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

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.

5 Likes

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.

1 Like

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.

2 Likes

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!!

1 Like

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.

1 Like

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.

1 Like

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?

1 Like

Funny - if I put my bike in the big ring on any session using erg mode I have to concentrate far more on keeping the cadence steady than in a small ring. If I stay in the big ring although I have better inertia from the quicker flywheel and it feels easier on the legs the workouts feel less effective and the power trace is all over the place. I’m using a direct drive trainer and training for road and a bit of MTB/Gravel.
For me small ring all the way and I thought that the sessions were geared to you hitting your numbers not smashing through them to gain the best benefit from a workout. I’d hate to smash some early intervals and then have to bail.
I agree with @mcneese.chad - it’s a tool and we will all have to see how it works best for each of us.

1 Like
  • Yes, it most certainly does, at least in my experience, and that as relayed by many others.

  • It is why I added these comments above:

I deliberately used somewhat vague language, because not everyone has the some feelings and observations.

The old “watts are watts, so gearing doesn’t matter in ERG mode” statements are definitively wrong IMHO. Gearing in ERG mode DOES matter, and is something to consider as part of our training, like any other aspect.

I have done a decent amount of testing over the last 2 months, with different gearing and cadence combos during ERG workouts.I firmly believe that higher flywheel speed is “easier” in the sense that there is more tendency for the pedals pedals to continue rotation with less overall effort when compared to lower flywheel speed. Higher FW speed seems to require less muscle engagement around the circle for me when compared to lower FW speed.

I say this not to claim that one gearing is necessarily better than the other, but the mot certainly are DIFFERENT. I have played with the gearing in the beginning, middle and ends of workouts. In ones where I start to struggle with power and getting to the end of a set in low gearing (34x17), I can do a following set in high gearing (50x17) and have a very different RPE and even HR than the prior set.

I have found that doing most of my workout in low gearing is quite taxing, and switching to high gearing in those final and difficult moments, is one possible “bailout” to finishing the workout “on target”. I have used a range of bailouts in the past from dropping Workout Intensity, skipping intervals in the short/short intervals, backpedaling in longer intervals, pausing and extending rest periods. Each of these has pros/cons and places where they work better than others.

Since I mainly train in low gearing and related flywheel speed, I now consider gearing as one option for adjusting workouts for preferences and/or bailouts.

This is all potentially very individual. Personal body and muscle type, training history, rider weight, typical outside riding practices and history and more, not to mention the trainer in use, can play into this overall “feel” that we get in ERG mode at different gearing.

I make not claims as to what is “right or wrong”. What I do claim is that people should definitely experiment with the full range of gearing when they get into ERG mode training. Try the high, low, middle gearing options, and determine what works best for your preference and needs. It is for sure an aspect that should be considered and selected deliberately, IMHO.

2 Likes

This is precisely what I experienced in my two workouts this morning and found major discrepancies between the two with regards to different gearing. It seems there will be an adjustment-period moving from a small flywheel (low inertia fluid trainer) to a large flywheel (high inertia) trainer.

Thanks for answering my questions.

1 Like

I have 1 main cog I like to do most SST, threshold and some lower VO2 at. I usually do recovery intervals 1 or 2 cogs lower.

With some high VO2 and workouts that dip into anaerobic, I sometimes feel like I need to shift into the next gear higher to get to and hold target wattage quicker after a recovery interval. However my RPE is maybe 10% higher in this gear. So personally, I find gearing (even 1 cog!) does affect RPE quite a bit.

Happy to any time.

PS, glad to see you take the plunge into the ERG world and get some chamois time, along with the experimentation to see what it really has to offer. Mixing ERG and Resistance mode through a training plan, for specific workouts and goals is a great tool to have in the shed. Cheers :smiley:

1 Like

I should add, that my other common recommendation is that you are best to do your Ramp Tests in the same (or very similar) gearing that you plan to use for most of your training. As I said, mixing gearing is great, but testing at one extreme of gearing and training at the other end can lead to issues.

So use your testing now to find what you think you want to use for most of your training. Record that now and apply it in your Ramp Test (assuming you use that instead of the 2x8 or 1x20 tests). I also recommend recording it in your Ramp Test notes for future reference.

Keeping that gearing the same from test to test is important if you want to be able to compare results across time.

I’m going to try and make this really simple.

Specificity.

Specificity principle states if you want to become good at something, make your training increasingly like it. In my pain cave, a higher flywheel speed on my direct-drive trainer does a superior job of making the trainer feel like riding outside, in nearly all of the conditions I ride in. When I ride outside, power fluctuates even when I’m trying to hold a steady power output. Power fluctuations are natural in cycling, and your body doesn’t operate on strictly defined training zones. For those reasons, I almost never use small chainring on the trainer.

My recommendation to everyone is to play around with gearing and find something that feels like riding outside.

2 Likes

These are great tips.

Thank’s Chad. For me too, nailing consistent RPM’s while in ERG mode takes priority. If I do that, everything goes very smoothly. And I totally agree about the degrading in RPM as the workout proceeds. I do find at these points, it’s especially important to fight the resistance to lower one’s rpm (sure 5rpm can be ok) 10 rpm’s or more. So the resistance to the degradation becomes an extra challenge that I enjoy and I know I will get stronger for it.

Q: If i’m using my crank based (stages) power meter to report power, is it necessary to calibrate my trainer (wahoo kickr)? Will calibrating the trainer provide better efficiency even though the trainer is not reporting my power?

Thanks again.

We’ve seen answers on both sides from TR reps. It seems like a fine idea to calibrate the trainer too, but the Power Match function should work fine without it, so I don’t consider trainer calibration essential.

1 Like

That sounds about right. ERG mode gives you NO breaks at all. Everything in life gets easier after ERG mode. When I first got my smart trainer, I would ride around outside at 60 to 65% ftp for 4 to 6 hours and still have a little left in the tank. My first attempt to do 60% in ERG mode ended at 1 hour and 20 minutes.

You’ve heard Coach Chad say 100 times (or more) that FTP is just an “approximation of your 1 hour power.” Well, after using ERG mode for a while, FTP will be “a better approximation of your 1 hour power.”

Here’s some insight that I’ve garnered in 2 years on a smart trainer (almost exclusively used in ERG mode for workouts.)

  1. You may not see an immediate rise if your FTP, but what you considered “good fitness” before will become “ok fitness.”
  2. When doing VO2Max intervals “spin up” your cadence just before the interval starts and settle back down into the power. This will cause a small spike in your power, but the alternative is a possible large spike in power that pushes you down to a temporary lower cadence and can be particularly taxing.
  3. When doing sprint intervals, wait until 1 second into the interval and then “mash it hard.” The situation that we’re trying to avoid in #2 is exactly what you want in sprints.
  4. If you’re workout is longer than an hour, you may want to stand up and slow pedal some of the rest intervals. 90 to 100 rpm in the same seated position can be hard on the butt.
5 Likes

GLad to see this here…last couple of days been very studious of my trainer and power as I’m new to indoor training, although been training with power for the past two years. I hooked up my crank PM in parallel to my Garmin and I noticed that whenever I would spin between 95-100 my power would decrease a small percentage. I was reading off my crank PM, even though my Trainer which was on ERG was pretty much holding steady at target. So yeah today I discovered this also…and I thought my gear was messed up!

1 Like