SUF Support Tips: All about ERG mode

Using your smart trainer in erg mode makes Suffering err… easy? The trainer will increase the resistance to match the training target in the workout. There are a few things that you need to know in order for this to work properly.

  1. The trainer will try to match the resistance target-no matter what. You can expect that if you drop your cadence, the trainer will add resistance making pedalling harder. If you increase your cadence, the trainer will release the resistance. It is important to keep the cadence steady and on-target during the workout.
  2. If your target power is too high and you’re unable to keep the cadence target, the trainer will continually add resistance until it locks down and you are no longer able to turn the pedals. If this happens, simply stop pedalling and allow the trainer to release the resistance. You might want to reduce the target intensity if this keeps happening.
  3. Unlike level mode, where you’re trying to meet the power targets, in erg mode, you want to meet the cadence targets. The trainer will meet the power target for you.
  4. Every smart trainer is a bit different in its response time. Some of the higher end trainers such as the Wahoo Kickr or the Tacx Neo will be able to meet the power target in 3 to 5 seconds. Other trainers might take 5 to 10 seconds. Just keep the cadence steady and wait for the resistance to add on.

RESISTANCE IS TOO LOW

If you’re having issues with the resistance being too low, there are a few things you should check before we start troubleshooting:

1- Is the workout intensity reduced? Reduced-intensity workouts will appear in your training plan, and if you’re not prepared, you might think something is wrong. Check out the article here to make sure this isn’t the issue: Reduced Intensity Workouts

2- Are your 4DP numbers accurate? If you’ve completed one of the fitness tests, this isn’t likely, but if you’re a new user, it is possible that the numbers the app gave you when you created your account are too low. If you think this might be the case, try increasing the intensity of the workout to see if you feel an increase in resistance. Intensity Adjustments

If these issues do not apply and you’re still finding that you have no or low resistance, please send us a help request so we can help!

CAN’T MEET THE RECOVERY TARGETS

If you’re struggling with the trainer never dropping to the recovery target in a ride, it’s possible that you’re simply in the wrong gear on the trainer. There’s a great article here about why gear selection actually matters: ERG mode and Gear Selection

WHEN TO ERG/ WHEN NOT TO ERG

Some smart trainers are better than others when it comes to ERG mode. If you’ve got a top of the line KICKR, you can probably manage most of the workouts that are in the app, in ERG mode. There are a few that we just don’t recommend using ERG for: Violator, The Shovel, Half is Easy, The Cure. These short, sharp, all-out sprints are best done in Level mode.

If you’ve got a wheel-on smart trainer, there may be other workouts where the trainer struggles to add on and release resistance fast enough for the workout.

For more information, check out the following article: ERG or Level mode
And this great blog article: How to get the most out of your workout

ERG MODE AND A WHEEL ON TRAINER: HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF IT

Wheel-on smart trainers need some special care to ensure that they are properly calibrated to report accurate power measurements. We recommend the following before each ride:

  1. Check tire pressure.
  2. Perform a spin down calibration in your trainer’s native app.
  3. Adjust the tension knob on the trainer to ensure the spin down calibration numbers are always the same.

If you remove the bike from the trainer, be sure to set it up exactly the same when you put it back on. Depending on the trainer, a quarter turn on the tension knob can add a significant amount of resistance to the power reported.

Any tips or tricks that we’ve missed? Please post a comment! Still struggling with your trainer? Be sure to submit a help ticket! We really are happy to help you Suffer better.

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Hi. I just came across Shane Miller (aka GPLama)'s video on “ERG Mode - Does Gear Selection Matter”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHUOhmG04M8

It seems to imply that a lower gear should be used if you’re doing a climbing type workout like G.O.A.T and a higher one if you’re doing a more speed-based session like Team Scream. That way, the “pickup” (my term) required as the resistance changes will be focused on the same muscles that would be used in the real world.

Do you agree with Shane’s findings and my interpretation?

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The KickR is a bit slow to react to those 5 second sprints but it comes on so hard when it does, that I think it makes the sprints harder (albeit less than 5 seconds) than in Level Mode. I am not sure if that is the reasoning for not using ERG mode in those cases but that has been my experience. I am sprinting longer in Level Mode but not harder.

