Laying Out A Transition Area

author : Michael
comments : 1

How to properly and effectively lay out your triathlon transition area.

I can be most anywhere - whether it is a concert, campaign rally or a retail store, and people will walk up to me and ask me questions about something.  It has almost become a joke among some of my closest friends because the people asking me the questions sometimes know more about what is going on than I do.  It comes as no surprise that when I am at triathlons, people come up and ask questions and many of them have to do with laying out a transition area.  Over the last ten triathlon experiences I have had, I have found what works for me and it seems to be working for others.


I have a sports bag that I use to pack my gear into the triathlon venue.   It is large enough that I can carry in everything that I need and also will hold a small collapsible ice chest for my hydration. For the peace of mind, I lay out my transition area on my bed the night before to double check and make sure that I have everything.  Once I’m satisfied that I have everything I need, I pack the bag.


When arriving in the transition area on race day, I first look to see if there are assigned bike racks.  If there are, I try to be there early enough that I can get on one of the outside ends of the bike racks.  I do this because it gives me more space for my transition area and makes it easier to find my bike in a large race.   Check with your individual triathlon and make sure of any local rules for the transition area.  Some triathlons, don’t allow you to leave a bag or an ice chest in the transition area and there could possibly be other rules that you might have to abide by.   The following set up is what I do and falls within the rules of all the triathlons that I have competed in.


I first rack and secure my bike - seems simple, but if you listen closely at most any triathlon, you will hear the sound of a bike crashing against the ground. Every bike is a little different, so that means it can be secured in different ways.  Remember that other competitors will be racking their bikes and it can cause the rack to shift or move.  If your bike falls, this could possibly cause a multitude of things to happen, such as a brake caliper shifting over and touching the side of your rim. If not noticed, that slight rubbing on the rim can cause you to have a slower bike segment. 


After my bike is secure, I place a full-sized bath towel on the ground beside my bike. The towel will run parallel to my bike.  I first take out my race belt with my race number for the run and place my running shoes on top of my race number.  This serves to keep my race number from blowing away.  Some competitors will safety pin their race number on their shirt, but I find that if it starts flapping on the bike it is very irritating to me, so I choose to use a race belt.  Race belts can be purchased for about three dollars from most stores that carry tri gear.  If I am facing my towel, my race belt and shoes will be at the top of my towel.  I always make sure that the tongue of my shoes and laces are open to create as little of a problem as possible problem getting on my shoes in Transition Two.


I next place my bike shoes on the towel directly behind my running shoes.  I loosen up the straps and make sure they are open and ready for me to place my feet in them.  Most of the time, I don’t wear socks with my shoes on the bike or the run.  In the past, I have always put them on before I go out on the bike, but that is just a personal preference.

I leave the portion of the towel to the rear of my bike open to stand on.  The reason that I do this is because as you exit the swim and come into the transition area, you will have dirt, sand, grass and small rocks on your feet.  The towel will help in getting your feet wiped off.  I also place a water bottle near this area so that I can wash away any debris that I pick up. 


After I initially locate everything, I make sure I know where all my hydration is located for the race.  If it is going to be a particularly hot day, I will bury my running cap in the bottom of my ice chest so it will be nice and cold and give me some assistance in bringing my core temperature down.


I place my helmet on my aero bars and put my shades inside.  This serves to remind me to put my helmet on before I leave the transition area. I also place my shirt on top of my bike seat, so it is just within my reach.


After I am set, I run through everything mentally to double-check and make sure that I haven’t forgotten anything.  I then place my hydration on my bike.


Some other things to remember are:

  • Reset your bike computer.

  • Double-check to make sure your bike is in the right gear (you need to be on your small chain ring in front and a gear that you can easily push coming out of Transition One).


If there is one thing that I can suggest to you, it’s to lay out your transition area before you go to your first race.  Go through the Transition One and Transition Two and see if you have any problems.  You will most likely uncover any problems then and that is a lot better than on race day.  Find what works for you and fine tune it to your specific needs.   Along with these tips and other information you find here at Beginner Triathlete, you can enter your first triathlon with confidence.


Keep Tri’n



Think big, believe big, act big, and the results will be big. -Anonymous


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date: September 2, 2004


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