A smooth, quick transition can make a big difference in a race that comes down to the wire. We asked one of the world’s fastest triathletes, Leopard Trek pro Dirk Bockel, to share some transition techniques and tips that work for him.
T1: The Swim-Bike Transition
Know your way around: You should know the transition area like the back of your hand, so do a pre-race walk-through from the swim exit to where your bike is racked. You should also know the fastest path from the bike to the mount line, from the dismount line to where you will transition off the bike, and how to get from the exit of transition and onto the run course. If you walk it a few times, the route will crystallize in your mind, which will be helpful on race morning when your mind is overstimulated.
Visualize: Run through a successful transition a few times in your mind before the race. Visualization is a very strong and useful tool.
Dial in your T1 spot: This may vary according to the race format, but for the most part, prepare your helmet, sunglasses and bike shoes so you can access them as quickly as possible. Think about which side you will approach your bike from, and what direction you will leave with your bike. If you use aerobars, try resting your helmet upside down on the bars with sunglasses sitting open inside the helmet.
Bike shoe placement: Use rubber bands to fasten the back of your bike shoes to the frame of the bike. The bike shoes will then stay horizontal until you mount the bike. Once you start to pedal, the rubber bands will snap. You should avoid running in your bike shoes for several reasons: to prevent cleat damage; increase your running speed in T1; and avoid overstretching your Achilles tendon.
Swim exit: Start planning your approach to the exit in the final minutes of the swim. Is the right or the left side the more direct route to the transition area? Always stroke as far as you can, then decide whether you should dolphin dive through the water or run the last bit to shore. Once you are running, put your goggles on your head rather than taking them off to keep your hands free. Get up to speed then begin the “peeling off” process (if it’s a wetsuit swim). The suit should be at your waist by the time you reach T1.
Mounting the bike: Once you reach the mount line, don’t necessarily jump on your bike right away. This area is usually congested and oftentimes you have an opportunity to pass several people simply by running a bit farther into the free space where you can hop on your bike with ease.