The transition is often considered the fourth event of a triathlon. The transition refers to the time spent between swimming and biking (T1) and between biking and running (T2). Quite simply it is when you have to “transition” from one sport to the next.
Transitions are usually timed and will show up on the final results sheet so it’s important to practice them and get as good as you can in order to have extra bragging rights!
Having a great transition can set the tone for the event you are transitioning to and can improve your overall time. Here are some tips on how to nail your transition.
Know the flow
It’s incredibly important to know how the transition “flows”. Part of your warm up should include a walk through the transition area so you have a mental picture of where you are supposed to go.
During your walk through, start as if you were exiting the swim and follow the path you will have to take during the race. Walk into transition and practice finding your bike. Spotting your bike among the masses can be challenging but if you have walked the path a few times before you will nail it. Counting bike racks or using other identification markers like a sponsors banner near your bike can really help.
The next step is to pretend you are exiting with your bike. Again, follow the exact path you will have to take and note where the mount line is (the line where you are safely and legally allowed to get on your bike).
Next, you will need to walk as if you are coming back in from the bike. Notice where the dismount line is (the line where you are required to be off your bike or you will face a penalty and possible disqualification). Walk back into transition and back to where you will have to rack your bike. The second transition can be tougher to negotiate because your bike is not there as a strong visible marker. Picking some identification markers will really help you during the second transition. The last step in your walk through is to follow the path you will have to take in order to exit the run.
There are a few key things you will have to do during a transition and visualizing them can help train your brain so they become automatic. After you have done a walk through take some time to visualize not only the flow of transition but also what you will need to do.
Key Aspects of Transition 1 (T1) (Swim to Bike)
Exit the water
- Take off your wetsuit (take the top half down while you are running to your bike)
- Remove your cap and goggles
- Take the bottom half of your wetstuit off at your bike rack
- Put your helmet and glasses on on (**MUST BE DONE BEFORE YOU TOUCH YOUR BIKE)
- Put your shoes on (if you are not comfortable leaving your shoes attached to your bike)
- Put your number belt on (if it’s not already on)
- Take your bike off the rack and walk or run with it out of transition
- Mount your bike after the mount line
Key Aspects of Transition 2 (T2) (Bike to Run)
- Dismount your bike before the mount line
- Walk or run with your bike to your transition rack (**DO NOT REMOVE YOUR HELMET UNTIL YOUR BIKE IS RACKED!)
- Rack your bike
- Remove your helmet
- Remove your bike shoes (unless you left them on your bike)
- Put on your running shoes
- Put on your running hat or visor (if you are a hat or visor wearing type)
- Walk or run out of transition
Skills you should practice
Taking your helmet on and off is simple enough when you are not under pressure but this can be a problematic part of your first transition. When you add in the fact that you may be dealing with cold hands that don’t work properly it can be down right frustrating. You can practice taking your helmet on and off at home while watching TV if you really want to nerd out! The more you do it, the more your hands will automatically go to the right place when it counts.
Taking your wetsuit off can be practiced whenever you finish an open water swim. Practicing this skill is not as easily done at home while watching TV so make a habit of getting out of your suit in a hurry after your open water swim practices.
Putting your running shoes on during the second transition is an important skill to practice. Elastic laces or toggles with your laces will really improve your second transition time. Fiddling with normal laces and trying to tie them up is simply unnecessary, there are numerous products available specifically to help you get into your running shoes without having to tie them up.
Every race will have different transition rules. Most races allow you to have all of your gear at your bike rack and you can create your own small space to manage it. Many of the larger races like Ironman and 70.3 events have a bag system that requires all of your gear to be in a bag that you collect and manage in a change tent. Some races will supply a bin that you must keep all of your gear in that is then placed at your transition rack.
Tricks used by speedy transition masters
- Keep your sunglasses on your bike- you don’t need to put your sunglasses on in transition. Keeping one arm of your eyewear under the Velcro part of the arm pads on your time trial bars allows you to get up to speed on your bike before removing them and putting them on.
- Wearing a race belt under your wetsuit is a great way to avoid having to put one on in transition. The less you have to do in transition the better **NOTE** some races do NOT allow you to do this so make sure you know the rules.
- If you are tying your shoes up in transition then you are missing out on one of the easies ways to make your transition faster. Invest in some elastic laces or some toggles for your normal laces. There is no need to be tying up shoes in transition
- Putting your helmet and/or glasses on while you are taking off the bottom half of your wetsuit is a great way to save some time. Again this type of multitasking requires some practice.
- Cut the legs on your wetsuit a bit shorter so it’s easier to get off (DO NOT CUT BEYOND THE TAPE SEEMS)- We highly recommend you do this in the presence of someone with experience so you don’t ruin a perfectly good suit!
- Another great way to save time in transition is to practice leaving your shoes on your bike. This is a huge time saver because not only do you avoid having to stop in transition to put on bike shoes but you also avoid running, often on pavement, in a slick carbon or plastic sole. This strategy also allows you to be moving forward while you are putting your shoes on.
- Always be moving forward- any time you are not moving forward you are losing time. Think of things you can do that will allow you to keep moving forward. For example, when exiting onto the run you can be running while putting on visor, your number belt and sunglasses. You don’t need to do these things while you are standing still.
Keep it simple!
Despite all of the information in this article, the transition is actually very simple. The phrase “simple is better” certainly applies to a transition. The less you have to do, the faster you will be and the less likely you are to forget something. It’s amazing sometimes to see the amount of gear that people have at their transition. From swim to bike all you should really have to do is take your wetsuit off and put your helmet on (once you have mastered the art of keeping your shoes on the bike). From bike to run all you should have to do is rack your bike, take your helmet off and put your running shoes one (possibly a hat or visor as well)
Practice makes perfect
At least one of your weekly workouts should include transitions. It is often more realistic to practice bike to run transitions simply because of the wetness factor but you should also practice the swim to bike particularly if it involves taking a wetsuit off.