Triathlon transitions explained

Understanding triathlon transition switches

The transition area in a triathlon is the section of the course that is set out to hold your bikes and kit for the three stages (swimming, cycling, running) of the triathlon race. You will use this area twice, once to change from your swim to your bike, and the second time from your bike to your run. Here's the guide to preparing correctly for your triathlon transitions so you don't get stressed on your big race day.

The transition can be anything from tennis courts at a smaller race, to huge highly organised, guard dog patrolled, fenced-off areas with 2,500 bikes in it!

Triathlon transitions always have an ‘in’ and an ‘out’, and these must be obeyed. When approaching the transition for the first time with your bike and kit, the marshals will check your bike and your helmet, and show you the correct entrance and exit. If you are unsure, ask again. It is very important that you understand your triathlon race routes.

Understanding triathlon transitions

The triathlon transition may be divided into alphabetical order, age groups or numbers. If it is a numbered transition, then find your number and rack your bike.

Some prefer to rack the bike with the handlebars, some with the saddle. The choice is yours. When you rack your bike, make sure the bike gear that you have selected is a nice and easy one. This will mean that once you have jumped on the bike during the triathlon, it will easy to get away, and you will not have to push a big gear.

When the bike is racked, have a good look at where your bike is in the transition area. Remember that when you come out of the swim part of the triathlon you have to find your bike, along with a few others. Walk around the transition. Find out where you will come out of the swim and walk the route that you are going to do. In the entrance, make sure you know how many racks you have to run past before you get to your bike. Is there something that is near your bike such as a tree or a sign? Remember to choose a stationary object ...

You are not allowed to mark the floor to signal where your bike is, or put things on the bike so that you can recognize it. Count the number of racks and then find out if your bike is on the left or right. Do this a few times, so that you can get it right when the real triathlon race is on.

Remember to look at where you will come in from the bike ride. Again, you need to find your racking area. You are not allowed to just ‘leave’ your bike anywhere in the transition area. Walk the route so you are ready for it when you have finished the cycle leg. Lay your kit out in the same way that you would put it on. Remember to give yourself plenty of time to set your kit up, and look at your triathlon routes around the transitions.

Making your triathlon transition a smooth one

  • Sunglasses in helmet — opened up so you can get them on quickly.
  • Helmet with strap open — the helmet can go straight on with one movement. Check that the helmet fits before you go for your swim (children sometimes have a habit of changing things when you least expect them to).
  • Put your cycle shoes/trainers next to the back or front wheel, depending which way round your bike it. Put them on a towel. If you are wearing socks, open them up so they will slide on easily. Remember to slide your hand over the foot before you enter it in the shoe, you may have stone stuck to the bottom of the sock. That wouldn’t be a nice long triathlon bike ride.

  • If you’re not wearing socks, put some talcum powder inside your shoes. It will help them slide on if they are still wet for the swim. If you going to wear cycling shoes, we would suggest that you put them on, walk the bike out of transition and then jump on your bike. It takes a lot of practice to get you feet in and out of your shoes when they are attached to the bike.
  • If you are using a number belt, put this on, and pull the number to your back, so that it doesn’t distract you when you are on your bike.
  • It’s a good idea to have a bottle of water next to your kit. It’s surprising how thirsty you can be after swimming 1,500m (0.93 miles) during a triathlon.
  • Make sure your helmet is clipped on; you can receive a helmet violation and receive a time penalty otherwise. Take your bike and walk to the bike-out gate.
  • Once outside the triathlon transition area, you will approach a mount line. This can be painted on a plank of wood or a couple of cones etc. Make sure you know where it is. Once you and your bike are over this line, you can jump on your bike.

When you have finished the cycle leg of the race, you will approach the transition and the marshals will slow you down. The mount line is often the dismount line, and you must be off you bike before you get to this line. You can get a time penalty if you go over it. Walk the bike through the transition, remember the route you planned.

Understanding triathlon transitions

Do not remove your helmet until you have racked your bike. Don’t even just undo the clip; you could gain a time penalty. Rack the bike and then take your helmet off. Get your shoes off and your trainers on. We suggest that you use lace locks or elastic laces so that you don’t have to tie a bow in them. Turn your number round and away you go. If it's sunny, put a cap on. Again, take some water from your bottle if you need it. Remember the triathlon correct route out!

More triathlon transition tips

  • If you have worn a wetsuit, throw the suit over the rack, or have a large bag to put it in. Don’t throw it onto your nice dry racing trainers. They will be soaked on your return.
  • Keep your area tidy, other people may trip or fall over your cycle shoes that are in the middle of the walkway.
  • Make sure you have tried everything on before the race, especially the helmet.
  • If you are wearing a separate top that you have at the transition area. Make sure you haven’t pinned your number through both sides! It makes it very hard to get the top on.

This should help you to have smooth triathlon transition. Remember to practice your transitions as often as possible and, when you're ready, why not check out triathlon event listings and find an event to suit you.

Comments (1)

  • IntelliTri 'Remember to practice the transition from swim to bike as well as bike to run - wetsuits can be tricky to get out off. Best thing is to unzip and pull the top down and get your arms out on your way from the swim to your bike. If you hold your goggles and swim cap in one hand you can let go of them and leave them in your wetsuit sleeve - they won't fall out, so one less thing to think about. Then when you get to your bike you can pull the rest of the wetsuit off. Best thing is to stay calm and not panic if it gets stuck!'

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