Why I don't use ERG mode

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.

Maybe @Stefanie, @Michelle, @adm0629, @Lindsy, @Covi @apalexander and @VMW would like to share their opinions. They have been training with me for a year or longer without ERG mode.


I used erg mode until I started training with Coach Theia; I was new to Zwift and didn’t really know what I was doing. I did my first few workouts with Theia in erg mode and then listened to her advice and turned it off… that was hard! It was really difficult to hold a steady power range and there were times when I was so frustrated that I wanted to switch it back on. But I began to learn how to pedal properly - applying torque to make those small shifts in power and getting a bit smarter with my gear changes.
I’ve definitely noticed a difference in how I ride outdoors, I can control my efforts with changes in cadence and torque when previously I would have been flicking through the gears and ultimately losing momentum.
Yes it will strange at first, it may be a little frustrating too but you will feel the benefits and will find workouts much more enjoyable.


Coach Theia,
Thanks for explaining this to us.
I have been doing the Le Tape training on zwift and have always used erg mode.
The other day my watts were going up and down, freaking me out, and saw I didn’t have erg mode on, and put it on.
this scares me, as my watts were all over the board, .
It does scare mento go off erg mode. But you giving me this opportunity to get into this group and coached by you, I need to trust what you are saying and I do. I just it doesn’t take me too long to learn to do this. Your teaching an older dog new tricks. LOL ( I don’t feel old or act like it anyway)


I used to do Zwift workouts with ERG mode on until I started training with @Coach_Theia. ERG was easy, I didn’t have to think, didn’t have to shift much, I could pretty much zone out as long as I paid attention and didn’t let my cadence slip so far I got got in the ERG death spiral.

Turning off ERG was scary and for a long time it was really hard to hit the power and cadence targets and to hold them. Like @Michelle I’d get really frustrated. But I stuck with it because I noticed in Zwift rides and races and on IRL rides I was starting to be able to do stuff I hadn’t been able to before. I was learning how to shift for hills and sprints, learning how to use cadence, learning how to control an effort and keep the same power while switching between sitting and standing. I was also getting stronger because I was using more muscles and engaging my core. And, it turned out that not using ERG during a workout made workouts so much more interesting and fun. Now the thought of using ERG for a workout makes me cringe, why would I do that? It’s so boring!

So my advice to everyone going with ERG for the first time, be kind to yourself, you are learning some new skills, it will be frustrating but you will get better and better and end up being glad you stuck with it.


Thanks for all this info and advice, really appreciated. I’m new to Zwift and don’t really understand ERG and how it works etc so am happy to give it a go not using ERG mode, I’m here to learn and hopefully improve and become a better cyclist.
Just to clarify though, …when I do any ride on Zwift I should turn off ERG mode, not just the training for this challenge? If I do that, when I come to do the Stage 7 Watopia which is a climb up Alpe De Zwift won’t that appear to be a flat course? how do I simulate a climb? There’s such a lot for me to learn :rofl:

I think everyone has covered it really well, but I’ll try and add a few different things as well.

I will never go back to using ERG mode. There’s been the occasional workout when @Coach_Theia asks us too, but I’m so used to not using it now that I really prefer riding without it. It’s more like riding on the road because it makes you accountable for the power you have to hold and it’ll make you a lot better with shifting and knowing which gears to use for which power ranges. I find my trainer is too slow to react and I actually really like the workouts where we focus on control. It’s something to focus on instead of how tired you are or how long the interval is. It does take some getting used to and that’s ok. Some people get it faster than others and every new workout brings a new challenge. For those of us who have been doing this now for a little over a year, we still make mistakes and it may take us 1-2 intervals to get it just right, but that’s part of the process.

Plus, it really does make you stronger because before I started being coached by Theia I always rode with the same cadence. Last spring I had a real life on the road mechanical problem that I was able to overcome and get home. If it hadn’t been for this training it would’ve been much harder. I lost my shifting as my cable broke internally and I had 20km left in my ride. It’s rolling hills where I live so I was able to use low cadence up the hills and over 100rpm down them. I know I would’ve been having a rough time before this training.

My last comment echoes Stephanie’s. I find the workouts much more enjoyable without using ERG.


Another thing to try if you are finding it hard is to make sure your settings are set to 3 sec average. That helps.

About the hills, any time you are in workout mode it flattens the route, but you are doing intervals so that simulates work you would do on hills, flats, and down hills, so whether you use ERG mode or not doesn’t matter.


Hi @watsonsue, I’m doing Tour of Watopia too and the tour is not in workout mode, ERG is only available in workouts. The stage of the Tour that was actually a workout had ERG option available, but when stage 7 happens next week, you’ll be feeling every meter of elevation on the alpe :grimacing:


@Coach_Theia, this is interesting read … I never thought about this but it makes totally sense. I will do all these workouts without ERG mode and see how this works. I cannot imagine though to do these workouts out on a road with traffic lights, turns, up and downs… maybe I should try once … as an extra challenge. :wink:


Ahhh @Stefanie thanks, that makes sense - must admit not looking forward to doing Stage 7 - only did it once before and remember it as being h-a-r-d :scream:


I think there is a lot of misinformation out there about ERG mode. And a lot of passionate and sometimes angry athletes / promoters that push ERG.

I think the bottom line is ERG makes workouts EZ to execute (not easier to make the power but easier to go from effort to effort). You don’t need to think, you just make power and the machine does the thinking for you.

But if you use common sense, and ask yourself, will a machine control the power I make out on the road? No. If not, why train that way. You should train like you ride / race. And, out on the road you need to constantly make mental calculations about how and why to make power. This is a skill that can be learned.


I never use erg either. We MTB and are used to gear shifting so this just made sense to me :+1:


Ha! Didn’t know it was the Alpe! I actually like that route :crazy_face:


I like it too @Sylvie :blush:


Thanks for this info. I did a ride today and tried a Training Peaks workout I had. I would not make the power whereas I can on the trainer! This will definitely be a challenge, but I will work at it!


Agree with all that’s been said. I felt the benefits of this type of training on a group ride this weekend. I ended up in a small group on a series of short rolling hills. There were several different types of riders, and everyone climbed differently - but by modulating my speed, cadence, and body position, I could stay in each one’s draft without having to expend a lot of energy on my own. I will never go back to ERG!


I have a Kinetic Road Smart Trainer that doesn’t “ERG”. I guess I don’t know what I’m missing.


Hi All!

@Coach_Theia - So, I have spent a lot of time on Zwift in ERG mode. In the past 6 months or so, I’ve not been on Zwift (or the trainer) at all, as I’ve been riding outdoors. I’m going to do a ramp test tonight to recalculate my FTP, but should I still do it with ERG mode off? It sounds like it’s going to be a challenge to get used to, so I’m wondering if not using it for the first time will give me an accurate FTP? I fully expect I’ll be all over the place! LOL. But I’m excited to learn without it!

Hi @phartmoyer I am glad you are excited to learn to ride your bike without ERG!!! Do the ramp test with ERG OFF. It’s fine if the power varies.

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Ok, I’ll give it a go!! :smile: Thank you!!