Tricky transitions

Ready for your first tri? Andy Blow is here to answer the beginner’s SOS call. First up is the fourth discipline


Messing up transition

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Transitions provide almost boundless opportunities to mess up your race. However, simply by being methodical in the way you set up, lay out your kit and move through T1 or T2, you can avoid most of the pitfalls and glide effortlessly from swim to bike and onto the run.

Wetsuit and goggles

When exiting the water, keep your goggles in one hand as you pull the sleeves of the suit off. If you let go of them inside the sleeve as it comes off, they will be safely tucked in there and not lost, trampled or scratched. Tuck the wetsuit away underneath the middle of your racking space so that it doesn’t trip you up or get trodden on by other competitors.


Make sure your bike is facing outwards on the rack (that is, racked by the saddle, not the bars). This allows you to move away cleanly without having to swing it around 180°. Leave the bike in a suitably low gear so that you can spin the pedals as soon as you climb on.


Leave your helmet with the strap unfastened and placed upside down on your tri bars the correct way round (front of the helmet at the front of the bars) so that you can simply flip it onto your head and do it up before removing the bike from the racking.

Bike shoes

If you have practised – and are confident of – mounting your bike with shoes already clipped in, do this on race day (leaving the straps fully open). If, however, you haven’t tried it before, race day is not the time to learn this time-saving but tricky skill.

Run shoes

Make sure your run shoes are positioned just to the side of where you rack your bike (and tucked in well enough that no-one could accidentally kick them out of the way). If you’re running without socks, put some talc into your shoes to make them slip on a little easier and use elastic laces to save time. Often it can be worth gluing the innersole of your shoe down in place to stop it bunching up when a damp foot is thrust into it.


Once you’ve set up your transition space, make sure you reconnoitre the exact routes you take from the swim to your bike, out onto the bike, back in from the bike to your racking space and out again onto the run. Going the wrong way, or to the wrong rack, can unnecessarily cost you a lot of time.

Them’s the rules

There are some basic rules you need to adhere to in transition that can result in time penalties or disqualification from a race if you fail to follow them…

– Ensure that your helmet is on your head and correctly fastened before you touch your bike to remove it from the racking in T1 – and until your bike is back on the racking in T2.

– Don’t mount your bike inside the transition zone. Get on only when beyond the designated line at the edge of the area. When returning at the end of the bike, dismount completely by the time you reach this line again and walk or run
it back to the racking.

– Other rules apply, such as assistants or helpers not being allowed in transition. Also, you must not mark your transition spot with any device or marker.

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For a comprehensive set of transition rules, see section 23 of the BTF triathlon rule book: