TRANSITION – Swim/Bike training


In a pervious article I wrote for Australian Triathlete, I covered the tips and tricks for total transition training with a big focus on the skills required to execute a seamless change between swim/bike and bike/run, addressing the whole process as far as race day set up and being prepared, and how to practice/train for this very important part of triathlon.

The focus of this article is the often-neglected part of the transition in training – the swim/bike (T1). Many age groupers have their transition/brick training focusing on runs off the bike (T2) – but what about T1 training? Doing repetitive sets of swim/bike will greatly help you to become more efficient at this aspect of the race. The swim-to-bike transition is early on in the event but much time can be gained or lost through not only being rusty at the changes and skills required in T1 but even more so, with it taking more time than it should be to make the change from upper body dominance in the swim to getting those bike legs working and up to speed as quickly as possible.

Swim fitness can definitely play a role here so it is important and should be a motivator to become more swim fit as this will transfer over to being able to ride well from the start as you are not still recovering (suffering) from the effort of swimming. It can take over five kilometres to find those bike legs when not race fit or simply if you haven’t practiced T1 enough in recent times to become more efficient in getting the blood to transfer between upper and lower body. Apart from the obvious time savings in both transitions by practicing the changes of shoes, helmet, running with your bike in and out and the mount and dismount, being able to hit your realistic race paces right away will be key to your overall race performance.

So, for the following training session we are working the swim/bike focus:

Set up – either a wind trainer/ergo set up at pool or if safe to ride from the pool in a loop/circuit and is not in a busy built up area then ride your bike on the road. Most inner city athletes would likely take the stationary bike option for safely/being able to keep the bike flowing not waiting for lights/traffic out on the open road. Even if on the wind trainer put on the helmet to practice fastening it, sunnies if using, clip shoes on pedals (again if do on the race day) or beside bike. Use your race clothing/tri suit and for the first time through, if you are training for a wetsuit swim you can use this to practice removing it also.

Warm up – as you should do on race day dry land first and finish in the water pre wave start – even for this bike/swim specific session you will jog an easy 5-10minutes to get the blood flowing. A few light dry land stretches for the upper
body pre swim –
Double arm swims forward and reverse – x10

Posterior Shoulder Stretch

  • Stand or sit with chest up and head in neutral position
  • Bring your right elbow up and pull it over to the left at shoulder level with the left hand.
  • Hold this position for 30-seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Triceps Stretch

  • Standing or sitting raise your right hand up over your head.
  • Bend the right elbow and grasp the right elbow with your left hand.
  • Pull your right elbow to the left overhead.
  • Hold this position for 30-seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Mid Pectoralis Muscle Stretch

  • Stand with your right side facing a wall or doorframe.
  • Put your right hand up on the wall – thumb facing up, at shoulder level.
  • Slowly rotate your trunk to the left until a stretch is felt.
  • Hold this for 30-seconds.
  • Repeat this on the left.
  • Next, get in the pool/water and again, spend 5-10minutes warming up. Swim 200-300metres relaxed/working some back and breaststroke after and some sculling before adding some 25metres fast freestyle efforts/25metres easy x4.

Main Session

  • Swim – 50m sprint – 90-95% – rest 15sec/3x100m @ race pace – 80-85% – rest 15sec after each / 50m@85-90% – straight out of pool to your bike.
  • Bike – do your transition and if your shoes are in pedals, ride first 300-400m @race tempo with feet on top of shoes and work your feet into the shoes as have practiced in the past being careful if out in the street to be aware of your surrounds, staying in line and looking up for parked cars /obstacles.
    Ride 8-10min @race pace/cadence.
    Repeat x 2-4 times

You can add a short run just to keep the running in here after the last round of up to 10minutes relaxed. But remember the bike/run specific is in another session.
If your swim/bike transition has been lacking or you have been finding it tough to get going in that first 20minutes of the bike on race day, adding this session once a week in the lead in to your first few races of the season will greatly help.


Nick Croft

Nick Croft is a former professional triathlete, Australian Triathlete of the Year and two-time winner of the Noosa Triathlon.
With 19 years coaching experience under his belt, Croft provides online training programs for athletes of all ages and abilities through and runs Noosa Tri Camps in Noosa Heads, Australia.

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