Always in small chainring

Just started SYSTM and am doing the Full Frontal prep plan and will do the actual test this Thursday. I am using level 1 instead of ERG or level 0. Peculiarly, when I pedal at the target cadence I have to be in the small chainring and adjust the cassette in order to hit the target power. I can’t get to the target cadence and power from the big ring. Chain rings are 52/36 cassette is 11speed 11-30.

I don’t feel this is a problem per se, but find it interesting. I expect to need the big ring for the full frontal test.

Maybe I should go up a few levels.

Hi @FOGrider the Test has to be done in Level Mode anyway to give the proper results. What you will find is depending on your strengths/weaknesses you might find the Neuromuscular Sprint 6/7 seconds is best done in the Big Ring and Smallest Cog on the cassette or close to it but as for the other 3 tests 1 min/5 min and 20 min tests you’ll just need to see what gearing best suits you. It could be the Big Ring or the Small Ring nobody is exactly the same and we can all say what suits ourselves best but that might not suit you. You could find after doing the Test your results aren’t quite as expected or the opposite it’s just a case of what gearing you feel comfortable with at the time but it is tough and we all feel and everyone on the forum will tell you we all think we could have done better whether it’s through better fuelling on the day, proper recovery the day before or just not feeling 100% on the day. Just give it your best but again it’s just playing about with the gearing and seeing what you feel comfortable with on the day. Good luck after 2 4 Week Blocks I do my 12 week Test again on Saturday and already know it’s gonna hurt like hell again. What you can do to aid recovery in between the 4 Tests is to go into the small Ring and just take it very very easy to get your breath back and get a bit of recovery as the recoveries aren’t taken into account at the end so don’t feel like you have to follow the on screen Power Values. Just easy pedal during the down periods so your ready for the next big push. There is no point pedalling at above recovery during these periods if you don’t need to so keep that in mind take it very easy during the recoveries, you’ll need it during the 20 minute and the shocking 1 minute all out blast right at the end of the Test and by then your legs will just be wanting to stop. Good luck :+1::+1::+1:


@FOGrider For my last test I was in 39/14 and 15. I switch the levels around for each test and leave the gearing fairly constant:

NM was 39/14 @ 5
MAP was 39/14 @ 4
FTP was 39/14 +15 @ 3 with 100+ cadence
AC was a standing start (late level change) at 39/14 @ 4

I have tried the sprints using a 52 ring and actually prefer the smaller gear as my method for the sprints is to start just around FTP at 80 to 90 cadence and then accelerate up to 130+.

I would suggest trying one of the open workouts and seeing what works best for you a week or so before you take the test so that you don’t introduce any additional fatigue in the days prior.


+1 on that advice. Play with the levels and gearing to find a good cadence that meets your target effort. You’ll at least have a good sense going in to the test instead of EFfing around during the test.


Thanks for your informative reply. I’ll do as you suggested.

Great input. Thanks for sharing.

I’m pretty sure I do the entire FF test in the small chainring, with the exception of the 5 s tests at the start. I don’t think the gear selection really matters, as long as you’re not massively cross-chained.

One thing I do aim for is consistency between tests - especially on the level selection on the trainer; the gear choice will go up and down a bit based on my fitness.

Also, you should use the cadence targets as a guide only. Everyone will have slightly different optimum cadence for the different efforts.

Thanks for sharing your insights. I was concerned it could be an issue with the kicker core but no one has mentioned that.

All good, thanks.

I just did full frontal, I did presently use a traditional full size crank on my trainer 53, 49 I think. I think I used the big ring and the mid part of the casset for the sprints going for rpm over raw power for my fitness that worked. For the rest I used small ring and the cogs were more towards the middle gears for my 5 minute and my 20 minute. On the 20 minute I shifted between three gears varying my cadence from a low of about 85 to a high of 95 just to give my muscles some room to recover in different modes so I could hold my power for 20 minutes. I consistently find that without an ERG mode on a dumb trainer, I have to make compromises between target rpm and target wastage, I typically prioritize wattage and then adjust gear that fits closest to the target rpm or the spirit of the desired rpm range. Only occasionally do wattage and gear align closely. Most of the time I have to compromise rpm below or above target.

I don:t really care what the exact gears are because my Kurt kinetic fluid trainer increases resistance with effort, all that matters is wattage and relative cadence, after that it is just trying to minimize compromise where the two don’t align perfectly. On a sprint all that matters is trying to hit the highest power I can again exact gear does not matter.

1 Like

Thanks for sharing. That’s good info.

Thanks for your help. Much appreciated.

1 Like

Hi, long time lurker-first time poster. I am also usually in the small chainring. I set it to level 0 so I can use a higher gear. Reason being, let’s say you’re in erg mode, it’s easier to pedal in the highest gear like 51/12, I think it’s because the flywheel is going faster to simulate inertia of being on a highspeed flat. When you’re in the lower gears like 34/28, it thinks you’re going up a hill so I find it harder to pedal in that gear combination, even though both are in erg mode. I have saris h3 so it may be trainer dependent but I read somewhere that that’s a thing. So in level mode I go with lvl 0 so I can artificially pad my numbers and feel better about myself >_>

Worth noting, it can be a double edged sword. If you are at low rpm during a recovery period, it gets really hard to pedal so you may need to shift.

1 Like

I am also in the small chainring 99% of the time.
That only changes for the 5s sprints.
But that can depend also on your sprint power/cadence combo.

If you are at the same power, it should not matter to be in big chainring lower level Vs small chainring higher level.
Only difference will be flywheel speed as it has been mentioned.

It is said that higher flywheel are better for sustained efforts, as it can help to smooth out pedal stroke.

Lower speeds with higher resistance will react more to small accelerations/drops.

There is also merit in changing levels during the test, as you can fall in a “gear gap”, as in for the power you can put out, cadence is slightly too high in one gear, and slightly too low on the next.

This used to happen to me on the MAP period, so cadence too high my HR would explode, next gear cadence too low, my legs were toast for the 20min part.
But that was on a fluid trainer with a very steep power curve.

I now have a KICKR and play a bit with the levels during the test to get cadence right where I want it.
I set my BOLT to control the KICKR and systm app is just recording, so I can adjust levels/gradient easily on the bike. (My computer is far from the bike connected to a wall TV).

1 Like

Thanks for the input. I didn’t know th BOLT could control the KICKR. I have ROAM and KCKR CORE so I’ll look into that. But controlling it from my iPad during rides has not been a problem.


Thanks everyone for sharing your wisdom. The big 4DP test went well, my numbers have been set in SYSTM and I’m ready for some solid winter training.

Happy to be a Sufferlandian.


Congrats on making it through that GvA damn nightmare. Happy to have you in Sufferlandria @FOGrider. Btw, you can never leave!

P.S. There’s a local cycling club called FOG. Are you from Winterpeg Manisnowba by any chance?


I’m in North Carolina USA.

Many years ago some young hipsters in a local music club called me a “friendly old guy”. I said just call me the FOG. I’m still going with that!