The Art of Triathlon Transitions

Once you know the rules, the bike transition is a bit less complicated. For most triathletes, wearing a tri suit simplifies things, but there is still the application of helmet, glasses, nutrition and bike shoes to consider, as well as the transition area itself.

Most triathletes follow this scenario:

  1. Remove wetsuit
  2. Place wetsuit in designated spot
  3. Put on glasses
  4. Put on and secure helmet
  5. Put on bike shoes (More advanced triathletes secure them to the pedals and keep them level with a rubber band)
  6. Unrack bike
  7. Run (or walk) the bike holding onto the saddle, not the handle bars (practice this!)
  8. Mount at the "mounting line" by stepping over the saddle and beginning the bike (advanced triathletes should practice mounting with a "flying mount")
  9. Start the bike portion in an easy gear and keep a steady spin that is not too intense. Just as the last part of the swim shouldn't be too intense, the energy output at the bike start should also be kept in check

More: Dave Scott's Swim-to-Bike Transition Tips

During the final portion of the bike, the triathlete should be making a more succinct cognitive and physical assessment in preparation for the run. One thing you can do to help is to stretch your legs. Lower your heel to stretch the gastro-soleus (calf, Achilles) for a few seconds on either side during the last few minutes before you approach the transition area. This loosens up the running dominant muscles of the lower leg.

Here's the step by step for the transition:

  1. Intermediate to advanced athletes can unstrap their bike shoes, or even remove their feet from the shoes and pedal with feet on top of their shoes in the last few hundred meters of the bike
  2. Before the dismount line, swing one leg over the bike and run (or walk if required) the bike to your spot
  3. Rack the bike
  4. Remove your helmet
  5. Remove your shoes (If you didn't already)

More: Learn to Master the Bike-to-Run Transition

The transition to the run begins with the change into you running shoes.

The Run

It is best to not build your pace in the first few minutes of your run, but to keep a steady and manageable output. Elite athletes might have a number of variables that help determine pace but recreational triathletes should give themselves time to adapt. It can take time for the blood to be recirculated to the running muscle groups, and going out too fast can take a toll on the eventual outcome of the competition.

Contrary, to what many describe as a "brick" feeling (bike to run), if the triathlete uses more posterior chain muscles to extend the hips (glutes, hamstrings and Achilles) they will not likely experience the heavy-legged feeling to such an extent when running.

Relax your shoulders, hands, arms, wrists and facial muscles, and maintain an efficient body posture. This will set the stage for the rest of the run. Preserve a steady pace throughout the majority of the race and predominately work the posterior muscles to propel your body horizontally.

Minimizing energy expenditure during triathlon is a process of eliminating unnecessary movements. Beyond swimming, cycling and running technique, the transition between sports is important. Make a point to practice and organize your transitions in such a way to help reduce the energy demands and enhance your racing experience.

More: 4 Triathlon Transition Tips from Gale Bernhardt

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