The creation of ERG control (ARGHH Mode in Sufferlandria) has changed the way we train indoors. Relative Perceived Exertion (RPE) has been a long-standing method of training for many years. However, ERG control has a way of grinding up your Sufferlandrian legs like a coffee grinder at the Cafe O' Pain. If you are reading this article, you may be experiencing some problems with ERG control, and are suffering in all the wrong ways. This article will discuss smart trainer control in depth and help you fix your problems quicker than a Sufferlandrian Sprint!
Trainer Control Protocols
What Signals Do Smart Trainers Transmit
Smart Trainers transmit multiple signals to training apps. The type of trainer you have will dictate how many signals are sent. Smart Trainers transmit a Smart Control Signal (FE-C/Bluetooth), Power Meter signal, Cadence Signal, and Speed Signal. Some signals will be embedded within multiple transmission. Since we are only talking about ERG control, we will focus on the power section of the training app.
Below is what you will see with a Bluetooth connection. Bluetooth almost always says the name of the trainer and you will notice a 'BTLE' next to the connection.
For smart trainer control to work correctly, we need to select the sensor and then ensure it says ERG below the power report. If you don't want ERG control and want standard control, select the ERG box. That will pull up this menu below. The Mode menu will allow you to pick between standard level 0 to level 9. Those are just resistance curves for your trainer.
When using standard levels, we recommend level 2 or 3. Also, in the above picture, we can see that the trainer is connected as an FE-C trainer. This is mandatory for smart trainer control over ANT+. If you want smart trainer control using ANT+, then you need to connect to the FE-C trainer in the power section.
Verify Trainer and Cadence Connections
One of the things you will notice, is some of the power and trainer connections show up in your cadence section. We are still working on parsing those connections out of the cadence area. Looking at the picture below, it can be a bit confusing. The connection you want in the cadence section should always say "cadence" or "cadence/speed." The FE-C trainer connection will work, but you must ensure your trainer is sending a cadence signal. The Wahoo KICKR doesn't transmit a cadence signal and would need a cadence sensor. The TACX and Elite trainers send a cadence signal so you wouldn't need a separate cadence sensor.
Checking Bluetooth and ANT+
Now that you know what your connections should look like, what happens when nothing shows up? We need to validate that our ANT+ and BLE says "ON" in the workout setup screen.
Note: The Sufferfest App does not support BTLE on Windows
If ANT+ does not say on, then unplug and plug the ANT+ dongle back into your computer. For Bluetooth, make sure that Bluetooth is turned on within your device. When in doubt, restart your device and open up the Sufferfest Training System again.
These are the most common problems we see helping Sufferlandrians fix ERG mode.
FE-C Trainer Selected As Cadence Sensor
Selecting the FE-C trainer in the cadence section should work. However, if it isn't working, see if you can select the "Speed/Cadence" sensor that the smart trainer sends out. Picking up that other signal might clear things up for you.
Two Masters, One Trainer
Smart trainers can only handle one master controller. That means, those of you who are using other Apps or devices at the same time, need to be very selective in your connections. Here are some examples:
1. A user has a Garmin 520/820/1000 connected to the Smart Trainer and The Sufferfest Training System. The Garmin is connected to your unit as a Smart Trainer. That means we have two devices trying to control your smart trainer. Reconnect the Garmin to the Trainer as a power meter (remember when we talked about sensor connections in the beginning).
2. A user is connected to another training app while also connected to The Sufferfest Training System. Listen, we understand there are lots of cool stuff you can do with these training Apps. We want to help you do that cool stuff. Here are the things you must understand. One, connect that other App to your trainer as a Power Meter. Two, you need two dongles or two computers, because only one App can own one ANT+ dongle. There is no sharing. Same goes for Bluetooth and we will talk about Bluetooth next.
3. Bluetooth connections are monogamous. That means they will not share themselves. When you connect your trainer to The Sufferfest Training System, it cannot connect to another training App over Bluetooth. This is the same if we are running the Trainer's Parent App (WahooFitness, CVT, Elite, etc) over Bluetooth. Or, if the Companies App is running in the background of your device. The Sufferfest Training App won't be able to pick up the trainer.
4. Apps running on other devices or running in the background of your iOS devices will hijack your trainer. Double check that you don't have another App running somewhere that won't let go of your trainer (kind of like a couchlandrian with a donut). iOS users will need to double tap their home buttons to pull up the Apps running in the background. Find the violating App, and swipe it up to fully close it out.
5. The last thing we need to check is Firmware on your smart trainer. We only work with the most recent firmware versions. I'm looking at you KICKR Gen 1 users! If you haven't updated your KICKR's firmware in the last year, you need to do that in order for us to connect.
Those are all the common issues we have with ERG control. The Sufferfest is dedicated to improving the user connection interface over this next year. Also, if you still are having issues with smart trainer control, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will get you fixed up right away. We also have individual connection articles for each training company below: