how to transition in a triathlon

9 Pro Tips On How To Transition In A Triathlon Smoothly

Did you know?

For the first five triathlon races of 2010, the average time difference between the winner and the runner-up among male triathletes and female triathletes was only 6.6 seconds and 3.2 seconds respectively.

Triathlon is a multi-discipline sport that features participants who are either excellent swimmers, cyclists, runners, or a combination of these disciplines.

Such a small gap in the performance of triathletes shows that there is definitely more to triathlon than just being good in these individual sports.

You definitely cannot beat a pro swimmer turned triathlete in a triathlon event as a beginner but you can definitely be as good in undergoing transitions as him or her if you just practice a little bit.

So, it becomes really important to practice how to transition in a triathlon as it will save valuable time during the race.

Through this article, you will learn the nitty-gritty of a triathlon transition, both at T1 and T2, and also some useful tips on how to improve your transition time on race day.

Shall we?

What Is A Triathlon Transition: Triathlon Transition Basics

what is a triathlon transition, how to transition in a triathlon

A  triathlon transition is a name given to a set of procedures that enable you to change from one sport to another during the race. T1 transition is meant for the transition from swim to bike while the T2 transition is meant for the transition from bike to run.

It is pertinent to know that both the timings of T1 and T2 are counted towards the overall standings for the race.

A good transition time in triathlon is nearly 60 seconds for a swim to bike transition and around 30 seconds for a bike to run transition. These figures are for pro athletes, but beginner athletes can also achieve this standard with regular practice.

Transition area 

There is generally a single transition area for an event where athletes are supposed to undergo both transitions. The size of the transition area can vary for races ranging from Ironman to smaller events.

A transition area is where you will be storing your race kit and your bike.

There are few things you should familiarise yourself with in the transition area. Let’s know about each one of them.

  • First and foremost, you should be aware of the “in” and “out” of the transition area. This will save you from getting disqualified or getting time penalty.
  • Secondly, you should identify the rack that been allotted as per your race number. For example, if the racks hold 10 bikes each and your race number is 42 , you will be racking your bike in rack 5.
  • Try to identify visible landmarks which will assist in orientation once you are out of the water.
  • Try and walk around the transition area before the race to familiarize yourself with the route you will be taking on race day.

How To Make A Swim To Bike Transition: T1 Transition

triathlon transition for beginners, what is a good triathlon transition time

Let’s go over the steps for T1 transition one by one:

Apply baby oil before the swim: this step is not done during T1 but this will help you easily remove your wetsuit during the transition.

Exiting the water: As you will be doing the last few strokes, keep a mental note of where your bike is racked and run through the entire process of transition once in your mind.

Approaching the transition area: As you approach the transition area, take off your goggles and swim cap. By the time you reach T1, your wetsuit should be waist down. you will be wearing a tri-suit under your wetsuit and will be completing the remainder of the race in a tri-suit. You can check my complete guide wherein I have covered what to wear under a triathlon wetsuit.

Accessorize for the bike leg: once you reach your bike, wear your helmet first, followed by goggles. You need to put on your race number on your back strapped to your race help, else you risk getting disqualified. Un rack your bike and start moving walking the mount line.

Crossing the mount line: Once you cross the mount line, jump on your bike and place your both feet inside the cycling shoes, and simultaneously start to pedal. You are good to go.

How To Make A Bike To Run Transition : T2 Transition

what is a triathlon transition, triathlon transition for beginners

Let’s go over the steps for T2 transition one by one:

Get off of your bike shoes: For the last 200 meters of the bike leg, you should pedal with your feet atop the cycling shoes. This will save precious time which will otherwise get wasted taking off your shoes.

Dismount from your bike: You need to dismount before the dismount line else you risk getting disqualified. Make sure you have slowed down your bike as you will be really tired at this point and maintaining the correct balance is important.

Re-racking your bike: You need to re-rack your bike, either from the rear tire or the handlebar side. Only once you have racked your bike are you allowed to remove your helmet. Place your helmet on the ground.

Accessorize for the run: Your running shoes should be prepared for your feet to be inserted beforehand to save time. Grab your gels, hat and you are good to go. Make sure you have rotated the belt and placed the race number on your chest.

Let us now find out what you will carry to a triathlon transition area.

How To Pack A Transition Bag: Triathlon Transition Checklist 

Triathlon is a sport that requires a lot of accessories, for both transitions. What you need is a checklist to make sure you don’t miss a thing. Being self-sufficient on race day is very important and you can’t rely on outside assistance.

Let’s have a look at what do you need for a triathlon transition:

  • Pre swim gear bag: this bag is wherein your dry clothes will go after you put on your wetsuit. You can collect this after you finish the race.
  • Bike gear bag:  This bag is meant for T1 transition. There are a few items you would want to keep in this bag.
    • Helmet  
    • Cycling shoes and a pair of socks
    • Sunscreen, a towel and glasses.

This comes along with a special food bag in order to hold your gels, nutrition, and hydration.

  •  Swim gear bag: This bag is meant for T2 transition. This bag contains:
    • Running shoes and a pair of socks.
    • Sunglasses
    • Sunscreen, fresh t-shirt, towel and warm clothing during fall.

A special food bag also comes with this bag as well.

 Triathlon Transition For Beginners: Pro Tips

So far, we have discussed all the aspects of a triathlon transition.

However, as a beginner, one needs to practice for a triathlon transition to be better at it.

In order to prepare for a triathlon transition, you can start practicing even at your nearest playground, or even your garden. You have to have a makeshift transition area and 2 imaginary mount and dismount lines. You need to carry out all the steps for both the transitions in this area. Practice this on a regular basis and try to improve your timings consistently.

Apart from the practice, follow these pro tips to improve your transition time in a triathlon:

T1 transition

  • Place your helmet upside down on your handlebars to reduce wearing time.
  • Use rubber bands to hold the cycling shoes parallel to the ground, then jump on the bike and slide your feet inside the shoes directly. The bands will automatically snap once you start pedal.
  • Start removing your wetsuit as you run towards T1.
  • Attach your gels to the front portion of the bike for easy access and secure them with rubber bands.
  • Start your bike with the right gear ratio in order to avoid slowing down.

T2 transition

  • Slide your feet out of the cycling shoes before you reach the transition area( at least 200 metres away) and pedal your feet atop the shoes.
  • Have your shoes undone so that you can slide your feet easily inside.
  • Use elastic laces instead of string laces.
  • Use visors and glasses to protect yourself from sun while running.


It is important to practice a triathlon transition because a good transition is a morale booster and it also decides the momentum you carry going into the next leg of the triathlon. Also, the more you practice, the better you get at it.

A triathlon transition is a sub-minute activity but it makes a huge difference in covering up lost time or giving away a few hard-earned seconds.

So, the next time you run a triathlon, follow these tips and make sure your transition is quick and smooth.

If you have any more suggestions on triathlon transitions, feel free to comment on this article.

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