Before any race, make sure you know the rules of the race and it’s governing body so you can avoid disqualification or penalties. If you are not sure, ask! The bike rules in particular are important, as most of them are designed to keep you safe on the bike leg, with some competitors topping out at over 70kph on fast sections.
The marshals at most events are there to ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable event and are more than happy to help with any questions you have.
The key bike rules will include:
Drafting means cycling close to another cyclist to benefit from their disturbed airflow and gaining a performance advantage. It’s a key part of the swim, and also road cycling, but it’s generally banned in triathlons.
This means that you can’t sit on another rider wheels for the race so, if you are getting close, you need to either hang back or overtake, and will be enforced based on an imaginary box around the rider in front which you cannot stay in for more than 10 seconds or so, if you can’t overtake in the time set, you have to drop back.
Some races are draft legal, meaning this rule doesn’t apply, but in this case, tri bikes may not be allowed, so it’s worth checking. These tend to be pro level races, but this change could migrate to age group races.
Keeping safe on the bike is one of the key considerations for race marshals, and often there will be a mandatory bike check as you enter transition to rack your bike before the race.
This will generally involve a brake check and a visual check to ensure there are no obvious problems with the bike but can involve specific rules like ensuring that your bar end caps are in place. It’s worth check in the race briefing or rules, just to see if your race has specific requirements
Transition set up
The transition is a big and complex area, and to ensure that it runs smoothly, race directors will have assigned specific areas to specific waves, or even assigned specific racks by number in order to streamline the process and ensure fair and controlled racing.
This means that you need to know whether you have assigned numbering, which direction your bike needs to be facing, and which direction you need to go into and out of the transition area ( they tend to be one way, but may have different exits for runners and cyclists.
Your race briefing will cover this, and if not, then the marshals are there to help, so ask where you should go to rack your bike.
Safety is key and helmets are generally mandatory. In Ireland, it’s generally mandatory that you have your helmet clipped on before you even touch your bike, so you are required to clip your helmet on even when you rack your bike before your race. You are also expected to put on your helmet before you touch your bike, so check what the rules are for your race.
You also need to be aware of the types of helmet which are permitted for the race. These generally need to be cycle helmets, and skateboard or full face helmets common for mountain biking are generally not permitted.
The mount and dismount
You are not allowed to cycle in transition and have crossed the mount line before you can get on. Similarly, you have to get off before the dismount line when heading into transition after your cycle. Some federations and race Marshalls take this very seriously so make sure you know where the lines are.
This means that, after you pick up your bike from your rack you’ll be pushing it to the mount line, and crossing it before you get on, so be aware of the fastest way to push your bike, and practice walking and running in your cycling shoes.
Of all the rules, this tends to be to one thats most closely policed.