It's called Strava art, and it uses GPS.
Your smartphone's built-in GPS system is great for helping you navigate from point A to point B, but did you know that it can also help you realize your latent artistic abilities? In fact, in the world of bicycling, GPS-aided drawing even has a name: Strava art, and bicycler Stephen Lund has been doing it for years—churning out wild creations (like this giraffe hijacking) and custom messages (like this charity message in aid of MS research), just for kicks.
It all started in 2015, when he Strava-carved a Happy New Year message in Victoria, BC. "My Strava handiwork got enthusiastic kudos from many members of my cycling club," he explains on his website. "And since I like kudos and praise almost as much as I like cycling and creative pursuits, I decided to embrace Strava artwork as a way both to spend some of my free time and recharge my creative batteries."
Here's how it works: Strava is a social networking platform for athletes who are looking for an easy way to record and share their athletic activities and accomplishments. By linking the platform to your phone's GPS system, Strava allows athletes to maps, record, and share their bike routes.
Lund-level artistic success doesn't just happen, though—creating recognizable drawings and lettering takes lots of carefully planning. In an interview with Bicycling magazine, Lund explained that he pre-maps his rides, sketching out routes on paper or in Photoshop, taking topographical features into consideration. "Anywhere you are, there's creative potential," he told the mag, while pointing out that patience is key. "Most of the pieces take about 70 kilometers to do." Lund recommends starting Strava art with words, which are more straightforward to plan and easier to execute on shorter rides, especially in a gridded urban area.
To keep up with Lund's newest creations, check out his Strava profile right here.