Faster triathlon transitions
You're looking to shave those vital seconds off your triathlon time. You've put all the training hours in, but there's still something missing. ITT's Mark Pearce presents a step by step guide to what could be your triathlon’s missing link – transitions.

Faster triathlon transitions

Transition often daunts newcomers to triathlon, and even experienced athletes have precious time to gain by sharpening up their changeovers. 

The good news is, by following a few of our little tricks and putting the practice in, any level of triathlete can easily start gaining time.

Transition 1 – Swim to Bike

Removing the wetsuit

Unzip the back soon after you leave the water and remove your hat and goggles in one go. Strip the wetsuit down to your waist while leaving your hat and goggles in the arm of the wetsuit. It's not advisable to remove your wetsuit entirely too early as it is awkward to run while carrying it. Run to the point where you are required to remove your wetsuit then fully remove it and place in suitable location.

Top tip - using a lubricant on the ankles and wrists such as baby oil or vaseline often makes this faster (read your wetsuit manufacturers info for advice on specific products).

Setting up the bike

Developing a system and having all your cycling gear positioned and ready to go is essential to making the switch from water to wheels as smooth as possible. 

Key points to being 'bike ready'

1. Helmet -  in all races, you cannot move your bike without it on, so make this is the first thing you do. Don't rush and attach in a calm and controlled manner.

2. Sunglasses - ideally attach to your helmet or somewhere on your bike or the ground in your kit area. In most cases, we would suggest fitting them in T1, rather than fiddling around when out on your bike.

3. Number belt - sometimes you can swim with it on or it might have to be part of your first transition, either way - it always needs to be on your back on the bike.

4. Bike - make sure it's in a gear that is suitable for setting off and not the last one you used! It should be low enough that you can get going, but not so low there is no resistance for the first few pedals. 

5. Running in transition -  It's quickest to run with the bike by holding the saddle, and then leaning to steer it. If it is a rough surface, and you feel out of control, you may want to hold the handlebars, but this will slow you down.

6. Bike Shoes - either attach to your bike ‘PRO’ method or keep separate via ‘SAFE’ method, where they are just placed near the bike and put on in transition.

Mounting the bike

'PRO' method - run out of T1, get on your bike and then put your feet into the shoes on the move. This is undoubtedly faster but will require considerable practice to nail the manoeuvre and suitable triathlon bike shoes as regular cycling shoes don’t have a large enough opening. It also allows you to run more efficiently than in cycling shoes.

'SAFE' method - you will have to run in your shoes, or run with your shoes and fit them near the mount line (this is often frowned upon as it clogs the exit area), then get onto your bike and click into the pedals. As the title suggests, this is safer but not as easy or fast as running barefoot.

'Flying squirrel' - an advanced manoeuvre that requires considerable practice before you put it into a race situation. It's fast and provides excellent momentum, and it can be done with either SAFE or PRO shoe set up. For more info on learning to do this, please see our youtube video.

'Standing swing' - a slower and more controlled version of the flying squirrel. After crossing the mount line, swing one leg over the saddle, push off and then get your feet into the pedals or shoes while on the move.

Transition 2 - Bike to Run

Dismounting the bike

Rolling dismount - Before approaching the dismount line, remove your shoes and ride with your feet on top of them. Dismount the bike while it's moving, putting your foot on the floor before the dismount line. 

Standing dismount - Pull up just before the dismount line, dismount and run to your transition spot. Safe but slower and doesn’t require much practice as it is basically what you do every time you get off your bike!


Just as with your first transition make sure you have a system in place and an order in which you do things to help keep things smooth. There are various forms of racking protocol so ensure you know the rules for each race you do.

Key points to being 'run ready'

1. Rack your bike, by whatever method is required (by handlebars, by the saddle, handed to rackers etc.)
2.​​ Remove your helmet and place in the correct area - you must do this after racking the bike.
3. Run shoes/socks can be laid out and ready to put on.
4. Elastic laces are a MUST for quick transitions.
5. A little talc on the shoes or your feet will make slipping your socks on easier
6. Have a small towel to hand to dry the soles of your feet.
7. ​​Position additional items within easy reach (e.g. cap, nutrition) 

As you can see, there's a lot more to triathlon transitions than meets the eye. Whether it's swim to bike, bike to run or both, speeding up your transitions can help you achieve those all important gains and set you on your way to that new personal best. 

(All photos copyright Mark Pearce)


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