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Why you need to "quit" ERG mode...
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My coach had been lambasting me for months about why I need to get out of ERG mode. I finally decided to listen to her a couple months ago, and it's making a world of difference in my ability ride outdoors. So I just wanted to share my experience with others.

I rode in ERG mode for the same reasons as most:
1) It kept me locked in at an exact power, especially helpful on harder intervals where my tendency was to back off near the end
2) It allowed me to just space out (listen to an audiobook/postcast/whatever) and all I had to do was turn the cranks

The arguments against ERG mode:
1) Even when riding at the same power at the same RPM, the muscles you engage and the timing of that muscle engagement are different depending on what gear you are in. If you live in Miami and are training for IM FL maybe that's not so much of a problem if you do ERG mode in the same gear you'd normally ride, but for those of us who live in places with hills and/or race on more varied terrain, this is a major problem. I used to ride ERG mode in the small cog in the middle of my cassette (for no specific reason, but this simulates "hill" gearing), but now that I'm out of ERG mode and spending more time in the big ring, I'm finding I'm much more able to turn a big gear on longer stretches of flat. Wahoo explains this here: https://blog.wahoofitness.com/...ar-selection-matter/
2) While it sometimes sucks, you really should be focusing on your riding form, pedal stroke, body position, etc rather than watching Netflix. I recently when back and compared the pedal dynamics from my dual sided Pioneer PM for workouts where I was very focused on the task vs spacing out watching Breaking Bad re-runs, and the difference was pretty eye opening. I'm a busy guy, and out of ERG mode it's clear I'm getting more bang for my buck time wise.
3) Now that I'm riding out of ERG mode (and paying more attention to my body during workouts), I'm developing a much better awareness of the correlation between perceived exertion and power. I find when I'm riding outside, when I glance down at my PM, my estimated power is pretty darn close to actual. This helped me in my most recent race, because I was able to hold my power target much more naturally (without glancing at my head unit every 30 seconds) and instead focused on terrain management, etc. I didn't realize how much I was relying on ERG mode to keep me in my power zone until I started training without it.

I know many have had success with ERG mode, but just though I'd share my experience. This is just N=1 of a middling cyclist who really struggled to make gains on the bike over the last year but since "quitting" ERG mode in May my improvements on the bike have been very satisfying. I'm sure there are other much more skilled athletes and coaches who have a deeper perspective here, and perhaps they can weigh in.

(ps edit) if you are a 30-34 year old male participating in Santa Rosa 70.3, Santa Cruz 70.3, or contemplating 2020 IM Mt. Tremblant, please disregard this post and continue to exclusively train in ERG mode).
Last edited by: wintershade: Jun 20, 19 13:45
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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I actually wrote a whole article about this that I need to go back and edit and finally post... Thanks for the reminder.

I don't disagree with anything that you wrote. Except that I don't actually see that as a reason to "quit" ERG mode. It's simply a reason to have a reason for using it or not using it.

I came from a somewhat different approach. When I first started using Zwift, I *never* used ERG mode. For all the reasons that you listed as reasons to "quit ERG." And in my case, I found that when I started using ERG mode, I actually made some of the exact same gains you did when you stopped using it.

Why?

Because the body responds to stimulus. In both cases, it was the change that made the difference. Take your #3, in particular. With ERG *on*, I was much better able to correlate RPE and power. Precisely because ERG keeps you from starting too hard and fading, it helped me to understand how much my RPE should increase over a long block. Or #2. With ERG *on*, I am better able to focus on posture and cadence, because I don't have to think about my power.

Ultimately, a smart trainer with ERG mode engaged is simply a tool to be used (or not) appropriately. If you only ever train with it on, yes, you need to turn it off. But discounting the enormous potential value of ERG mode is equally short sighted.

Using ERG mode absolutely has made me a better cyclist. But I think what has made the biggest difference has just been being thoughtful about how I train.

