British Triathlon Rules

We have listed some general rules to help you when competing in triathlon in Britain. Please remember them as you may be penalised with a 2-minute penalty or even disqualified if you don’t observe them.

This document aims to acquaint you with the most widely broken rules, so you never have to see or hear from a referee and to hopefully make your event a safe and enjoyable one. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to speak to the referee at the race.

General Rules and Race Conduct

  • It is your responsibility as a competitor to know ALL the rules. As in most walks of life ignorance is no defence and the rules are available on
  • It is your responsibility as a competitor to know and correctly complete the full course of the event.
  • Foul and abusive language is not permitted and the failure to obey a marshal, police or referee will lead to disqualification. Marshals are usually volunteers to help with the running of the event that you are taking part in. Please respect them and thank them for their efforts.
  • No outside assistance is allowed at any time.
  • Please do not use ipods, mobile phones or any other device that may impair your hearing or concentration anyway on the course (including transition) as this will lead to disqualification. When racing you need to be aware of other competitors, and the general public both on foot or car.
  • You MUST wear a safety helmet on the bike that is of ANSI Z90.4, SNELL B90, EN 1078 or equivalent. A CE mark is not an approved standard. The strap to your helmet must also be snug in its fitting and not altered anyway (and definitely not elastic). These will be checked when racking your bike.
  • Any fittings on your bike (computers, mountain bike handlebar extensions) must be positioned so as to prevent injury in the event of a crash. All handlebars and tribars must be plugged. This will be checked when racking your bike and you will not be allowed to race if they are not.
  • Nudity is not allowed – after seeing one male competitor drop his swim trunks in transition and try and change into cycle shorts only to get his foot caught and then spend the next 30 seconds hopping around to release himself... well we think you know why!
  • You will also need to keep your chest covered at all times on the cycle and the run, no matter how hot it is.
  • Bikes MUST be racked on the racking provided using either the seat post, handlebars or brake levers. Bikes must not be racked anywhere else and anybody not racking this way will be disqualified.
  • Remember to place your equipment, as thrown equipment may interfere with other athletes and lead to a penalty.
  • You are not allowed to mark your position in transition with any special device, flag etc and please be careful not to interfere with any equipment of your fellow athletes either deliberately or accidentally.
  • Contrary to popular belief the rule is not to have your helmet fastened while you are in contact with the bike only before you move it and until it is back in its slot. However not touching the bike until the helmet is fastened is a good guide to keep you in the right.
  • Race numbers must be worn on the back for the bike and on the front for the run and must be clearly visible at all times. They must not be altered or mutilated in anyway otherwise you will be penalised.
  • You must not mount your bike until advised to do so at the bike mount/dismount line outside of transition. There must be no cycling in transition.


Triathlon is an individual sport, so in age group triathlon drafting (riding close to another cyclist) is forbidden. However, drafting is allowed in the swim and run so if you must draft please do it then.

British Triathlon has now changed its draft zone to fall in line with the ITU (Main governing body), and the new guidelines are highlighted below.

Wales Tri - Drafting

The draft zone is an area extending from the front wheel of the leading bike to a point 7m behind it and 1.5m either side of the cyclists centre point. If you wish to overtake the cyclist in front you have 15 seconds, which in basic terms means you have to be travelling 1mph faster than them to pass in the allotted time. If your front wheel is not passed their wheel in the allotted time you must drop back to 7m from their front wheel.

If another rider overtakes you, it is your responsibility to drop back out of their draft zone.

If a referee thinks you are drafting there is no appeal against the decision, so the rule of thumb is – be squeaky clean. It is cheating. If caught drafting once you will be penalised with a 2-minute penalty. If you get caught a second time you will be disqualified

You are not allowed to ride side by side (even if not drafting) unless the road is closed to traffic.

If you read this, and follow the advice you should always be on the right side of the rules. Remember the referee will always be willing to answer any questions you may have - good luck.