them realise what they can achieve on the bike. I still am a big believer in taking a bit more stuff if your legs can handle it. And if you're not in a hurry, you know, riding up a mountain with the extra weight on your bag, it's not going to do your fitness any any disservice. If you can get up it. I think a bit of both comfort is quite okay. And while in general, I'm a minimalist these days, I think there's plenty of space for carrying a few extra luxury items whenever you're travelling.

Carlton Reid  56:30  
But did you come back? Not you but did the bike and the kit come back a lot lighter. So by the time you'd finish, because I know you you'd have to badmouth the bags that you had. But you certainly changed your your your bags halfway around because of various reasons. And other notes on your blog, you do kind of, say a few choice words about the brand you had. But did you come back with? Did you come out with a lot more lightweight than you went? On much more lightweight?

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  57:00  
I would say I might have shaved off like a kilo. Like in general, I pretty much had the same amount of stuff with me. And yeah, it couldn't have bothered me that much. Because otherwise I would have gotten rid of an awful lot of stuff. So no, I actually, I actually think I returned with a fairly similar amount of weight on my bike. That's

Carlton Reid  57:22  
interesting, because that's totally opposite to the way I did it. So when I started out, I had so much kit, I had like a wooden hammer for hammering in the tent pegs I had, like, we just get a rock, you know, I had so many things that I just I was chucking stuff you know, from the very, very start and you've kind of quickly got used to you know, what was necessary and what wasn't. And you don't know that until you're actually on the road. So I was ended up with with a lot less kit. So I taught myself minimalism, just because, cuz, whereas you're saying you don't, it doesn't matter, you can just pedal up a hill, I was the opposite as like, No, I'm not the crane brothers. Famously, when they went up Kilimanjaro and their stuff, they they would, you know, drill holes in toothbrushes, I was never that extreme. But I would definitely want to be lightweight, as much as possible. And so I am kind of interested in taking a chopping board. So I wouldn't have done that. This is interesting about how different people approach these things. And like, I have come down to the minimalist and caring such a little like I wouldn't, personally I wouldn't, not even going on like a camping trip. Now. I won't take cooking equipment, for instance, I will generally buy what I need, and eat that and then have to then scrambled to get, you know, fresh supplies. And I know it's much more efficient to take rice and what have you and then be able to boil this up. But to me just carrying any amount of cooking equipment to me in my head, just that's too much weight, I can do this much lighter. And clearly you're you're not you're a different each to their own, isn't it? It's just different people want to do different things. And that's fine. Definitely.

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  59:22  
And we need to make sure that we always sort of accommodate that. Because people are so different. And and I think it's difficult, you know, in life, for example, in the cycling industry, it's a consumer driven industry, we need to convince people we brands need to convince people that they need to do things in a different way or a better way or an improved way. But really all of it comes down to like giving people options so they can do things in the way that they want to do it. And you know, there is absolutely no reason why one type of bike travelling is superior than another. They are yeah complete The different ways of doing things for different people. So ever people navigate in one particular way, if they choose one kind of route, it's not about that it's about giving people the options. And the same, like if someone wants to go on a road bike really fast with nothing on their bike, that's totally fine. And if someone wants to chuck for massive panniers on their bike, they'll probably be a bit slower. But that's, but that's totally okay.

Carlton Reid  1:00:26  
And so what are you doing now? During what what? How would you describe your riding, and your adventuring now,

