What is the ERG monster?

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

What is ERG mode? And who is the ERG monster?! (Hint: It's not Tim.)

Our BaseCamp workouts are done in ERG mode. Some of you may be unfamiliar with this mode (and the monster), but do not be afraid! ERG mode is not as bad as it sounds, and if the ERG monster gets you once, that’s how you learn how to use the mode correctly!

What is ERG mode?

ERG mode locks the prescribed wattage and then holds that wattage within a buffered zone, regardless of the cadence or gear you use.

For example, let’s say your interval is 150 watts. The smart trainer will automatically change resistance to keep you in a power range at approximately 150 watts. Since no one will pedal perfectly at 150 watts, the trainer gives you a buffer of about 8-10 watts on the high and low sides. You will not be able to ride harder or easier; you are locked into this gated range. Also, in ERG mode you do not change gears. You simply need to pedal at your desired cadence in the workout power zone.

What is the ERG monster?

Remember that a watt = how fast you pedal x how hard you pedal. To make that watt, you can pedal faster or harder. When you are in ERG mode, your watts are locked. They will not change. That means if you pedal faster, the resistance (how hard) will decrease. If you pedal slower, the resistance (how hard) will increase….and increase and INCREASE until you can no longer pedal the bike. THAT IS THE ERG MONSTER.

Going back to the 150-watt example, if you lose concentration or cannot hold the interval power and slow your cadence, the ERG monster will nip at you -- the trainer resistance increases, gets harder -- and if you don't immediately respond with an increase in cadence (faster pedal), the ERG monster will eat you up -- the resistance will overwhelm your ability to pedal.

How to outsmart the monster

  • Don’t ever stop pedaling or slow your cadence too much.

  • Make sure your FTP is set correctly, which will set your zones correctly. Your endurance rides need to be endurance power for a reason! No one can ride VO2max power for 60 minutes. Set the zones right and train where you need to be. The workout power is prescribed for a certain duration for a reason.

  • When the interval is over, do NOT soft pedal or coast! Ride it out and allow the smart trainer to adjust the resistance to your cadence. If you stop pedaling, the ERG monster will get you. If you soft pedal, the ERG monster will nip at your heels. You will feel the resistance, and you will need to ride really hard to get the cadence back up to the prescribed zone.

  • When the interval is about to increase, be ready and get out ahead of the resistance change. Increase the pressure on the pedals just a little; this will increase your cadence and get you ahead. Then, as the resistance increases, you will naturally slow your cadence back down to your regular spin.

  • If you're having a rough day -- and everybody (me included) has a rough day once in a while -- use the + or - adjustments in Zwift to decrease your FTP for the workout. This will slightly lower your zones and help you get through the day!

If the ERG monster gets you

Stop for 1-2 seconds. The trainer will switch off ERG mode to allow you to get your cadence and power back up to the goal wattage. Zwift will give you the message "turning off ERG" and "resuming ERG."

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