Kent - Tri-Newbies Online
version of a “Chinese fire drill.”
triathlon transition can be crazy, chaotic, and perhaps
even frantic. Awareness
and timing are essential. Tempers have been known to flare
as tensions increase, bikes crash, and liquids are tossed
the sooner you are in and out of this area, the better!
just mention the word “transition” to someone new to
the sport of triathlon and watch them become unglued.
if you are a beginner to this sport, and you have a
genuine fear of this temperamental portion of the
triathlon, you are not alone. I have been there. We have
all been there. And as you near your first ever triathlon
or duathlon, the fear is legitimate.
it is the fear that we are going to forget a vital piece
of equipment prior to the upcoming leg of the race.
Or maybe it is the fear that our equipment will
fail us. Whatever the reason, unfortunately, there is no
magic formula for learning the art of the transition. Your
only allies are time and experience. And with each race,
your fears will subside as your transition skills become
perfected. Eventually, the transition will become a means
of strategy and your perception of this once chaotic
situation will change. Eventually, the transition will
become your friend. A place to hydrate, a place to put on
dry clothing, perhaps even a place to relax…for a brief
moment! As you become more competitive in this sport, the
transition will become a crucial link in the outcome of
your race and the speed at which you can transform
yourself from swimmer to cyclist or cyclist to runner will
become a factor in this outcome.
let us not get ahead of ourselves. For it is the purpose
of this article to show those of you who are new to the
sport of triathlon, some tips and strategies to help ease
your fears as you near your first triathlon.
me, the preparation begins the night before the race as I
mentally go over each transition. And this is where I
suggest you begin as well.
or the first Transition from swim to bike.
yourself a pencil and paper and have a seat in front of
your bike. Draw a line down the center of the sheet of
paper creating two columns. One column will be a list of
those things that will be attached to the bike located in
the transition area and the other will be those items you
will be responsible for upon hopping on your two-wheeler
for the bicycle leg.
let’s work backwards.
yourself on the bike during the race. What you are
wearing? Are you wearing bike shorts or a swim brief? Are
you wearing a heart rate monitor and strap? Are you
wearing a singlet? How about your water bottles…are they
full and in place?
go ahead and create this list:
Column 1: Those items attached
to the bike while in Transition (T1).
1. Make sure your bike is properly and securely placed on
the bike rack. Some folks will rack their bike facing
forward with the brakes levers hooked over the bike rack.
Others will place the back of their bike seat on the rack.
The choice will be yours. Just make sure the bike is
secure. I have seen racers come in and knock over other
bikes while attempting to grab their own.
2. Water bottles – make sure your bottles are full
with the appropriate fuel and placed in the bottle cages.
½ Ironman and Ironman distance races will have water
stations about every 5 miles on the bike. But for shorter
races, you are responsible…so don’t forget! I usually
pack one filled with water and one filled with energy
3. Your helmet and sunglasses – most triathletes
will place their helmet upside down on their aerobars,
straps laid out and sunglasses in the helmet. First of
all, practice putting on your helmet now and clipping and
unclipping the strap.
It is a simple task and yet, it can be a source of
frustration. Preparation folks…it is an absolute
4. Bike computer and/or heart rate monitor – do you
use your bike computer when you train? Then make sure it
is functioning before the race. Take your front wheel and
spin it to make sure the computer is responding. If it
isn’t, check the pick-up usually attached to lower end
of the front fork. Is it close enough to the magnet
attached to the spokes? If not than move it closer until
you get a response on the computer. If you plan on wearing
a heart rate monitor and it is attached to your
handlebars, make sure it is secure and located in such a
position so you can see while riding.
5. Gear/chain placement – make sure your bike is in
a higher gear to start out. Perhaps with your chain on the
small chainring. This will make it easier for you to begin
the ride without having to grind the pedals. If your bike
shoes are already attached to the pedals, spinning in the
higher gears will get the bike moving forward sooner
providing stability while attempting to slip your foot
into the shoe. Plus, the spinning will allow you a brief
warm-up for your legs. As soon as you are set and
comfortable on the bike, you can switch to lower gears.
6. Make sure your components are secure. – most of
your larger sanctioned races will have someone checking
your handlebars and areobars before racking your bike in
the transition area to make sure they are tight and safe
for riding. But if you are in smaller race, you may be on
your own. If everything was fine yesterday, than it should
all be fine today. But if for some reason you had repairs
done to your bike between your last ride and the race,
make sure these components are secure and tight.
7. Emergency items/spare tires – If you are riding
on clincher tires, make sure you have a spare tube or two
with the tire changing tools in your seat pack. If you are
riding on tubular tires, you will need a spare folded and
attached to your seat. For shorter distance races, such as
a sprint race, most do not bother if they flat out simply
because of the time lost. But if this your first race and
by golly you want to finish. So pack some spares.
8. Energy Bars – Again, for shorter distance races,
liquids should be fine for nutritional supplementation,
but if you plan on using bars or gels, make sure they are
in a place where you can reach them. Some folks will use
“non-chocolate” bars and stick pieces on their top
tube for easy access. (some chocolate bars will melt and
get rather messy) Some manufacturers have created
handlebar packs for storing such items. And there are
“gel belts” on the market for holstering gel packets
primarily for the run. Whatever you use, make sure you
practice using these items during your training.