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  1:00:33  
my, I still try. And when I travel, I always want to be on a bike. If I'm not on a bike, I've fully compromised a little bit. But I also like spending time walking around being a normal person, especially if I'm on holiday with my with my girlfriend. But I do try and have one or two bike trips, big bike trips a year. Over the last few years, I've developed a sort of real love for exploring, I guess, capturing the essence of a big adventure closer to home. But in general, I'm sort of a casual cyclist I like to get out for provides every once a week if I can. I think working at QMU is quite is wonderful, but a bit dangerous for someone like me who enjoys spending time looking at maps, because the list of places to visit is evergrowing. But commute has this amazing interface. We have this route planner, which is wonderful gives people all these advanced tools to make informed decisions about where they're going and how they get there. But we also have this discovery interface where you can have these these created routes for you based on your sort of parameters, the smart, this kind of smart solutions, and does have a really big impact on me, since we launched it last year, I'm much more inclined to take a train out from London to a random station and say, load it up on commute and say, Hey, I'm in a new area. I've got three hours, give me something. So while I'm going on less epic adventures, and finding new kind of creative ways of exploring familiar places. I'm doing that a lot at the moment. And I'm extremely excited about doing more of that as the weather improves.

Carlton Reid  1:02:19  
And is that a curated thing? Or is that an algorithm thing. So

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  1:02:24  
it's a kind of a combination of stuff. commute, we have so much user data, because we have millions and billions and billions of of users, the number of recorded tours is kind of such a big number. It's it's kind of hard to get your head around. So we're able to give people these. These like personalised suggestions so I can take the train out if I'm with a no fun with friends go out for a walk at the weekend, I can look at which train line takes me to a village that looks somewhere Scenic. I don't own a car. So I can just say I'm at this station, it will see where the people who use Komoot are heading when they record their tours. So it's very easy to get a feel for where people actually walk. Where do people go for their recreational weekend straws. And it will give me a clever or suitable solution to get kind of onto that, navigate the route and then return to the train station. And it's incredibly clever how it works. If I go on where I live now and say I want to go for a four hour cycle, starting for I live. I've lived in London for a long time and I've cycled in London for a long time. I know what all of the common roadie routes are that people take wherever they're going off to Windsor or Kent or sorry, Essex and, and if I let Komoot do this for me automatically. It's kind of amazing how it basically gives me the routes that people most commonly do. But it won't just give me three or four options, it will give me hundreds of options, which means I can go out for a new ride. And I can always find something that's slightly different to what I've done in the past. And I find that really inspiring for my, like motivation to explore.

Carlton Reid  1:04:12  
And then if you were in Iran, would it do the same? Or was it does it need that you know, lots and lots of people have done this before or kind of just glower three people who've done this, okay, that'll be the route we curate for this. This person has just ended up in Iran, for instance, such as yourself a few years ago. Yeah, you

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  1:04:28  
need to have the use of data because it's based on what people actually do. So if we didn't have that it wouldn't we only want to do it when we're confident we give people a good experience. Otherwise, no one benefits from it. You can obviously still use the route panoramic, your own tool in Iran. The what I would say in certain regions where there is less user data, we have an editorial team that make it they're the the we create the content so we'll find what are the classic like walking routes based on like variety of sources, we have an extensive editorial team that will add this content. And they will add suitable highlights, which is what we call the contributions that the community creates to add on to the map. So that this is an amazing viewpoint, this is a great cafe to stop out if you're a cyclist, this is a really beautiful, rich line stroll. So we will help to populate the map so that the people who are used to kind of a circular thing, the better the map data is, the better that the attributions are on commute, the more local people will find, have a good user experience. And then the more they use it, the more they'll contributes. And that's how we kind of launch in in new places where there's less of an active community, if that makes sense.

Carlton Reid  1:05:48  
Yes, your heat mapping then, in effect, so you're you're working out where people are going, and you see you perhaps, you know, and your your fellow app. This this ecosystem we talked about before, you know, where people are cycling, you know, like the Strava, type heatmap.

