Triathlon Transitions, 10 Essential Tips

In this blog I’ll provide you with 10-tips to help you knock seconds or minutes off them, so you can fly through the three different disciplines like a pro…

No matter what level you’re currently at there is no excuse for being slow at triathlon transitions. The time you take between the swim, bike and run sections is down to your skill-level rather than your god-given talent. And anyone can master transitions in just a matter of weeks.

1. Keep it Simple

The less stuff you have in transition the better. Every item and every action has a time cost.

2: Slow Down

Yes that’s right, slow down. Unless you’re in a draft-legal race you don’t need to sprint like Usain Bolt through transition. Research shows that most triathlete’s heart-rates are at their highest throughout the transitions. You might gain 5-seconds by sprinting, but you’ll fatigue quicker and lose more time later on in the race. You’re also more likely to make silly mistakes when you’re at maximum intensity. So pace yourself and save time by being smart in transition, rather than sprinting like a fool.

3. The Set Up

Before your race you must walk around the transition area and visualise the swim-in, bike-out, bike-in and run-out areas. Rehearse each section on foot from where your bike is racked. Imagine what you’ll be thinking and what it will look like when there are hundreds of bikes and people there. What visual cues can you use to help you find your place in transition? On race day it needs to feel like second nature.

4. Movement Patterns

When you rack your bike before the race, take the opportunity to practice your movements. For example, put your helmet and glasses on and off several times, and then do the same with your running shoes or number belt. Do this at least 10 times for each element, so that the movement patterns become etched into your brain.

5. Shoes On Your Bike

If you’re allowed to, keep your bike shoes attached to your pedals rather than wasting time putting them on in the transition zone. Keep them in a horizontal position by looping a thin elastic band around the heel-tab of each shoe and hooking it on a bottle cage or wheel-skewer. When you jump on your bike and pedal, the bands will simply snap. Ride with your feet on top of the shoes until you’re up to speed and then slip your feet in carefully. Practice this at home before you try it in a race – it’s not as hard as it sounds.

Triathlon Transition Shoes on Bike

Keep your shoes on your bike

6. T1: Swim To Bike

Towards the end of the swim, mentally rehearse your first transition. As you exit the water, remove your hat and goggles as you jog towards your bike. While still jogging, unzip your wetsuit and pull your arms out. When you get to your bike, pull the rest of your wetsuit off and put your bike helmet on. Grab your bike and go. Job done. 

7. T2: Bike to Run Part 1

Towards the end of the cycle section, start mentally rehearsing your next transition. With around 400 meters to go, pull your feet out of your shoes and ride with your feet on top of them. As you reach the dismount line, you can either stop and dismount. Or perform a moving dismount, where you swing one leg over your top-tube, put your feet on the ground and break into a run while pushing your bike. Tip: you need to slow right down to jogging pace before you attempt the dismount. Master this at home before you try it in a race.

Triathlon transition bike mount

A flying mount – not for the feint hearted.

8. T2: Bike to Run Part 2

After dismounting from your bike, run towards your spot in transition and do the following tasks in order:
– Rack your bike
– Put your running shoes on
– Take your helmet off
– Jog to the run-out area
The benefits of taking your helmet off last are:
a) You avoid a helmet rule violation and
​b) You can align yourself towards the run-out area as you remove it.

9. Gels, Hats, Glasses, Watches

If you need to pick up other stuff in transition, such as gels or a hat, keep it simple and do it on the move. For example, pick up a fuel belt, start running and then attach it to your waist while you run. This is far quicker than grabbing individual gels and trying to stuff them into your pockets while standing still.

10. Video Yourself

It’s amazing what you see on video sometimes. Practice your transitions at home while someone films you on a smart-phone. Or better still have someone film you at a race. Replay the video and think about how you can get faster. I guarantee you will see something you didn’t realise. Feel you can’t be bothered with video analysis? Videoing your transitions could save you 20-seconds at each subsequent race. How much extra swimming, cycling and running would you have to do to get that same benefit? Answer: Lots.
By Phil Mosley.
Triathlon Plus Coaching Editor & Ironman Certified Coach.
Founder of My Pro Coach.
​Copyright © 2016 Philip Mosley
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Phil Mosley (Coach & Founder)
Phil Mosley (Coach & Founder)

Phil is a recognised expert in the field, having featured on many endurance sports publications. He founded MyProCoach in 2010 to sell premium training plans complete with email coach support for triathlons, duathlons, running & cycling.

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