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Erg Mode Explained

What Is Erg Mode?

Electronic trainers like Wahoo's KICKR, RacerMate's CompuTrainer & CycleOps' PowerBeam Pro and IC 400/420 include a load-restricted mode called Erg Mode or something similar. This mode will set your trainer's resistance for you rather than leaving that responsibility on your shoulders.

Riding in Erg mode is a little like loosening your grip on the reins of the horse you're riding. You basically give control to your trainer/horse and simply ride. In this mode, electronic trainers constantly adjust resistance to match TrainerRoad's Target Power.

Each rider's Target Power is based on your profile's FTP and Erg mode will set your trainer's resistance based solely on this number. When you change that number following an FTP test, your electronic trainer will adjust your intervals accordingly. 

For more specifics on assessing your FTP on an electronic trainer, see our related article, Testing on an Erg Trainer

While an exceptionally effective way to train, there's a bit of a learning curve to Erg riding so here's an explanation of what Erg mode is all about along with a number of tips & suggestions to help you get the most out of your part-time ergometer.

 

Erg Mode Basics

Erg mode sets your Target Power regardless of your cadence or your gearing selection. You can turn a huge gear at 60rpm with a Target Power of 80% FTP and you'll face the same resistance as you would using a tiny gear at 100rpm even though your speed will be vastly different.

Let's say you have a 200w FTP and you're riding an 80% interval with a 100rpm cadence. Any TrainerRoad-supported electronic trainer with Erg mode, e.g. KICKR or CompuTrainer, will set the resistance to 160w as you spin steadily.

Say your gear selection yields 20mph but you then change your spin to 100rpm but remain in that same gear. Your electronic trainer will readjust in order to return the resistance to 160 watts after a couple seconds - some trainers adjust more quickly than others.

Even though your speed is now 24mph, you're still only working at 160 watts. Even if you change your spin to 70rpm, the same thing happens - a quick readjustment to keep you at 160w even though you're now pedaling at 14mph. All of this happens in that one gear you've been in the entire time.

Simply find a gear that keeps the noise down, leaves your chain pretty straight (no sense increasing wear on your drivetrain with a crossed chain) and forget about shifting, even when you move in & out of the saddle. 

Nutshell: Shifting is a thing of the past when you use ERG mode. 

 

Saddle Transitions

Which brings us to a finer point of Erg mode riding. When you move from seated to standing, simply slow your spin & rise - no shifting. When you return to the saddle, try to wind your legs up a little bit as you take your seat and get your cadence back where you like it - again, no shifting.

This is a practiced skill and might take some time, but it prevents big surges & drops in power when you change positions. In both instances, the power is going to rise or fall a bit for a couple seconds but will stabilize rather promptly.

Here's the catch though, and this applies to both saddle transitions and long periods of time in or out of the saddle: the more often you change your cadence, the more often your electronic trainer has to readjust the resistance and the less "on target" your interval will be & the less accurate your end-of-interval metrics will be as well. 

This goes for any changes in cadence. When you speed up, the trainer has to make an adjustment to your new cadence, the same when you slow down. So when you alter your cadence, try to resist the temptation to shift; rather, wait for a couple seconds and watch as your power comes right back in line with where you need it, i.e. your Target Power. 

Nutshell: Don't shift, don't change your cadence a lot, and have a bit of patience & faith in the technology.

 

Smooth Power Output

One advantage of electronic trainers is how they keep your power exceptionally smooth. Check out the distinct difference in how closely Target Power matches Actual Power between the same workout done on a regular trainer (top) and on an electronic trainer in Erg mode (bottom).

 

 

Low Cadence Work

It's also worth mentioning that during slow-force workouts, i.e. efforts where you're shooting for a really low cadence, say 50-60rpm, a big gear is necessary to hit higher watts with a slow, muscular spin. This is especially true on CompuTrainers but may not be an issue on more newly designed electronic trainers.

 

How Does ERG Mode Work in a Free Ride?

In the current Windows WPF and iOS apps your trainer will automatically switch your trainer into Slope mode. 

In the current Mac app (Adobe Air) you will automatically be working at 150 watts if your %FTP is set to 100%. Your wattage will increase/decrease in increments of 5 for every %FTP you change up or down.

 

Conclusion

We hope this helps you blow through the Erg mode learning curve a bit quicker than you might have without this advice. Feel free to contact our support team via live chat or with an email at support@trainerroad.com. 

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Comments

  • Avatar
    Robert Lominski

    Thanks for this article. I was finding that I was always fighting against my trainer (new KICKR) without understanding how it worked. I would constantly up my gear and cadence to up my wattage only to find that it then get easier which leads to a vicious cycle (no pun intended). I will give this advice a try and see how it works.