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  1:06:06  
Exactly. So we can I mean, it's all obviously, like, it's only when people choose to share stuff publicly. It's all like completely anonymized. But you know, we have so much data, we're just trying to harness it. And yes, we do know where people cycle we have that information that's great is quite hard to sort of digest. But if you can take that and turn it into something actionable, the end result for the user is that they can say, I'm a beginner, I've got two hours, I've got a new phone mount to go on my handlebars, I can select this tool, I can just press go. And I can head off and have an amazing bike ride for two hours. And we can be really confident that it's going to be suitable because that's what other people are doing when they, for example, select bike touring as a sport type. And the same for hiking, we won't have people won't be walking down the road, because we'll only be looking at data that's come from hikers. It's a very Yeah, it's an incredible solution is very clever. And I think it's just a great way of mobilising people, whether they're like really experienced cyclists who are just looking for something new and and bored of doing the same kind of loop over and over again, or newbies who need their handheld a little bit. And once I have a solution that they can just go off and do with five minutes of planning instead of an hour of planning for a two hour excursion.

Carlton Reid  1:07:33  
Now right now the bike and I don't know how much you know, this, but the bike industry, certainly in the UK, and in many other places in the world is is suffering just incredibly bad. It's just it is it is dire out there at retail. It's dire out there for suppliers, you know, post COVID, we basically just got a huge, huge, low a complete slump. You know, I did a story on Forbes of the day talking about how to 40 year low in the UK. You know, the last time we were as low as this in bike sales was in 1985. So 39 years. And that's that's that's pretty poor. Do. Do you recognise that? Is that something you can look at and say, oh, people aren't writing as much? Or is that just purely at retail and people still riding that is not buying?

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  1:08:24  
Is a good? It's a good question. I actually saw that Forbes article and is it's definitely bleak reading. But I've worked in the bike industry for a number of years. It's like, I know many people who share the same kind of anecdotal experiences that things are changing. It is a problem with retail and definitely like have these hangover kind of effects from the pandemic that still making it really hard for people to forecast well. And, and it's just been so unpredictable for a few years now. Komoot is lucky because we don't deal with a physical product. But we are subject to the same the same kind of you know, these kind of cultural shifts, whether people are collectively interested in exploring or cycling, we're not immune to that we might not have the same issues that a bike manufacturer has, but we still get impacted by the same changes. And it's hard for us to predict these major shifts in usage in the same way that it's hard for anyone in the cycling industry. One thing that I think is is great for Komoot. Well, I think partly compared to a lot of physical stuff in the cycling space. It's quite an affordable price point and you can do an awful lot for free. So that's less of a barrier when people have less disposable income. We are international so if one you know we have we're active in plenty of markets, but we are, I guess subject to like, international shifts in usage. rather than, you know, locked in and reliant on one particular place, and also, we have a product that is set up for different sport types. So we can, you know, we can we're not sort of reliant on we're not just a road cycling company. So if people overnight decided not interested in road cycling, that would be very unfortunate, it would be a very sad thing. But we have plenty of other you know, markets and user types. And even within road cycling, for example, there's people who've been, you know, the people who've been road cycling for many years in Italy decide to stop Well, there's an entire, you know, there's there's millions of people who are maybe new to the sport, or could become interested in the sport, if you approach them in the right way. So yeah, it's particularly in the UK is quite a bleak landscape at the moment, but I think it's quite lucky in in where we are positioned, we're not completely Yeah, stuck in the middle of that.

Carlton Reid  1:11:03  
So tell us how much it costs to go for the pro version. And what you get with the pro version, better than just going for the free version.