"Non est ad astra mollis e terris via." - Seneca | rappstar.com | FB - Rappstar Racing | IG - @jordanrapp
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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We're all just experiments of one, but i tried erg mode once and hated it. I enjoy being involved in my rides, even when indoors at 4:45am. I might just be weird.
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [Rappstar] [ In reply to ]
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My feeling is that ERG mode is the treadmill of cycling. A tool in the kit to use periodically but not the primary one, ignoring the aspect of the treadmill that is for those living with extreme winters up north.

808 > NYC > PDX
2020 Races?: Nope.
Last edited by: hadukla: Jun 20, 19 16:00
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [Rappstar] [ In reply to ]
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So would you say that a good compromise is use ERG during workouts 3-4 times a week and non-erg during Zwift races/group rides 2-3 times per week?
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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I like Jordan's perspective. I discovered ERG 5 years ago when I bought my Gen 1 Kickr. It transformed my training and intervals were never the same. I couldn't imagine doing workouts like Sufferfest Revolver w/out ERG. But I don't exclusively train in ERG. I mountain bike Fall/ Winter for bike handling and gear changing practice. I Zwift race constantly. I do long Zwift group rides. And I ride my TT bike outside every weekend on flat and hilly terrain. I'd absolutely hate not having ERG in my toolbox. Especially in mid-January for steady state work.

I understand the arguments for working on pedal stroke mechanics, etc. and "associative training" vs. "dissociative"/ check-your-brain-at-the-door Netflix training. But be careful because constant associative training leads to mental burnout. ERG definitely has it's place and I'll never give it up. And this also applies for Running and Swimming -- drills, and mentally being dialed into my form and closely focusing on the task at hand 100% of the time is crazy and it's not fun, for me at least.
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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I don't have much of an issue focusing on form, cadence, etc in ERG mode when I'm on Trainer Road. This morning I alternated climbing cadence and fast turnover through a 95% FTP 10 min section and as always it really helped me focus on different parts of my stroke. And during the recovery intervals the Brooklyn 99 reruns were just as great as usual.

And on Zwift I couldn't imagine not using it. The variety is what keeps it interesting. Climbing feels like climbing. I credit getting a smart trainer with an ERG mode (and a coach whi knows how to utilize it) with getting me from an okay bike split to a top-ish AG bike split.

We're both right for ourselves, just putting the other side out there.

Too old to go pro but doing it anyway
http://instagram.com/tgarvey4
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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My coach absolutely will not allow his atheletes to use erg mode. Ex TDF rider.
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [ In reply to ]
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always hated ERG mode from Kickr v1 days... never used on again....
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [titemple652] [ In reply to ]
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I have only used ERG mode with TrainerRoad for the last 3 years I’ve had my kickr. 98% of my rides are on TR/Kickr. I placed 1st in my age group in the bike (35-39) in my last Ironman and regularly place top 5 in 70.3.

Instagram or twitter me softly @xatefrogg
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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No arguement with any of your points, but I think overall all the discussion about cycling technique and pedal stroke is over rated.

Bottom line is get watts up and get weight down. Whatever it takes to do that. I've met skinny guys from Holland with huge motors with zero hills anywhere nearby that fly up Alpe d'Huez. I don't think it takes much time (maybe 10 days max) going from an entire winter of erg mode to riding all kinds of terrain outdoors. Cycling is just not that technical a sport when it comes to pedaling (bike handling is another topic). Running and swimming are technical sports. You need to do those sports hard, with good technique with the full range of motion to do them well in racing. In cycling, the range of motion is identical and its just the muscle force and RPM which are changing as power varies....in the other two sports, the technique kind of changes at high speed (or at least it is very difficult to hold your easy form technique at high intensity)....in cycling, its all the same....we have gearing to help us and then its just mainly about Oxygen delivery.

