Erg mode - pros/cons podcast

I was on the ERG mode bandwagon at first and I was like, “Why would anyone not use ERG mode? It makes it so easy.” Then I heard someone explain the benefits of using resistance mode and why someone would want to switch from using ERG and I realized that resistance mode allowed me to train better for what I was going for, so I switched…

But yeah, if you don’t care about that, these reasons won’t make you switch.


Love ERG mode, but when I used to run, I also loved running on a treadmill, so I guess that shouldn’t comes as a surprise. :crazy_face: For a lot of days, nothing beats set it and forget it to get the miles in. That said, imo you still have to get outside and make sure you can do workouts outside with similar/same intensity on the road.

1 Like

I appreciate your curiosity. It’s an uninteresting story if you want to hear it and probably similar to a lot out there, but I’ve never been asked before so here you go.

Wondered how things work since I was a kid but mostly things like how oreos turned into running around the house. Went back to school in the early '10s for biology with every intention of doing neuroscience research, stumbled on biochem and never looked back (and to this day almost only ever read peer reviewed lit and textbooks because there are always more questions and I really am that boring). Around graduation, a few cycling friends were asking me about training stuff so I sketched out a few training weeks, which turned into more, which turned into writing plans for free. January 2015 was my first time getting money for one of them (30 bucks!), and by the end of the year the MIT road team hired me for two seasons, which was the first place I tried the new FTP testing protocol that is now (apparently) eponymous. For a minute I got hired as a coach and physiologist by another company who didn’t care for my suggestions (and never sent me any of the very long line of clients they promised were lined up), but saw how greedy hacks set up and market a coaching business, what they actually cared and thought about, so I learned a good lesson what not to do, and split. (If anyone finds who it was, please don’t give them air time here.) Later I joined the wko4 user group on FB. Tim Cusick invited me to give a webinar on sprinting, and said some nice things in some places; eventually I was on the wko “team” to the degree where if you look in “about wko…” I’m in there along with some people who I’ve looked up to for a long time. So maybe I wasn’t the world’s worst coach after all, and might have something unique to contribute, so I started the podcast to see if it was unique but also attract more clients and quit my day job, and it worked. I’ve worked with some people who did incredible things, or went on to do incredible things, talk to and consulted with people I never thought would know my name let alone ask me for my opinion or pay me for advice. The imposter syndrome is still real but life was and is good: the rent gets paid; the car that always works; I have a good watch. Then I got hit by a car in 2020 (injuries I’m still dealing with) and that put an end to most of my training and riding. Around the same time there were more inquiries than I could handle, people were asking about assistant coach opportunities and could I teach them stuff about training and coaching… so I leaned fully into coaching and taking things more seriously (mostly… if anyone thinks the podcast humor is crude, that’s the triple sanitized version). I eventually figured out what I’m good at (training physiology, what works and why), but better was finding out what I sucked at, which meant discovering the skills that made the biggest difference in coaching outcomes, and this means knowing what I want to see when bringing on other coaches. I’m in the fortunate position to turn down most of these requests, so we’ve got a great little group of four full time and three part time coaches.

Told you it was boring. I don’t ask other coaches about their background usually, but I figure a lot of stories are similar.


This is an awesome idea. Gonna stick this in my toolbox if you don’t mind.


I can attest, he doesn’t care about my background

Not even remotely boring. I find “origin stories” super interesting and they help with context from a number of angles. Thanks for the deets. :+1:


I actually use the trainer almost exactly how you discussed it.

I got there after realizing that we humans are not robots. We absolutely do not make the exact same watts each day. I wanted to be in control of how long I took to get there and what there was.

This is difficult for those who are time poor, as long warmups become common.

I’ve rather enjoyed this forum thread.

This is literally the forum at the center of ERG mode universe :joy:

I’m amazed it’s been this civil…


Why not. Sharing is caring; an ad-free tip.


Thanks for the lengthy reply. We live in a world where coaches who do regular podcasts or well done youtube videos somehow become the goldstandard for coaching advice, even though many of them dont have the experience to be good coaches. Its alway beneficial to hear the background of the coach giving advice to validate that advice. Thanks!

