often refer in my race reports to what I call my ‘semi-flying’ bike mount out of T1 and a ‘flying’ dismount from the bike into T2. A lot of people have asked me what is meant by these terms, so I thought it might be worth a quick explanation.
The semi-flying mount
Watch the male pros at an ITU race and you’ll see them literally leap barefooted onto the bike at a gallop, usually placing their feet on the pedals with their shoes on the underside. With deft and dexterity they’ll then spin their shoes around, insert feet and tighten their shoe straps. Well. I can’t do that yet! But here’s my version (a lot of triathletes seem to have the same idea).
Before you start, you will need:
- A quiet road or smooth grassed area to practice
- Small rubber bands (you’ll need plenty of these)
- 1x Pair of tri bike shoes
NB: You WILL NOT be able to use road shoes with multiple straps or clasps
Start by opening your shoes as wide as they will go and then clipping them into your pedals (without your feet in them!).
Assuming you are using tri shoes, you should have a loop at the back of the shoe. Thread and secure a small elastic band through the loop. Then place your cranks so that the right crank is at 3 o’clock and the left crank at 9 o’clock. You should then be able to hook the elastic band onto the bike - the front mech for the right shoe and the rear wheel quick release / seat stay for the left shoe.The bands should hold the shoes roughly in place (make sure you’ve got the size of elastic band right, so it’s not so loose that the cranks move a lot or so tight that it could snap prematurely).
Mount the bike from the left and as I swing my right leg over the bike, I use my left leg to push off and maintain some forward momentum.
As my right leg comes over, I slip my right foot straight into the shoe, but don’t push down just yet. Then my left foot slips into the shoe and I begin pedalling (tri shoes often have one large securing strap which makes it easy to create a gap big enough for your foot to slide straight in. As you then start pedalling, you should break the elastic bands.
How quickly you pause pedalling to tighten up the shoe straps is entirely down to the nature of the course. Assuming you have a straight run out of T1 and not too much traffic, I normally get up to at least 20-25km/h and then tighten each shoe, usually with a few revolutions in between to maintain balance and speed.
However, it’s no bad thing to wait longer if necessary - the main thing is that your feet are in the shoes and you can get the power down for most of the stroke.
I strongly recommend trying this where a) you can go straight for at least 200m, b) there’s no traffic and c) you can get away with a tumble. I hurt myself on one early practice, but I’m glad to say since then I’ve had no issues either in practice or race. Remember you should break the elastic band each time you do this, so be sure to have a generous supply to hand!
The flying dismount
Again, watch the ITU pros and you will see they don’t stop casually at the entrance to T2, swing a leg over the bike and wander in to swap their bike shoes for run shoes! More often than not, they arrive having already removed their feet from their shoes, stood on one pedal with the other leg already swung over the bike and leap off into a run before the compulsory dismount line! It can be a blur to watch, but isn’t quite as difficult to master as it might appear.
To practice, you will need the same sort of space as before - straight, quiet and if possible, softish underfoot. I’d advise starting with the straps on shoes undone already if you don’t have at least 400m of space to practice on.
Assuming you do have space, the first thing to do is to unstrap the shoe and extract your foot. I use the heel loop to steady the shoe as I remove my foot (you may need to practice each stage of this movement separately, depending on how good your balance / bike handling skills are), then place my bare foot on top of the bike shoe. Again, I usually pedal a few times in between shoes to maintain balance and speed - then remove the other in exactly the same way.
In a race, you will need to make a call as to when exactly you do this - sometimes you can do it 200m or so from the dismount line, sometimes it will be wiser to do it much earlier - it’s all down to the nature of the course and the level of ‘traffic’ around you.
With bare feet now pedalling on top of the shoes, it’s time to pick your spot to stop pedalling and start freewheeling towards T2. As I do this, I stand on the left shoe and lift
my right leg back and over the bike so that I am effectively riding the bike ‘side-saddle’ (i.e. all my body is on the left hand side of the bike). My right foot is hanging behind my left foot and slightly outside it. Again, it may take some practice to get comfortable with balancing the bike while all your weight is on one side.
The trick now is to spot the point at which your right foot is going to touch down and manage your speed so that you can make a smooth transition to a run. Only you can judge what that speed is, so start off slow and build up as you become more confident.
If you’re worried about scuffing your feet, I guess you could practice this in run trainers (just occurred to me, never done it myself, though) initially.
Remember, you must be fully off the bike before the dismount line.
That’s about it; the ‘Matt Fisher’ tried-and-tested way to mount and dismount the bike in a sprint or standard distance triathlon! I hope it helps you shave a few seconds off your T1 and T2 times - and as always, please do share your own views and experiences below.