Just when you thought triathlon was about managing three sports — you learn that your race time includes T1 and T2: the shorthand for Transition 1 (from the swim to the bike), and Transition 2 (from the bike to the run). While these transitions comprise a small part of the overall experience, they can create a great deal of stress on race day, especially for new triathletes.
Single Transition Races
Some races have a single transition area where you will set up your bike and running gear in the same place. Rows of bike racks will be set up and numbered with numbers corresponding to the athlete’s bib number. You will “rack” your bike by the saddle (or seat) by placing the saddle nose on the bar of the bike rack. You will set up your biking and running gear in a small area to the side of your front tire. In a single transition race, you will head from the swim exit into the transition area and make your way to the row where your bike is. Dry off your feet, put on your shoes, put on your helmet and sunglasses and make sure any swim gear left behind is placed in your designated transition area. You will exit transition under the “Bike Out” sign. Do not get on your bike in transition. Run with you bike by holding it by the saddle or handle bars out of transition. There will be an area outside transition where you will “mount” your bike and ride on to the course.
When returning to transition, there will be an area where you will “dismount” your bike and run with it into transition. You will rack you bike on your row where your bib number is. Take off your helmet, switch shoes if you need to and put on your race number belt. You will exit transition under the “Run Out” sign.
Two Transition Races
When a race has a start and finish in two different areas, there will be two transition areas as well. You will notice them labeled “T1” and “T2”.
T1 is where you will rack your bike and leave all of your bike gear. From the swim exit, you will enter T1 and get all of your bike gear and head out on to the course. You will return to T2 in a different location. At T2 you will rack your bike and switch into your run gear before heading on to the course.
You may have access to both transition areas the day before the race to set up your gear. Sometimes you have access to one or both on race morning. If time is limited and you have the option, always choose to drop your gear off the night before the race. Most transitions will have rows of bike racks with coordinating bib numbers affixed to the racks and sometimes even your individual sport.
Local TriClubs, bike shops, run shops or the event you're signed up for sometimes hold "Transition Clinics" which is a great opportunity for beginner triathletes to get a full understanding of transition and what to expect race day.