There is quite a lot for the kids to do on the morning of a Triathlon, but never enough time to do it! Aside from signing-on, checking-out course maps, applying race numbers to their bike and helmet, attending a race briefing and warming up at the right time – they also need to prepare their Transition, which is not as simple as just ‘dropping-off their bike’.

All this activity can lead to anxiety building before their event has started, it does with adults after all? So the best way to get them as relaxed as possible, so they enjoy their event to the full – is for both you as a parent and them as a competitor, to be fully prepared to set up and navigate their way through Transition efficiently, ensuring a great multisport experience!

So here’s a short guide with some top-tips to kids Triathlon transition, the 4th discipline…

As if they don’t have enough skills to learn already on a swim, bike, run race, there is a ‘4th discipline‘ of transition, the link section between each discipline (or ‘leg’). So between the swim and the bike leg is the first transition, known as ‘T1‘. The second is between the bike and run leg and is known as ‘T2‘…

swim – T1 – bike – T2 – run

A good transition saves time and energy, a bad one can cause panic and frustration. So what makes a good transition? In a word, preparation! Just like each of the 3 disciplines, practice is the key element to Triathlon/Duathlon transition training.

It’s common for parents to be banned from entering the transition area, with marshals assisting each child to set up their bike and kit. So its quite important they are well prepared and understand how to set themselves up – without your help.

Transition Layout

Spend the time to familiarise yourself and your child with the layout of the transition area. Entry & exit points for each leg and their rack position. Identify an obvious landmark (must be permanent, not another bike that may not be there) that could guide them straight to their rack position from the entry point. It’s important they don’t get lost when they first enter the transition area during the race.

Kit Layout

There will always be personal Tri kit preference here and its worth experimenting too (not on event though). In general, cycling items in front, running items towards the back as they stand facing the rack. Here are some key points to consider;

  • Make sure that their helmet clip is undone and the straps are open, outside the helmet
  • Ideally you would position the helmet topside down, however if its windy it may ‘roll about’!
  • If they wear sunglasses, have them inside the helmet, ready to put on
  • Ensure their shoes/laces are loose and ready to slip their feet in
  • Have a towel in place to stand on and use to dry their feet slightly
  • Sprinkle talcum powder in their running shoes (aids drying and assists fitting with wet feet)
  • Use elastic lock-laces (far quicker and more reliable than shoe laces)
  • Use a proper kids-sized race number belt – easily spun around the torso in seconds in T2
  • Whilst setting up transition, practice loading & unloading their bike from the rack, several times
  • Open-water wetsuit event? You need your Trisuit on underneath. Nudity in transition = disqualification!

Flying Bike Mounts

If your kids have been busy with Cyclocross over the Winter months, they will be just fine here. If not, this is also a valuable skill worth mastering. Essentially, running with the bike over the exit line and leaping on-board, without stopping. It’s best to practice this before the event, on grass for obvious reasons! Mastering a flying dismount is just as relevant, so they can leap-off the bike and be running over the line as the enter T2 after the bike leg. They do need to be confident though as they may well be surrounded by other kids on bikes at the time – so not a good idea to be swinging legs out wide.

Useful Event Checklist

It might be worth creating a Checklist of all the preparation tasks you want to carry out on the morning of their race. Just so you don’t miss anything and they feel relaxed, at ease and fully prepared.

To Change Shoes Or Not?

In younger categories (TriStart, TriStar1 & 2) its rare to see them using separate running shoes and cycling shoes. Running shoes for both the bike leg and run leg is normal. It’s worth using proper running shoes with a narrow sole (not cross-trainers with a wider, stability sole) as the wide sole splays the feet out on the pedals, which can hinder them on the bike.

A sensible middle ground is the use of straps on their pedals, particulary if they are from a cycling background – they may not like the feeling of not being attached to their pedals. Clean mounting and dismounting with straps is another skill that would need dedicated practice. If mastered, it can potentially improve their bike leg time.

For older categories (TriStar3 on) its more common to see competitors use separate cycling and running shoes, as the length of the bike leg is longer, so the advantage of putting more power down (whilst clipped-in) is worth the time lost in transition changing their shoes. Kids Tri-specific shoes (velcro fasteners and a rear pull-up strap) start from a UK size 3.

Its Not The Olympics!

It’s normal to get excited as a parent, but try your best to keep it under control, screaming and shouting will only put them off and everyone else around them too. They will get flustered very easily in transition. If you take it too seriously and they don’t enjoy it, they will soon lose interest, and thats not exactly the idea! There’s nothing wrong with taking it seriously and learning the skills if that’s what they want to do, as long as it is still enjoyable. Always.