What 'gear' should i do my Ramp Test in?

Probably a noob question, but what ring should i do a ramp test in? small ring, higher cadence? Large ring, mo power? Should i switch gears during the Ramp Test, to try and maximize the test?

Thanks in advance . -Joe

This is where most of that debate lives:

I think the general consensus is that it depends. I test in small chainring, mid-cassette. Most workouts I do in the small chainring with the exception being VO2Max in the big chainring. (Original KICKR)

I’ve tested both at FTP and found that the small chainring feels a little harder at the same wattage, but the KICKR seemed to control the power better in the small chainring.

Hey Joe,

For the most part, you will want to keep your trainer in a lower gear, but one that still maintains a straight chain-line. Something like the little ring in front, and a low to mid-range gear in the back will be appropriate here.

As for the best cadence for the test, this will be up to you. Use whatever cadence allows you to get the power-out! Although, I do recommend that you stay seated during the entire test. So, standing up and smashing your pedals would not be the right idea. Something above about 85 rpm should work.

Lastly, I recommend that you do not shift during your test. Just let Erg Mode do the work, and follow along with the ramping power.

This Help Center Article: Ramp Test FAQs will have more information on this topic that you may find useful, if you want to check that out!

I hope that helps! Good Luck!

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One thing to note, if you’re not using an ERG (smart) trainer, you will need to shift and adjust your cadence during the test to hit the power targets. This applies in any circumstance where you’re using a non-smart/electronic (“dumb”) trainer and/or a power meter to train. Additionally, there’s a video in this Help Center article with tips on how to best execute your first Ramp Test:


I have a Flux S, which has a pretty high power floor; I find I have to shift a couple of times to start low (and not hit the resistance floor during the warmup and early steps), until I get to small + middle of cassette, which happens while my brain is still functional, so around FTP.

Does it effect the result which chainring I choose when I do the ramp test?

Not if you’re in erg mode. Of course, a mechanically maintained drivetrain with the rear somewhere in the middle of the cassette (most straight line possible from front ring to rear ring) is likely to be the smoothest for pedaling and therefor would not influence the test.

I think there could be some possible variances between using a crank-arm power meter and smart trainer if there’s horrible inefficiency in the drivetrain, but that’s a different line of discussion and I’ll bet someone more knowledge could speak to that more specifically, but it’s not directly related which chainring.

In the end, if you’re using the same power meter and the bike is working well and used the same way, its consistency of using the same system that matters most (for your own training purposes).

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  • That is not a concrete statement, and in fact is quite in question these days.
  • Many people (via anecdotes) have different experiences with Low vs High gearing while in ERG mode, and this includes Ramp tests.

  • The core issue is the influence of the flywheel speed and how that impacts the rider effort and fatigue.

My preference and recommendation is to use the same gearing (no matter what it is) for your testing AND your training.

  • Exceptions exist with some lower end trainers that have wattage ceilings and floors. Those may require the use of shifting (front or rear derailleurs) to reach the specified power targets. But if possible, try to use the gearing in a similar way as you would in a workout at the same wattage. It’s an attempt to keep testing and training consistent.

Some related discussion:

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Very interesting and thanks for posting. Also very curious. I’d be interested in how that’s in question from a technical point of view. Since erg mode is a handover of the resistance to maintain wattage to the trainer, doesn’t it reason that if the rider controls the cadence then the flywheel speed would not play a demonstrable role, except perhaps in the extremes?

For the purposes of ramp tests are you suggesting that the test results are different between the large and small ring? In what ways? I can see that in some deeply engineering way that might be true, but seems awfully “under the hood” in terms of directing how one should approach a ramp test, as far as practical answers go. You’d think that if there’s result-impacting variability between gear selection that there would have to be very specific protocols for using a trainer beyond using it the same way and calibrate frequently, which I’ve never read. Happy to learn new information if I’m misunderstanding.

Totally with you in terms of consistency of gearing, which I suggested as well.

I will avoid a total rehash of the discussion linked above, but will try to summarize without bias. If you want more than this, I suggest setting some time aside to read the long thread, because it covers this topic in great depth.

  • Here are two videos attempting to put some quantitative evaluation to what many of us have felt via personal experience and anecdotal evidence:
  • These aim towards the comments in the long thread above. Precise experience can and does vary (with factors like the specific trainer in use, rider training history, rider body type, etc.), but it is very common for people to feel a “real difference” when comparing high and low gearing.
  • Yes, people how have done some testing in at both gearing ranges indicate they can detect a difference.
  • I will leave that to your review of the related threads. I don’t trust my memory to accurately portray the info, but I know that people reported they could detect changes. Issues center around the overall feel of the pedal stroke and lean into fatigue as well.
  • We are all guessing that this largely likes in the “marginal gains” world, but I do expect that there is a possibility of real and measurable difference existing. The videos above are not conclusive, but they are a window into the issue, and correlate with the perceptions of many.
  • I think the realization that gearing in ERG mode likely DOES or MIGHT matter, is relatively new. The old stand by was “pick any gear and train”.
    • The only real qualification in the past was that a straighter chainline was recommended for less wear and noise.
    • In recent years, people also recognized that slower spinning flywheels and systems lead to less noise, and that is an important aspect for some riders.
    • Additionally, many trainers tend to respond better and hold ERG targets better at lower flywheel speeds.
    • These combined to lead many people (TrainerRoad among them) to recommend lower gearing as opposed to higher gearing.

Those details and the more interesting observations via the videos and comments of many users indicate that there may be real differences in gearing for ERG use. I think it would be amazing to have some substantial studies that attempt to test and quantify any differences that may exist. For now, all we have are some guesses (based on principles from physics) and perceptions.

  • But I feel confident in stepping away from the old “it doesn’t matter” to “it might matter, but we don’t know for sure” and have people at least experiment to see what they prefer in their case.

Thanks for your depth of reply. I did start reading the thread you mentioned while you were replying and will follow up with the videos.

Interesting stuff…

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In the real world most of us are in the Big ring most of the time. I tend to think, that the big ring and somewhere in the middle of the cassette would be advised.

  • That is overly broad and ignores MTB use & related training, which is much lower speed and gearing compared to road.
  • Gravel is also a wide range of gearing, depending on the location & elevation.
  • Both of those lower inertia riding types are the main reason I choose small ring on my road bike while in ERG.

Importantly, there is not one “right” answer.

  • People should look at their use and preferences to decide.
  • Not to mention the other considerations that can also impact the choice of any rider (sound levels, ERG responsiveness, trainer wattage limits, etc.).
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Point taken, @mcneese.chad. Perhaps, I should have been more clear in my response. I was talking from a perspective of a Road rider as I suspect a plurality if not a majority of the riders here are Roadies.

I understand that the point may still be debatable and rightly so.

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Is there any consensus on big/small ring differences as they relate to wheel on/off trainers? Part of why I go big ring is I find my wheel slips a lot in the small ring when the wattage goes up.

Same basic considerations, but your comment on wheel slip is very interesting. When I used my old ones, the lower speed gearing could lead to slip in some interval situations.

It makes sense that you may experience less slip with a faster flywheel speed, since it will maintain its speed better.

The lower gearing also amplifies power variations into larger torque variations at the wheel, and consequently larger variations in force at the wheel/roller contact point. You can do a wheelie on a low gear, you can’t do one on a high one.