Before your next triathlon, make time to plan and practice your transitions. With some strategic preparation and practice, you’ll save time, energy and stress as you switch from swimming to riding and from riding to running. Read on for tips about how to make your transitions easier and faster.
Get to Know Your Transition Areas
Before races, thoroughly survey each transition area. First, figure out where your gear will be, then plan your routes for efficiently getting in and getting out. Better yet, practice those routes so that on race day you don’t have to think about where to go when.
Prep your Gear
Space is limited in a transition area so only bring the gear that you’ll actually use; it reduces clutter as well as the chance of grabbing the “wrong” gear. Think about the order in which you will don gear for each leg of your triathlon. Strategically place items with the furthest away being the ones you’ll need last and the nearest being the ones you’ll need soonest.
For example, set your helmet on your aerobars upside-down and with your sunglass inside because you will first put on your glasses followed by your helmet before grabbing your bike. And instead of putting on your cycling shoes in the transition area, you can clip them into your pedals. Don’t actually slip them on until you have hopped on your bike and are rolling out of the transition area.
Be Efficient in T1: Swim to Bike
Figure out in advance up until what point you will be able to swim and where you will have to start running. Since you’ve already dialed in your route, you can concentrate on starting to strip your goggles and wetsuit on the fly. Have the top of your wetsuit down by the time you get to the swim-bike transition area.
After you get to your gear, remove your goggles, don your sunglasses and helmet and move toward the exit. Know at what point you will hop on your bike, but be flexible in the moment; it may be worth running a little farther to escape transition area congestion.
Keep Your Focus in T2: Bike to Run
Remove your feet from your shoes as you approach the second transition area so that you pedal the last few strokes with your feet on top of your shoes. Know ahead of time if you will have to rack your own bike or can hand it off to a volunteer.
Remove your helmet and set it down so that you can quickly put on your running shoes and cinch lace locks. Then grab your race nutrition, number and hat and start running. You can stash your gels and adjust your number on the fly.
Practice Makes Perfect
While you are tapering for your triathlon is a great time to practice your transition skills. Since you’re no longer putting in the big training hours, you’ll have more time to focus on and improve skills. Set up a mock transition area and practice repeatedly switching between swimming and riding and between riding and running. Measure your progress objectively by timing yourself or ask a friend or coach to time you.
Watch and Learn
Ask others to observe your practice transitions and tell you what they see. Then watch other more experienced triathletes practice their transitions and copy what they do well.
Switching from using round chainrings to ROTOR’s Q-Rings is easy, but it does require some initial setup followed by a transition period for full adaptation.
Optimum Chainring Position (OCP) is what allows you to vary the rotational position of a Q-Ring, thereby enabling you to adjust it to the precise point where you deliver maximum power during a single pedal rotation.
ROTOR suggests the following initial OCP setups by discipline:
- Road: Position 3
- Triathlon and TT: Position 4
- MTB: Position 3
Because Q-Rings use leg muscles differently than round chainrings, your muscles will need time to adapt to the new, more efficient way of pedalling. Adaptation is a gradual process covering four stages with each stage taking between one day and one week. Most riders will require at least 10 hours of pedalling time to make the full transition.
In stage 1, you will learn to pedal more efficiently. Pedalling may initially feel different, and you may find yourself turning the pedals at a faster or slower rate than your usual cadence. Don’t worry about any initial jerkiness – it will smooth out over time.
You will start to feel more capable and more powerful in stage 2, and your spin will improve on climbs. Many who suffer knee pain will start to notice it less – assuming their OCP is correctly adjusted.
Stage 3 + 4
Stage 3 will bring improved biomechanical efficiency, which produces a smoother pedal stroke due to fuller activation of muscle groups. You will be creating more power than with round chainrings. If you experience no issues during this stage, you have correctly set your OCP and are onto Stage 4 of adaptation. Those encountering issues should read on for further OCP setting instructions.
If you experience the following symptoms, you are arriving at the max chainring diameter too late because your OCP number is too big, and you should reduce your OCP by one setting:
- You accelerate and sprint easily, but have difficulty maintaining speed.
- You feel pedalling resistance too late in your pedal stroke and/or you are hyperextending your ankle.
- You need a lower cadence to be comfortable.
- Your sit further forward than usual to pedal comfortably.
- You are comfortable pedalling while standing, but not while seated.
- You have new pain at the back of your leg behind your knee.
On the other hand, if your OCP is set too low, you will find yourself arriving at the max chainring diameter too soon during your pedal stroke. You should increase your OCP setting by one if you experience the following:
- You find it easy to maintain a steady speed but have difficulty accelerating and sprinting.
- You feel pedalling resistance too early in your pedal stroke and/or you are hyperflexing your ankle.
- You need a higher cadence to be comfortable.
- You sit further back than usual to pedal comfortably.
- You are comfortable pedalling while seated, but not while standing.
- You have a new pain at the front of your knee.
Once you’ve got your OCP correctly adjusted, it’s time for stage 4 and final adaptation, which comes naturally with more cumulative pedalling time using Q-Rings.
A few final setup notes
Different bikes may need different OCPs – don’t assume you will use the same position on each of your bikes.
Adjacent chainrings in multi-ring setups may require different OCP’s.
Road Q-Rings and QXL have five OCP points while MTB Q-Rings have three OCP points.
If you are using a Micro Adjust Spider (MAS), your number of OCP points is effectively doubled because it reduces the angle between OCP points by 2.5 degrees, thereby offering micro adjustments. In this case, you should adjust your OCP in 1/2-step increments.