Faster Triathlon Transitions


Don’t leave faster triathlon transitions up to chance. The time you spend in transition could make or break your race. In fact, it’s known by many as the time for “free speed” because it’s a lot easier and takes less effort to get a faster race time through a quick transition than it is to get faster in swimming, cycling, or running. In order to have a fast triathlon race, you need to be fast and smooth in transition. And a fast transition requires skill and practice.

Practicing your transitions is the best way to get better at it and the best way to get free speed in triathlon.  Whether you race sprint triathlons or the Ironman, a faster transition will benefit you.  In fact, the shorter the race, the more important it is to have a fast transition. 

By setting everything up correctly before the race, not only will it save you time, but it will also prevent lost equipment and aggravation. 

Faster Triathlon Transitions

Setting Up Your Transition Area

The first step in having a fast triathlon transition is giving yourself plenty of time before the race. Besides setting-up your transition, you’ll need time to warm-up before the start, pick up your race number, get body-marked, and visit the porta-potty (we’re all a little nervous before races, so there will be a line!).

You want to keep your transition area simple so that you do as little as possible in transition during the race.  If you’re a minimalist, that will be easy.  If not…well, then it’s something you’ll need to work on.

Put out only the items you need for the race and no more.  Everything else can go back into your transition bag.  That means only your bike, helmet, bike shoes, sunglasses, running shoes, and any clothing/socks you’ll need to race.

Using a towel or transition mat, lay out the items you’ll be using in the order you’ll be using them.

In the example above, you can see a simple transition setup that would work for a shorter distance triathlon without socks or nutrition. Water bottles are already on the bike. On the towel are a running hat with a race belt and number near the top next to running shoes. In the next row after that is the bike helmet with sunglasses next to bike shoes.

If you’re racing a longer distance triathlon, you might include socks, nutrition, sunblock, and an anti-chafing product.

What you include in your transition area will depend on what you use in training, if you plan on using the nutrition on course or your own, and any particular needs you might have. If there’s something you might need depending on certain situations, then you can keep it in your transition bag and take it out if the situation requires it.

After racking your bike and setting up your transition area, look for landmarks and count which row you’re in.  After spending some time horizontally during the swim, it’s easy to become disoriented running to transition.  So do the work now and make it easier for yourself later on.

Preparing Your Bike:

Make Sure That The Brakes On Your Bike Aren’t Rubbing

If you take the wheel off your bike while travelling to the race, you want to check that everything is lined up when you put the wheel back on.

Make Sure It’s In An Easy Gear

You don’t want to start the bike portion of the race feeling like you’re going uphill!

Check That You Have Everything On Your Bike

Make sure your race number is on the bike along with any nutrition and hydration you may need for the race.

You should always have a saddle bag on your bike with tools & spare tubes.  Hope for the best, but be prepared if something does go wrong.

Check Your Bike Computer And Power Meter

Make sure that the computer and power meter on your bike is reset and ready to go.

If You’re A Beginner

You’ll see people in transition the morning of the race pumping up their tires, but that’s not something you need to do.  Pump up your tires at home at room temperature.  Air expands when it heats up and the cooler morning air before the race start could have you unintentionally over-inflating your tires.  As the sun comes up and as you ride your bike, the air inside the tubes will expand.  This is something that needs to be taken into account when pumping up your tires. Nothing ruins a faster triathlon transition like a flat tire.

If You’re Advanced

Set up your bike with your shoes on it so you can do a flying mount & dismount.  Remember to keep the velcro on the shoes open so you can slide your foot into it once you start pedaling.

This will give you a faster triathlon transition if you’re comfortable mounting your bike this way. But if you’ve never tried this before, race day is not the time to learn. The fastest way to get on your bike will always be the way your practiced the most.

Preparing For The Rest Of The Race:

Before putting on your wetsuit, use a product like Trislide for easier wetsuit removal.

Make sure you have an extra pair of goggles, clear and tinted, so that you can choose the correct ones based on the conditions and weather.

During the Race

For a faster triathlon transition, keep everything together and neat.  Don’t interfere with someone else’s transition area. And after the race, make sure you don’t accidentally take other people’s stuff.

T1 (the swim-to-bike transition)

Preparing For The Bike:

  • Near the end of the swim, start kicking a little more to get blood into your legs and prepare them for the bike.
  • Don’t run out of the water too soon.  Running in shallow water takes more energy and is slower than swimming in shallow water.  Swim until your hands start hitting the bottom, then get up and run.

Removing Your Wetsuit:

  • While running to T1 and after unzipping your wetsuit, take off your cap & goggles.  Keep them in one hand while you peel off your wetsuit down to your hips and leave them behind in the sleeve.

In Transition:

  • Never sit down in transition: it’s slower, you could get in someone else’s way, or you could cramp up.
  • The first thing on and the last thing off should be your helmet.  Avoid disqualification by not forgetting to make sure it’s clipped.

Getting On The Bike:

  • Learn how to do a flying mount; it will be the quickest way to get on your bike.  DO NOT attempt this on race day if you’re not comfortable or ready to do it.  
  • On race day, get on and off your bike the best way you know how to. Whichever technique you’re most comfortable with will be the fastest on race day.

T2 (the bike-to-run transition)

Preparing For The Run:

  • Near the end of the bike, switch to an easier gear. This will prepare your legs for the run.

Getting Off The Bike:

  • Learn how to do a flying dismount; it will be the quickest way to get off your bike.  DO NOT attempt this on race day if you’re not comfortable or ready to do it.  On race day, get on and off your bike the best way you know how to.
  • If you’re doing a flying dismount, take your feet out of your shoes about ¼ mile before transition and pedal with your feet on top of your bike shoes.

In Transition:

  • Once in T2, rack your bike THEN remove your helmet. Avoid disqualification or penalties by keeping your helmet on and clipped at all times while on your bike. The first thing on & the last thing off should be your helmet.
  • Using speed laces or lace locks on your running shoes are a big time saver.
  • Run without socks. If you must run with socks, scrunch or roll them up while setting up your transition area so that you can quickly pull them on when needed.
  • Grab your hat, race number belt, and nutrition and keep moving. Don’t eat in transition or stop to put on your hat. You can do all of that while walking or running out of transition.

Bonus Tips:

Looking for more guidance?
Let us help you through your triathlon journey.

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