Erg Mode Noobie - Share your experience, tips, and tricks please!

How long did it take for you to get used to the feeling?

Probably about 5 or 6 sessions until I’d figured it out. For the usual type of stuff I wouldn’t go back to resistance mode now.

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100% my experience also. :slightly_smiling_face:

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What stuff do you use resistance mode for now?

Sprints.

  1. Cadence is king. Focus on holding your cadence as smoothly as you can, at your desired cadence.

    • If you are not steady, you are making the app and trainer work harder to hold the desired power target from the workout.

    • So, make sure to pedal with intent to hold your cadence above all else. Ignore power… let the trainer and app do the work of setting the resistance to reach and maintain the power target.

    • This includes changes up and down in the workout. Let the trainer and app make the change. DO NOT CHASE THE POWER! If you do, you are making the adjustment period more complex and longer than necessary.

    • When you start getting fatigued, it is common to start slowing your cadence. But you must fight this and resist slowing. When you do, the trainer and app increase the resistance to hit the power target. When left uncorrected, this leads to the “Spiral of Death” that ends with the rider pedaling locking to a stop under heavy resistance.

    • When you lose cadence, you MUST accelerate into the trainer and get back to your desired cadence. This means you will be facing increased resistance from the moment that you accelerate until you reach your target cadence. When you do, and hold that cadence, the trainer and app will reduce resistance.

    • Understandably, this is more difficult to do in the moment, but it is what is necessary, to make the most of ERG mode. It is one reason some people regard ERG mode as more difficult compared to Resistance mode. ERG mode punishes the rider if they aren’t prompt and firm with their cadence changes.

  2. There are more tricks to add with respect to some power target changes, but the somewhat contradict the axiom I shared above. You can include them, but I feel it is more important for people to nail #1 before adding the more complex use.

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I switched to a smart trainer last fall after 30+ years on “dumb” trainers (I started when wind trainers were as smart as it got).

It took awhile to get used to erg mode. And, after an entire indoor season on it, my notes for 2020 start with “spend less time in erg mode.” :wink: For every workout it helped me finish, there was one where it drove me to quit. I also hated the fact that I had one target power and it was pass fail. The effective training zones are not a single number and I found myself failing workouts i could have made by reducing my target while staying in the effective range but, it took me a while to embrace the workout intensity setting buttons. But just introduces another step, why not just be in resistance mode and make those adjustments with my legs rather than fiddling with my iPhone? Then there is the whole depressing mental aspect of doing a workout at 90% - I prefer the mental trickery of just going slightly easier without putting a number on it :wink: And don’t even get me started on those times I was feeling great but erg mode kept me from spontaneously having a breakthrough workout or interval.

Erg mode did, on balance, help me get through a lot of workouts on target but, I do feel being a slave to it led me to have my worst indoor training season in a number of years.

I’m not going to abandon erg mode entirely - it is great for longer steady state rides where you want to let your mind drift and a good ass kicking on harder stuff is fine too. but - its OK to hate erg mode now and then and its even OK to hate it more often than not!

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Thanks for your experience! Coming into a trainer with a real honest erg mode is such a sea change, I really like knowing how others like me have come to deal with it too. The tip on changing intensity is good as well as I am one who doesn’t easily admit the workout should be made easier :smiley:

You mentioned that erg led to the worst indoor training season though. What do you think you would have done differently that would have improved it? One day on erg, one day off?

  • Counterpoint: Why hate a tool?
    • That is all ERG mode is… a tool for training.
    • It is one method to follow a workout and apply stress/strain (I always forget which is correct in this context).
    • Most importantly, like any tool… it has intended use and requirements for use.
    • It is not perfect for every job or person to use, but it works really well when used as intended.

Sadly, I think ERG is often misunderstood for what it can (and importantly cannot) offer to the user. It is tool that makes following a prescribed workout a bit easier in ways, but it is not magic. It must be used with appropriate inputs from the rider and app, and used with realistic expectations of what it will yield. When those points are considered and used well, it is an amazing tool than can give great results.

