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.
  5. In ERG mode, the trainer attempts to hold you at a target wattage, regardless of cadence or speed. If your cadence slows, the trainer to increases resistance to maintain the target power. Decreasing your cadence too much will force the trainer to apply more resistance than you can be pedal through. This is known as an "ERG Mode Lockup" (or sometimes the "Spiral of Death") and is the most common cause for trainer lockups.
    Note that the reverse is also true: when cadence increases, the trainer bleeds resistance to avoid overshooting the power target. With a fast enough cadence you’ll feel very little resistance applied at all.  You will likely experience this "spinning out" at the end of a sprint.  


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!


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.


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


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 email us or submit a help ticket! We really are happy to help you Suffer better.

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