Last year, U.K. cyclist Anthony Hoyte from Cheltenham wowed the cycling world with a massive Strava art snowman, which he created by tracking his ride over 88 miles to outline the body, top hat, stick arms, carrot nose, and all its other components.
This year, he took to the streets to ring in the holiday season with a giant Strava Santa Claus. Hoyte covered just over 40 miles to create a downright Rockwellian rendition of the jolly old elf.
Hoyte doesn’t save his artistic endeavors for the holidays, however. Since he started “drawing” in 2016, he’s created about a dozen works of Strava art, including one titled Fowl Play 2 – now with 50% more plumage, featuring a series of birds, which he submitted to the 2017 Bristol Cycling Festival Strava art competition (yep, that is indeed a thing). He took home first place.
These are not small undertakings: Frosty took 10 hours to complete. They’re not necessarily easy rides, either. Fowl Play 2 took him seven and a half hours: He covered 51 miles and racked up nearly 4,000 feet of climbing as he outlined more than a half a dozen birds.
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“I do about four a year,” said Hoyte, who describes himself as pretty average recreational and club cyclist. “Each one takes quite a while to plan, and my focus is quality and not quantity!”
He shared with us a bit about his inspiration and his process.
Bicycling: What inspired you to get into the art of Strava?
Anthony Hoyte: I’d seen others doing it, notably Stephen Lund in Canada, and thought, “I’m going to try that!”
I have a creative background—I trained as a designer—but I don’t use that in my work, so I’m always on the lookout for creative outlets. My first “drawing” was pretty rudimentary, but I’ve kept at it, and I enjoy the challenge of trying to find them. If I can entertain others at the same time, great.
What goes into the planning? Is there some sort of overlay first? Or do you just sit down with a map and start looking for shapes in existing roads?
I study Google and other online maps and look for shapes in the existing roads—a bit like spotting pictures in clouds.
If something jumps out at me—like perhaps a road that looks like a nose—then I’ll try and find eyes and so on. If nothing jumps out, I’ll try somewhere else, but I’ll keep coming back to places to see what I see.
Turning the satellite map on and off, and rotating and zooming it can sometimes help. Once the route starts to take shape, I use Bing and Streetview to take a closer look, and to check I can actually cross a junction, or to see if there are any pedestrian paths I can use, or even to check the opening times of a supermarket car park I want to cross.
Are you cutting through people’s yards to get the perfect eyeball?
Wherever possible, I stick to the road pattern, although I do cut through parks and car parks, or even university campuses if I need to.
A couple of times I have “paused and resumed” Strava, which is where you pause the recording, cycle to another point, and then resume, to create a straight line between the two points, when I had to get around road closures or unforeseen obstacles. But it feels like cheating, and I plan all my routes to be continuous line drawings.
Do you do it all within your home area? Or do you hunt other regions to find the perfect roads for a giant snowman?
I live just outside Cheltenham, which isn’t a huge place. I’ve done a couple of drawings here, but it’s much easier with a heavy concentration of roads. So, I’ve ended up visiting other cities in the U.K.—Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, London and Sheffield so far—some of which I’ve managed to combine with visits for work or to see friends and family.
I’d love to try to do some internationally. I imagine the more regular grid patterns of U.S. cities would present a different challenge. For the most part, the drawings are driven by the shapes I find in the map, rather than me sitting down and saying, “I’m going to draw a duck,” or whatever. My 2017 Snowman and this year’s Father Christmas were much more difficult to plan.
How do you make sure you’re executing it properly? Do you make a turn-by-turn route?
For the first few, I wrote out a great long list of directions, but that wasn’t practical so I invested in a Wahoo. Now, I plot my routes on Ride with GPS and follow them on the Wahoo. I record them on both the Wahoo and my phone, and keep checking that I’m on course. There’s quite a bit of doubling back and stopping to check, and there’s nearly always bits I have to walk—busy pedestrian areas, one-way streets where I need to go the wrong way and so forth—so it’s never fast.
Is there any post production editing? Or would that be foul play, so to speak?
There’s no post-production. That would definitely be cheating!