Hello Sufferlandrians! We get a lot of questions about what videos should be done in Level Mode and what videos are better done in ERG mode. It's a simple question with a very complex answer. The answer below depends on a few things like the type of trainer you have or the type of rider you are. The only rider that is really impacted is the Sprinter. The rest of this discussion will be about the types of trainers.
Sprinters are the only riders that really need to concern themselves with the type of trainer they buy. For instance, if you have a sprint that exceeds 1500 watts, then that rules out about every mid range smart trainer on the market. If you want to hit those big power numbers, you need to invest in the TACX Neo, Wahoo KICKR, CycleOps Hammer, or Elite Drivo. That only names a few, but you will need to make sure your trainer can exceed the limit you can sprint up to. All other rider types would do well with about any other trainer out there.
This will not be a comprehensive list, but more of a "nearly comprehensive" list to help guide you during your decision of Level versus ERG mode. I am going to break down trainers into a few categories for you. Then I'll put them in a table of videos, and suggest which ones can be done in ERG mode, and which ones are better in Level mode.
High End Trainers (H)
High end trainers are expensive, because of their ability to apply massive amounts of resistance very quickly. Ever heard the saying, "you get what you pay for!" That statement applies here. High end trainers can handle just about any video in ERG mode, with only a few exceptions. These trainers are the TACX Neo, Wahoo KICKR, CycleOps Hammer, or Elite Drivo. They have very large electromagnets and can literally overpower you on high wattage efforts.
Mechanical Trainers (Mech)
Mechanical trainers are unique. They provide resistance by using a mechanical screw to move very powerful magnets across a flywheel or metal plate. They are just as good as any other trainer out there, except they are the least responsive trainers (bringing on resistance quickly). It takes time to move the magnets into the full position and these trainers are not good for intervals shorter than 20 seconds. Some examples are the Wattbike Atom, Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+, Elite Rampa, Emotion or InRide Smart Rollers, or any trainer that doesn't use electromagnets.
Mid Range Trainers (M)
Mid Range trainers are a good choice for the budget conscious person. The best mid range trainer on the market is the Wahoo KICKR Snap. You can sprint up to 1500 watts and climb in the 36x27 gear (65rpm) and hold 325 watts. No other mid range trainer can hold that much resistance under such slow wheel speed. These trainers are good and decently responsive. However, they struggle adding on resistance for intervals of 10 seconds or under. An example of a Mid Range trainer is the Wahoo KICKR Snap, TACX Bushido, CycleOps Magnus, TACX Flux, or Elite Direto. Any trainer that falls below $900 USD, will fall into this category.
Low end Trainers (L)
Low end trainers are really great for the Budget Savvy Sufferlandrian, but they really lack in the ability to apply quick power and support big sprint numbers. Examples of these types of trainers are the TACX Vortex Smart or the TACX Flow Smart. They are good for steady efforts, but struggle at sprinting and struggle with responsiveness.
If the video is not listed, it can be used by all trainers in ERG mode. Any video listed below, is to help you make a decision on choosing ERG or Level Mode for your specific trainer.
|Half Is Easy||✅||🛑||✅||🛑|
|Revolver is Easy||✅||🛑||✅||🛑|
|Blender (Pain Shakes)||✅||🛑||✅||✅|
|The Downward Spiral||✅||🛑||✅||🛑|
|Thin Air (Low Cadence Parts)||✅||✅||✅||🛑|
|Angels (Low Cadence Parts)||✅||✅||✅||🛑|
|Elements of Style (Low Cadence Part)||✅||✅||✅||🛑|
I know there may be some questions regarding the graph above. The only workout a high end trainer can't handle, is Violator on the 3rd set of intervals. For the most part, High End Trainers will have no issues with all of our workouts. The same goes for Mid Range Trainers. Most Mid Rang Trainers can handle all of the workouts except for any where you need to exceed very high wattage numbers very quickly. The mechanical trainers struggle with responsiveness. They have the power to put on massive resistance, but a mechanical trainer can't do it quickly or responsively enough. The low end trainers are not just limited by lower sprint numbers, but they struggle with low cadence climbing work. Let's talk about that below.
The TACX Vortex Smart is a good trainer. However, wheel speed heavily dictates wattage output. That means, the slower your rear tire is moving, the harder it is for that trainer to hit target wattage (electromagnets are not strong enough). You will need to be in the 15 cog or lower rear gear to grind out anything below 75rpm and hit anything above 250 watts. If you are using the Low End Trainer in ERG mode, you may lock yourself into the 53x19 and never be able to hit those higher wattage values at the 70rpm range. It is better to put a low end trainer in Slope mode and then keep shifting into the harder gears until you hit your desired wattage at the desired RPM. Or, you can use ERG mode, but you need to shift around to find the right gearing for those low cadence efforts.
I hope that answers some of your questions that we have seen in Sufferlandrian Services ever day or on Facebook. If you do have any questions, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can do our best to answer them. Remember, it is your trainer and your rider type that dictates the decision to use Level or ERG mode. Only through the use of the Sufferfest training app with your trainer, will you truly know which decision is right for you.