Erg mode & cadence

I am having some trouble in ERG mode and would like some help. I find that when the recommended cadence changes from a low # to high, like from 60 to 100 (or even 90), and I'm struggling already with the power at low cadence, I just can't get my legs to go faster. Sometimes I just grind until the interval is over, even dropping cadence. And sometimes I just stop and then start up again so I can reach the new cadence.

I would like to be able to use ERG mode but sometimes feel limited when I do choose it. The reason I want to use ERG mode is that sometimes I don't want to think about power. I want to meet my targets but I don't want to think about switching gears or watch the power numbers fluctuate like they do when I ride in level.

I ride using Kickr Snap and Windows. If you have experienced this and have any tips, I'd appreciate it!



  • Hi Elizabeth, I use a Kickr rather than a Kickr Snap, but I think the principles are the same. Basically I think there are a couple of options. If you think about it, you're trying to accelerate a roller against resistance, but the gear you're using still makes a difference.

    Three things to try. One is to use a lower, easier to pedal gear, all the time in erg mode, so that it's easier to accelerate when you need to up cadence. Maybe use the small ring on the front rather than the big ring.

    Two is to start upping your cadence as soon as the interval 10-second warning appears, so you're already spinning fast when the change in resistance happens.

    Three is to shift down a couple of gears at the start of the high cadence interval, which makes it way easier to spin up to a higher cadence. You might need to shift back at the end of that interval if it's something you're going to do repeatedly. You can even downshift mid-interval if your cadence is falling into the Kickr back hole zone to try and wind it back up again.

    Four is to combine all three of the above.

    I think Shane Millar did a video about this on YouTube which is more scientific, but I've found the above works for me. It's not so bad when cadence goes up and power targets go down, but much harder when you're trying to up power and cadence simultaneously.

    Doing the cadence drills video may help too.

    Hope that's maybe some help. 


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  • Thanks Jon, I appreciate the tips. I will look for the video by Shane but did change gears mid interval yesterday on Tool Shed. I already used the other tips but thought that if I switched gears in erg it would mess something up. I think I should also educate myself more on the app to make sure I'm getting the most out of it. Thanks again for the help!

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  • No problem. The bottom line is that the trainer has no idea which gear you're in, it's just holding a steady resistance in erg mode, so changing gear is a bit like, well, changing gear in real life on a climb with a bit of a hiccup while the trainer adjusts the resistance again.

    The other tip, which I think you've worked out for yourself, is that if you reach a point where you can't turn the gear over, you can just stop for ten seconds or so and back pedal then go again. I vaguely remember an article here referencing that and calling it the KICKR Black Hole - google says:

    Enjoy :-)

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  • Elizabeth,

    I went through all that when I first starting using a smart trainer and Sufferfest. I also could not hit the increases in cadence when on my limit during an interval.Here is how I dealt with that.

    By the way, I always ride in ERG mode. I have ever since I started using Sufferfest. This only changes when doing Full Frontal.

    I quickly decided to disregard the Sufferfest cadence targets. After all cadence doesn't make you faster (power does), and some riders are more powerful at lower cadences while some get more power out at higher cadences. The app doesn't know how you fare on cadence. Sort that out for yourself - your body will tell you. Spin to win isn't true for all of us. Nobody knows better than you how your body reacts.

    If you want to be a stronger faster rider I strongly suggest you stick it in ERG mode all the time and ride at the cadences that suit your body while making sure you do mix it up with higher or lower cadence when you can (don't always ride the same cadence but decide for yourself how fast to spin and when to).

    I follow the cadence prompts when it feels appropriate and when it's not going to cause me to blow. My focus is 100% on power and I know from years of riding what kind of cadence range I'm strongest in.

    I am the Sufferfest's biggest fan, but I believe one flaw in all the videos is the cadence guidance - if you are using ERG mode.

    It's not realistic to ask a rider who's on their absolute limit in the middle of a Vo2 interval to increase cadence from 75 to 100rpm when in ERG mode. It takes a huge surge of power to do that (much more than you are already putting out just to achieve the intervals target power) which, if you are close to breaking anyway, will cause you to blow and fall into the smart trainer black hole.

    I understand that it's just too much to have different cadence guidance for each video depending on whether it's being done in slope or ERG mode, but that would be the ideal scenario in a perfect world.

    I tried Trainer Road a while back and didn't like it. I did about 3 sessions and dropped it. I think it's dull as dishwater and just don't get why people want to use it over Sufferfest, but each to their own. The only thing I thought was better (much better) was the way they advise a target cadence but tend to advise that you ride at a cadence you can actually do. That's far more sensible to me. I have seen so many cadence questions on this forum caused by Sufferfest's exact cadence targets. If it were up to me I would change the cadence guidance to something far more relaxed (a range) and advise riders of the truth - that some riders are strongest at high cadences are some can do more at lower cadences. I know a rider who can put out their max power at around 80-85rpm and will blow if trying the same power at 95. I know another rider who gets his best power out around 105-110rpm.

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  • Thanks for the help. I do find it has been beneficial for me to try for the targets for cadence whether it is higher or lower than I usually ride. I can tell a difference with stability especially. But I would like to try your recommendation.
    Another question: I like to go with the harder choice. Why can I do the workout in Erg but not always in Level? I sometimes get frustrated with myself for not meeting the power numbers in Level and then I switch to Erg so I have to. Is it actually harder or do I just think it is?

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  • I also think it is beneficial to ride cadences outside your comfort zone so I agree with what you are saying. I do this too, but when I'm at my limit I then go to the cadence at which I can keep to the power target.

    I don't really know about your second point. I have my power (4DP) numbers pretty accurately set I think and this makes every workout on ERG mode an on the limit session. I normally do not know if I can finish a workout until near the end, and often I only know once I'm in the last minute or two. ERG, with properly set power numbers, is very hard. I've heard it called torture mode and I agree with that description :-)

    Did you do a good 4DP test? Did you feel like you got everything out? If I test and don't get the numbers I think I could maybe manage I test again until I get higher numbers. Set with those numbers ERG is brutal. If you test on a weak day, which we all have, subsequent workouts set with those numbers will be easier than you are capable of.

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  • Another question: I like to go with the harder choice. Why can I do the workout in Erg but not always in Level? I sometimes get frustrated with myself for not meeting the power numbers in Level and then I switch to Erg so I have to. Is it actually harder or do I just think it is?

    My take would be simply be that erg mode doesn't give you any choice or distractions - you either turn the pedals over and meet the power target or you don't. It's more focussed. You can't 'cheat' it by easing off towards the end of the interval. It basically forces you to ride at that power target (or not, if you can't manage it).

    Depending on your trainer, there are a few SF workouts that they suggest you tackle in slope mode because the trainer won't react fast enough, mostly very short, sprint-type intervals - there's a list on the site somewhere - there's also somewhere a chart that suggests how to cope if you're finding a particular workout too hard or too easy, erm, these posts:

    I mostly always use erg mode unless it's one of those workouts or the 4DP test. Bear in mind that if you'restruggling with targets, you can always dial back intensity / increase recovery time between sets. 


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