Is TrainerRoad the wrong choice for me?

I’m a middle-aged female mountain biker, rarely ride on a road or indoors…
But I’ve tried the past several days (maybe 5) with a Saris H3 trainer and trainerroad to see what this is all about, and had a bunch of problems.
First problem was with the ramp test. It seemed to want my cadence much lower than I would usually have it …and I don’t know how to change that. If I push above the recommended watts to get to a higher cadence, it just adjusts me right back down to the lower one.
Also, I regularly do a 4 to 6 hour lower intensity aerobic ride once a month. But trainerroad will not give me any suggested rides above 2 hours. Uploaded all of my old rides from my Garmin. But it doesn’t seem to take any of that into account when choosing which rides are appropriate for me. Maybe I’m doing something wrong?
I liked the trainerroad interval sprints ride I tried, but with short 15 sec intervals, there was no way to avoid that I lose all resistance when it goes from a high target watt down to 74. It would just take away all resistance and then it thinks I paused the workout! So frustrating trying to pedal with no resistance at all and get some pedal banging-sound action going. By the time I finally get it right, its ready for the next high intensity interval. Does anyone know what I’m doing wrong?
I love mountain biking and I don’t have a power meter. When I want to do my own unstructured mountain bike rides, is it going to factor those in when suggesting trainerroad rides?
I really got trainerroad just to give me some direction on workouts I could do to improve my riding strength and fitness on the days I can do a structured ride. However that would only be about 20% of my total time on a bike. I’ve been riding hard for about 5 years, 6- 12 hours a week. But while my technical skills continue to improve, my ability to hold speed on long uphills won’t improve, no matter how much I ride, it seems. I’m not a racer, just want to ride for fun … but I find that, while I can keep up with most anyone on Enduro type downhills, I struggle (relative to my downhill) on long uphills. I ride with super strong riders, mostly men, or strong women generally younger than me, but hate slowing anyone down. Thus my desire to improve my strength. And I hoped it wouldn’t be that I’m just too old :slight_smile:
Any recommendations? Maybe I just chose the wrong training platform?


Hey Ali! Welcome to the forum and TrainerRoad :slight_smile:

If you are unfamiliar with ERG mode, it can be really confusing / frustrating at first!

ERG mode receives a command from TrainerRoad to make you produce a specific amount of watts (whatever the power target is). The trainer then adjusts the resistance you’re experiencing to make you hit that power target.

The tricky part with this is power is the function of two variables: force (how hard it is to pedal) and speed (how quickly you are turning the pedals), and they are inversely related. As leg speed goes up, resistance goes down. As leg speed goes down, resistance goes up.

So when the trainer increases resistance to make you hit a power target, sometimes it feels like it is dragging you down at a slow cadence. This is more pronounced on some trainers than others, but the common recommendation is to pick whatever cadence you prefer, and do your best to stick to that, letting the trainer adjust the resistance but not adjust your leg speed.

All of that said, in a Ramp Test scenario you will eventually reach a point where your cadence is likely slowing down to the trainer increasing resistance past your limits. That’s typically uncomfortably evident at the end of the Ramp Test effort.

Here’s an article with more info on ERG mode.

You’re welcome to add longer workouts to your training calendar, or swap out existing shorter workouts for longer ones.

Simply click on a day on your calendar and add a long endurance workout.

One of the key things we focus on is training the energy systems your body will use when doing your preferred form of riding. Here’s an article on that.

What this means is that you don’t necessarily need long rides to get faster.

This is a situation where ERG mode isn’t a great option as it can take a while for resistance to ramp up. This becomes particularly difficult for the trainer to do if you suddenly increase your cadence as the interval starts, as the trainer is constantly trying to balance your leg speed and the resistance it is applying to make you hit your power target.

So, you can try keeping it in ERG but well before the interval starts making sure you are holding the cadence you’d like to hold during the interval, or you can switch the mode of your trainer out of ERG mode.

Smart Trainers have another mode called Resistance Mode, and it just applies a certain amount of resistance and does not adjust that. This means you have to adjust your cadence and shift gears to hit your power targets, and whether you hold that power target or not is up to you.

This is what a lot of athletes prefer for short sprint workouts like the one you are talking about.

Here’s an article with information on different Trainer Modes and how to change them.

If you connect your Strava or Garmin Connect accounts, all of your non-TrainerRoad rides will show up on your training calendar. As of now, Adaptive Training doesn’t analyze those rides in order to make changes to your upcoming workouts, but building that functionality is our main focus as a company.

This is actually a common scenario for a lot of athletes like you who shred going down but want the long climbs to suck less :slight_smile: .

Just doing 2-3 workouts a week can have a huge benefit in your scenario, while still not replacing the rest of the fun riding you do.

I think there are two different approaches that could work great for you:

  1. Use our TrainNow feature to just get in a workout when you want. It will look at what you’ve done recently and suggest an appropriately difficult workout for you to do from 3 different categories: Endurance (easier, consistent pedaling), Attacking (short, hard efforts), Climbing (long, hard efforts). Here’s more info on TrainNow.
  2. Use Plan Builder to make a custom, low volume training plan. This will schedule 3-4 workouts per week on your calendar, and Adaptive Training will constantly adjust your next workouts based on your recent training. If you’re training for a race, it will build you toward that. If you’re not training for a race, it will prompt you to just pick when you want to stop training and build your fitness until that date. Here’s more info on Plan Builder.

