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

I can already tell there will be a lot of value in it. Feel like a jerk for starting that thread a while back…I stand corrected. One other thing I’ve noticed is that there’s about a 20w discrepancy between wattage, RPE, and HR between my KICKR and my old fluid trainer measuring virtual power with an InRide Sensor. I can’t say for sure which trainer or way of measuring power is more accurate, but I suspect the KICKR wins.

I’m putting out less watts at a higher RPE (on the KICKR) than my old trainer, but I can’t tell if that’s because my FTP was over-estimated when measured by the InRide or something else.

I can hang with guys that are 3.8-4 w/kg, but right now my FTP would have me at around 260w or 3.3 w/kg. In other words, 65 less watts than my highest FTP in the last 12 months. Kind of humbling.

Still wondering if there’s an adaptation phase when going from a fluid/slope-based trainer to ERG.

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  • No sweat. We’ve all been in a similar boat, myself included. Being open and willing to learn and move away from old thoughts is a challenge, but one that is helped with all the great support here. Props to you for taking on something new. :smiley:
  • Pretty common for people to experience a different FTP when swapping equipment. That is true in many instances like from a smart trainer to a power meter. But it is sadly all too common when moving from VP to “real power” in all its forms.
  • That doesn’t make VP any less valuable from a training perspective. As long as people are consistent with their setup, that “tape measure” can be consistent for setting your power zones and evaluating performance over time.
  • The Kickr may be more accurate towards the official, real power value, but that only really matters if your goal it to compare that data. From a training perspective, all you need it consistent numbers.
  • I do think some adaptation is necessary. ERG just plain feels and performs different in the first place, so that will take time. Some people don’t like it, even after trying it for a while. They switch to Resistance mode and still have some of the gearing range options that ERG offers.
  • Also, the pure difference in flywheel performance from old wheel-on trainers to new models and the effects of the different resistance unit are noticeable. That alone can take some time to get used to.

From reading articles (Joe Friel and Hunter Allen) my understanding is that fluid trainers don’t have a lot of “momentum” and therefore don’t feel very “road-like” unless you spend a lot of time climbing at slow speeds (like on a MTB trail). Smart trainers like the Kickr come with a big flywheel to offer more road-like feel - more momentum so pedaling feels natural.

If you ride outside, then the Kickr feels pretty natural. If all your riding is on a fluid trainer, it will likely feel different.

That said, my Kickr supports Erg, Resistance, and Standard modes. Wahoo’s Standard mode is “Just like riding on a fluid or wind trainer, the faster you go, the harder it gets.” I’ve used standard mode recently and actually prefer it to Erg, especially for zone 2 rides where I include a handful of 5-sec sprints. Erg is nice if you want to mentally zone out, and just turn the pedals without a lot of active mental engagement. Erg is also nice on vo2 intervals as you can’t give up, because if you start to crack then it is possible to fall into cadence downward spiral and grind to a halt.

Regarding road-like feel… I find Erg at sweet spot and threshold to be somewhat comparable to riding outside. Last night I did a well paced 50 minute threshold session outside, on flat course and into a headwind with something like 50x17 or 50x15 gearing. Power variance looked like this:

Average power ~245W and standard deviation of 25W (according to WKO5). Standard deviation is a measure of power fluctuation around the average power.

Haven’t done much inside training lately, so I pulled this up from last year and again it was in a similar gear:

Average power ~225W and standard deviation of 12W (WKO5). That is pretty much the same as a recent Truuli opener done at higher average power but same standard deviation.

Power fluctuates less on the trainer, when using the big chainring. However it feels similar enough and no real difference from an adaptation point-of-view. When I switch to little chainring the power is so smooth it feels unnatural.

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This is my experience too. I spent many, many years with a Tacx i-magic, which has a pretty small flywheel (and is wheel-driven). There are lots of variables with that kind of system (tyre type, tyre pressure and roller pressure being the big ones). Over the years, I kinda optimised the setup, but this probably made it less realistic - in terms of “road-like” feel as well as power (which was well, well off the mark!).

It took about 3 weeks for me to adjust when I moved to a Wahoo Kickr Core in Oct/Nov 2019, although in fairness the biggest challenge was getting my head around a ~20% “decrease” in power. I find the extra inertia of the Kickr in Erg mode (and the faster coast-down) harder. As folks have said above, the trainer is just a tool, though, so after a few weeks, I accepted the Kickr as the new normal.

I’m not sure whether this really helps in terms of “tips and tricks”! But for me, making the mental commitment to move to the Kickr and Erg mode was the big adjustment, and the physical change was quite quick to come.


Have you tried Standard mode, or just used Erg? Standard is only available if connecting via Bluetooth.

Last night I did some outdoor low cadence work (40-60rpm range). Realized I hadn’t done this on Kickr except when I used Zwift in sim mode. Erg mode “encourages” me to keep cadence above ~75rpm. Next time I jump on trainer I’m going to use Standard mode and try some low cadence work.

