Eight tips for speeding up triathlon transitions

Triathlons may well be three-discipline races, but there’s a fourth element to the sport that’s almost as important as swimming, cycling and running. The transition area is known for its distinctly chaotic appearance, with competitors racing over to what they hope is their bike, frantically switching their gear and trying to lose as little time as possible. Freebird Events organises numerous triathlons and challenge runs in Yorkshire and the Northeast of England each year, so we’ve seen our fair share of careless changeovers alongside some truly lightning fast transitions. In this article, we share a few of our tips for speeding up triathlon transitions.

#1: Prepare

Give yourself plenty of time on race day to prepare your segment of the transition area. Pump up the tyres on your bike, remove clutter from the area and leave your shoes clipped to your bike pedals, saving you a few precious seconds. Ensure that your bike is in a gear that will allow you to get a good start. You might only save half a few seconds, but it all counts.

#2: Know where your gear is – and how to reach it

Every triathlete has been guilty of forgetting where their gear is, whether they’ll admit to it or not! Spend time before the race memorising where your bike is stationed. In addition, scout out entrance and exit routes so you don’t waste time trying to find your way out of a transition.

#3: Use elastic laces

It might only take ten seconds for you to tie up both shoelaces, but that’s ten seconds you’ll lose to your better prepared competitors. Elastic shoelaces aren’t expensive, so treat yourself to some for the upcoming race. In addition, practice running without socks. You might need to lubricate your feet in certain places to avoid blisters, but you’ll still save time sans socks.

#4: More haste, less speed

Try to put your gear on as quickly as possible, and have someone time you in the attempt. Compare the time with the result if you take your time putting on your gear. What’s the difference? Five seconds, ten seconds? Thirty? Of course, all these differences are significant, but you also need to take into account the likelihood of making a mistake. For example, rushing to do up your helmet strap is likely to lead you to fumbling around and failing to attach it first time – costing valuable seconds. Take your time to avoid mistakes.

#5: Practice any risky transition moves

You’ll often see professional triathletes carrying out flying mounts and dismounts of their bikes. At the top level, the margins between the top competitors are so narrow that these techniques are key to a successful race. If you’d like to try out these moves, practice first. It might seem easy to do when you’re testing it out in your garage or back garden, but once you’re tired from a lengthy swim, it won’t be so easy.

#6: Be aware of other competitors

In an amateur event it’s likely that there will be a greater spread in times, but that doesn’t mean that the transition area is guaranteed to be quiet when you reach it. If you’re new to triathlons, be on the lookout for those around you to avoid collisions following a transition. If your aim is simply to make it to the end, there’s no need to get in someone’s way in an attempt to leave the transition area first.

#7: Don’t relax

It’s tempting to think of the transitions as welcome breathers before the next leg of the race, but the clock is still ticking. Transitions can take up to two minutes – work out how many metres you could swim or run in that time, and you’ll soon see how vital a quick transition is.

#8: Practice, practice, practice

Ensure that you head into the transition area with a clear plan of action. Know the most efficient order to switch your gear, and memorise every step of the process. It’ll take some practice to be confident of a quick transition, but it’s well worthwhile.

Take a look at more triathlon tips and news on Freebird Events’ blog, and while you’re here, why not sign up for a triathlon near you?