Part 2 of Things I wish I’d learned before my first triathlon: Transition & the Bike by Ambassador Tori

Things I wish I’d learned before my first triathlon: Transition & The Bike

Posted on July 23, 2013

Transition is definitely the part of a triathlon I get the most questions about. It’s a critical part of your overall time and really the 4th event of the race. It was also, for me, the most overwhelming part to think about before my first race. It’s one of those things that sound so confusing until you’ve actually gone through the motions.

The bike is the part of the race I had to learn the most rules for. I’ve detailed some of the big ones below. Keep in mind that rules can change from race to race depending on sanctioning. Check your race’s rules ahead of time.


If you missed part 1 (Pre-race and Swim) you can read it here.


Pay attention to where you rack your bike – It’s early and dark, we’re tired and nervous. We rack our bikes and make our way to the start line. Transition looks like a whole new place when the sun is up and athlete are running around with bicycles. Make a mental note of where you’re racked when you head out of transition before the race.

Put the things you think you’ll forget inside your shoes and helmet – I usually the forget small things, like sunglasses and Gu, when leaving transition. To break the habit, I started putting them in my shoes and helmet. My sunglasses go inside my helmet so I have to put them on first. My socks go inside my cycling shoes. If I’m racing a longer distance, the Gu for my run goes in the heel of one of my running shoes. I also put my race belt with bib on top of my running shoes.



Relax, and think it through – You really can’t get through your transition without doing all the necessary things. You won’t be permitted to leave T1 without your bike, helmet and shoes so you don’t have to worry about forgetting the important things. T2 is even easier. Relax, do the necessary things to get yourself ready for the next leg and go.


Practice your transition – We practice swimming, biking, and running. Why not practice transitioning? Even if you only think about what it will look like during the race, it will help your race day strategy.

Or you could build yourself a full T1 & T2 in your trunk. Yep, I’m pretty much ready to go at any given time.


Practice running with your bike – You’ll have to run with your bike twice during the race — in and out of transition. Running with a bike in cycling shoes is a skill. Try it out before your first race.

IronMan 70.3 Augusta Sept 2012 152

The Bike

There are 4 important lines you must cross in a triathlon; start, finish, mount and dismount – I had no idea about mount and dismount lines until I got out on my first course. They distinguish the start and finish of the bike leg. There are usually volunteers yelling mount/dismount here, as well as signs reading those same words. Oh, and an actual line of tape or chalk to show exactly where it is. Still you get out there and this happens…

IronMan 70.3 Augusta Sept 2012 156

The first thing Patrick said to me when we were going through our Augusta 70.3 photos and saw this was “you didn’t cross the mount line!”… and then again when he proof read this post. Whoops. There is a line, cross it like you would the start and finish line.

Drafting – This was the biggest rule for me to learn. Riding too close to behind another athlete’s back wheel is considered to be drafting. “Too close” can vary between events, so check the rules for your race. USAT defines the drafting zone as “a rectangular area ten (10) meters long and two (2) meters wide surrounding each bicycle. The longer sides of the zone begin at the leading edge of the front wheel and run backward parallel to the bicycle; the front wheel divides the short side of the zone into two equal parts.”

Overtaken Rule – If you are getting into the drafting zone of the athlete in front of you and want to pass, announce that you’ll be passing (see next tip), pass them, then fall back in line in front of them. You have 15* seconds to get your front wheel in front of the athlete’s front wheel that you are overtaking. He/she then has 15 seconds to get back out of your “drafting zone”.

*The amount of seconds you have to pass can also vary from event to event, check your race’s rules.


“On Your Left!” – Ride on the right, pass on the left. Announce to the athlete in front of you that you’ll be passing. If you’re being passed, read the rule above about being overtaken.

Again, there can be variations to these rules from race to race. Be sure and read your race’s rulebook.

Any questions I missed about transition and the bike? Post them below! Check back for the last post of this series, The Run & FAQ, later this week. 


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