The comments about adjustments are accurate, but all you are doing in Resistances is applying them in different ways. And the issues related to having “good” or “bad” says is a whole different topic really. It is more to do with how people can or should follow the prescribed workout on any given day. It has implications well beyond a single workout and applies to the overall plan the person follows.

Linking that to a training mode is a mistake IMHO. True, the way anyone can make an on-the-fly adjustment between modes varies, but I don’t think that should take priority over the training intent in the workout at hand.

This whole topic strays off into another direction that is probably not relevant here, and was discussed in depth a while ago.

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Thanks for your tips chad!

Its the targeting of cadence for me that is a bit strange. A few workouts in now and, yes, I’m starting to get the hang of that specifically. It’s double hard for me because I learned from my bike fit that my best power is around 85-90. Anything above and my power goes down. Perhaps this is the time that I start working on that pedal stroke :slight_smile:

Maybe in a bit, after I get some experience, then I can ask about other tips too

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Yes, using ERG is a great way to improve performance at different cadence ranges. ERG gives you the ability to very minutely adjust cadence.

  • That is something that is much tougher to do with Resistance mode and shifting on a cassette. There are ways to improve Resistance mode on a smart controlled trainer and cadence work. One is to use the Resistance percentage adjustment up or down a few percent to nail a desired cadence.
  • But that is easy with ERG as you simple increase or decrease your cadence to the desired speed. Let the trainer and app adjust power and you are set. Pedal away and change cadence to a different rpm when you want. It is one of the advantages of ERG than can be quite beneficial.
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Yup. I was hoping this thread would be more of something that new people coming in could read through and hear how others came to adjust to erg mode. I love deep dives as much as the next but I found a lot of the other threads were a bit harder to penetrate for beginners.

I have plans to make a starter thread about ERG mode. I want to link in the videos and info that help new users get up to speed quicker. As I said, it is often misunderstood in the beginning. A few primers can help people use it better and sooner. I will see if I can get a start on it.

There is good info already sprinkled around many threads that can be pooled for easier reference.

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After some careful thought, i think it was a combination of erg mode making me work too hard while taking away those occasional opportunities for joy when you crush it by over achieving. I got too tired, then got depressed dialing everything back 5-10% and it affected my motivation.

I’m 58 and i’m starting to struggle with getting enough recovery. The TR plans are not tailored for masters athletes (although there are good tips on the forum on how to modify). I realized that with my dumb trainer I was “self medicating” by varying my targets based on fatigue. Also, when thing got really bad, on my dumb trainer I could do a wholesale workout modification on the fly whereas with the smart trainer I’d just quit rather than fiddle with the settings. The forced full compliance of erg mode eventually crushed me. Looking back, all of this is mental - I’m goal driven but unwilling to hit the intensity button (but I’m ok with just easing up on a resistance trainer . . . go figure) So, I over worked myself. Next year I’m taking way more control of my indoor training. I’ll use TR but I’m heading off on own and doing some serious plan modifications.

On the joy issue, erg mode just took a lot of the fun out of interval training. I can suffer through 10 rough workouts if I get that one where I crush it. In erg mode, there is no crushing, just hitting the target. I want 120% not just 100%! Again, this is all mental but, I’ve got 45 years of interval training in me and that’s how I have done it up until last winter and its always worked for me.

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Agreed. Its a tool and one needs to wield it as such. And I concede that erg mode can be a very effective tool. (On the other hand, it can get treated like it is a magic bullet). My issues, i’m sure, stem from the fact I have a long long history with interval training and I have a lifetime full of tricks and mental ticks I’ve constructed for myself to get through an interval workout and to benefit from interval based training. I was slow to recognize how erg mode + TR affected all that then I was even slower to start using the available tools in TR to get the most out of erg mode for me.

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That’s one thing I’m seeing from all the discussion above; turn off erg for those intervals. If you can push, you can push. I do like that mentality as well cause some days I am ready to smash. Others not so much.

