Transitions are the often ignored “fourth leg” of a triathlon.  There are two transitions: T1 is the transition from swim to bike, and T2 from bike to run.

Transition Strategy

Seconds Count During Transitions

Especially in the shorter races, doing a fast transition is of great importance.

Those few seconds spent in your transition could literally mean the difference between winning first or second place.

The Importance of Free Speed In A Transition

What exactly is free speed?  Free speed is a term that refers to the time you can make up, but you’re not working any harder to make it happen.  As a matter of fact, you won’t even have to sweat one single drop.

Think of it in terms like this: Imagine how difficult it would be to trim off two minutes from a ¼ mile swim, but you could make up the same amount of time coming out of a transition and not even notice it.

Any triathlon area can be a hot spot as tempers flare.  In trying to shave off a few minutes, the setting for the transition area can be described as chaotic, crazy and even frantic.

Timing is crucial. It’s during this race against time itself that tensions have been known to increase; bikes have been known to crash, not to mention a few misplaced liquids get thrown about.

It’s the timing factor in these transitions that can affect the entire outcome.

T-1 (Swim to Bike)

The first transition, known as T-1, is when you change from the swim to the bike event.  Your transition starts as soon as you leave the water.

Begin by removing your swim cap and goggles, then stripping the wetsuit down to your waist, all being done as you race over to your transition area.  There are some products that can help you remove your wetsuit quickly.  They include Pam, Tri Slide and Body Glide.

Hopefully, you will have gotten your wetsuit down as far as your waist before you reach the transition area.  This alone will save a great deal of time.

Practice Your Wetsuit Removal

This is not as easy as it may sound, but practice finishing the removal of your wetsuit.

Not every method will work for everyone, but one method to try is pulling your wetsuit down just as far as it can possibly go, and stepping on the wetsuit to get it all off.

Do Your Feet Need Rinsing?

Since time is of the essence, hopefully you will not need to do this extra step, and most times you will find that it’s not necessary.

However, on those rare occasions that you may need to, use the bottle of tap water you brought with you, and also the extra hand towel.  That will do nicely to dry your feet.

T1 Tips

  • Don’t leave the transition area without having your helmet clipped on first

Safety is a big factor in any race, and this is one rule where the race directors stand firm.  So do yourself and everyone else a favor, and make certain that you have clipped your helmet on before trying to leave the transition area.

  • Check to make sure you have your race number on

As you’re now entering the bike leg of the competition, make certain you have your race number on, and it’s facing backwards on your shirt.

  • Check Which Gear Your Bike Is In

You will need to check the gear before the start of the race.  Many times, races will start off with a hill to climb, so check to see that your bike is in a low gear.

T-2 (Bike to Run)

Some participants choose to have their bike shoes already attached to the bike pedals.

After exiting the transition area, these athletes then push the bike as they go walking or running barefoot, mount the bicycle and slide their feet into the bike shoes once they begin to ride.

Other triathletes find it preferable to slip on their bike shoes upon reaching their bike in the transition area, then walk or run with their bike to the designated mounting area.

Whichever method the participant uses, they truly believe that their way or method is quicker in the transition as opposed to the other method.  Although which method will actually be faster will often depend on each specific transition area.

This is a point worth remembering!  As you’re getting familiar with the transition area, take notice of whether it’s in a grassy or sandy area.  If it’s sandy, you will want to put on your bike shoes first.

The reason for this is that your feet are going to be wet, and your wet feet will probably pick up some sand as if you run barefoot to reach the bicycle mount area.  This bit of sand will make you feel as if you have put on a pair of sandpaper socks as you slide your feet into your bicycle shoes.

Running With Your Bike

Hold your bike by its handlebars during your practice running session with your bike.

It can prove to be a challenge not to smash your ankle against the pedal.  If you can master this, great!  Then you might want to move on to running with your bike by holding on to the seat.  Talk about tricky, but it’s fast!

Remember That Cycling Shoes Don’t Grip

Maneuvers like running with your bike are tricky at best, but use caution if you run with your cycling shoes, as they don’t grip.

Don’t Get Disqualified Because of Your Helmet

Make it a point never to unbuckle your helmet unless you’re inside of the transition area.

This is grounds for you to be disqualified, or “DQ’d”.

Gear To Wear During Your Run

To get ready for your run, change from your bike gear to your run gear.  You will need to remove your helmet and cycling shoes.

The time has come to don your socks (optional) and running shoes and don’t forget about your visor or cap.

Your race number should be facing forward on your shirt.  Although this may be an easier transition, it will still take practice to perfect it.

Lay Out Your Transition Area To Be The Most Efficient For You

This may seem like a minor detail, but it’s one detail that could add up to time savings.  Practice laying out your transition area.

At first, lay your area out one way, try it out a few times then try changing it around.

Are your running shoes in the best position?  Would you save any time by placing them on the left or on the right?

Would your sunglasses be better placed on top of your shoes instead of inside your helmet?  These are questions you can work through, and perfect your design layout by trial and error.

Practice Transitions

Some transitions may seem easier than others.  A difficult one to master is climbing out of your wetsuit, and then getting onto your bike.

Try practicing putting on your socks (If you choose to wear them) with damp feet.

Practice dismounting from your bike.  Practice every transition you can think of, and rehearse it numerous times.

Make Sure To Practice These Maneuvers

  • Taking off your wetsuit
  • Holding on to the saddle when you run with your bike
  • Putting on your cycling shoes while riding your bike
  • Trying to mount your bike when running

Wondering What You Should Do Next?

Learn how the Pros enjoy successful race days with my Free Triathlon Success Kit.  It includes everything you’ll need to make sure your Race is a success.  Plus it includes your free Triathlon Race Day Checklist!  Grab it now.


In this content packed free mini-course, I'll reveal how to avoid the most common Triathlon mistakes guaranteed to ruin your Race - even before it's begun!   Plus discover the one key component virtually all triathlon training programs are missing and how to double your chances of triathlon success (with one easy trick).

Get Instant Access