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One of Strava's most important tools is now free for everyone

Strava Beacon
Two cyclists sitting on steps (Image credit: Strava)
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Strava Beacon (opens in new tab) is now free for all users – not just those with paid subscriptions. Beacon is a safety tool that allows you to share your whereabouts in real time with friends and family members during runs and bike rides, and is now free for all athletes with the app.

You can use Beacon to share your live location with up to three people, who will be able to follow your progress until you end your activity. You can choose to notify these people automatically each time you start an activity, or you can manually text a link to anyone you like.

It’s worth noting, however, that Beacon sharing from connected devices like Garmin bike computers and Apple Watches will still be subscription-only due to the technical complexities of integrating them.

Shaking up subscriptions

This will be welcome news for free app users, who lost access to several of Strava’s less essential features in May last year, when the company shook up its subscription service to focus more on paid members.

During this overhaul, the tiered Strava Summit subscription plan was replaced with a single monthly or annual fee (opens in new tab) (currently $5 / £4.00 / AU$6.83 per month when billed annually) and some key features like segment competitions (which let you compete against other runners and cyclists to complete a section of road or trail the fastest) were made exclusive to paid members.

Analysis: safety should be free

Strava was one of the first to introduce an emergency alert system for athletes when Beacon launched back in 2016, but it’s not alone. Garmin LiveTrack, for example, allows you to share not only your current location, but also your planned route (if you’re following one on your device), plus stats including distance traveled, elapsed time, and elevation gain.

Most Garmin watches and bike computers also offer incident detection, which will begin a countdown when they detect a sudden deceleration or impact. If you don’t stop the timer before it runs out, it will automatically send a message to your emergency contact including your current location.

Many Garmin watches also let you send an emergency alert manually by holding a particular button on your watch during a workout or (in the case of the Garmin Lily) repeatedly tapping its screen.

Woman cycling wearing Garmin Forerunner 945

Garmin watches including the Forerunner 945 offer incident detection, which can alert an emergency contact automatically if you take a fall (Image credit: Garmin)

Coros bike helmets have a free SOS emergency alert feature that sends a map of your location to emergency contacts when it detects an impact, and a similar feature is built into some new e-bikes as well, including the recently released Cowboy 4.

These tools could all prove invaluable in an accident, a breakdown, or if you simply get lost, but everyone should be able to feel safe and confident when training, regardless of whether they have specialized equipment or not.

The Strava app doesn't require any hardware other than a phone, and hopefully making Beacon free to all users will make open up running and cycling to more people, making them feel happier and more comfortable heading out alone.

Cat is the editor of TechRadar's sister site Advnture. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better)