Shifting on a smart trainer

I have a Kickr smart trainer. Wanted to ask about shifting in ERG mode. When riding Volcano Climb for instance I find myself shifting depending on the grade especially on the 2.5 mile climb to the top. I’m older (70) and a bit of a novice rider but should I be shifting? Am I cheating?

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Firstly no you aren’t cheating, changing gears isn’t cheating!

However in general with ERG mode you need to keep it in one gear and leave it there if you shift then ERG on the trainer won’t work properly. Grade on the climbs has no effect on the trainer resistance and even if you do shift all that happens is that the trainer has to scrabble to put back in the same resistance you had before.

Now if you’re feeling increased resistance on the hills that suggests you are *not* using ERG mode but Sim mode in which you should use your gears the same as you would outside.

I am 68 and I do shift while in ERG mode.  But the reason I shift is because the watts get too high if the interval calls for, say, 100 watts.  I suspect you have to shift because you let the cadence get too low. The resistance can go up very quickly in ERG mode if the cadence drops.  You get caught in a “death spiral” that can lead to resistance so high that you can’t move the pedals at all.  Keep you cadence in the 90-95 range.  Right before a tough interval starts, attack and spin your cadence up to say 100-105. Then let it slowly drop to 90-95. 

I actually haven’t tried any workouts in Zwift yet. I’ve been doing free riding and was under the mistaken impression that I was in ERG mode on free rides. I guess my legs aren’t in very good shape yet and I’m a little intimidated by the workouts. I’ve done some workouts in TR but they’re the easiest ones TR offers I’m sure (Taku, Carter etc…). I usually try to ride every other day for about an hour and just try to get in a decent ride. My cadence averages about 80-85 and my wattage is ridiculously low at about 88 as an average. Probably don’t have my FTP set right but try not to think too much about what all this means and just try to get my HR up to a point where I’m sweating and breathing hard. Get passed by EVERYBODY but do enjoy Zwift just the same. Thanks!