A Guide to Faster Transitions and Better Results.

Every second counts in short-course triathlon.  Improving your transitions is an easy way to improve your race results. Speedy transitions start with a transition plan and a properly configured transition area.

There are a few variables that inform your transition plan.  Will you put-on your cycling shoes at the rack or while on your bike? Does the race require you to wear a race number belt on the bike course? Do want optional equipment such as a visor or sunglasses?  Despite these variables, the key principles are the same.  With a little planning and practice, you can execute faster transitions and race onto the podium.

Mapping a Transition Path

Arrive early enough to configure your transition area and do a pre-race walk through.  Upon finding your rack location, locate swim-in, bike-out, bike-in, and run-out.  Typically, these are marked with flags or banners. Do a complete walk-through.  Walk from swim-in to your rack and then from your rack to bike-out.  In turn, walk from bike-in to your rack.  Next, walk from your rack to run-out.  After you’ve walked this path at least twice, make note of your rack location relative to conspicuous landmarks, such as trees, buildings, etc.  Do not rely on bikes or equipment that may move after the race begins.

Configuring Your Transition Area

1. Rack your bike by hanging it from the seat area, so the front wheel is on the ground (bars out).

2a.  For those who will put-on cycling shoes at the rack, place your shoes together next to your front wheel. Make sure the shoes are unbuckled and ready to receive your feet.  Place your helmet upside down next to your cycling shoes.  Make sure your helmet is unbuckled and ready for quick put-on.  Place sunglasses (optional) inside helmet – unfolded and ready for quick put-on. If the race requires you to wear your race number on the bike course, place your race number belt inside or next to your helmet.

2b. For those who will put-on cycling shoes while riding the bike, clip your shoes onto the pedals.  Make sure they are unbuckled and ready to receive your feet.  Place your helmet upside down next to your front wheel.  Make sure your helmet is unbuckled and ready for quick put-on.  Place sunglasses (optional) inside helmet – unfolded and ready for quick put-on. If the race requires you to wear your race number on the bike course, place your race number belt inside or next to your helmet.

3. Place running shoes and visor (optional) behind your cycling equipment and next to your front wheel. If you didn’t need your race number on the bike course, you’ll need it on the run course.  Place your race number belt on top of or underneath your running shoes.  Did you notice that we never mentioned socks?  If you’re putting-on socks, you’re wasting time!!  Do some sockless training to toughen-up your feet. On race day, we ain’t got time for socks.

Pre-Clipping Shoes – Advantages and Tactics

Pre-clipping your cycling shoes is a big time-saver.  By pre-clipping your shoes, you eliminate time spent at the rack.  Even though you may pedal slower while dealing with your shoes, you’re moving ahead of everyone putting-on shoes at the rack.

Run barefoot to the mount line.  As you mount the bike, place your feet atop the pre-clipped shoes and begin pedaling.  After you’re moving, insert your feet into the shoes.  You’ll need a modicum of bike handling skills for this feat.  If you’re not up to it, put your shoes on at the rack.

Upon dismount, you can leave your shoes on the pedals.  Before reaching the dismount line, extract your feet from the shoes.  Continue pedaling with your feet atop the shoes — just like after mounting the bike. You’ll need a modicum of bike handling skills for this feat.  If you’re not up to it, dismount the bike with your shoes on and remove them at the rack.

Pre-Clipping Shoes – The Flying Mount / Dismount

The “flying mount” is very fast, but requires skill and courage. It also requires pre-clipped shoes.  The flying mount is a technique by which you run past the mount line and jump onto your seat without breaking stride.  Push/guide your bike with one hand on the seat while your other hand is free.  After passing the mount line, jump onto the seat and grabs the handle bars.  Begin pedaling as soon as possible.  This technique enables you to pass all who stop at the mount line. This technique takes practice and skill.  If you’re not up to it, do not attempt it.

The flying dismount requires you to leave your shoes on the bike.  Long before the dismount line, remove your feet from the shoes.  After removing your feet, pedal with your feet atop the shoes.  As you approach the dismount line, slow the bike to a speed at which you can “hit the ground running”.  At relatively low speed, un-straddle the bike and stand on one pedal (foot atop the shoe).  Just before the dismount line, step onto the ground and start running.  Use the handle bars for balance if needed.  As you stride toward your rack, using a single hand to push/guide the bike as you run next to it. This technique will catapult you past all those who stop at the dismount line.  Remember, this technique takes skill and practice.  If you’re not up for it, do not try it.

Practicing With Your Equipment

Different races call for different equipment. For example, some races call for wetsuits whereas others call for swim skins.  Invest time learning efficient ways to put-on and take-off your gear.  Become proficient working with your gear while running.  If you can deal with gear on the go, you’ll be moving while your competitors are standing still.

Conclusions

There are many ways to optimize transitions.  Irrespective of the techniques you chose, learn the most efficient path through transition and properly configure your transition area for speedy transitions.  Every second counts!! Subtle improvements can catapult you onto the podium.