Tips for Training in ERG Mode

With the recent explosive growth of indoor training, the indoor bike trainer is no longer just a last resort for bad weather days or something the pros use while recuperating after a broken collarbone. On the contrary, your indoor bike trainer is the key to endless possibilities. It has everything you need to train according to your needs. That includes ERG mode.

ERG is short for ergometer so ERG mode is when your trainer automatically selects the resistance. Let’s find out how it can be helpful for your indoor training sessions.

The key to becoming a better cyclist is focusing on your specific training goal. For example, if your training goal is a cyclosportive event such as La Marmotte, you’ll need to build the strength to conquer steep climbs and the enduring stamina to ride your bike for about 9 hours at a time. In addition, you’ll need a high aerobic threshold that allows you to ride at a fast speed. Last but not least, you’ll need a high FTP.

Let’s focus on that last goal. A good way to improve your FTP is by executing steady intervals at your functional threshold power. However, if you try to do this outdoors, you’ll likely notice how hard it is to keep your power output constant. The reason is that environment is never constant. Between traffic, changes in wind speed and direction, uphill inclines with inconsistent gradients, it’s all out of your control.

That’s why the ERG mode setting is your best friend. It lets you train at just the right intensity for the exact amount of time you planned. All you need is a smart trainer and an app that can activate this mode.

When you activate ERG mode, your bike trainer will keep you on a specific target power level, regardless of your speed and cadence. That means when your cadence changes, the trainer automatically adjusts. It will apply more or less resistance to keep your power output constant. So if you set the ERG mode to 200 watts, your trainer automatically reacts. It delivers more resistance at a low cadence and less resistance at a high cadence to keep your power right around 200 watts.

Ready to try it out? Here are a few tips for when you work out in the ERG mode:

  1. When you ride, keep your eyes on your cadence and not on your power. The only factor you have complete control over is cadence, so maintain the desired number and keep it steady.
  2. Remember, when your cadence drops, it takes a lot of strength to get it up again. And lower cadence increases your force per pedal stroke and therefore strains your muscles, so try not to let your cadence slip.
  3. After you adopt a new cadence, there is a small delay in the resistance that is set by your smart trainer. Many quick cadence changes will be nearly impossible for your smart trainer to keep up with; therefore, aim for a steady cadence without big or frequent alterations.
  4. ERG mode doesn’t teach you to use your gears effectively, which is an essential cycling skill to have. Only use ERG mode for specific training sessions and don’t ride all your workouts in ERG mode.
  5. Training in ERG mode is a lot easier than mentally having to pace yourself. It can be a nice way to unwind after a long day at work, but don’t forget to disable ERG mode and do some high-intensity intervals when you’re up for the challenge.
  6. Stay positive! Some days you’ll hit your target numbers with ease. Other days, even warming up will feel like someone put the brakes on your rear wheel. ERG mode doesn’t know how you feel, it just keeps on adjusting. Listen to your body and if you need to, tone it down before you completely crush yourself.

Keep these tips in mind when you try out ERG mode. Enjoy your ride!