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@genolan- yes, I do agree with Shane Miller. However, there are situations that will override this. The most important being the inability to reach recovery targets. If that is the case, you’re in the wrong gear. With a direct drive smart trainer, you should have the ability to adjust what gear you’re in. On a wheel-on smart trainer, you might even have to shift up or down a gear during a workout.

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@DRT, there are some workouts with single sprints that work well in ERG mode- such as Hell Hath no Fury or even Fight Club. There are other workouts such as Violator where Level mode just works so much better. For the workouts in ERG mode, it sometimes helps to increase cadence and start to ramp up before the interval starts. If you delay starting the interval, the increased resistance will pretty much stop you dead in your tracks!

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Yes, you are correct. I have discovered this the hard way–it’s like a wall.

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Bumping this thread.

I’ve actually been doing all my workouts in the little ring and having some issues and changed to the big ring yesterday and found that it was much more forgiving and it improved the quality of my workout re:hitting the wall.

I have an older kickr, so I’ve had to start ramping up cadence during the countdown to the next interval and find that this helps things go much more smoothly.

Additionally, I was wondering if the workout descriptions could be updated to state whether they should be done on erg mode vs level mode or either. It’s a big weird to have to go to look through the site to cross reference a list when the information can be put right in the description of the workout. Apologies if this information is already there and I’ve missed it because everything I’ve encountered so far is designed for erg mode.

Edit: I just saw the recs for level mode in one of the workouts under ‘coaches notes’. I think it would be great to have it for all the workouts though!

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It would be great to hear from the coaches about the usage of gear ratios in the ERG training. Yesterday I did the cadence build and holds workout and did the majority in the small chain ring had trouble hitting 115 RPM in holds section without bouncing off the saddle. I tried the big chainring for the last hold and the difference was palpable immediately. I could easily hold 125 RPM without rocking.

I know there is plenty of discussion whether the big ring is easier in erg or not, but the sole facts that the a style workout like that is different depending on the gear selection speaks for itself and brings up the question is the gear selection a vital part of the workout. What do you think ?

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Hi there, not sure if this is the right place for this question. I have just bought a Wattbike Atom Next Generation and the Erg mode is all over the place for workouts. I’m usually time constrained, so I was wondering what all Sufferfest workouts of an hour or less everyone would recommend that can be done to a reasonable standard on Gear (level) mode. I’ll not be using Erg mode on the Wattbike until after their next firmware update which will hopefully improve the Erg situation.
Thanks in advance.

Hi @KevinW, if you haven’t done so already, please submit a help ticket so we can get you properly connected to the app. theminions@thesufferfest.com

Any of the workouts in the app can be done in Level mode!

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@ridethecliche, and @micro, regarding the big ring vs the small ring: The flywheel speed will be increased when using the big ring, which can make the workout seem smoother in some aspects. However, the issue of the “basement” described in the article does still exist. If you can’t meet the recovery targets, you may have to shift gears, even if only during the recovery sections. This riding experience will vary from trainer to trainer. Some of the lower end trainers will have trouble reaching the top end of the sprints if they aren’t in the big ring.

The flywheel size and speed will also affect how much trainer spinout you get at the end of a sprint.

Thanks for bringing this up! It is definitely a great discussion point.

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Hi Therese, thanks for the reply, there is no issue with the Sufferfest app, it’s a Wattbike Atom Next Generation issue. It’s a known issue which also happened with me in ERG mode in the built in Wattbike Hub workouts and the workouts on RGT Cycling. DC Rainmaker covered it in his recent review. Was just wondering what Sufferfest workouts i could do in ‘Gear’ mode in the meantime until Wattbike hopefully sorts out the issue on their end with a firmware update.
Thanks.

You can do ALL workouts in Gear (or level) mode.

This is how dumb trainer folk like me use the Sufferfest :grinning:

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Just got my smart trainer Magene T300 and just tried the ERG mode via iPad. At the same time i also paired my Assioma Pedal and used that as power source. The ERG doesnt seemed to work well, is this expected? Zwift’s ERG working nicely with my Assioma and Magene T300 though, only got problem in SUF.

@ahpingko send us an email at theminions@thesufferfest.com. Let’s see if we can get your trainer connected for you. I don’t have that one on my compatibility list yet!

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In the past I used TR and their app could automatically switch between level and erg? Is that something that will also come to the Sufferfest app?

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Zwift has that functionality too and I find it quite useful in certain workouts. For example would be great to switch automatically to level mode for short maximal sprints.