1 Like

But why do they need to be? Everything doesn’t have to be absolute, although sometimes you wouldn’t think it on here! There’s comments about here being the centre of the erg mode universe, when we know that one of the main guys does most of his work on rollers or outside ffs! Why can’t we just accept somethings are N=1?

Before I had a smart turbo, I had both wheel on and wheel off dumb trainers. I also had a period where hybrid rollers was the only option I had for several workouts a week even after I had a smart trainer. Now maybe it is affecting my real world performance, but it reduces my cognitive load and helps my consistency both overall and within a workout, and that’s my personal N=1.

I couldn’t agree more with this statement. I think we see a lot of people trying to convince others what is best and why they should do it. Though I do not think that most folks mean to come across that way (maybe they do though :man_shrugging:)

My n=1 lines up pretty well with yours. I use ERG almost exclusively. So are we at n=2 now? :wink:

I did listen to most of the @empiricalcycling podcast. Missed his post on my brief skim when I noticed no-one was changing their minds :joy: I actually chuckled through a lot of the first half of the episode because him and Kyle spent so much time talking going back and forth between the pros and cons of it using ERG and ended up with what I thought were more pros than cons. And I think it is great that he commented here with what I also took as my main take away from the episode - that if ERG works for you keep using it.


Very interesting topic.

Last year I noticed I like the feeling of resistance better than the feeling of vo2max on mostly anything above Tempo. My HR seems to be more steady and lower when using resistance than using ERG at the same power level.

Now I use ERG anything under 60% power and anything above I use resistance.

I dont think there is a one size fit all and both provide different benefits. All of us should probably be using a combination instead of using one.

That why I think TR should provide a way to create a wo that can select which one to use on different areas (resistance for v02max, ERG for recovery).


Am I the only one using erg mode because my trainer bike has shifters and other components close to two decades old? Every time I think with fresh rings and chain that it is the right time to try a few resistance mode workouts the gear I need for the interval doesn’t ride smoothly.

I fine-tune everything for a straight chain line, b-tension, and burn that single cog for a few weeks then repeat it for a fresh cog before wear starts to show. I’m very sensitive to vibrations & resonance from the drivetrain on the trainer bike. Sub 15t on the cassette is unusable no matter what I’ve tried.


I feel old now, I remember being too cheap to upgrade TO a Kurt Kinetic.


Fo’ realz. Funny to see that old Road Machine price point of around $300 was once considered the “top end” trainer in a world of lackluster wind, mag & poorer fluid trainers. In those times, the CompuTrainer at $1,XXX dollars was beyond crazy for all but a dedicated few :stuck_out_tongue:


I agree with most of his points. He does seem to confuse sim with erg. In sim mode (Zwift free ride etc) you are modulating power yourself and get all the RPE benefits he discusses.

I think his points are mostly geared toward the newer rider. I spent the majority of my cycling life pre-power meter and I think I have a well enough developed RPE that I am not worried. I enjoy the benefits of erg controlled indoor interval workouts and have no trouble modulating or perceiving effort when needed.

Yes, and for myself it started with Wahoo’s claim about Erg “the ultimate way to train - with power!” and more recently TrainerRoad’s Erg support article “One advantage of smart trainers is how they keep your power exceptionally smooth. Check out the distinct difference in how closely Target Power matches Actual Power between the same workout done on a regular trainer (top) and on a smart trainer in Erg mode (bottom).”

The one thing I learned from using Erg - respecting the low power of recovery intervals. That was the only game changer for me. N=1 and all that.

For two years I accepted the industry promotion of Erg as the best and then turned it off. And discovered benefits in training both the brain and body. You may not. Thats why it is a training tip, like one leg drills, or cadence drills, or short sprints at the end of a workout, or … Use it if you find value.

1 Like

I wonder if preference for ERG is correlated to trainer type/brand/quality? That would be an interesting poll.

1 Like