To ERG or not to ERG... Updated

Today I want to talk to you briefly on whether to use the ERG function on your smart trainer with software. It's November and a quick look at my Strava Activity feed last night confirmed that a great many people are currently indoors on their smart trainers, many of them using the ERG mode. The ERGometer function will set your trainer's resistance for you rather than you making the decision by changing your combination of cadence and gear. When in ERG mode, your trainer will keep you at a set power regardless of your speed or cadence. Let’s say you want to ride at 150 watts. You choose your gear and start pedalling at 90rpm. The trainer will adjust the resistance to keep you at 150 watts. If you decrease your cadence to 80 rpm in ERG mode, your trainer will make adjustments to resistance until you are back to 150 watts. And here is the biggest issue that I see with ERG mode..... It does not allow for really good or bad we see people routinely 'fail' workouts because as their cadence slows, the trainer increases resistance to keep the power output at 'target'. On the other hand on really good days the ERG restricts amazing performance!! This brings me on to a 'soapbox topic'..... I have a real problem with the word 'target'. We are all human beings and have good days and bad days physically, for a variety of reasons, many of them you know so I won't go into them now. Some days your legs feel great, other days less so. A specific target wattage takes no account of this and is why we set all of our workouts with power ranges. On good days you can hit the higher number of the range, on less good days you can drop the power and complete the workout. In ERG mode you are stuck at a predetermined wattage. Improvements in your performance often come about due to how much consistent training you have done in a certain area of intensity, not because you hit a specific number. For this reason any workout at a high power, say above 95% of FTP, I would not advise using ERG mode ever as the risk of workout failure is high as you fatigue and your cadence grinds down to zero! Secondly ERG mode absolutely sucks at any sudden change in power. ERG mode has a time lag to respond, that can be up to 30 seconds, so any training session that has sudden changes of power should be avoided in ERG mode. Just go and try and do a 15:15 repeat sprint session and let me know how you get on 🤣 I love all the modern technology and hardware available today. It was only a few years ago that I was training with a piece of paper stuck to the wall ahead of me following instructions based on perceived effort. Now many of us have Zwift, power meters, kit to simulate hills, wind.....With my indoor set up, alongside my Wattbike, one piece of equipment old Lemond Trainer belt driven turbo. No bells or whistles, zero smart functionality and it's about as loud as a Boeing 737! But it is the smoothest trainer I have ever ridden on and I can ride any session on it. I have to change gears, just like real life, and control my cadence, just in real life. So call me old fashioned but again I see this as a reason to ditch ERG, to keep learning the art of cadence and gear selection, something we often see wanting out on the road! So is ERG any good at anything? Yes.....maybe. ERG might have a place for sub threshold, steady state efforts, such as tempo or sweet spot sessions. These moderate intensity sessions have a low risk of failure so you can plug in, watch a video and let the technology control your power. Do I do my SST sessions like this? No. I like to control the power not have the power control me, but that is personal preference. In summary ERG mode for me has significant limitations and bad unintended consequences for a variety of training rides. It is not a tool I recommend to any of my clients but some do like to use it. We monitor how they perform with it and intervene if we see any counter productive behaviours in terms of the outcomes we are looking to see from the training sessions. Have a great week everyone Rob Wakefield / Founder & Coach / 07779136840 Propello