What Is A Strava KOM – And How Can You Beat Them?

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reviewed by Ben Gibbons
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When Strava was first released way back in 2009, few cyclists could have imagined just how ubiquitous it would become in the community.

On the surface, it was much the same as any other activity tracker app available at the time, just with more social networking features.

It didn’t take long for Strava to take over the cycling community, mostly through word of mouth between cyclists.

One of its unique features that really stood out amongst cyclists was the Strava KOM/QOM feature. This highlights the fastest recorded time by a Strava user over a particular stretch of road, known as a segment.

If you want to grab one of these KOMs/QOM, then read on to find the best tips and tricks. In this article, we’ll be covering:

  • KOM Meaning Explained
  • What is a Strava KOM/Strava QOM?
  • How to Get a Strava KOM/QOM: 6 Pro Tips
  • KOMs Aren’t Everything

Let’s jump into it!

Man wearing blue top and black shorts cycles uphill with the words "What Is A Strava KOM?" in the foreground.

KOM meaning Explained

The cycling term “KOM” is an acronym for “King of the Mountains“, a reference to the secondary competition within the Grand Tours that rewards the best climber in the race. “QOM” is exactly the same, standing for “Queen of the Mountains”.

In Strava, roads and routes are broken down into “segments”. When you ride one of these segments, your time is recorded and added to a leaderboard.

The title of Strava KOM/QOM is given to the rider which the fastest time on a given segment. The fastest male cyclist will be awarded the Strava KOM, while the fastest female rider will be awarded the Strava QOM.

Tour de France “King of the Mountains”

Outside of the famous maillot jaune, the polka dot jersey of the Tour de France is the most prestigious and recognizable.

Unlike the general classification, the King of the Mountains jersey is determined by points rather than time.

Each climb has a points allocation for the first few riders across the line at the summit and at the end of the three weeks, the rider with the most points goes home with the famous Polka Dot jersey.

Three cyclists cycle uphill wearing a yellow top and standing out of the saddle.

What is a Strava KOM/Strava QOM?

A “segment” can be created by any user, and unlike the real King of the Mountains competition in the Grand Tours, a segment doesn’t have to be uphill.

It can be any stretch of road or trail, long or short.

If your route happens to cover a segment, then at the end of your ride, when you upload your data to Strava, you can see how you compare to the other cyclists who have also ridden over that segment.

If the cycling gods were smiling down on your ride, then you may have won a famous yellow crown to sit proudly on your Strava profile.

If you use the free version of Strava, then you will still be able to compete in the segments and win the KOM/QOM – but unless you are in the top ten, you will not be able to see your full placing on the leaderboard.

You will also not have access to the full analytics that can really help to drill down on your performance and see where you fell short of winning the segment.

Man wearing black top and grey shorts stands at the top of a mountain with his hands raised in the air.

How to Get a Strava KOM/QOM: 6 Pro Tips

With the popularity of Strava, getting a KOM these days is increasingly difficult.

More cyclists than ever are using Strava to log their rides, and the KOM feature tends to bring out the innate competitiveness that resides in all cyclists, ready to burst out when they clip into the pedals.

There is no prize for nabbing a Strava KOM. No special jersey. But, they are coveted among cyclists.

Having your name at the top of a local segment is guaranteed to give you bragging rights.

So how can you get one of these digital crowns, aside from just being the best cyclist?

Well, there are some tricks of the trade that can help you:

#1: Target a Segment

If you really want a specific Strava KOM, perhaps on a famous climb in your local area, then you are going to have to target it specifically.

Research the segment, one that suits your riding abilities, so you know exactly where it starts and ends, using landmarks on the road if possible.

This way, you can time your effort to put in the maximum power across the segment.

Some head unit devices can also display live Strava segments and even show your progress against the incumbent KOM/ QOM. This can be a major assistance in timing your efforts.

Once you know where the segment starts, you should plan on carrying some speed into the segment rather than starting from a standing start.

Don’t stop when you get to the end of the segment but carry on for a few meters as the GPS is not completely accurate, and you could find that you took your foot off the gas just a fraction too soon.

In a world of marginal gains, this small drop in power could be the difference between winning and losing that KOM.

A male cyclists performs stretching exercises in a field with his bike lying beside him.

#2: Warm-up

If you have your heart on a specific local segment, then don’t think you are going to get anywhere near the top of the leaderboard by attacking it with a long ride already in your legs.

Instead, warm up your legs and hit those targeted segments.

