Longer (2+ hr) training rides...ERG vs resistance vs zwift

Yes, the intent is to make people stop and think, particularly those that have concluded “Erg is best” and summarily dismiss any notion that Erg is not love :wink: (sorry @ellotheth I loved your Erg :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: and couldn’t help myself from referencing it)

Anyways, my point is that if I’m going to train inside, why not work on as many aspects of riding/training outside as possible? Why not make the indoor training more effective?

:man_shrugging: that is one of my points, it is a good thing, embrace it and learn/adapt. There appears to be an assumption that more precise attainment of targets is better. I’ve tried to find science that makes the case for “less variable power output” being better than outside power output, are you aware of any? We have imprecise physiologies and imprecise test protocols, our training is more about playing the odds than a guaranteed % adaptation.

exactly. Do the work. If you agree with some of what I wrote, then its possible to work on additional ‘stuff’ by switching from Erg to resistance. That is a bonus.

For me it’s simple, ERG allows my legs to hit the prescribed interval at whatever cadence I want without having to constantly think to adjust my power. This doesn’t take away from my ability to hold power outside, rather allows me to perfectly nail the intervals without a ton of up and down in my power.

Being able to tune out and watch stuff on the computer or my phone while still nailing those intervals is very nice, and with Z2 you’re kind of noodling along so I don’t think you need to focus as much mentally


I found long endurance rides (Gibbs, Longfellow, Tenaya, etc) to be nearly impossible when I first started using TR. The most important change I made to improve these abilities for me was to work on pedal drills. Pedaling between 88-92 RPM for >4 hrs is nearly impossible without a fairly efficient pedal stroke IMHO. Maybe you’ve already got that under control, but for me it made a big difference to do the drills.

That and obviously just building a better aerobic engine.

Something to consider… Maybe you can “nail” prescribed intervals both outside (flat, no wind) and inside in resistance mode without constantly thinking. Because hitting targets can become second nature, more of an ingrained habit, something done by feel because your brain is in tune with your body.

Outside cycling isn’t a sport where we see smooth power graphs, and with respect to training we don’t have robotic physiologies and adaptations, so just maybe “nailing” a workout isn’t having a power graph that looks unnaturally smooth.

Just a few thoughts for consideration.

I started mine in ERG mode, but realized quickly that it is much more a feeling than hitting a certain number like it would be in, say sweetspot. Now I do anything over 2 hrs on zwift and just try to keep it right around the power I am aiming for. Still end up with >95% in the z2 I am aiming for. Keep in mind, this is almost strictly z2 maybe z3. Anything else I would be in ERG.

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To me there is nothing natural about riding for 20-30 minutes indoors at a set power, because it’s not something I ever do outside so holding the power on resistance that long may not really benefit me. Outside I can hold power by feel alone to conserve energy/pace my efforts, but indoors my goal for holding power is different: make adaptations based on power targets.

My feeling is I can get more quality from an interval if I let ERG guide me, and spend more time at target power


I’m really confused.

Outside and inside I hold power for the same reason: make adaptations based on power targets. If you could only get adaptations from training inside, then the pros would all be training inside.

Training in ERG mode isn’t everything and depending upon ones ability then riding without it can help with your pacing.
Personally for long rides I wouldn’t use it and I would train on Zwift. If you’re using a smart trainer the terrain will help you to vary your power / cadence which replicates riding in the real world. You can still sit within your chosen zone and it’s not the end of the world if you do drop in & out of it.

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Erg mode is perfect for longer endurance/zone 2 rides but I prefer doing an appropriately paced Zwift group ride. I find the group thing makes the time pass quicker. Most group rides (not races) on Zwift these days are very good about sticking pretty close to the advertised pace. My next choice would be a Zwift free ride just targeting the zone myself and falling in with random riders going my pace…

I don’t ride outside in 20-30 minute intervals (I actually only ride outside for fun, not training), so whether I can hold say 60% in resistance is irrelevant because it’s not something I have to replicate outdoors. That said, being locked in to 60% for that same time brings on adaptations I may not get if I’m bored on the trainer because I have to think about holding 200w which would bore the crap out of me.

