Triathlon Dismount Guide – Rules for safety and speed

Recently at a T100 in Singapore a top pro, Alistair Brownlee, was assessed a 30 second time penalty for a dismount infraction. In the slo motion replay it seems apparent that Brownlee’s foot is on the red dismount line area by about 1-2 inches.

His response to the penalty was mature and measured, as reported in Tri247, Brownlee state “We can argue the merit of the rule – because you’re not gaining an advantage – but rules are rules and looks like I was over the line so I’ve got to have a penalty.”

Dismount Rules for Triathlon Organizations

Transitions are the fourth discipline for all triathlons. Efficiency moving between the swim, bike, and run can help out, but does require some practice and understanding of rules to be optimal. Before diving into the letter of the various rules, which changes depending on which organization is managing the event, it is worth highlighting why the rules are in place.

Dismounting in a “dismount zone” is defined in the USA Triathlon multi-sport rules to keep athletes safe. Dismounting out of the zone results in backups and unpredictable riding, near runners and other cyclists, and volunteers, that can create unsafe conditions.

Past the line dismounts is also the same as riding a bike in transition. Dismounting after a line has the potential to lead to advantages especially when considering where a transition racking area is as one athlete may be able to ride all the way to their rack close to a run exit while another athlete may have a rack near bike entrance to T2. This can be especially apparent when T1-T2 are separated and in larger races with huge Transition areas, some Ironman races have a transition area that is hundreds of meters long.

A Dismount Penalty results in a yellow card time penalty as defined:

  • Age-Group: Warning and amend
  • Elite and Paratriathlon: Time penalty (varies depending on race distance)

In general there are a few easy to understand things about the rules, even if you disagree with them.

  1. Any dismount line is PART OF the transition area. This highlights if you need to dismount before or ON the line.
  2. Dismounting means one foot in contract with the ground. Ideally while not straddling the bike but that is not specifically called out.
  3. A dismount line will look different from race to race. There is potential for more than one thing to look like a dismount line (ie timing pad, carpeting, etc.) so if you are an elite racer go check it out before the race.

The relevant standards are outlined below (USAT Multi-Sport Rules, World Triathlon ,Ironman Competition Rules). In practice the wording of these has some issues, especially discrepancies between organizations and we’ve highlighted the potential changes.

SummaryStandardsStanards/Rules LanguageRecommended
Dismount definition; Dismount line vs. Dismount ‘Area’USAT 7.ATransition conduct – An athlete must mount and dismount the bicycle at the respective designated mounting and dismounting zones. Athletes must mount their bicycles after the mount line by having one complete foot in contact with the ground after the mount line and must dismount their bicycles before the dismount line by having one complete foot in contact with the ground before the dismount line.Define ‘dismount zone’ vs. ‘dismount line’. By other definitions (WT) ‘dismount line’ is part of T2 regardless of timing mats or other signage and confirms conduct after the line is subject to T2 rules. Dismount zone is NOT part of T2 and is defined as a slow down area, consider how “obstruction” penalties may need to be updated in this zone to provide for athlete safety.
Dismount Zone vs. Dismount line.USAT Appendix 28Bicycle Course: That part of the race route over which it has been defined in the race brief that the bicycle is to be ridden, walked, or carried. The bicycle course begins at the Bicycle Mount Zone and concludes at the Bicycle Dismount Zone. Update language to confirm the bike course concludes at the Dismount line not the zone (ie. not the start of any signage about slowing and dismount).
USAT Helmet in T2USAT 27.7aThe helmet must be securely fastened prior to mounting the bicycle and at all times while riding the bicycle. The helmet may not be unfastened and removed until the participant has completely dismounted. (Penalty DQ)Clarify USAT rules if helmet is required with a bike in T2 (ie. after the dismount line where an athlete is “completely dismounted” but still “in possession of the bicycle”.)
USAT Helmet in T2USAT 29 Appendix BBicycle helmet not securely fastened while in possession of the bicycle. (Penalty DQ)See above.
USAT 8.14 ParatriathlonAthletes must stop completely at the mount line existing Transition 1 and at the dismount line on entering Transition 2. Once stopped, the assigned Official will say “Go” and the athlete can continue the competition. The wheelchair is considered correctly stopped if the front wheel stops immediately before the line. If the front wheel stops touching the line or beyond the line, a time penalty will be applied.No update required. Ensure language here maintains consistency that the line is part of the transition and mounting/dismount must be BEFORE line.
PenaltyIronman Article VII, Section 7.01eA mount and dismount line will be clearly designated at the entrance and exit of the transition area. Mounting the bike before the designated mount-line is prohibited. Dismounting after the dismount line is prohibited; (30 or 60 Second Time Penalty (as applicable))Adopt USAT penalty for 70.3/140.6 distance (30 seconds and 60 seconds) for dismount infringement. Define time penalty for Sprint/Olympic within USAT (for elites). Define age groupers as “Stop-Start” penalty only.
Dismount definitionWT 7.1jAthletes must dismount their bicycles before the dismount line by having one complete foot contact with the ground before the dismount line. 
No USAT relevant ruleWT 7.1hMount and dismount lines are part of the transition area Adopt similar language 
Dismount Definition. No USAT relevant ruleWT 7.1kWhile in the transition area (before the mount line and after the dismount line) the bike can be pushed only by the athlete’s hands. This creates a practical gap with “dismount definition” where one foot could be grounded and other pushing while still stradling.
No USAT relevant ruleWT 7.1kIf during the mount or dismount manoeuvre, the athlete loses their shoe(s) or other equipment, they will be collected by the Technical Officials and no penalty will be applied. Adopt similar language to clarify loss of gear during dismount is not littering or designed to require a penalty.

How To Dismount In A Triathlon

Given the above addressed rules the biggest question is how to actually dismount a bike and how to do it quickly. Dismount tactics can differ greatly depending on the course, your gear, and your position in the race.

A few things to consider when practicing a dismount.

  • In long races at age-group level the 2-3 seconds savings from a flying dismount at the line is not worth the penalty or safety risk. Even a “stop and amend” penalty will easily eat up that time.
  • Tired dismounts at the end of long events will NOT be as smooth as in training. Cramps and weakness will pop up at these transitions so if you are feeling off as you approach, just slow down.
  • Keeping shoes clipped in can be slower depending on transition areas. For elite courses transition areas will be carpeted and easy to run on. In practice many smaller events have transition areas on bad surfaces that are a nightmare to run on barefoot. Being tired (and cold) you may not feel this until later. Ideally race directors and officials would setup comfy carpeted area just before the dismount line and all. the way through transition, but this is unlikely.
  • Get out of the way. You can’t control others behind you so if you know you will have a slower transition move to the side and avoid the risk.

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