As for recovery, yeah, I’m starting to notice its taking me a bit longer than usual to get back to speed. I’m pushing late 30s and its noticeable how I may need an extra day to recover. Since my goals are mostly modest at the moment (health, happiness, consistency), I am a bit easier on myself if I say I need an extra day

Yes please!
As a novice to powermeter training (2 months now) outdoors and indoor training (one FTP ramp and only one training session on TR, and a handful of Zwift rides) I have to say it has been a steep learning curve. This would be helpful!
An obvious give away is that I am trawling through the forum to understand why changing gear in ERG mode on TR didn’t help me maintain or raise my drifting cadence!!

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Did you ever make this thread? I just upgraded to a KICKR Snap and did a test-ride in ERG. I found it odd to have to put out more power/force to get my cadence higher, but no change in power. Definitely not something I’m used to coming off an old fluid trainer. That was about the only weird feeling in comparison to my fluid trainer. I will say that the effort at a given wattage felt a little “tougher” than it has on resistance mode with my non-smart trainer.

Thanks for your help.

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I haven’t gotten to that yet, sorry.

One thing to experiment with in ERG is your choice of gearing.

  • Lower gears give lower flywheel speed. It tends to feel like you have to put out more power around the pedal circle. This is sometimes preferred by people training for lower speed and inertia riding like MTB, gravel and extended hill climbing.

  • Higher gears give higher flywheel speed. It tends to feel like there is more momentum around the pedal circle. This is sometimes preferred by people training for higher speed and inertia like most road riding in rolling and flat terrain.

Additionally,

  • lower gears keep the drivetrain and trainer more quiet.
  • many trainers respond to ERG Resistance changes faster in lower gears.
  • some trainers have ceilings and floors that require shifting to hit power highs and lows.

Those are the ones I can think of off hand. Try a range of gearing and see what feels best to you. I’d suspect picking higher gearing will be more like training on your old one.

I think it’s good to explore the range and even mix in the low and high gearing throughout training, like doing
cadence ranges to keep more adaptable.

Feel free to ask more questions if we haven’t covered what you need.

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Thanks Chad. Very helpful.

I attempted my first structured ride this morning with my KICKR Snap on ERG mode. Tray Mountain -1 was on the calendar and I opted to do it with my current FTP of 260, forgoing a ramp test with the KICKR. I found that my HR and RPE for this workout was beyond what I expected.

I was hitting LTHR @ 225w and couldn’t even get through one 15 min Sweet Spot interval. I was baffled. How could this be? There’s no way my fluid trainer running a Kurt Kinetic InRide sensor was off by a 60w differential. Can’t be. Maybe? I’m a Cat 3 CX racer…there’s no way.

So I bailed on that workout and fired up Taku, feeling sorry for myself and a bit dismayed.

During Taku I decided to crank the target power up to what I THINK my FTP is and see if I could hold it for 5 min while monitoring my RPE and HR. This time I started the interval in my 13T cog (42T 1x ring up front) and found that the power was MUCH easier to hold and my RPE and HR fell inline with what it would have been on my old fluid trainer. It seems like ERG mode is “more difficult” in a lower gear?

As in, 250w feels substantially harder in 42/17 than 42/12. I also noticed that 42/12 allowed me to get the flywheel spinning faster and my cadence increased by 10 RPM.

If you compare the two workouts you’ll see that in Tray Mountain my HR was over 170 @ 220-225w…but in Taku it’s right in the ideal Sweet Spot range at my current FTP. I’m baffled. Any explanation for this? Am I simply having to learn the right gearing for ERG mode?

Tray Mountain: Riding in 42/17. As you can see I had to keep lowering target wattage because HR and RPE were in high threshold/low vO2max territory @ 85% of FTP.

Taku: Riding in 42/12 or 42/11. 5min @ 97% FTP…feels like it “should”. HR and RPE are consistent with expectations.

So is it possible that gearing directly impacts RPE/difficulty in ERG mode?

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