Knowing the principles of riding and drafting on the bike is a must in the sport of triathlon. If you get it wrong, you not only could get disqualified, but you could cause an accident. Use these general rules as a guideline for what to do, and what not to do, when riding on the road in your next triathlon.
How Drafting Works
You as the Pass-er
1. Ride on the far right, always, except when passing.
2. You must maintain a distance of four bike lengths or greater from the front of your front wheel to the rear of the rear wheel of the bike in front of you.
3. Once you get closer than four bikes lengths, you're in the "draft zone."
4. There is no such thing as a "stagger" or "offset." That is, if you're inside four bike lengths but offset/staggered to left by 2 to 3 feet, you are still inside the draft zone. Athletes often think they are within the rules while 2 to 3 bike lengths off the wheel in front of them because they're staggered to the left.
5. Once you enter the draft zone, you must pass the rider in front of you. You have 20 seconds to execute this pass.
6. Once you enter the draft zone, you must pass. You can't move up, change your mind, back out...go back in the zone...back out, etc.
7. The pass is completed when your front wheel breaks the plane of the front wheel of the bike you are passing.
8. Once the pass is completed, you must now move over to the right, unless you're now inside four bike lengths of the next bike, in which case you have 20 seconds to pass that bike, then the next, etc.
Remember: If you're not actively passing someone, you need to move fully over to the right.
You as the Pass-ee
Ride on the far right, always, except when passing.
1. You don't necessarily "have to" let the person attempting to pass actually pass you. Though we don't recommend it, you can certainly drag race if you want. However...
2. The pass is completed once their front wheel breaks the plane of your front wheel.
3. It's now your responsibility to get the required four bike lengths of distance. You have 20 seconds to complete this action.
4. Finally, you must fully exist the draft zone (i.e. back off until you at a minimum of four bike lengths distance) before attempting to pass the athlete who just passed you. This is another rule that athletes often miss.
You as Pass-er...behind another Pass-er
This is where it gets a little tricky. Body language, intent and other factors are what draft marshals look for to identify people they need to watch more closely.