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10 Beginner Triathlon Transition Tips

It’s easy to get intimidated after reading the some of the triathlon transition area tips that are out there right now. The tips assume you’ve done a triathlon before and can be intense and are usually focused on how to shave seconds off your transition time.  Yes, you want to transition from the swim to the bike to the run quickly, but please don’t feel stressed out about doing it in warp speed.

So, to make your transitions go as smooth as possible, all it takes is a bit of practice and planning. Remember to keep calm, go with the flow, and most importantly, have fun! And don’t forget to print out our Triathlon Race Day Checklist and pack the night BEFORE!

1. Location, Location, Location

Arrive to the race early so that you get first pick on where to set up your gear. Unless your transition area is already assigned, opt for an edge spot or a spot as close to the end of the row as you can get. That way, there are fewer people to navigate your bike through during the race.

Triathlon transition tips |

2. Get Noticed

In the Beginner Triathlete’s Race Day Checklist, we suggest that you use a brightly colored towel to help you locate your transition area quickly. We also recommend using a solid colored towel so that you can clearly see all the items that you set out. Notice where your transition spot is and look for the quickest route from the swim exit to the bike entrance and so on. {see # 9}

TwoTri transition area

Try using a brightly colored towel {instead of white or black} so that you can spot your transition area quickly

how to set up your transition area

We love this neon green transition mat!

3. A Smile And A Friendly Attitude Goes A Long Way

Make conversation in the transition area! Many people {including you} might be stressed and anxious before the start of the race and so striking up a conversation may help you {and them} forget about your your pre-race jitters. You might meet another beginner triathlete or you might get some last minute encouragement from a seasoned triathlete.

Also, if you forgot something like your bike pump or sunscreen, a good neighbor might be willing to share his or her supplies with you. I forgot my bike pump and I was able to borrow one from a really nice girl a few spots down. We chatted a bit which helped calm my nerves and take my mind off the race. Plus, I had perfectly pumped tires!


4. Be Organized, Minimalistic and Methodical

Organize your transition area in the way that works best for you. As a beginner, it’s easy to pack more gear than you actually need.  Set out only what you need and keep all the extras in your bag off to the side. Clutter can confuse and slow you down. Set up your transition area in the order of the events –your bike gear should be in front of your running gear.

It’s a good idea to set up your socks inside your sneakers, your shirt on top of your bike seat for easy access and your bike gloves {if using} on your handle bars. Set up your helmet upside down and unbuckled on top of your handlebars and open your sunglasses inside your helmet. Unzip all of your clothes and untie your sneakers so they’re easy to put on. If you’re not using clip in bike shoes, then you’re in luck! You won’t have to worry about changing your shoes twice!


5. Double Check

Make sure that your tires are fully inflated and that your water bottles are full. Make sure your bike is in a low gear so it’s easy to pedal as you start out. Your water bottles and small air pump should be attached to your bike ahead of time. Check to see that you have your bike tools and spare tire in your bike bag and ensure that it is zipped closed. Make sure your number is already pinned to your shirt if you’re not using a number belt.


6.  Swim Strategies

Here’s a tip from the pros- put your goggles on under your swim cap. That way if someone knocks them off in the swim, they’ll still be on your head instead of floating away. When you’re running out of the water, take off the top part of your wetsuit. Wetsuits are easier to remove when they are wet. Take off your cap and goggles as you run to your transition area. You may feel a bit dizzy after the swim, so when you get to the transition area, sit down to take off the rest of the wetsuit… it will be much easier.

transition from swim to bike

7. Bike Better

Clip your helmet on before taking your bike off the rack. To run with your bike, hold the handlebars and steer with your outside arm and hold the seat with your inner arm (make sure you practice this!). When you’re nearing the end of the bike route, put your bike in a low gear- this will help get your legs ready to run. Make sure you have practiced grabbing your water bottle and taking a sip while riding. This seems simple, but it can be tricky, especially if you’re riding fast. Drink water when the road is flat and straight to avoid being distracted and potentially falling off your bike. Also, take your helmet off last, after you put your bike back on the rack.


8. Multi-task and Grab And Go

After the swim, step on your extra towel to dry your feet off and put on your socks, sneakers, shirt, shorts, and helmet in the transition area, then grab your energy bar or gel and take a few bites as you’re running {careful not to choke!}. Put on your hat, sunglasses, watch, iPod and number belt as you’re moving as well. Make sure you have a designated spot to put whatever you take off and be careful not to cover anything you might need for the rest of the race {ie: don’t put your wetsuit on top of your sneakers}

Triathlon transition tips |

9. Practice

The transition is the 4th sport in a triathlon, so make sure you set some time aside to practice. Practice taking off your wetsuit and practice running with your bike {place your inside hand on the seat and your outside hand on the handles to steer}. Practice organizing your area so that you find a set up that works best for you. On race day, do a warm up run from the swim exit to your transition area to the bike entrance and so on. By rehearsing the route to and from your transition area, you can be confident that you will find your gear quicker and easier.


10. Have Fun

It may seem like this is a lot to think about, but with a little practice, you will become comfortable and find a transition strategy and set up that works best for you. Don’t put pressure on yourself to have a flawless transition. Have fun and go with the flow!

During my first triathlon I forgot to put on my running shorts over my bike spandex and I almost turned back because I didn’t want people to see my butt jiggle. I also wasted a lot of time trying to strap my ipod around my arm and then it didn’t even work! I got tangled in the cord and ended up throwing it to my cousin who was on the sideline. Those 2 things slowed me down for the first 2 miles, but I pressed on and realized it didn’t matter. If the race doesn’t go exactly like you practiced, it’s ok! Just keep going, give yourself some slack, have fun and don’t forget to SMILE!

Triathlon transition tips |


About Author

Trainer DaveyTrainer Davey is an Orange County personal trainer at heart, but has since moved to Nashville and taken on the new challenge of triathlon training. Of course, he misses his home of Surf City...but Music City ain't so bad either!View all posts by Trainer Davey →

  1. c\hatter

    Thank you for the incredibly timely post. Love the photos and tips as I have my first Triathlon in just over a week.

    • Jess

      Good luck and have FUN! Can’t wait to hear how it goes!!!

  2. Abby @ BackAtSquareZero
    Abby @ BackAtSquareZero05-15-2013

    Awesome tips. I am bookmarking your site as I am sure I’ll be visiting a TON this summer. So confused!

    • Jess

      Yea! Awesome!

  3. Rebecca

    This is great! I talked about your article in a post I wrote about training for my first sprint triathlon ( ). Started a 12 week training program last week for my August race and am freaking out about transitions, so thank you!!

    • Jess Anderson
      Jess Anderson05-27-2014

      Hey Rebecca! High five on signing up for your first triathlon! I’m so glad my transition post helped! Love your article too… lots of great, well organized info for anyone who wants to do a tri. I’m virtually cheering you on and I can’t wait to hear how your race goes in August! (p.s I went to Messiah College… right by Harrisburg! Small world!)