Train­ing Tips

When to use erg, slope and sim­u­la­tion modes

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - By An­drew Ran­dell and Steve Neal of The Cy­cling Gym

Se­lect­ing the right smart trainer mode

Back when we started rid­ing, win­ter train­ing meant do­ing work­outs on a set of rollers with a mag unit and, ideally, watch­ing some vhs videos of old Tour de France stages. Since then, the world of in­door train­ing has ex­ploded with smart train­ers, as well as sim­u­la­tion and train­ing soft­ware.

The big­gest change re­cently has been the in­ven­tion (you might say rein­ven­tion as the Com­pu­trainer had been around for years) of the smart trainer. When paired with the right soft­ware to con­trol re­sis­tance, the smart trainer can help to cre­ate an en­gag­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. You can ride cour­ses and ex­pe­ri­ence a work­out that does its best to mimic the out­doors.

When you pair a smart trainer with soft­ware to con­trol it – ex­am­ples in­clude Zwift, Train­erroad, Perf­pro and Xert – there are re­ally three ways that the trainer can be­have: sim­u­lat­ing an out­door course, hold­ing a spe­cific re­sis­tance tar­get in erg mode and mim­ick­ing dif­fer­ent grades in slope mode.

When we talk about rid­ing a course, we are re­fer­ring to fea­tures such as im­port­ing your Garmin file into the soft­ware and rid­ing your favourite route. The gra­di­ent will change up and down, and your trainer will ad­just the re­sis­tance. You have to man­age your ef­fort just as you would out­doors, shift­ing gears ac­cord­ingly and pay­ing at­ten­tion.

In erg mode, you don’t have to change gears. With this mode, you can build a work­out, such as a step test in Train­erroad, and then, with­out touch­ing your leavers, do the work­out while the trainer con­trols the wattage.

The third op­tion, which can also be used to build work­outs in soft­ware such as Perf­pro, is slope mode. At the gym, this is how we build most of our work­outs. Sim­i­lar to the course op­tion, a slope-based work­out varies the gra­di­ent against which you ride as the work­out pro­gresses. As with course mode, you use your gears and cadence to man­age your ef­fort.

Of the above op­tions, our least favourite is erg mode. This may be the eas­i­est way to spend time on the trainer and watch Net­flix, but it isn’t the most re­al­is­tic. When you ride, your power is con­stantly fluc­tu­at­ing. Erg mode keeps the body un­der con­stant ten­sion as it pushes the set wattage to the trainer. This isn’t how our bod­ies work. We have even seen that rid­ing in erg mode seems to in­crease a rider’s lac­tate pro­duc­tion. The whole idea be­hind this smart trainer move­ment is to make the trainer more en­gag­ing and to mimic the out­doors. Erg mode does nei­ther of th­ese. The one place where erg mode can be valu­able is in test­ing. We like to use a three-minute step test to fail­ure. With this mode and the same power me­ter for each test, you know that you have data you can com­pare to check on your fit­ness.

Rid­ing cour­ses on Zwift is a lot of fun. We have to fo­cus in or­der to do the work we have planned for the day. The great thing is the abil­ity to pick a course that is ap­pro­pri­ate for your work­out: long hills, rolling or flat. Where peo­ple get into trou­ble on Zwift is by con­stantly rac­ing and rid­ing at thresh­old. They dig them­selves into a hole in the win­ter, get­ting too fa­tigued, and then find them­selves with­out mo­ti­va­tion to ride out­doors when the weather gets bet­ter.

Fi­nally, us­ing slope mode to build a work­out is a great op­tion that com­bines the fo­cus of re­sis­tance train­ing that is vari­able and has a more nat­u­ral feel. The slope mode can be built to ac­com­mo­date short punchy in­ter­vals, long grinders and en­durance.

Each of the above op­tions meets a need i n your train­ing. We feel that per­haps the most im­por­tant thing to keep in mind about in­door train­ing is to use it to re­ally get ready for your out­door sea­son. Use the tools avail­able wisely to get ready and don’t leave your mo­ti­va­tion buried in the base­ment.

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