#3: Embrace Your Inner Meteorologist

There is a saying in the Strava community… no one ever wins a Strava KOM in a headwind.

If you are serious about winning a KOM on a segment, then make sure you time your effort for a day when there is no headwind. Even better if you have the free assist from a tailwind!

The UCI is not going to come knocking at your door, demanding that you hand back your KOM.

In fact, on particularly windy days, it is almost a certainty that my phone will ping, alerting me that someone has stolen one of my (very few) KOMs.

#4: Work On Your Sprint Train

You can also employ your cycling friends to grab that crown.

Obviously, you will have to reward them with cake at the café stop, much like a Grand Tour winner usually gives his prize money to the team of riders that helped him along the way.

If it is a relatively flat and long segment, then you need to act like a sprinter.

Use your mates to shield you from the wind as they go full gas for as long as they can hold on, each one dropping off when they can no longer stand the screaming in their legs.

If you have timed it right, by the time they have all taken their turn and you have your nose in the wind, you should be able to smash it to the end of the segment and take the prize!

A large group of cyclists cycle along a road with a rider wearing green at the front.

#5: Stay Away From The Pros

There was a great segment near my house that I had spent years targeting on my commute.

It suited my riding style down to a tee; a short, sharp, steep climb with just enough road before I blew up.

To cut a long story short, with a fair wind and good legs, I just about snatched the KOM. That little crown had never felt so good. Even better was the fact that I held onto that title for quite a long time.

That was until the powers that be at British Cycling decided to host a stage of Tour of Britain in my backyard.

Great if you want to see your cycling heroes pass your front door, terrible if you planned on holding onto your KOM.

On a totally innocuous piece of road on a bumbling stage, the professionals obliterated my KOM without even breaking a sweat.

So, if you want a KOM and plan on holding it stay clear of any routes that the pros use in racing or for training. They are simply on another level altogether.

Likewise, if you see Tadej Pogačar or one of his Tour pals already hold the KOM (yes, Pogi really does record his Tour de France rides on Strava), that’s probably not the segment to target!

A blue car with bikes on the roof drives down a paved forest road.

#6: Flag Cheaters

This is cycling, so it should come as no surprise to those that have had to live through the dark days of the peloton that people even cheat to get Strava KOMs.

Whilst some of the tactics on this list fly dangerously close to what purists might call cheating, we prefer to think of them as marginal gains.

Driving along a segment to get a Strava KOM is definitely cheating, though. It is usually easy to identify this and Strava does a fairly decent job of automatically flagging these rides and discounting them from the leaderboard.

You can also flag rides that look suspicious.

My rule of thumb is that if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.

Sometimes it is not even intentional, as the rider may have forgotten to switch off their Garmin at the end of a ride, stuck the bike in the car, and then driven home, destroying countless segments along the way with not a care in the world.

If I were the CEO of Strava, then I would insist that to get a place on the leaderboard then, you also need at least heart rate data to prove that you were going deep and not just sitting in your car.

A mountain biker cycles up a gravel path with pine trees and mountains in the background.

KOMs/QOMs Aren’t Everything…

Whilst that little yellow digital crown is a nice dopamine hit after a tough day in the saddle, it is not the be-all and end-all.

It is not the reason most of us love getting on our bikes and hitting the roads.

Unlike the pro’s we don’t get to ride on closed roads. No matter how much you covet that KOM/QOM, you should not ride dangerously in traffic and through lights to get it.

If you have to do any of these things, then it is a poorly designed segment and not one you want to target anyway.

Descending is an important but dangerous skill in cycling, one that should be worked on over time as you gain experience.

We don’t recommend pushing yourself to win these downhill anti-KOMs.

Always ride within your limits, and remember that no little yellow crown is worth the risk of crashing on a sketchy downhill segment.

enjoyed this Guide to strava kOMs/QOMs? check out more from the BikeTips experts below!

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David rediscovered his love of two wheels and Lycra on an epic yet rainy multi-day cycle across Scotland's Western Isles. The experience led him to write a book about the adventure, "The Pull of the Bike", and David hasn't looked back since. Something of an expert in balancing cycling and running with family life, David can usually be found battling the North Sea winds and rolling hills of Aberdeenshire, but sometimes gets to experience cycling without leg warmers in the mountains of Europe. David mistakenly thought that his background in aero-mechanical engineering would give him access to marginal gains. Instead it gave him an inflated and dangerous sense of being able to fix things on the bike.

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