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How Do You Transition From Swim To Bike?

   By: Doug Wilson

If you are wearing a triathlon wetsuit for the race, one of the first challenges is taking the wetsuit off quickly. Because the suit is wet coming out of the water and probably tight-fitting, it can be a challenge just to remove it, let alone doing it quickly. Here are a few ideas that can help you.

First, before you even put the wetsuit on, you can prepare for its removal later on. Get a stick of BodyGlide® or other similar body lubricant. Rub some on your ankles and around your heels. Then, when you put the wetsuit on, rub some more BodyGlide® on the outside of the suit all around the bottom of the legs near your ankles. This is because when you are peeling the wetsuit off quickly, it will turn inside out. By putting the BodyGlide® on the outside and around your ankles, the wetsuit will have a better chance of sliding quickly off your ankles and heels. I remember the first time I used my wetsuit and didn't know this trick, I spent a good 15 or 20 seconds trying to get the wetsuit off.

Next, I'm assuming you have a long zipper cord on the back of the wetsuit. Immediately as you exit the water and you are jogging/running to the bike transition area, take your goggles off your eyes so you can see (but leave them on your head to keep your hands free), and then reach around behind you and grab the zipper cord and pull the zipper down. Start peeling the wetsuit off your torso as you are running to your bike. This way, you can still run quickly and have the suit halfway off by the time you reach your bike. Once you have the torso of your wetsuit removed, then remove your cap and goggles.

So, here's how the bike transition works. As you come to your bike from the swim, put your swim cap, swim goggles ands wetsuit at the back of the towel and out of the way. Peel the remainder of the wetsuit off your legs. It's easier if you peel it down inside-out (like peeling a banana). At this point, you'll probably be wearing just your swimsuit.

If you are going to wear a shirt, take it off the bike seat and quickly put it on. Then, put on your number strap over the shirt (remember, it's been laid out on the towel that is on top of the bike shoes).

Now it's time to put on your bike shoes. Given that you've just exited the water and run to your bike, your feet are likely covered in sand, grass, dirt etc. This is where the first little towel comes into play. Sit down quickly, wipe your feet with the small towel and then put your bike shoes on. It's much easier to sit down to do this. I personally have a hard time standing on one leg, maintaining my balance and bending over to dry off my feet and put on my shoes while breathing hard from the swim and the run to my bike. I've seen some people try a different method of having a little tub of water next to their bike to step in to quickly rinse their feet. I don't like this because the tub can get knocked over by other people and you still either need to dry off your feet or put your shoes on while your feet are wet. I'd personally rather just quickly wipe my feet off with the towel.

Finally, your sunglasses and helmet should be laying face-up on your bike shoes. Grab them and put them on, sunglasses first, then the helmet. Make sure your chin strap is adjusted prior to the race so that you don't have to fumble with any adjustments during your transition. Most races don't allow you to leave the bike transition area without a helmet on and strapped.

Pull your bike off the rack and run it out of the transition area to the bike start line. Get on the bike and clip one foot in a pedal. With your clipped-in foot at the top of a pedal stroke, push off the ground with your free foot and simultaneously push down on the pedal stroke. This will get your bike moving quickly and give you a chance to clip in the second foot. Your bike chain should probably be on the big chain ring in the front, but again, do what feels comfortable for you.

It also pays to practice your transitions before race day. Set up a mock staging area in your driveway or a parking lot and practice the entire transition. Time yourself or have a friend help you. Better yet, practice with one of your triathlon buddies. Just like a pit stop in a NASCAR race, see how quickly you can do the whole transition. You'll get a good feel for what works and what doesn't work for you.

Doug Wilson Contributing writer for, an online resource for the novice to speedy expert triathlete who is looking for the latest tips and triathlon gear information for the 2006 Triathlon Season.

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