The art of transition is a personal one. There’s plenty of room for disagreement on which way to rack the bike (hooked by the saddle, or hooked by the brake-hoods), and so telling you the correct way to set up everything else is pointless, but I can illustrate the way I do it, and why, and hopefully it can help some beginners or even give new ideas to more experienced triathletes.
I have a triathlon transition bag to carry/store all my stuff, and it has a built in mat that folds out. Any old towel or bath mat, yoga mat would do the trick though.
Bike Shoes (with socks in this case). These are in front of my running shoes since I’ll be putting them on for biking before running. I run my bike across the transition area with my bike shoes so that I don’t get any debris on my feet once I’ve picked up the bike. I haven’t mastered putting on my shoes while they’re clipped into my pedals – safety first.
Running Shoes. After I get back from the bike they’re right there waiting for me.
Bike Helmet and Sunglasses. I put my bike helmet on top of my bike so that I can’t take the bike off the rack without picking up my helmet; that’s to remind me to put it on (and attach the chin strap) before even touching the bike. That way I always avoid penalties and disqualifications. I put my sunglasses inside the helmet for similar reasons; I’ll be forced to put on the sunglasses before the helmet and that way I don’t forget them.
Water bottle – this is filled with ice and has been frozen or cooled as much as possible beforehand. I put it in the cage as part of my transition set-up, and then it’s with me on the bike.
Race belt. I could do a whole post on why a race belt is a good investment; mine lets me clip my bib to it without having to mess around with safety pins (thus saving my shirts from extra pinholes). You’re supposed to have the bib on the back for the bike (it’s more visible to race marshals, and more aerodynamic besides) and on the front for the run – I simply turn the belt around when I’m in T2. The race belt pouches also store a gel or two, while I keep the rest in the pockets of my tri-top.
That’s how I did it in the Muskoka 5150, and the general layout has been the same for every triathlon I’ve done.
Do you have any transition set-up guidelines you use?