Cycling Conduct for the Novice Triathlete

author : AskMrsBT
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"Being novices to the sport, we feel a bit anxious about our lack of knowledge about competing in a triathlon. Our primary worry? The bike leg."

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AskMrsBeginnerTriathlete is here to provide answers to questions you have as a newcomer to the world of triathlon. Younger than Dear Abby, more athletic than Ann Landers, each month I will post, what I hope to be helpful, responses to questions that have been submitted.




My training partner and I are preparing for our first Sprint Triathlon. As if the stress of the physical training wasn’t enough, we recently began discussing our first race strategies, which sent us both into a mild panic. Being novices to the sport, we feel a bit anxious about our lack of knowledge about competing in a triathlon. Our primary worry? The bike leg



We spend so much of the race on the bike.   Yet we know so little about it. We began to wonder, ‘What if I get a flat?’  ‘What if I fall off the bike?’ ‘ What if someone is drafting off me?’ ‘Will they pull me off the course if I do something wrong?’ ‘How will I know if I am doing something wrong?’, and so on.   So, we went right to the source, the USA Triathlon website. Here’s what we found on the rules to competition in the bike leg of the race.

For more detailed information please see the USA Triathlon website     

Cycling Conduct

5.1 Propulsion.

All bicycles shall be propelled only by human force and human power. Other than pushing a bicycle, any propulsive action brought on by use of the hands is prohibited. Any violation of this Section shall result in disqualification.

5.2 Forward Progress.

Participants shall not make any forward progress unaccompanied by their bicycle. If a bicycle is rendered inoperable, a participant may proceed on the cycling course, running or walking, while pushing or carrying the bicycle, so long as the bicycle is pushed or carried in a manner not to obstruct or impede the progress of other participants. Any violation of this Section shall result in disqualification.

5.3 Knowledge of Course.

The sole responsibility of knowing and following the prescribed cycling course rests with each participant. No adjustments in times or results shall be made for participants who fail to follow the proper course for any reason whatsoever.

5.4 Traffic Laws.

All participants must obey all traffic laws while on the cycling course unless otherwise specifically directed by a USA Triathlon official, race monitor or designee with actual authority. Unless otherwise directed in accordance with the preceding sentence, all participants shall come to a complete stop when required by a traffic sign or traffic control device and shall not proceed through any intersection unless such intersection is clear of oncoming traffic. In no case shall a cyclist cross a solid yellow line indicating a no passing zone. Any violation of this Section shall result in disqualification or a variable time penalty as determined in the sole discretion of the Head Referee.

5.5 Endangerment.

No cyclist shall endanger himself or another participant. Any cyclist who intentionally presents a danger to any participant or who, in the judgment of the Head Referee, appears to present a danger to any participant shall be disqualified.

5.6 Accidents.

All participants shall exercise extreme caution and shall decrease speed if necessary in passing the site of any cycling accident. Any violation of this Section shall result in disqualification.

5.7 Dismounting.

A participant may dismount, but shall not interfere with other cyclists. A violation of this Section, which does not also constitute a violation of Section 5.5, shall result in a variable time penalty.

5.8 Illegal Equipment.

Any participants who any time uses, wears or carries a headset, radio, headphones, or any other item described in Section 3.4(i) shall be assessed a variable time penalty.

5.9 Helmets.

(a) Type of Helmet. All participants shall wear a protective head cover, undamaged and unaltered, which meets or exceeds the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Helmets manufactured prior to March 10, 1999 must meet or exceed the safety standards of (i) the American National Standard Institute (ANSI Z-90.4), (ii) The Snell Memorial Foundation (Protective Headgear for Bicycle Users), or (iii) ASTM F-1446 or F-1447, and which is clearly labeled by the manufacturer as satisfying such standards. Removal of helmet cover, if required for that helmet to meet such safety standards, shall constitute an impermissible alteration in violation of this Section 5.9(a). Any violation of this Section 5.9(a) shall result in disqualification.

In accordance with the Rules as set forth in this Section, a participant is not permitted to position his bicycle in the proximity of another moving vehicle so as to benefit from reduced air resistance. While on the cycling course, participants shall not work together to improve performance, efficiency, or position by teamwork or other joint conduct. A variable time penalty shall be imposed for any violation of this Section.

(a) Illegal Positioning. Except as otherwise provided in these Rules, while on the cycling course, no participant shall permit his drafting zone to intersect with or remain intersected with the drafting zone of another participant or that of a motor vehicle. With respect to a motor vehicle (including authorized race vehicles), it is the athlete's responsibility to move out of the vehicle's drafting zone or to continually communicate to the vehicle to move away.

(b) Definition of Drafting Zone. The term "drafting zone" shall refer to a rectangular area seven (7) meters long and two (2) meters wide surrounding each bicycle. The longer sides of the zone begin at the leading edge of the front wheel and run backward parallel to the bicycle; the front wheel divides the short side of the zone into two equal parts. With respect to a moving motor vehicle, the "drafting zone" is a rectangular area extending 15 meters to each side of the vehicle and 30 meters behind the vehicle.

(c) Right-of-Way. A participant is generally entitled to assume any otherwise proper location on the cycling course provided that the participant arrives in the position first without contacting another participant. When taking a position near another participant, however, a cyclist shall not crowd the other participant and shall allow reasonable space for the other participant to make normal movement without making contact.

(d) Blocking. Cyclists who have established the right of way must not block or obstruct the progress of another participant.

(e) Passing. A participant who approaches another cyclist from the rear or from another unfavorable position bears primary responsibility for avoiding a position foul even if the cyclist being approached decreases speed. A participant must not attempt to pass another cyclist unless adequate space is available and the athlete is confident of his/her ability to pass the other cyclist. All passing is to be done to the left of the cyclist being overtaken unless otherwise specified.

(f) Position. Except for reasons of safety and when no advantage is gained, all cyclists shall keep to the right of the prescribed course unless passing.

(g) Being Overtaken. When the leading edge of the front wheel of one cyclist passes beyond the front wheel of another cyclist, the second cyclist has been "overtaken" within the meaning of these Rules. A cyclist who has been overtaken bears primary responsibility for avoiding a position foul and must immediately move to the rear and out of the drafting zone of the passing cyclist. The overtaken cyclist shall first move completely out of the drafting zone of the other cyclist before attempting to re-pass the other cyclist. In no case, however, shall a participant move into the path of another participant possessing the right of way.

(h) Exceptions. A participant may enter the drafting zone without penalty only under the following conditions:

(1) When entering the drafting zone from the rear, closing the gap, and overtaking all within no more than 15 seconds.

(2) When cyclist reduce speed for safety reasons, for course blockage, for an aid station, for an emergency, when entering or exiting a transition area, or when making a turn of 90 degrees or more; or

(3) When USA Triathlon or the Head Referee expressly excludes a section of the bicycle course from the position foul Rules because of overly narrow lanes, construction, detours, or a similar reason.


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date: September 1, 2004