9. Check Your Tires – Before you leave your bike
alone and head off to the swim start…Check the air in
your tires and if need be, fill them to the proper
pressure. If you don't already have one, get your self a
good bike pump and take it with you to the race.
10. Salve on the seat – What? You may ask. Well, this is
something you do not have to do. If you are racing in a
tri-brief (for men) or a women’s tri outfit, you may
want to put a little salve (KY or Vaseline) on the nose or
tip of the saddle. I will add some comfort when you are
riding. This is something I do, and you certainly do not
11. Bikes shoes clipped into pedals/shoes not attached to pedals –
This is probably one of the most frequently discussed
topics with regards to Transition philosophy for most new
to the sport of triathlon. And, unfortunately, this will
be a choice you will have to make on your own. If you do
decide to have your shoes attached to the pedals, than
practice this method well before the race, either on your
stationary trainer or on a quiet street. Remember, while
attempting to slip into your attached bike shoes, LOOK
AHEAD. Do not get fixated on looking down. This could
obviously lead to disastrous results. Every race will be
different, so be ready to adjust your plan accordingly.
The transition area for some races may be a grassy, sandy
area. If this is the case, you may not want to have
your shoes attached to the pedals. Otherwise your feet may
be covered with sand by the time your reach the
“hop-on” point of the transition. The “hop-on”
point I refer to is usually that point in the transition
area (usually an “exit” ) where the triathletes are
allowed to hop on the bike and head out. Most races with
larger transition areas require the riders to walk or run
their bike to this point before hopping on the bike…this
is obviously for safety reasons.
In the case of a sandy transition area, you may
want to put your bike shoes on before hopping on the bike.
The distance of the race will also play a role in
deciding whether your bike shoes are attached to the
pedals or not. For shorter sprint races, many triathletes
will have the shoes attached. However, some will have
pedal adapters for running shoes. Such adapters allow the triathlete to cycle while wearing
his/her running shoes, obviously saving time when hopping
of the bike and prepping for the run (T2).
For the longer distance triathlons, I think the
“shoes to pedals” idea is really one of personal
Now your bike should be prepared
for your race.
Next, you may have noticed that
most folks will have mapped out a small area next to their
bike for those items you cannot attach to the bike. They
will often have a towel spread out in a small square with
various items within easy reach. So lets take a look at
what makes up this area.
Column Two: Those “loose” items you need to bring to Transition:
Lets us begin with the athlete
exiting the water and approaching T1 for the bike ride.
1. Dish bucket of water. Depending upon where your
race is held, you may want a bucket of water sitting next
to your bike…Why? You may ask. Well, if the swim portion
of the race is in the ocean, you will be running up a
sandy beach to get to the bike transition. Usually there
are volunteers standing on land hosing down triathletes as
they pass by heading for the bikes.
But it is always a good idea to be safe. There is
nothing more irritating then slipping on bike shoes with
sandy feet. By
placing a bucket next to your bike, you simply step into
the bucket and your feet are instantly rinsed and clean!
Quickly towel them dry and you are ready for the
feet will thank you.
2. Heart Rate Chest Strap. Many triathletes ride the
bike portion of the race with a heart rate monitor. If you
do not wear a wetsuit, you will find swimming with the
chest strap can be a nuisance. Have the strap out on the
towel ready for you to grab. This is something you can practice at home.
If you do wear a wetsuit,
you can put the strap on under the suit.
3. Dry Socks. If you are racing in a longer race, you
may want to wear socks for the bike ride leaving you
prepared for the run.
This will take extra time and for shorter races,
this delay will seem long relative to the overall
distance. For a ½ Ironman or Ironman, where the race will
last 4-16 hours, an extra minute to slip on dry socks will
be nothing. If you do wish to wear socks for the ride
and/or run, towel dry your feet before putting on the
socks. Otherwise, they will be difficult to slip on.
4. Spare Energy Bars or Drink - you may want a quick
bite or drink before your ride or run. If so, keep some
spare goodies in your gym bag. In fact, make sure you keep
such items in the gym bag, because the heat will warm the
food and drink up rather quickly.
5. Running shoes. Upon getting off the bike and
preparing for the run (T2 or Transition 2) You will want
your running shoes right there!
6. Running hat and accessories -
If it is hot and sunny by the start of the run
portion of the race, you may want to wear a hat. You may
also want to slap on some sunscreen. I like to have a
spare pair of sunglasses for the run. Usually, by the end
of the bike ride, my
cycling “shades” are usually covered in forehead
sweat/water etc. So, I like to put on a clean pair for the
run. This of coarse is optional and is up to each
individual. You will eventually learn what works best for
And that just about covers it. Of coarse this is
just a generic list of items and over time you may develop
your own set of items for a successful Transition. Just
remember, if you are a beginner, do not be afraid of the
Transition area. Take your time on your first couple of
races. Find out what works for you, what items you may or
may not need for your race and then as you begin to focus
on speed with each race, you can tweak the look of your
Transition Area accordingly.
Luck and Happy Racing!