Newbie needs help understanding KickR and Systm prior to Half Monty

I’m a former runner, new cyclist, who just connected my Kickr and did the first workout on the SYSTM tour. I had no data for an FTP estimate so I looked up a typical value for a beginner and used 204.

I did the smaller chain ring for the workout.

I was completely confused on my first workout. I easily hit the power targets, but the cadence targets were impossible at times because I was already on the smallest gear and couldn’t make it harder or I was already on the largest gear and couldn’t make it easier. Most of the time I’d easily hit the power target with a substantially lower cadence than the target and couldn’t shift to a higher cadence without blowing past the target .

I’m concerned that I have a conceptual error in how the trainer and SYSTM work together that will cause errors in tomorrow’s Half Monty. I’d appreciate if someone could tell me what I’m doing wrong with relation to using the KickR o for taking the Half Monty test.


Welcome to cycling!

First, for (almost) all workouts you should set your trainer in ERG mode. You do that in SYSTM Settings (the gear on top right). Click on the Devices tab. You’ll see your KICKR listed. Then you’ll see either something that says ERG or Level. Set it to ERG.

What does ERG mode do? It means that the trainer will maintain the power target called for in the workout no matter what gear you’re in or what cadence you use. In practice, that means changing gears will make no difference at all. So don’t! (There are nuances relating to speed of power changes, but don’t worry about that for a while.) ERG also means that when you pedal faster, you’ll need to apply less force and when you pedal slower, you’ll need to apply more force. It’s as if the bike is shifting automatically to keep you going at the same speed up a hill no matter how fast or slow you pedal. So for workouts, use the small chain ring and the 3rd or 4th smallest cog and never shift.

Second, let’s talk about fitness tests. For Half Monty, you will ride the first part (the ramp test part) in ERG mode and suffer mightily as you get higher up the ramp. If your guess at you FTP and MAP (set it about 1.25x FTP to start) are in the ballpark, you won’t finish the ramp. You’re not supposed to. When you get to the point where you no kidding can’t continue to turn the cranks, stop. The instructions will keep reminding you and tell you what to do next.

One thing you’ll do next is switch to level mode. You do this right in the middle of the test. I suggest you use level 1 or maybe 0. So what’s Level mode? Level mode mimics climbing a hill. Level 1 corresponds roughly to a 1.5% grade. Unlike ERG, cadence and shifting matter. The higher the gear or faster the cadence, the more power you’ll generate (just like on the road). Keep in mind that acceleration causes power to jump up and then come down to a steady state. So if you shift or change cadence, power will move a lot before it stabilizes (although it will still bounce around because no one has a perfectly smooth stroke).

I think that’s enough to get you started. Ask more questions as they come up.


I should also note that new cyclists often have difficulty with higher cadence. It will naturally increase as you cycle more. In addition to the neuro-muscular coordination demands of higher cadence, it also puts higher demand in your cardio system. Lower cadence is less efficient, but puts more demands on muscle strength. You’ll eventually find the right cadence for you and will get better at riding in a range of cadences to help improve overall endurance.


Wow. Such a helpful response. Learned so much from you. Thank you!


also your setup could be off. i would email the minions to walk you through your connections and setup. They sorted me out quickly when i first got going.

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Follow up question. I repeated the first workout on the SYSTM tour and remained perplexed about cadence. I was in Erg mode, didn’t shift, as you advised. I hit the power targets, now based on my initial Half Monty, but the cadence targets shown seemed to have no relation to the power. I focused on the power targets and basically ignored the cadence targets and the prompts to Stand because the resistance was too light to stand and if I attempted the high cadence targets I blew past the power targets. Also, my Climb didn’t adjust incline at all as I thought it is supposed to do. It was a good workout, and often well above 90 rpm, but the cadence /power relationship was once again confusing. Hitting the power targets is challenging but feels right, while the cadence targets seems way off given the resistance

When you’re in ERG mode (the usual setting for almost all workouts), power and cadence have nothing to do with each other. If you pedal faster, the trainer will reduce resistance automatically in order to keep power the same. If you pedal slower, the trainer will increase resistance in order to keep power the same.

To get a little into the physics:

Power = Force applied to pedals x crank length x cadence.

Obviously, crank length is constant, so if you pedal faster, you need less force (I.e. resistance) to maintain constant power and Visa versa if you pedal slower.

I hope that helps you make sense of what’s happening.

It’s also worth understanding that at constant power, the workout feels different at different cadences. That’s why they have cadence targets.

Slow cadence. This requires more force and muscular strength, but puts less load on the cardiovascular system. If your legs feel good but your lungs don’t, sometimes reducing cadence can help you go on, even though you’re pushing harder. Very slow cadence can also help you focus on a smooth pedal stroke.

High cadence. Less muscular strength is required, but more cardiovascular conditioning. Very high cadence drills can help build the neuromuscular coordination that helps with maintaining higher cadence with a smooth stroke. Since maximal efficiency is typically at pretty high cadence, this is important.

Thanks for the primer. Does this imply that I should ignore the cadence targets? It’s so confusing for me to have the software tell me to stand but the resistance is so light that I can’t stand. So the stand segments are useless for me - I just sit and hit the power targets easily.

I always try to hit the cadence targets because those have value in themselves. As noted, if you’re in ERG mode, power will not be effected when you increase or decrease cadence. That’s the whole point of a smart trainer.

Lots of people have trouble standing at low power. If you can’t, don’t. But it is a skill you can learn if you want to. And it also has value to making you a stronger rider.

@AkaPete is right, standing IS a skill on a trainer, and takes a while to master. And at lower resistence, your body has to practice a smooth pedal stroke - standing - in order to complete the set. It took me months to “stand well” on the trainer, and I still don’t do it all the time - like low resistence when I’m tired.

My guess that would be why the “form” videos include standing in your practice. Like Elements of Style. Just keep at it.

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