The Art of Triathlon Transitions

The Art of Triathlon Transitions

Triathlon transition set-up - Get Faster- Wenzel Coaching

Technically, transitions are the two breaks between the three sports in triathlon when you stop to change clothes and gear. They are an integral and often overlooked aspect of the sport.

  • T1 is the transition between the swim and bike.
  • T2 is the second transition, between the bike and run.

Being efficient in triathlon transitions can save anywhere from seconds to minutes off your total race time, but being disorganized can cost you time and add stress. Set up your zone for a quick and efficient transition.

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SETTING UP Your Transition Zone

  • First rack you bike: Some transition zones will have numbers or a specific spot to rack your bike. If so, find your number in the transition area and rack your bike by standing behind it and placing the front of your seat over the bar so your back wheel is off the ground. Make sure the handlebars face toward the bike exit so you can steer straight out of transition. The free space to the left of your front wheel is where you will set up your transition areas.
    • Pump up your tires and put your bike in an easy
    • Place all your nutrition on your bike – bottles filled and ready to go, and nutrition in a “bento box” on the top tube.
  • Most transition spaces are about two feet wide. Leave your transition bag under you back wheel.
  • Place a brightly and uniquely colored towel next to your bike to make it easy for you to spot on the ground. You will place all your transition items on the towel as well as wipe your feet dry with it after the swim.
  • Place your cycling shoes on the front of the towel- laces or strap open/unbuckled. If you are wearing socks, put them on and then roll them off and place inside each shoe
  • You can also clip your shoes in the pedals and secure them with a rubber bands, ready to put on as you mount the bike. Practice and master this kind of mount BEFORE race day – race-day is not the time!
 If you have not ridden or run without socks, race day is not the time to try it out!
  • Place your helmet next to your shoes – buckles undone and straps spread out, sunglasses ready to go.
  • If you are using an aero bottle with a straw – you can put your helmet upside down on your aero bars. Straps should be unbuckled and out so you can quickly put it on your head. Put your sunglasses inside your helmet.
  • Place your running shoes next to your cycling shoes for T2. Use tie-less laces or cord locks so you can easily slip your feet in without having to tie your shoes.
  • If you wear a hat or visor, place it behind your running shoes with your race belt unbuckled inside. I attach a small bag with my nutrition and Tums or salt tabs.

Respect the transition zone. Don’t mess with someone else’s space. Don’t throw your wetsuit in their zone.  Don’t take someone else’s shoes. If you knock someone’s bike and the helmet falls off – put it back.

Transition zones are crazy and chaotic for a lot of people. Stays focused and do what you have rehearsed over and over. Always keep moving forward.  Don’t waste time eating or drinking in the transition zone.


 Specific Tri Transition Tips

Swim to Bike transition (T1)

Mentally rehearse this transition as you finish the swim.

Increase your kick for last 200 yards or so. Swim in as far as possible, until your hands are hitting the bottom. Stand up and immediately remove your goggles and swim cap.  Then take your wetsuit off to the waist.  If there are wet suit strippers (volunteers who help you out of your suit), lay down and they will strip it off for you. Otherwise, run back to your transition zone- remove one leg and then step on the unoccupied wetsuit leg to remove the other.  Stay calm.

  • Lay your wetsuit at the top of your towel or in a small bag.
  • put your socks and cycling shoes on
  • put your helmet on – and buckle the chin strap
  • throw on your sunglasses
  • grab any extra clothing you will need
  • Grab your bike from the transition bar and run to the exit. Mount at the line. (It’s usually illegal to ride in the transition area.)
  • Eat and drink soon after you’re are up to speed


Bike to run transition (T2)

As you ride the last few miles mentally think about changing your muscles from cycling muscles to running muscles as you are approaching the last few miles of the ride. Increase your cadence in the last 500 yards and prepare to dismount.

  • Run back to transition zone
  • Rack your bike (the same way you removed it)
  • Remove helmet (and sunglasses if not wearing for the run) and put it behind your running shoes
  • Remove shoes
  • Put on socks and running shoes (if you didn’t ride in socks)- otherwise wear the same socks
  • Grab your visor, race bib and head out the run exit.
  • Put your hat on and buckle your race belt as your run.

Following these directions will ensure a stress-free race day, leaving you more energy to put toward a better race time.


This article was originally written by Judy Pratt.

View this article as a printable handout