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I have only tried standard mode a very little, and right at the start. I have to admit, I really shy away from low-cadence work, as the impact it has on my legs means my quads feel very heavy for a few days.

Maybe I should diversify a bit more? It would probably do me good to play around a bit more with standard mode as well as Erg mode. However, my objectives are all super-long (I’m targetting 100m TT, 24h TT and ultra distance) so I am quite specifically looking to train myself to consistently use higher cadences in events (like 95-110rpm).

I note Chad M’s comment right at the top of this thread about cadence, and it rings true for me. If I start a VO2 max or even SS session at too low a cadence (I guess its personal, but for me, less than 95rpm) and I gradually end up getting slower and slower, and the end of the session becomes agony. Conversely, if I can hold onto 100rpm, I can just about make it through sessions like Monadnock.

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That somewhat echos my point. On the road I can do vo2 intervals at lower cadence than on the trainer in Erg. In other words, Erg pushes me to use higher cadences.

Hey @bbarrera - I’m reflecting on this after I did a VO2 session today (Pisgah) and your point above:

…is exactly what I was feeling. As the intervals became harder to hold, Erg mode pushes (or certainly seems to reward) holding/increasing my cadence. Even though I was on my knees at the end of the session, I knew I had to raise my cadence 5-10rpm to get through.

I’ve looked at some recent outside 1-min vo2 intervals and cadence is much lower (80s) than what I feel is required in Erg mode on my Kickr 2017 direct-drive. When I start doing intervals again on the Kickr, I’m going to try using Standard mode and see if its better.

I’ve been averaging 100+ on pretty much anything in ERG mode - even Z2. I have exactly the same experience as you @bbarrera. Outdoors a couple of days ago it was down at like 80!

I’ve finally got with the times and moved from a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine to a new KICKR '18. I’ve been using my Garmin Vector 3 pedals with both as I like being able to have consistent power indoors and outdoors.

This is my first time using ERG mode and so far it’s been quite an adjustment. The main problem I’ve been having is that because I’m used to increasing power by increasing my cadence, I’ve been subconsciously doing that in ERG mode as well which leads to my power dropping up and down all over the place. Also, I hate the idea of ever being under a power target so on the dumb trainer I’d generally be working about 5w over the power target. So i have a couple of questions:

  1. Are there any good tips on how to develop my skills in maintaining cadence at a set rate?
  2. Is it normal for a trainer in ERG mode to sometimes be a few watts under a power target for an interval or is that something that shouldn’t happen if I sort my cadence out?

1 - You could try putting a post-it note over your current power. Just focus on keeping the cadence as constant as possible and let the power take care of itself.
2 - It’s normal even with smooth cadence. If I’m doing an interval at e.g. 8 minutes at 250W, then +/- 5 W isn’t particularly uncommon for the 8 minutes. I would guess that for 8 minute intervals, 80% of them would be within +/- 3W. Short intervals can have significantly more variance, even in erg mode.

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This was exactly what baffled me at first, especially because I was so susceptible to Coach Chad exhorting me from the screen notes not to drop power. I’d give a panicked push, the resistance would drop and I’d suddenly be spinning away even as the watts were falling, so I’d almost stop to figure it out and so the resistance would come back with a vengeance! Dancing with a gorilla.

The best retroactive advice I think came from @mcneese.chad: don’t chase power in ERG. What worked way better was to hold to whatever specific cadence (my own or the drill’s) was called for, and let the trainer settle to that.

I think it can also be even trickier on a Direto (my only experience with smart, but one I’ve heard echoed): they’re apparently slower to respond. Another forum user recommended coming into an interval below whatever my target cadence is for the interval, waiting until I feel resistance, and then pushing into it and lifting cadence at the same rate as the trainer is increasing resistance. It does seem to result in less oscillation in the first part of the interval. But that may be the Direto only. In any case, yes, if you’re just changing from the KK to a smart trainer it is not intuitive at all, and doesn’t feel like what happens outside either. You can get used it, though, and even like it.

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I’m on a dumbtrainer with a power meter and it has been fine. I’m thinking of getting a smart trainer so I can swap all bikes on the trainer. Only the road bike has a power meter.

I was thinking about erg mode and how it could be useful for workouts such as Geiger. This has slight undulations of power which I’ve found to be difficult to not over shoot or under shoot and think erg mode could help stay in that power zone.

Sounds like you’re heading in the right direction. You should find it easier to do the workouts with the lower FTP.
You don’t mention what plan you are doing, and whether you are on Low ,Medium or High volume.
The key with erg is, don’t stop pedalling. It is a good discipline to keep pedalling even if you would like a mini rest!
Also ,it is better if you can pedal 95-110 cadence (unless you are replicating a hard hill climb!
Of course ,if you don’t like erg mode you can just change the setting to standard/resistence mode. That allows you to drop below the prescribed wattage without affecting the resistence.
Make sure you are eating some carbs for the hard workouts, and if fasted, do an easier on ,such as Petit, or Fletcher.