To fully understand what I mean about what your legs doing being somewhat unimportant in cycling, you have read Tyler Hamilton's book about how "strong" his legs would feel after getting a blood bag on a Grand Tour rest day. It was just proof that the entire sport is about oxygen delivery, not what your legs do. So if you can use ERG mode to be able to deliver more oxygen to your body, while also reducing your overall body mass its a win win win.
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [michaer27] [ In reply to ]
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michaer27 wrote:
So would you say that a good compromise is use ERG during workouts 3-4 times a week and non-erg during Zwift races/group rides 2-3 times per week?

Is this question in isolation of swim+bike or does it include other triathlon sports. Are you using ERG mode for recovery rides or for intensity rides.
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [devashish_paul] [ In reply to ]
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If you're fucked and breathing out your arse, you inevitably slow down, even if it's a fraction. ERG mode kind of stops that. I certainly wouldn't have pushed so hard in sessions without ERG mode. Whether that's good or bad, I don't know.
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [zedzded] [ In reply to ]
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I agree with all of these points. I see Erg mode as very similar to running on a treadmill. Both are best for extended, submaximal intervals where the goal is to work your muscular endurance and maintain an even pace. Both are poor in all the other respects.
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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It is no coincidence that the sound you make when you vomit in your mouth is similar to the name of this torture apparatus.

Actually, I used to do a bit of erg once in a while for intervals but frankly if I need to be pushed to do the watts I'll just race on Zwift and have some fun nowadays. Too much of training (I'm looking at you, swimming) is repetitive and boring. Better to be engaged in what you are doing, for me at least.

I also used to fall back to erg now and again for longer indoor rides so that I could zone out and watch some shit on netflix, but now I much prefer to join a long group ride on Zwift with 3R or Vikings or something and volunteer for sweep duties. Man, sweeping really helps the hours to pass - I can do the 3R 100km ride on a Sunday morning and the 2hr 35m or whatever flies by in a jiffy. And I'm quite happy to add a bit of quality to my longer rides - I find noodling around in zone 2 a bit boring.

But hey we are all different.

For those who don't know what sweeping is in a Zwift group ride, it is when you voluntarily fall back to help people who have been dropped from the group. You assist them in your draft to bridge back up.

Cheers, Rich.
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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These are among the reasons why I never started to use it but I can see it having a place in training
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [ In reply to ]
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Certainly not in opposition to what the OP wrote. Most of us are seeking what works for us. I started out with a KK fluid trainer and hated the thing so much that I did not want to train indoors. Next, I purchased E-motion rollers and my desire to train jumped up and I was on it everyday during the weekdays, but I kept reading posts from these upper Cat level cyclists about using ERG mode on a Computrainer and wondered what that would be like. The only thing about using the rollers was I had to watch Garmin or laptop display constantly because I would drift down from my training intensity target. Along came the Kickr so I got one. Since then I rarely get on the E-motion rollers. I like that the application to trainer control keeps me in the level that I am supposed to be in without having to focus on a laptop screen.

But I find that I don't have the same issue as the OP. On the weekend, weather permitting, I do a 4 to 6 hour endurance ride and Sunday a 40 mile / 2 hour ride. Since ERG mode has helped my performance I find that when I am on the road I am actually pacing better than I was when I was using a dumb trainer (2004-2014). So my N=1 has been the opposite experience since 2014. The two outdoor rides seem to be enough to balance it all out.

Going back to what I find was key to me is training on something and with something that inspires me to use it consistently.
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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Great thread.

I think what is highlighted is that you cannot train exactly the same way all the time and expect to improve all the time. You have to constantly vary your training to improve. Some ERG, some 'not ERG', some outdoor easy, some outdoor hard/racing - its all valuable AND important.

I can hear the arguments about specificity already. Yes if you were training for an hour attempt you would spend a long time on the track and would look to increase your FTP as high as possible. But once the race had passed I bet the last thing you would do to go back to improving your road riding would be track work.

There is a coaching rule of thumb about changing things around every 6 - 8 weeks and I think that probably applies here. I bet if you spent 3 months training differently and then went back to 'ERG' mode you would find improvement again.

