I volunteered at Red Hills Triathlon this weekend and part of my job was to staff the mount and dismount lines. For those of you unfamiliar with triathlon, it begins with a swim then there is a "transition 1" aka T1 where wetsuits are taken off and athletes grab their bikes. During the second transition, "T2," athletes put their bikes away and get ready to run.
I came to the conclusion that most triathletes can finish much faster if they can streamline the transitions. Many athletes will expend a good deal of time and effort putting in another couple laps in the pool or on the track, but neglect practicing their transitions. By my estimation, a roughly similar amount of time could be shaved off the race clock from harder practice in the disciplines or with transition practice. If you really want to get faster, do both. If you'd like to drop a few seconds, then practice transitions...it hurts a lot less.
Tips for transitions:
On the way out on the bike:
1. Be methodical. Rushing around will lead you to make mistakes.
2. Practice transitions. People aren't used to ending a swim by standing up and running. It makes your head feel funny. Get used to it. Find a pool that lets you run on deck or go practice entry/exits in open water.
3. Practice removing your wetsuit. You might want to put some Body Glide on the bottom of the legs on the outside of the suit. I recommend avoiding the Pam.
4. Organize your transition area. I currently keep my shoes clipped into my pedals (which saves A TON of time and is not as scary as you might think). Before I started keeping them clipped in, they were the closest thing to me when I came in from the swim. My helmet balances on my aerobars with the straps open and the forehead side facing me. My sunglasses are open inside the helmet. I put on the sunglasses then I can flip the helmet on my head easily. My bike is in a low gear for easy take off.
[photos to come if I can remember]
5. Learn to run your bike with your hand on the seat. It's the fastest way.
6. Practice mounting your bike while it's still moving. You don't want to completely stop after you cross the mount line. You can go slow and coast a little, but being stopped slows you way down.
On the way back in from the bike:
7. Learn to dismount while the bike is moving. I recommend taking your feet out of the shoes and placing them on top of the shoes. I like to swing my right leg behind my seat and put it behind my left leg and coast toward the dismount line with my hands on the brakes. I slow down but do not stop. I keep some of the bike momentum to run into T2. I did the same thing when I used to keep my bike shoes on until I got to my transition area, but I had to slow down a bit more.
8. I wear socks for the run. That slows down a transition quite a bit, but speeds up my run by keeping the blisters away. I've tried to learn to run without socks and it's not feasible for me. It might be for you.
9. Get elastic shoe laces and a race number belt. Those items will greatly speed up your T2.
10. Remember that saving time in transition is just as good as saving it on the swim, bike, or run courses.