Adapting to smart trainer

Happy to have just immigrated to Sufferlandria! Completed my visa paperwork (the 14 day trial plan) this weekend. I’ve seen a lot of posts and helpful tips about erg/level mode, all of which have been super helpful. I’m still adjusting to the whole indoor riding experience and riding on the smart trainer with power. Like many of you I’ve had questions about when to shift gears in level mode or how to adjust my power and cadence in erg mode. It’s also hard to keep a steady power output. Would it be possible to have an intro video that would coach you through some of these first steps?

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Congrats! For level mode make small adjustments to both cadence and power. Eg., shift one gear and let it stabilize and see where the power lands. It will take a bit of time to equate your specific gears and the level you are on the mix of watts and cadence so try an Open 15 or 30 workout and mess around and write down your gear combinations. There is a mathematical way to do it as well but trial and error is much easier. As for ERG, the following link might be helpful in terms of whether to make adjustments.

ERG - What To Do When You Can’t Do

I am fairly sure that there is a coaches post on this topic as well that was posted within the last month or two.

You don’t adjust power in ERG mode, as the trainer does that for you. Unless you are trying to figure out how to lower the target, there’s no need to worry about it.

Even so, it will never be a flat line, as your (registered) output will fluctuate a few Watts above or below target, depending on how steady you can keep your cadence and/or when you shift from sitting to standing position.

As for cadence, there’s a ton of debate on that. If you have a target cadence, try anticipating by gradually lowering or upping the cadence a few seconds in advance of the next interval.

There’s no need to change gears, although opinions differ on whether you should use big ring/small ring and which cog.

I don’t care - I have a Neo 2T and it really doesn’t matter which gear I’m in. It does matter which cadence I keep. I.e. high power/low cadence, high power/high cadence, low power/high cadence, etc.

Before I moved from a dumb to a smart trainer I found this video useful https://youtu.be/LbeliW8uObk. You just need to ignore the z%!£t bits

ERG is just a case of getting used to it. All trainers have slight quirks - the Hammer tends to ease you into a sprint while I’m led to believe the Neo just goes HI HERE IT IS.

What I’ve found works for me is to use the small ring and a big(ish) cog, which seems to give the smoothest drivetrain and then you simply keep your eye on the cadence and let the trainer get the power right.

What you may find is the trainer cadence can be a bit hit and miss - it’d be well worth getting a cadence sensor, the Wahoo one is spot on.

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As others have said, in ERG mode, the trainer should adjust to meet the target power. If there is a cadence increase coming into the next interval, I’ll usually ramp up a bit before the interval starts.

I’ll shift into an easier gear sometimes to get to the lower power target in the recovery intervals, and then back into a slightly harder gear for the effort interval. Depends on how long the recovery is, and whether I feel like I need to drop all the way down to the recovery power target.

Depending on how that ‘easing into’ is defined in the workout file, the Neo will perfectly go with the flow.

I run Xert workouts with gradually increasing or decreasing power targets and the Neo never fails to act accordingly.

However, I seem to recall a discussion on how an export of such a design gets messed up, depending on the export format, or the receiving platform (i.e. Zwift)…

I find that I get more stable power readings in ERG mode in the small chain ring and mid-cassette on my road bike. But I accidentally started a workout today in the big ring and although power oscillations were slightly bigger (especially at recovery power level) I did much prefer the higher flywheel inertia from the trainer in the bigger gear, which made pedalling smoother. When I changed back to the small ring pedalling felt noticeably more choppy at the same cadence and less like outdoors. So I might start using the big ring more often for ERG workouts. I would imagine a lot depends on what trainer you are using and what gearing you have on your bike. I’m using an Elite Direto X with my road bike on compact gearing.

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I have a Wahoo cadence sensor. I had to switch my cadence to use the cadence sensor instead of my Kickr Core. What I found was that the Kickr would stop registering cadence when there was a big drop in power - typically right after intense attacks or sprint efforts - when I wasn’t able to put any pressure on the peddles, even tho I was happily spinning away waiting for the fly wheel to spin down far enough.

I did do some testing and found similar to what some others have mentioned. I kept the rear cassette in a middle gear and then switched back and forth between the big and small rings and found the small ring felt choppier while the big ring felt smoother. So, invariably while riding any workout in ERG mode I use the big ring and a middle gear in the back to get the smoothest pedaling and the straightest chain for most power efficiency. And then for all workouts I use the separate cadence sensor on my cranks for better cadence readings.

And it can be difficult to change cadence in the middle of an effort if the power target doesn’t also change or if the power target increases. You have to have a surge in power over your target in order get your pedals spinning faster. But on the flip side, when your power and/or cadence targets drop, you do get a break for a few seconds while the fly wheel loses inertia.

Throwing this out there. Some smart trainers (TacX Flux!) you will need to shift to a bigger gear in Erg mode for the low cadence intervals in workouts like Goat or Power Station to hit the power targets. Again like the others have said, you’ll need to test things out as you learn your trainer’s quirks.

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+1 on this post. I have a Direto XR and the cadence goes nuts at high cadence/low power sections. I use a Tickr X HRM paired with the wahoo app on my phone to get an accurate cadence. I have it on good authority from the Minions that integration of of Tickr X cadence into the SUF app is on the drawing board, so that might (eventually) be a way to kill two birds (HRM and cadence) with one product.

Thanks! I’ve started upping the cadence before a bigger effort and that does help prep for those higher watts in erg mode. I think what I meant to say about adjusting power is learning how I can put my own pressure through the pedals in order to hit the targets - not so much adjusting the trainer as adjusting me.

i’m using the wahoo kickr snap with an older specialized roubaix 105. I tend to keep the front gearing in the middle and keep the back aligned to minimize loss while in erg mode. don’t have a cadence sensor yet. maybe at christmas. i’ll switch to the big ring if prompted by a video and depending on the workout in level mode.

thanks everyone for your comments!