What is expected "shifting" behavior on a smart trainer *not* in ERG mode?

Have read other posts on this, but still can’t figure it out.

I am new to Zwift and smart trainers, and am trying to figure out what I should expect in terms of resistance when I ride in non ERG mode.

Tonight I did a group ride (Richmond) and noticed that something seemed to be setting the gearing on the hills, though I wasn’t shifting the physical gears on my bike at all. There were some sections where I was able to spin faster at a low gear, and others where I had to push hard at a low rpm – both on uphill.

From reading other posts, it seems like I’m supposed to physically shift my gears to handle inclines/declines, but something was clearly at work here. Another peculiarity was that I used the aero helmet bonus at some point and at first I zoomed passed everyone and then it became nearly impossible to turn my pedals over.

I’m on a Saris H3 paired via ANT+ to a MacBook Pro, using the companion app on an Android phone.

Can anyone explain what is going on? Thanks!

That’s definitely not right, and sounds more like ERG mode.

When you’re not in ERG mode (often called SIM mode, for simulation), you should “feel” the gradient changes through varying resistance. So when the gradient increases, it should become harder to pedal (just like outdoors), so you’ll need to push harder or change to a lower gear (or both).

The Trainer Difficulty setting determine how much of the gradient is simulated, and the default setting is 50% meaning a 10% gradient will feel like a 5% one.

Check that you’ve paired the Controllable device to the FE-C option in the pairing screen.

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That is good to know.

I definitely do feel it become hard to pedal - it just seemed like there were times when it felt like it dropped to a super low gear and I was spinning really fast. Most of the time it felt harder though. It is possible that maybe that was actually a downhill portion and I didn’t notice? I only realized last night in browsing the forums that there is a way to see the grade in your display (very useful!) so hopefully that will be helpful in diagnosing the problem.

It’s possible, though Zwift only simulates downhills at half their actual gradient, so you typically don’t find yourself suddenly very freely spinning downhill.

Keep an eye on the gradient now that you’ve spotted it, and see if you can figure out what exactly is going wrong.