In most of the races I’ve participated in, there will be rows of bike racks set up and numbered. Your spot may be pre-determined by your race number and you may have no choice about where you are to set up. Other races may have no set structure. In this case, I like to have my bike near the aisle if possible. Make sure you take note of where your spot is located. In a big race with hundreds of participants, it’s tough to locate your bike in a sea of bicycles if you don’t remember where you set up. I saw a person once run around the transition area for about 5 minutes trying to locate their bike.
In most of the races I’ve done, the bike rack will consist of a horizontal pole with vertical supports every so often. I’ve found that it works best for me to hook the handlebars to the rack by putting the brake levers over the pole. This way, the bike is stable on the rack and you can quickly lift it off when you are ready.
You’ll probably want to have your bike transition area laid out strategically. I lay things out in a logical sequence for how I put them on and take them off. The first thing I do is I lay down an old towel alongside my bike. I have my biking shoes at the edge of the towel with my running shoes just behind them.
If you are using a bike that has regular pedals or toe clips, you probably won’t have a separate pair of bike shoes. However, if your bike has racing pedals with clips, then you’ll have a separate pair of shoes with cleats attached to the bottom, kind of like how ski boots clip onto the skis. If you are serious about training and racing, you will probably want to upgrade at some point to clip-in pedals. They will help you develop a smoother, powerful pedal stroke because you can push and pull through the entire pedal revolution. See this link for more information about training with clip-in pedals.
If you like to wear socks when you run (or bike), lay the socks over the top of the appropriate shoes. If I’m going to wear a shirt, I lay it across the seat of my bike. Next, I lay a small towel on top of my bike shoes (more on this later). On top of the small towel, I lay my number strap. If you don’t have a number strap, I highly recommend getting one. Here’s why. First, you can pre-attach your number sheet to your belt strap. You don’t have to worry about trying to attach the number to your shirt. This will help you avoid a lot of problems. Second, I don’t like the number on the front of my shirt while I’m bent over my bike. It feels like it gets in the way. Finally, I often don’t wear a shirt during the bike race, so I don’t want to have to wear a shirt just so that I can have my number displayed. If you get a number belt strap, you can just quickly put it on and turn it around so that your number is behind your back while you ride the bike.
I put my sunglasses inside my bike helmet and then I lay the helmet on top of my running shoes (which are directly behind my bike shoes). I put my water bottle(s) on the bike before the race. If you wait until the transition to put your water bottles on the bike, you’ll add a few more seconds, or worse yet, you may forget to take water on the bike. It’s vital to stay hydrated and the bike is the best place to drink because I find it much harder to drink while running.
This is probably a good time to discuss what to wear under your wetsuit. As a male, I prefer wearing a Speedo® or Tyr® racing suit with the longer legs. This way, they double as bike shorts. You can also buy combo suits that have a padded crotch, but I don’t like the way they feel when they get wet, so I use my regular swimsuit under my wetsuit and I just jump on the bike. Depending on the temperature, I might throw on a shirt or I might go shirtless. Women will probably want to wear a racing swimsuit or combo suit for the duration of the race.
Contributing writer for http://www.triathlonsupply.com, an online resource for the novice to expert triathlete looking for triathlon tips and triathlon gear product reviews to enhance their 2006 Triathlon Season.