He who understands the WHY, will understand the HOW.
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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It it wasn't for zwift and ERG mode I don't think I would know how to use my small ring. Seriously, in the midwest I don't climb. I hit some rollers but I have never had to actually switch to my small chain ring for anything outside. Until I started zwifting last year I road two years with never needing it. I think zwifting has made me more comfortable switching gears. I use ERG for tougher intervals that there is no way I would mentally get myself through and still hit targets. I also zwift race and just randomly do all my easier/recovery rides without structure. It's not an all or nothing thing. I am also a novice when it comes to cycling but have been able to transition a lot of my leg strength built from other sports to cycling. So, for me it's just building the endurance. I absolutely believe that ERG has helped. It helps me want to ride. Really isn't that the most important thing? If I'm able to push myself for a 90 min threshold workout in ERG mode vs a 60 min workout, won't that extra 30 min be of more benefit?

https://www.strava.com/athletes/23685202
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [Xatefrogg] [ In reply to ]
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I didn't know give out awards for the bike in triathlon ;)


Xatefrogg wrote:
I have only used ERG mode with TrainerRoad for the last 3 years I’ve had my kickr. 98% of my rides are on TR/Kickr. I placed 1st in my age group in the bike (35-39) in my last Ironman and regularly place top 5 in 70.3.
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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There's a balance to it, just like anything. For a long time I only did my hard interval sessions using ERG mode either through PerfPro or TrainerRoad. Usually this was once a week, then i would do a second trainer ride with power targets but using resistance mode. This was usually more HIM power focused. Weekend rides are outside or using resistance mode riding some kind of course.

This year when I started using Zwift I think I have done 2 ERG mode rides total and everything just resistance mode while riding the profiles. Its been a welcome change and I've found myself pushing that extra little bit on the hard intervals that i wouldnt be doing in ERG mode intervals. Now that i dont do computrainer class rides anymore having the sprints and KOMs in Zwift has helped bring that competitive nature back into it that i was missing just doing ERG stuff on my own.

So what Rapp said, sometimes all you need is the change and the direction doesnt matter as much.
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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I've used ERG mode for almost all of my indoor riding since I got my smart trainer for Christmas. I have found it to be a useful tool, especially for longer intervals as others have said. My FTP has continued to improve since Jan 1. However, your post definitely has me thinking about switching things up more often and trying some of those harder intervals without it. As others have said, it is about throwing new stimulus at your body and I definitely need to start changing things up now and then.
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [Conky] [ In reply to ]
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No.

It’s not. It’s a reason to not be a dweller of your mom or spouse’s basement and or garage 99% of the time and to go outside and ride and do group or hammer rides.

Erg is fine in properly prescribed doses.

It’s not fine if you only ride that way 100% of the time.

I’d say it is fine to do it up to maybe 50% of your volume in erg. 3x8’s, pursuits, 2x20. But go chase some KOMs or do the weekly hammer ride to apply yourself.

Nothing wrong with avoiding erg altogether if and only if you have the discipline to get the intervals done.
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [michaer27] [ In reply to ]
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michaer27 wrote:
So would you say that a good compromise is use ERG during workouts 3-4 times a week and non-erg during Zwift races/group rides 2-3 times per week?

I think that sounds like a mighty fine recipe for success...

"Non est ad astra mollis e terris via." - Seneca | rappstar.com | FB - Rappstar Racing | IG - @jordanrapp
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Re: Why you need to "quit" ERG mode... [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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for me ERG mode has made riding indoors tolerable again. I would not ride indoors if it were not for ERG mode.
FWIW. i have been racing bikes since 1989 (yes i am old), spent many years on the velodrome, many many years on my computrainer (not in erg mode) and am now on a Kicker

ERG mode on the Kicker is awesome IMO

My form, pedal stroke, perceived exertion, body position etc all take care of themselves from many years of experience and as i transition from indoor to outdoor every year in April
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