Hope all of this helps!


You can get stronger doing structured training! I’m not even 3W/kg and first used structured heart rate based training in 2016 to prepare for an event with 8 hours of HC climbing over 5 passes. At fifty four years old. I’m back to that same level of strength right now averaging 8+ hours/week.

Someone else can help on TrainerRoad questions.


Thank you very much. All of this is really quite helpful.


This is so helpful.
I have been using the trainNow mode exclusively. Just to double check that I’m understanding correctly …based on what you wrote and this explanation:
“We’ll recommend a specific workout of the three workout types based on your recent TrainerRoad workouts and non-structured indoor/outdoor riding.”
it sounds like trainNow will factor in my many unstructured Garmin rides when giving a suggestion (between the three workout types), but it simply won’t factor in those non-structured rides as related to the adaptive mode feature?
Between the modified plan builder or train now options, is there one you think would work better for my situation?
Again this is greatly appreciated

TrainNow does take into consideration the work you did on the previous day when making a recommendation as to whether it recommends an endurance workout or one of the more intense options. As of now, it looks at some of the basic training stats of the prior day’s work, but I’m not sure how effective this will be for your outside rides since you don’t have a power meter. I’ll look into that for you and let you know when I get more info from our Support staff (they are better at this stuff than I am :slight_smile: )

I think it all depends on whether you want to just get in some structured training every once in a while, or have a long-term training progression. From what you’ve shared, I’d lean toward using TrainNow, and if you feel like you want the accountability of a training plan, and the longer-term development toward a specific fitness outcome, then try out Plan Builder.


There’s a bit of a learning curve to TR (I know because I started last year). It was a little frustrating at first but once I got into a groove it’s been smooth sailing since. One of the most incredible things is the sense of community and the support from the TR staff and fellow users.

My advice would be to give it a month, have a little patience working out the smart trainer and the software and then make an informed decision.

For the record, I was very reluctant to ride indoors but now, looking back, it’s not only been a tremendous asset, but I’ve also come to enjoy it.

Best of luck.



Oh this is great to hear; thank you.

I suggest you start with sweetspot base 1 low volume as the workouts there are very suited to learn how to ride in ERG mode. Be sure to have adequate cooling, you need big fans and a room temperature preferably lower than 18C

I think Jonathan sums it up but it sounds like you are using ERG which is nice and convenient (saves you changing gears to often etc) but there’s a definite knack to it and a consistent cadence helps. The alternative is resistance mode or simulation mode if riding in the virtual world. Its a bit like Marmite (you either love it or hate it when it comes to ERG. I tend to do most of my workouts in resistance mode or simulation mode so I am more in control like the real world I’m training for but its your choice. There’s good arguements (pros and cons) for either approach.

My recommendation would be: to get on the LV training plan you like the sound of (don’t be scared to modify it (with TN) if you find it too intense or too little, I tend to drop the intensity of my midweek session); experiment with different modes and find the one that suits you; and when the ramp test comes around next time (assuming youve done the required 10 TR indoor workouts) use AI FTP instead of the ramp. Good luck :+1:

You sound like me, much prefer riding outside. I restrict my high intensity turbo work to two sessions a week. Anything over threshold (what the ramp test is trying to deduce for you) I do on the turbo, basically anything where the intervals are measured in seconds up to a few minutes. For the first 5 years I only had power from the smart turbo I bought. For outdoors I went with RPE and what the heart rate is doing. I recently got a power meter crank from 4iii, the left crank Shimano XT version, in the Black Friday sales. Anything that requires intervals of about 10 minutes or up such as Sweetspot or tempo I now do outdoors. Majority of my riding is still the outdoor endurance ride though.

I’m 56, and one or two indoor sessions a week and the rest outdoors is working for me.

Coming back to this, @Ali11 how long are the uphills and how much time does it take? Are you able to find outside terrain to hold a steady and challenging power for 15 to 30 minutes? Or even break it up into 5-10 minute chunks, with short downhill or traffic breaks, and end up doing up to 30 minutes total?

You mentioned once a month low intensity rides (4-6 hours), for all the other riding, is it “riding hard for about 5 years, 6-12 hours/week” always riding hard? Or do you take some breaks and do a low intensity ride once a week?

IMHO it is best to think of the indoor trainer as a tool, some of us live in places where that tool isn’t often needed - we can train outside and enjoy being outside for a win-win. My job involves sitting in front of a computer all day, the last thing I want to do is sit in front of a computer on my bike and go nowhere. What about you, are you motivated by being outside?

And coming back to training for long climbs… Do you have outside terrain to do long sustained efforts (even if its broken down into 5-10 minute chunks)? It is possible to keep the power high on short downhills, if you live in rolling terrain. Without a power meter on your bike, or well developed perceived exertion, it might be hard to keep it long and sustained in rolling terrain - a good example where an indoor trainer might help.

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And FWIW, this is my version of the Coach Joe Friel cycling abilities pyramid, from the Training Bible books:

you are interested in muscular endurance, which builds on aerobic endurance and muscular force basic abilities.

Hope that helps.

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