  • Avatar
    martin stefanczyk

    thank you for the explanation really helpful

  • Avatar
    Tracy Quintana-Parker

    Thanks for the info...it has been helpful. However, I'm still a bit confused about simulated climbing using the Wahoo Kickr. In particular, some of the workouts advise raising the front wheel to simulate grade of anticipated climbs and in general get body in position for climbing. Does that apply to the Kickr in ERG (or other) mode? If I need to raise the wheel fine...but I am worried about putting too much stress on the rear dropouts as they are sat in the Kickr. Please help. Thanks.

  • Avatar
    Stephen Jackson

    so... I have a Kickr, are the tests (20 min and 8 min) accurate in ERG mode (the default) or should I be in one of the other options? On a related point, in Profile there is a checkbox (default unchecked) to use the electronic trainer power or not. Should it be checked for the Kickr?
    thanks

  • Avatar
    Emanuele Riccetti
    There is a quick way to change the resistance in erg mode to resistant without using the mouse , but with a combination keyboard keys? Thanks.
  • Avatar
    Larry Sussman
    Hi Emanuele, on our AIR app, you can press the "M" key as a keyboard shortcut to change between the resistance modes of your trainer. We're still working to implement hotkeys into our latest Windows app though, so keep an eye out for those. :)
  • Avatar
    Charlie Morris
    Fantastic article. You guys totally rock. You said "Nutshell: Don't shift, don't change your cadence a lot, and have a bit of patience & faith in the technology." Generally I'm not a man of faith but after I read this article I totally was able to ride on the Kickr. If I may say, your product is great BUT it is the outstanding service of your staff that distinguishes TrainerRoad from all the rest.
  • Avatar
    Inderpal Panesar

    Was Stephen Jackson's comment above ever answered? I had the same qury... For the FTP test, does the akickr automatically switch off its ERG mode? It wouldnt make sense to perform the FTP test with that on.

  • Avatar
    Ming Chung

    Hey Inderpal,
    In response to your question (and Stephen's), TrainerRoad will automatically switch out of ERG mode during the testing intervals, and switch back into it for the other intervals (warm-up and cool-down, etc.). Only the two 8-minute intervals or the single 20-minute interval will be performed in slope mode.

  • Avatar
    Michael Hentges

    The screen shots above don't match my PC-based desktop - the profile tab doesn't look anything like this. I tried to set up power match between my Kickr Snap and a set of Powertap P1's - but that just drove my trainer into full brake mode, can't pedal at all.

    Also, I can't find a way to enter a crank length for the Powertap P1 pedals - and I have 175's instead of the default 172.5. Any ideas??

  • Avatar
    Robert Peters

    Can you tell me if I use my bikes Power Meter (Stages) to measure power and use Ant-Trainer to control the smart trainer (Neo) will Trainer Road still be able to control the resistance in Erg mode?

  • Avatar
    Tony Mrazik

    Robert Peters - I have a Stages power meter and Kickr Snap and can use powermatch to control the trainer using the power from the Stages.

  • Avatar
    Robert Peters

    Tony Mrazik - Thanks That's what I did today and it worked like a charm.

  • Avatar
    Lachlan Harrison-Smith

    Hi,ive just bought a kickr snap. Previously used tr with kinetic Road machine and garmin vectors. Using a 2014 macbook air. Had my first go at erg mode this morning and had massive problems: paired with the trainer via Bluetooth as a "wahoo kickr" in devices and had it working ok, with powermatch on, then part way through I did a spin down on the wahoo app and then it went crazy, randomly changing resistance and going so difficult I couldnt even pedal. Even once I closed the wahoo app on my phone it seemed not to recover. Tried pairing with ant dobgle and still unuseable. Questions are: 1. Can tr control erg mode via Bluetooth? 2. Is the wahoo kickr the right device to select for kickr snap? 2. Does powermatch work in this setup? I have an ant+ dongle as well. 3. Is the phone app causing problems with erg mode? I haven't tried with the Bluetooth switched off on the phone. 4. Should spin down only be run through the tr program? Any help wouldbe appreciated. Sim mode in zwift seems to work ok via ant or bt.

  • Avatar
    Lachlan Harrison-Smith

    I should say further to my post I didn't get the trainer to give the correct resistance at all - but it definitely got worse once I tried the spin down (I also tried another advanced spin down).

  • Avatar
    Jeremy Richardson

    How can I use my Cycle Ops Pro beam as a standard trainer if I am say wanting to do an FTP test using SF rubber glove?

  • Avatar
    Peter Rushbrook

    Should the Erg mode work for the CycleOps Magnus when paired to a PC via ANT+, it is not the case for mine. I know that I cannot calibrate my trainer at the moment, with the set-up that I have, but should the Erg mode work.

    Should I be calibrating the trainer using another tool and then switching back to TR for my workout. I know that some users are doing this, but does calibrating have anything to do with Erg mode?

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