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  1:11:16  
So I will try and do a concise summary of our pricing, you can do an awful lot on commute for free, you can find these routes that I referred to in our discover section, you can build our own routes, a lot of the functionality is there for free users. And when you sign up, you get free region bundle, so that you can explore a particular region and these region bundles, you can either purchase like an individual region, so like London, perhaps would be one that's gonna be like a one those all like one time purchases. So you can buy region for £3.99 and region bundle a collection of them for 8.99. Or you can get the whole world pack for 29.99. Same whether it's pound sterling, euros or or USD. And when you have a region unlocked you, you can then use offline maps. So you can take the download the map, or you can follow the tour without needing internet, you also get voice navigation. And you also get turn by turn navigation, whether you're doing on your phone or more on your cycling computer or smartwatch. So those are all one time purchases. And then we also have a premium, like pricing tier, which is 4.99 a month 59.99 for the year. And then we premium, you get a whole host of extra features and functionality, you get the whole world available offline. So those features I mentioned earlier, you get all of that included, you also are able to make collections, which means you can group together, either your planned tours. By that I mean that your plan routes, so you want to do hiking or cycling, or once you've completed so like if I cycled around the world, I could add all of the daily bits into one nice collection to show that my car five, I've cycled while I was away. You also get sports specific overlays, which I referred to earlier. So you can overlay the light, long distance hiking or cycling routes, you get on tour weather, which is really cool, you can see where you're estimated to be when the sunsets or when the rain arrives, or the winds looking like you get live tracking, you get the multi day planner, which I also refer to earlier. If you have a really long route, you can divide it into like segments. And as accommodation stops for each, you know, each daily part. And finally, you get 3D maps. So they're all a bunch of features that are really amazing, really cool. I guess we pitch it as for people who wants to go further, so people who who require a little bit of extra extra features, and we're constantly trying to add new features to enrich that.

Carlton Reid  1:14:07  
Great. So to wrap up, give us a URL. I mean, it's reasonably obvious. I agree. I'll even spelled out during that during the recording now, however, give us the URL, and then the URL for for where people can have now obviously put in the show notes. But where people can can follow your your adventures in 2015 through 2017. And then you've done subsequent rides and you're updating your blog for a while so so to basically give us your URL for the blog and for Komoot.

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  1:14:39  
We can spell out one more time for luck. It's just On the web browser. You can also find the app on both iOS and Android. If you want to give it a go and get started myself You can find me on LinkedIn. If you can manage to spell my surname, you can add it into the podcast notes. I have a link there to my Komoot profile, should you be interested in following my adventures there? My blog is called JKB's bike ride, which is Jk B. S, my initials. If you want to read some of my, my rambling thoughts from a long time ago, all my photography from the many bike trips I've been on. And if you find me there, you can, you can find me on other social media platforms. And I would just say if you have any, if anyone listening has any questions about the things that we've discussed today, or any questions about commute, or bike touring travel in general, you're very welcome to send me an email at Always happy to hear from people and talk about adventures

Carlton Reid  1:15:55  
during this time. Excellent. Thank you very much. Now, as expected, this was meant to be about Komoot. It was it was Komoot. And Jonathan it was like this afternoon to measure exactly how much is is how much was Komoot and how much was Jonathan. But I kind of expected that as soon as you know that. I want to interview you then it's like, Okay, we're gonna be talking about bike touring. And we're bringing Komoot here and there. So that hopefully I mean, you are very clever, you are dragging commute back in as much as possible, which is absolutely fine. And good, because that's what ostensibly what we're meant to be talking about. Anyway, that's been fascinating. And thank you ever so much for for well, we recorded this and it was an hour and 16 minutes, and it flew by. So Jonathan, thank you ever so much.

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  1:16:41  
That was a real pleasure. I really enjoyed. Yeah, I really enjoyed going through whole range of subjects with you.

Carlton Reid  1:16:48  
And we could have I mean, I could have gone blog by blog posts and blog posting and tell me about the flies here in Australia and stuff. But we didn't but I do recommend people go read your blog, look at your videos, and work out whether Do you really want to cycle around the world. Or maybe Jonathan's bug experiences and farting monks and stuff will will actually inspire you to go and do your own stuff. So anyway, thank you very much.

Jonathan Kambskarð-Bennett  1:17:10  
It was a good teaser. Yeah, thank you very much for your time.

Carlton Reid  1:17:13  
Thanks for listening to Episode 348 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast brought to you in association with Tern Bicycles. Show notes and more can be found at The next episode will be a chat with Tom Knights of Strava Metro. That show will be out next weekend. But meanwhile, get out there and ride.





Direct download: The_Spokesmen_348.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:33pm MDT