A few questions came up regarding ERG mode. For all the athletes I coach, and for my own training, I never use ERG mode. Here’s why:
- Control - training to control your efforts with your own legs (instead of having the trainer do it for you) is a valuable skill in cycling. Without ERG, you have to work to maintain the power within the target power zones by engaging more muscles in your legs, by learning to apply and developing torque as needed to be in control.
- Control is important to avoid big power spikes as you transition to a higher target power, and it is also important to avoid power dips as you transition from higher to lower power. Learning to do this without ERG will help you do it on your own, in a race, group rides, events, indoors and outdoors.Why is it important to avoid these spikes and dips? Because both translate in unnecessary waste of energy. You might think this is small, but in the course of a ride/event/race, it adds up. By a lot.
- It makes you aware of how you generate power in the workouts, you practice the shifting, the changes in cadence, etc. which are all fundamental to performance.
- Our workouts incorporate many important skills that translate into more efficient riding (i.e., more power transfer to the pedals), including changes in cadence (low, medium, high) and power, fast and quick changes requiring a fast reaction, etc. ERG would make these very difficult and some impossible to accomplish because of how ERG works.
- Lastly, being fast in cycling is not simply about the power you can produce. It is about the technique required to produce it. Cycling is a sport, and if you think about any other sport out there, there is always a lot of work on technique (e.g., how to kick, how to throw, etc.) Cycling is no different, so why use an artificial environment that impedes the development of these techniques?
A word about smart trainers. Smart trainers are not useless if you do not use ERG. They are there to simulate the changes in terrain that are so valuable for when you do outside and deal with “real” terrain.
If you do workouts in Zwift and use “workout mode”, all roads will be “flat”. That’s unfortunate, but it is still better than ERG, because you are still in control of your efforts. I do all my workouts outside of “workout mode” in Zwift, just like I do them outside.
Hope this sheds some light as to why I recommend not using ERG.