Short Anaerobic Microbursts - Smart or Dumb Trainer?

Hi folks,
I’m just finishing up (finally) SS Base II and will probably go for the Short Power Build plan. I currently have a CycleOps Super Magneto - a superb dumb trainer which I really like - but I have to switch gears quite a lot to hit the target power on VO2 intervals.

As I look ahead to the Short Power Build there are loads of workouts with short and intense bursts (e.g. Spanish Needle -3 . By the time I find the right gear and target power the burst will be over…

2 questions for you -

  1. I guess I’ll have to keep in a low gear and change my cadence - what does anyone else on a dumb trainer do for these workouts?
  2. Would a smart trainer be any better at this (e.g. Saris H3)? If I thought so, I might invest but I’d be pretty frustrated to fork out a tonne of cash only to find they aren’t really able for these abrupt changes either

Thanks for any experiences you can share on this.

Yea I generally just find the gear that is slightly quick for the hard efforts and don’t shift if I can help it. Too little time to effectively get into a good cadence for the recovery intervals. I might as well just pedal really slowly instead of trying to flip back and forth between gears.

I don’t feel like smart trainers do a better job with those short bursts. There is a slight lag with them so if you are anal about hitting the exact wattage it can drive you crazy in erg mode. I’d even say you have more control with the trainer you have. I’ve went from dumb to smart back to dumb trainer and there are 3 things I prefer about the smart trainer but none of them change the quality of the workout. It’s mostly convenience.
1.) Smart trainer makes it very easy to pick any cadence you prefer and the ability to use different gearing choices (the choice between large or small ring at same power and cadence).
2.) You can literally let your mind zone out and let the smart trainer do the thinking for you.
3.) Direct drive trainers are more convenient unless you have a spare rear wheel.

I never liked power match with my Kickr Core. So that’s one thing I don’t miss at all.

You will get use to timing your gear shifting with the trainer you have. Just like outside sometimes you have to double shift front and rear simultaneously to hit that sweet spot instantly.


I prefer turning ERG mode off for really short intervals. It feels much easier for me to make those big power jumps. It takes a bit of searching at first but you’ll find a gear on the back that lets you approximately hit power targets by switching between the big and small chainring.


I have a dumb KK wheel-on trainer and have had both success and failure with high wattage burst intervals.

I always start ramping up the power before the interval starts, that way you‘ve already done the gear shift and can jump right to the target power.

Another “trick” I use sometimes is to figure out what cadence in what gear will deliver target power. Then I will simply aim for cadence instead of trying to perfectly nail a high power for such a short duration.

You also need to adjust your ‘smoothing’ settings. Knock it down to 2sec (or even 1sec!) if you’re doing 15sec bursts. If it’s still on the standard 3sec setting, the interval is almost half over by the time the power reading “catches up”.

Also make sure your wheel-trainer connection is solid. With burst intervals there is far more chance of wheel slippage resulting in faulty power readings; you don’t want your workout sabotaged.

Good luck!