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Triathlon Transition Tips: How to Improve Your Speed and Set-Up

Triathlon Transition Tips: How to Improve Your Speed and Set-Up

Most triathlon coaches and athletes alike will agree the ‘transition’ is often referred to as the “fourth discipline” of triathlon, and not without reason! Many beginner and novice triathletes alike can lose significant time faffing around with shoes, helmets, wetsuits, and drinks, and those precious seconds can make all the difference when it comes down to the results!

So, here are our top triathlon transition tips to help you improve your speed and overall set-up, like a pro:

1. Memorize Your Area

First and foremost, you need to know exactly where in transition your bike and gear are going to be located when you run in. Rehearsing the path from the run in/run out to your area is the best way to remember your spot, as using the nearby and surrounding bikes can be risky.

Remembering your space is next to a certain bike is all well and good until you get to transition, and that bike has already gone. If you must use a visual cue, a unique or brightly colored towel is a much safer option. Finding your spot in transition should be like second nature by the time the event starts. You can also use a brightly colored towel to help identify your spot.

2. Organization is key

Once you reach your area in transition, you need to be able to grab what you need for the next leg and be on your way. For example, leaving your helmet upside-down with the straps open can save precious seconds when transitioning from the swim to the run, likewise with where you position your bike shoes.  Simple things like this may only save you a few seconds, but all those seconds add up and can make a massive difference to your final time. 

A great bit of kit to help with your organization and transition speed is a Triathlon Race Belt. Race belts are a staple of triathlon gear, primarily used for holding your race number without the need for safety pins or clips. This means that when transitioning from bike to run, you can simply spin the race belt around so that the number is now on your front! No need to re-attach and stick more holes in your tri-suit! For a quality race belt at a low price, we recommend any beginner triathletes check out the Sportiva Events Store.

Another great feature included with some race belts is sealed pouches – These mean you can simply run through transition, grab your belt full of supplies and go, rather than standing around, stuffing your pockets full of energy gels and bars.

3. Consider Footwear

A common tip for beginner triathletes regarding transition speed is to use elastic laces. This may seem obvious to some, but stopping to tie up your shoes before you can leave transition will seriously harm your time, and the same can be said about socks – Almost all elite competitors in standard or sprint triathlons don’t bother with socks as it saves time after the swim, and nobody wants to sit around trying to get socks on wet feet.

4. Slow Down

A good transition is a fast transition, but a fast transition is not always a good transition! It might sound counter-intuitive, but rushing your way through transition isn’t going to get you anywhere. If you slip up or forget an item, or even just put your helmet on a bit too late, you could be awarded a time penalty, or even be forced to go back into transition and correct your mistake (depending on the rules at your specific event), so taking the time to ensure you have done all the steps correctly is critical.

It’s not uncommon to see triathletes in a hurry putting their helmet on back to front, so a good tip to remember is “Less haste equals more speed.” But if you must slow down to double-check everything, then how do you get through the triathlon transition faster?

5. Practice

Practice is the most important part of speeding up your transition – Practice getting out of your wetsuit, practice putting on your aero helmet and glasses, practice putting on your running shoes and race belt, and practice flying mounts/dismounts from your bike. In particular, if you plan to leave your shoes clipped onto the pedals on your bike so you can simply place your feet on top of the shoes to get going as the pros do, you need to practice in advance like you would any form of your triathlon training.

Practice every single motion you go through until you couldn’t make a mistake if you tried, and then practice a little more.  Once you have practiced every step of the transition and committed it to muscle memory, then you will be ready to transition like a pro!

This article was written by Sportiva Events

Head of Content at Better Triathlete | Website

Endurance athlete, professional off-road cyclist, and avid blogger, Tyler Tafelsky participates in long-course multisport and cycling events. Today, Tyler competes in ultra-distance cycling races at the professional level. Since starting Better Triathlete in 2014, he has been the head of content for the site's editorial team. Learn more about Tyler