Switching Gears During Training

Just finished up my second week of Base Phase Low Volume 1. Please excuse the rookie question. I remember TR recommending the smaller ring up front and being in the middle cog in the rear I believe for the Ramp Test. I also remember one of the early workouts recommending staying in one gear for the workout while I increase and decrease my cadence and try to maintain the proper power. With many of my other workouts it would be very difficult if not impossible to do this and follow the instructions. I have been changing gears up front and in the rear during sessions in order to find the “sweet spot” that will allow me to maintain the recommended power and cadence. Is this ok?

Yeah, totally fine and expected. There is a family of workouts, Baxter, that’s intended to be treated like a fixed-gear ride where you control your power with cadence instead of gearing. It makes the whole workout a series of cadence drills, and I think those are the only workouts set up that way. Everything else assumes you’re doing whatever you need to do with gearing to hit your power and cadence targets.

The recommendation to use the little ring and middle cog applies to smart trainers in ERG mode, where the trainer is controlling the power and the rider doesn’t have to change gear or cadence. (Using the little ring cuts down on flywheel intertia, and middle cog just gives you a straight chain to reduce drivetrain wear.) If you’re not doing the ramp test in ERG mode, that advice doesn’t apply.


Those gear recommendations are usually aimed at folks with a smart trainer and using ERG mode to hold them at the target power. If you are using a dumb trainer then you will definitely have to switch gears to go from a recovery interval to a work interval. But potentially going from 175-180 watts it may instruct you to simply raise your cadence to meet the new target.

Thanks much. I am using a smart trainer in ERG mode (Elite Suito). I am also mainly talking about when there is a significant drop or increase in power and or cadence during the workout.

If you’re in ERG, you won’t need to change gears unless you’ve hit a wattage floor or ceiling on your trainer. Ideally you want to find a gear that will keep you away from both, but if you can’t or you want to avoid cross-chaining or whatever, changing gears is fine. (I hit the floor a lot on mine because my rest intervals are 60 watts, but I also tend to drop my cadence precipitously in rest intervals, so it works out. :grimacing:)

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I change between my rest intervals and work intervals. Otherwise I wind up spinning too fast and it isn’t smooth at all. Also sometimes in a certain gear the watt is good but the cadence is off or visa versa. Sometimes it is just a question of moving one gear to find the perfect balance. I also visually check my rear cogs periodically to make sure I avoid the cross chain thing.

Here is my recommendation for how to handle standing efforts on the trainer in ERG and Resistance modes.

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I am under the impression that changing gears on ERG mode is essential to engage the full profile of the muscles over time? Based on certain flywheel momentum, won’t it more strongly or weakly engage certain muscles at certain points in the pedal stroke? My n=1 assessment is that certain gears are harder for some interval types. I think you allude to this in the linked article. I try to change gears every workout, or sometimes during rest periods between intervals to ensure that I am rounding out the full pedal stroke and can work hard at any gear. Is it all in my head?

Using different flywheel speed while in ERG is a good option. Many factors at play including the trainer in use, gearing options, rider training history, rider training needs and more.

  • There is no single “right” gearing or flywheel speed. People can and should experiment with their setup and determine what seems best for their needs.
  • When in doubt, a bit of variety between or within workouts is a fine idea IMO (and something I do with some regularity).