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My transition to ‘pro’ triathlon transitions

Written by Fiona April 27 2013

Triathletes who have their cycle shoes clipped on to their pedals in transition are pros. Well, that’s what I thought. I know some of my friends dabble with this alleged time-saving technique and I’ve seen them effortlessly jump on to their bike, pop their feet in their shoes and ride off into the distance but I didn’t think I was a) that bothered about knocking seconds off my transition b) actually capable of on-bike acrobatics!

imgres-7But my coach, the Mighty Vickster, reckoned I should man up and try this transition technique. It will apparently save me valuable time between the swim and bike and then the bike and swim and so she figured that because I’m racing in sprint triathlons it is worth a try.

But I’m old and set in my ways. I’m inexperienced in triathlon racing. I don’t own triathlon bike shoes and I had no idea exactly how the elastic bands that I’d heard rumour of would help with my clipped in shoes.

This week in training I discovered the elastic band secret – and more!

How to transition with shoes clipped in

First, you need everything laid out ready to go. That means helmet, race belt (with number attached) and, er, not much else. I would normally put socks on, and cycle gloves and maybe a top if it’s chilly when going from the swim to the bike. I’d also have my bike shoes laid on the ground ready to pop my feet into before getting on the bike.

With the “clipped in transition” your bike shoes are already on the bike. They are held level by elastic bands tied to the back hoops of the shoes and then attached to a handy part of your bike. The aim is speed. So coming into transition from the swim, you pull on your helmet, pull up your race belt over your legs and hips and then run with your bike to the line where you can jump on.  (Note, no socks or gloves!).

Once on the bike (I can choose to jump into the saddle or put one foot on one pedal, push off a bit and then cleverly bring my other leg over) with both feet resting on top of the special triathlon bike shoes I now have to get my feet inside the shoes. This is done by holding the hook at the back of the shoe while still pedalling and staying upright and then pushing your feet into the bike shoe opening. Once this is done on both sides (and without allowing the pedals to spin round) you can then do up the Velcro over-fasteners. Tri bike shoes have one big band to secure over the foot, rather than several smaller bands. And then you’re properly off. The thing about this kind of transition is that you’re moving forwards all the time and while you’re putting your feet in the shoes so it’s claimed that you have a flying head start.

The whole process is reversed on the return and given the additional flourish of a one legged dismount.

The results of the transition training

Amazingly I managed all this without falling off the bike or even unbalancing. I’m not sure what the Mighty Vickster was expecting but she seemed very chuffed with the whole experiment by the end. “Sweet,” she said!

So now I’ll need to buy triathlon cycle shoes (I borrowed a pair to try all this out) and contemplate no socks for the bike or run. When you jump off the bike your feet are already out of the cycle shoes and ready to push into your running shoes (with elasticated laces). And I’ll need to practice. I fumbled a bit and lost the flow of things a few times when trying this all for the first time. But I got the hang of it and I can see that it makes for a quicker transition. Well, at least I think it does. I’m going to time myself in practice and see. But at least I have the choice.

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