You reportedly got your position at STRAVA after you pointed out a coding error. Was it just a coincidence or were you trying to find work at other companies this way?
It happened a little differently, actually. It wasn’t exactly a coding error, but basically that the STRAVA app was glitching on my phone at one point. So, I reported it to them with a blunt comment on Twitter. One of my [now] colleagues wrote back to me and we started talking about it in depth. Today, I probably wouldn’t choose to do it so bluntly; I know that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a developer error, but an unfortunate coincidence. Software is very complicated these days, and fixing seemingly small things may not always be easy. I would definitely report it, but I would probably show more empathy (laughs).
Can you tell us exactly what you are in charge of and what it is like to attend the morning meetings at 6 pm?
I am officially the Senior Software Engineer 2 – Android. In translation, this means that I am a programmer who takes care of the development of our mobile application. Primarily Android, but as I gain experience, I see that the overlap with iOS and servers is growing. In the last few months, I’ve written code mostly for the backend. Furthermore, in STRAVA we have several verticals, where each developer is in charge of a certain part of the whole product. I am currently in the Growth team and specifically in its Feed subvertical. I have been working from the Czech Republic for over 4 years, with the rest of the team in the USA. With a time difference between Prague and San Francisco of 9 hours, that’s why the “morning” meetings are in the evening for me. Before COVID, I flew to the USA several times a year, now I haven’t been there for almost two years. But it works well; I don’t mind those evening meetings. I have peace of mind during the day. The huge physical and time distance gives me a lot of flexibility, but on the other hand, there’s a great need for personal responsibility. Fortunately, I have a great wife who understands that sometimes I stare at the screen instead of talking to her when I’m too focused.
You also worked directly at the STRAVA headquarters in California. What did you take away from the environment where the most popular sports social network is being developed? Was your normal day different from your previous work experience?
The common mindset that, “There’s always time for your favorite activity,” was definitely a bit of a novelty. I think it was hanging on the wall somewhere; even on the fridge, the words, “Raceweight, yo,” were written. I was lucky with a lot of flexibility [at previous jobs], but when I ran to work or ran during the day and came back sweaty after 15 km, [my coworkers] looked at me a bit like I was crazy. At STRAVA this suddenly felt completely normal.
How much sports interest is there at the California headquarters? Did you have the opportunity to take part in group rides or other activities? Did you get to know the surroundings, and especially the team, better?
During the day we’d make plans on Slack and the next morning at 6 we would meet at the “trailhead” behind the Golden Gate Bridge and go running or cycling. Then, it was straight to work and a race to the shower before the first meeting. Every Wednesday there was a “Workout of The Week” at noon, a joint interval run. There were also regular bike rides. But it’s definitely not the case that every STRAVA employee performs at the national team level and spends 20 hours a week training. Nor were my FTP or my 10 km running time part of the interview questions. As the company grows, this culture seems to be fading away a little bit. I think it’s inevitable. After all, not everyone is a world class athlete and we strive to build Strava for a wide spectrum of athletes. Every athlete belongs at Strava. During my activities, I met a lot of super athletes, among my colleagues and people outside STRAVA. Sporting there is a natural choice; there are ideal conditions for it. After just a few jaunts in Marin Headlands, it became clear why it was the cradle of MTB and many other innovations in the wider world of sports.
“During my activities, I met a lot of super athletes, among my colleagues and people outside STRAVA. Sporting there is a natural choice; there are ideal conditions for it. After just a few jaunts in Marin Headlands, it became clear why it was the cradle of MTB.”
Is there a difference in the perception of amateur or professional cycling in California, compared to the Czech Republic?
Professional cycling in the form we know in Europe is practically non-existent in the USA. Instead, there is a very structured system for amateurs with performance categories. Amateur races certainly hold high prestige and there are also very popular criterium races. However, I’ve never ridden in a bike race there, so I don’t dare to evaluate it more deeply. I’ve only done a few triathlons, and I actually rode one Gran Fondo. It was such an organized ride; we had start numbers and things moved along quickly. There is a great story connected to this. On the first big hill, I wanted to test the others; there were about five of us left. Before the horizon, such a small guy on a gravel bike with a telescopic seatpost found some extra fuel and pushed forward. In 2016, I didn’t quite understand what it was all about, but it’s normal today. Even after this point, he blasted onward and then there were only three of us together. The ride had two routes, one gravel and one road. One took the gravel, so he parted from us. There were two of us left, but then the tracks joined again and we met at the aid station. On the last big hill, the gravel rider left us both behind in the dust. It wasn’t until after the race that I found out that the guy was Levi Leipheimer. He obviously stays fit even in retirement.
How did you find Repete and where did the idea to make a STRAVA-themed bike come from?
I knew about Repete through Honza Kraus from Dukla, but it was actually Zbyněk Hraše who really introduced me to it. He also went through what I did this year–that is, the transition from a carbon road bike to a steel gravel model. Honestly, at first I was in doubt, but when we rode off and I saw his bike, it started to get to me. Then my road broke down and I needed a new frame. I was only a step away from jumping completely on the gravel wave. As for the design of the bike, I first asked the boys at Repete whether it would be possible to place, for example, the STRAVA logo or an inscription on the frame. In the end, we designed and made a completely custom paint job.
You have had quite a racing career; how much did this era affect your view of cycling and what were your criteria for choosing a bike?
This could probably be a short book rather than a single question and answer (laughs). I raced bikes from age 10 to 25. Naturally, it affected me a lot. As for the choice of bike–until recently, I had 23mm tubular tires on light wheels, a 53×39 crankset with an 11-25 cassette, and rim brakes, of course. The journey to the 40mm tubeless tires, single chainring with 10-44 cassette, and disc brakes was difficult and full of long discussions with others and myself. But at Repete, it just fascinated me that, despite all these “concessions to modern trends,” it is still a performance-oriented bike, with no redundancies, functionally designed with an amazing sense of detail. Last but not least, the whole concept of a tailor-made bike suits me. If I bought a bike at a shop, probably only the frame and maybe a groupset would remain in use; I would change the rest gradually. And the fact that my bike was made by hand in Prague, Czech Republic, by guys I know, is just the icing on the cake.
In addition to regular rides with friends, you like taking multi-day bikepacking trips. Do you already have some plans for next year or tips on where to go?
A few years back, if I imagined myself hanging bags on a bike and going on a trip, I would laugh. After all those years full of racing, I’m a bit addicted to speed and I can’t just settle into a leisurely trip tempo, but I’m working on it. The bicycle is an ideal means of transport. It’s amazingly simple and effective for crossing long distances. All this, in direct connection with nature. I do not have specific plans for next year, but I would like to go from Řevnice to Lago di Garda. I’ll send Terka [my wife] and our children there by car; if they leave three days later, we’ll just meet for an espresso and ice cream.
Production: Robin Fišer
Photo: Pepa Dvořáček
Text: Adam Šimek, Gabriela Brestičová, Robin Fišer
Translation: Elizabeth Mills