Triathlon Transitions 101

Saving time during transitions can help your race in many ways. If you’re weak in swimming but you have a good transition, then it will help you to feel better and get your motivation rolling again. If you have a good swim along with a good transition, you just maintain that consciousness of “I’m having a good race”, so keep it going.

The trick is to move through transition as quickly as you can, and start making up for the lost ground. Or if you are one of those who lead the swim, get through T1, get on your bike, and get out of sight from your competitors.

Here are some few tips to help you out in making your transition quickly and smoothly during a triathlon.

Transition from Swimming to Bike

During the last 200 meters of your swim, you should be kicking lightly. The goal is to get some blood flowing into your legs before you stand up, so that your body won’t be in shock at the sudden surge of blood in to your extremities.

As you stand up and head up for transition, reach back and grab your wetsuit and unzip. As you are running toward your bike, your wetsuit should be around your waist. As you reach your bike rack, pull off one leg of your wetsuit by sliding your hands down your leg and around your ankle and push the suit off. Then, step on the other leg and do the same.

Now, you are free!

Now put on your helmet and glasses on, grab your bike at the stem and head out of transition. Your bike should be racked with the rear wheel moving toward the rack. This way, as you pull out of transition, you can see where you are going.

Clipping your shoes on your Bike

Before starting the race, fasten your shoes into the pedals. Lubricate the back of your heels with Bodyglide so that your feet slide in easily. Make sure that your bike is on the right gear of your preference before you start out for the race. Choose a gear that you are comfortable with. Now if your left shoe doesn’t have a finger strap on the back, be clever.  Loop a rubber band around the back of your shoe so as to serve as a strap (and somehow get your shoes to remain parallel with the ground), then loop closer the rubber band around the end of the skewer for ‘quick release’ (the skewer is the part of the bike you lock down once you put your wheel back on).

Your left shoe should now be parallel with the ground. You can now do the same with your right shoe. Loop the rubber band around the front derailleur, or find a spare part to hook the rubber band on, and around, without interfering with the mechanics of the bike.

The Flying Mount

Once you have mounted your bike and you’re off the track, you are now running for the dismount line. Be careful of other racers, watch out for people who are not watching their back. Run across the line, and then leap into the air with the goal in your mind of landing with the inside of your right leg on the seat, then slide down to the seat.

After you have landed safely on your seat, flip over the right pedal with your toe and push down. Wait for the left shoe to come around, and then get your left foot on top of it.

You can now push down with both feet on top of your shoes. As you are moving along, look up and keep your eyes on the road. Work your toes and then your feet into your shoes and within a couple of minutes you’re away.

Other comments:

Some people will tell you that putting your shoes on in transition is faster, and maybe for them it is. But in terms of safety and sliding across the pavement like you are on ice skates, with your cleats on, I would rather run barefoot.

On top of that I am still sticking to my opinion that putting on my shoes while rolling along at 16-20 mph is much faster than putting on my shoes in transition. If you are someone who likes to run with socks on, you have a choice to put them on in T1, or in T2.

Personally, I think it’s too hot to bike with socks and if you are like me, then you should wait until T2 to put your socks on for the run. Most importantly don’t try this in a race without practicing it about 20-25 times. This is free time on your competitors!

Bike to Run

This will work best with Velcro closure biking shoes. As you get ready for the next transition, imagine moving up a few places on transition time alone. It can be done, and I’ll tell you how!

  • Move your right foot to 12 o’clock and stop pedaling (yes, coast).
  • Reaching down quickly, undo the Velcro strap and pull it as far through as you can so it won’t get caught in the chain ring (or flop back and close again) when you start pedaling again.
  • Spin the left leg up and undo the Velcro strap on that side.
  • Maintain your momentum by spinning a few easy revolutions.
  • Bring the right leg back to the top again and take your right index and middle finger thus making make a Y figure, push down the back of your right shoe, then slip your foot out in the process.
  • Once you pull your foot out of the shoe, let your foot swing back and catch the shoe with your free toes and place your foot on the shoe and use it as the ‘pedal’. This is one quick motion, and don’t get caught with the shoe on the bottom side, or else you will go tumbling down.
  • Next, using your left hand, do the same to your left foot. Slip your left foot out and use that shoe as the pedal.

You should be within a few yards away from the DISMOUNT line now. Take your right foot off the pedal (shoe) and swing your right leg back over the seat and you will have two legs on one side of the bike (the left). At this point you will balance on your left leg (which is standing on the shoe/pedal).

You can practice this drill by swinging your leg back and forth over the seat repeatedly. Get up to speed on the bike and practice this little movement repeatedly. Swing the leg from the left to the right, and then repeat.

Now take the right leg and bring it right through between the left leg and the crank. Your left foot remains on the pedal while your right foot hits the ground. The reason we dismount this way is two fold.

One, with that kind of movement, you can literally ‘run’ off the bike.

Two, if you swing your right leg over and cross it slightly behind the left leg while your other leg is still on the pedal till you come to a stop; you have a good chance of tripping as you are stopping.

If you stay in motion and keep everything fluid, it will go much easier. By bringing your right leg between the left leg and the left crank (bike frame), you are stepping off the bike and heading into the transition area in a full sprint while your competitors are watching you go by.

So grab the neck of the bike and head out to your transition spot.

Hope this helps you get some pointers!

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