Newb cannot maintain 80 rpm and power level at same time

Just started this week, haven’t biked much lately due to a pinched nerve in my back (seeing chiro to get that fixed, taking forever). I have an Elite Suito combined with my Mountain bike, I need the mtb since the dropper seat post is essential right now (back limits my ability to get my leg over the seat when dismounting). I am quite sure my conditioning is terrible.

So, the issue I am having is the periods where it asks you to do like 85 watts at 80 rpm. I can do one of those, but not both! I am typically about 65 rpm to hit the target wattage. If I hit 80 rpm, then I am at like 100-105 watts. My questions are:

  1. Is there something in the setup that may be causing this? I have done at least one short ftp ride.
  2. Should I switch to my road bike, and do something to overcome the seat issue (I dunno, a step stool or something?). Not sure if the road bike would be considered more smooth in terms of power/rpm.
  3. Am I just that out of shape? (probably) I am doing 20-30 minute rides so far, while getting used to this and tempering my seat bones.

Any suggestions or ideas would be awesome, thanks! (ride on!)

When you’re hitting that higher than desired wattage, is your bike shifted into its easiest gear?

Do I need to? I assumed that ERG mode always adjusted the difficulty for me, that gear shifting basically did nothing, but I can try that!

I know just for myself that if eg. I’m in a high gear, my Direto seems to have a higher watt floor on the low end so I have to move to an on-bike easier gear.

FYI, came across this article (you’ll have to fix the link address):

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It does, but there is an optimal gear combination. Typically, you want small front chainring + whatever rear cog gives you a straight chain-line. (for me, that’s 3rd from lowest gear)

This results in a quieter drivetrain and more responsiveness to power and cadence changes.

ZwiftInsider has an article on erg mode with a section on gearing: All About Erg Mode in Zwift | Zwift Insider

Zwift’s Official support page also mentions the Wattage floor issue: ERG Mode in Workouts

I did a bunch of testing on this today, with no good results. Shifted all over the place, nothing changed at all. Still pretty much always 62-70 rpm to hit the target wattage. At this point, I think I just need to improve my conditioning.

I am wondering if I need to crank up the difficulty, I got a ANT+ usb dongle today so I could see my heart rate, and I was always around 110-115. I think I manually set the ftp to 130, seems like maybe I could go a bunch higher? I was never sweating. Or maybe need to do a more challenging ftp ride? I am really unclear on how to get that done.

Seems like I can’t post a link to my ride report. Ugh.

Do a ramp test, Zwift has a few options for testing your ftp in the training menu.

Looks like the “Ramp Test” has some very tall red bars, the “Ramp Test Lite” not so much. Do I just ride until failure, or what mechanism is there to end the ride if I am dying? lol

First question is are you using clipless pedals or are you on flats?

Keep seated and try to match power until your cadence drops below ~60rpm max. When you are dead, stop pedalling and it will ask you to confirm you are toast, say yes and it will then give you a cool down.

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don’t worry about that, just go until failure. Make sure you are well rested before starting.

I am on flats right now, because of my back problems, using clipless has been… problematic. I could certainly give it a try tho!

thanks, appreciate it!

Thanks! will give it a try

Did the FTP test today, got clipless pedals on. New FTP is now 275, made it to 380 level. I can do better, forgot to turn on my fan and was wearing a long sleeve shirt, so I was overheating for sure. But have a good new baseline, thanks everyone for their tips!


I figured the flats were a lot of the issue. Nearly all push and hard to spin a faster RPM since the foot it’s attached.

Yeah, spot on, I sadly got away from them due to faceplanting a couple times due to the back issue (couldn’t unclip). I will be ohh so happy when this back is fixed. But no faceplanting issues while riding the trainer, that’s for sure!

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Well I hope you have fun and can enjoy it especially without the risk of tipping over. Another thing I would highly advocate for would be a professional bike fit, especially if you have a nagging injuries or nerve issues. While a proper fit from an educated professional can cost a little bit, the comfort and enjoyment derived from such an expense has always been worth it in my book.