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Triathlon Tips: First Transition (T1)

Transitioning From Swim to Bike (T1)

Crossing the timing mat into T1.

Crossing the timing mat into T1.

This blog post is for both beginner and advanced triathlete.  The first part will explain absolute basics of the transition between swim and bike, and the second part will describe how to execute it with speed.

Part 1. Basics

Transition can be a confusing concept for the new triathlete.  Until you’ve seen it or done it once, you may not understand how it works.  For your first race, I strongly emphasize comfort and convenience over speed.  For a discussion on how to set up the transition area, check out this blog post.

The basic idea is to switch gears from a swimming mind set to a biking mind set.  Here are some general guidelines to follow:

  1. When exiting the water, start thinking about what you are going to do to get ready to ride your bike.

  2. Remind yourself of the landmarks you picked out to locate your bike.

  3. If you wore a wetsuit, unzip the suit and peel it down to your waist, BEFORE removing your cap and goggles.

  4. As you enter the transition area move directly to your bike.

  5. Most sprint and Olympic distance races won’t have changing tents, so you will have to either ride the bike in what you wore for the swim or put something over it. Just remember that it’s hard to put on clothing over a wet body.

  6. Peel the wetsuit so the neck is on the ground. With one foot, step on the wetsuit, and lift the other foot.  Do the same thing, alternating feet, until the wetsuit comes off.

  7. Cold weather options:

  8. dry off with a towel

  9. put on a bike jacket

  10. put on arm warmers

  11. put on leg warmers

  12. Put on the bike shoes (and socks if you want).

  13. VERY IMPORTANT: Put on the helmet and buckle it before you pick up your bike.

  14. Pick up your bike and walk/run it out of transition to the mount line.

It’s up to each athlete as to how they want to execute their transition and if you follow these general rules, you can do just about anything you want to make your T1 as smooth as possible.

  1. Never ride your bike in the transition area.

  2. Your helmet must be on your head and buckled before mounting the bike.

  3. In general, public nudity is not appreciated and may cause the race to lose support from the host community.

  4. Don’t litter.

  5. Respect other athletes’ transition areas. (e.g. Don’t throw your wetsuit on someone else’s shoes.)

  6. Be considerate of other athletes, race staff and, above all, the volunteers.


Grab the bike and go!

Part 2. Speed

Both T1 and T2 are great places to drop a few seconds, or even minutes, from your overall time: especially if your transition times don’t rank near the top.  The key to a fast transition is being prepared.  The entire process must be thought out long before the race begins.  This means that you need to have a plan and train yourself to make that plan work.  Your plan can be based on a combination of your experience and a little creativity.    My short video series, TriRiot Speed Tips, shows most of the things I do to make my transitions fast.  You can watch the whole playlist here or go to the TriRiot YouTube channel and choose which videos to watch.

As you develop a transition plan, consider the following:

  1. Identify all key phases or control points. For example, the timing mat at transition entrance reminds me to keep moving and not slow down.  Another control point for me is how the bike is racked.  I want it racked so I can remove it and replace it as quickly as possible.

  2. Develop a routine. Before you arrive at a race, you should already know what you need to do to get setup.

  3. Sacrifice comfort for speed. With the right shoes, you don’t need socks and even if it’s a bit cold out, you should resist the temptation to put on extra clothing in transition.

  4. Minimize the amount of equipment you bring in to transition.

I encourage you to watch the Speed Tip playlist on the TriRiot YouTube channel and I hope these suggestions help you in your next race.


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