Outside I ride mostly by feel, and my power when it matters tends to be fairly flat and smooth anyway like on climbs, but for Z2 indoor I don’t think I stand to gain anything using resistance mode, in fact I’d probably lose from not wanting to do such mundane work on the trainer. Let ERG pilot and I’m along for the ride doing whatever else, that’s my cup of tea

I’m sure I post this on every erg/non erg thread LOL but I’ve done a lot of time on both dumb and smart trainers and the end result is always the same. I’ll train all Jan on the trainer, hit the road in Feb and guess what? I don’t even think about it, I pedal my bike and hit my numbers. Erg is just the removal of another barrier to get the workout done. My life is complicated enough without over thinking my training LOL

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2 hours is about my limit inside on the trainer. If I want to ride longer than that, I take it outside.

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ERG for me. I can watch a movie and not worry about looking down and seeing that I’m out of zone.


Totally agree!

About to get on the bike and train in the garage. Here is my indoor training setup, its basically identical to doing an outside workout. The only differences:

  • where I put nutrition and hydration (workbench vs cages/pockets)
  • step 2 to put trainer in resistance mode
  • topping off air in tires vs turning on some form of entertainment before starting workout
  1. Hit top right button on bike computer to select today’s workout, and start pedaling:

  1. Fire up TrainerRoad app for 10 seconds to turn on Standard mode at level 2:

No overthinking, no differences between inside and outside. Just look at targets on bike computer, shift gears, and pedal away. In the past it seemed “old school” was a dumb idea, but then I really thought about the podcast discussions on cognitive load and specificity. So after two years of Erg I switched to this setup and it is so much easier on several levels.

My brain is pretty well calibrated at this point, without looking at bike computer I can sense when on/off target or when HR/breath ticks up during warmup or an increased effort. My bike computer can control resistance level, and it even supports Erg, but I found it easier to start pedaling and switch to Standard mode using my phone.


I have recently ditched ERG mode completely. During Z2 rides, level mode (level 2 also) and need to control the power is only thing that makes them interesting and with everything above I have “observed” that riding outside is not similar to erg mode? :slight_smile: And I have a feeling that level mode is a little bit more realistic and activates muscles differently.

  • For clarity, I’ve not made that claim here or anywhere else. I know, and share with everyone, that these modes are tools, have pros/cons and can be use freely as each rider sees fit. I make my personal choice and don’t judge anyone for theirs.

  • My choice to make my initial post here was to counter clearly biased and incorrect info from the OP’s buddy.

  • Specificity is great, but also not an absolute requirement. The differences present between ERG/RES are unlikely to result in measurable differences at the final training impact, IMO.

  • You mention a fixation below about smooth power in ERG (again, never the goal in and of itself in being “pretty” or whatever, and even shown to be less than perfect by me in many prior posts). Interesting that I see a similar fixation that seems to aim to make every moment we spend on a trainer “specific” to outside. Sure, many of us (though not all) are on these bikes to take our fitness elsewhere. The differences between inside and outside are numerous. Bridging that gap is admirable, and I do it in some areas, but I also feel it’s not essential to make the time inside valid either.

  • Close counts in so many things in life, and I feel this is one. Getting the physiological load on the body, to drive adaptations is the key, and the other stuff is icing at best, glitter in some cases, and wishful thinking in others. I don’t see any of these RES pros being the reason I may fall short of another rider, or me beating an ERG focused rider. I just don’t think the differences here are that great.

  • This assumes that RES is more effective, in a non-specific way. Presumably it relates to your other RES Pros? If so, I still see those as speculative and lacking in science based results as well. As you mention later, they are guesses from what I see.
  • I am not making that assumption, stated or otherwise.

  • No, I am not aware of any of that data, haven’t searched for it, neither have I made a claim of that sort.

  • Matching that black hole, I don’t know if we have any science that shows variability is better than stability. Point being that there is no science on either side, and at best we are guessing right now.

All that aside, my main comment on ERG use above in this thread, related to the relative ease of use while using other means of distraction (movies, etc.).

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On weekends when i cant ride outdoors, I have just started doing longer rides on Zwift (2hrs) I just ride at 2w/kg and in zone 2 HR…the flow of ERG on the varied terrain gives me focus on gears and effort etc which i like… on the 1hr or so “recovery” type rides on TR I use Resistance mode… again for more focus but also to focus on my leg cadence, peddle feel and some of coach chads drills etc.

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Hey Chad you probably realize this, some of my points were in response to others posting on the thread.

And I stand by my earlier statement:

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Watching two of my favorite TR board members fighting makes me sad :sleepy: :wink:


Sometimes we are like the debate team! On the same team just hashing out the pros and cons :smiley: