Ironman bike etiquette

New to the Ironman? Here’s some Ironman bike etiquette to be aware of.

Being aware of some basic Ironman bike etiquette will make the race a lot more enjoyable and safer for everyone.

If you do enough Ironman races you’ll see people do some things that inconsiderate and at times downright dangerous during the 112-mile Ironman bike.

Here are just a few of the more common things to watch out for.

  • It all begins in transition
  • Crossing the center line
  • Passing on the right
  • Flying water bottles
  • Aid station dangers
  • Racing into transition two

***It might seem like a small thing, but it can be a bit disconcerting when it happens to you.

Not everyone leaves their bike shoes or some other equipment in their swim/bike transition bags. Some people will often leave their bike shoes or other gear beside their bike.

Sometimes you’ll find one of your bike shoes a long ways from your bike because someone has managed to run over it or kick it in their hurry to get out on the bike course.

When you go get your bike, try and be careful of other people’s gear. It’s just common courtesy and considerate Ironman bike etiquette that really doesn’t take any extra time.

***Crossing the center line in order to pass someone can be very dangerous. Every Ironman bike course is configured differently. It may be a bike course with several loops that means other bikes are coming toward you from the other direction.

Vehicles could be coming from the other direction as often just one side of a highway is closed to traffic.

On some courses the marathon is on one side and the bike is on the other. So at times you will be in a race where runners are coming toward you.

***Passing on the right is one of the most dangerous maneuvers of all yet it happens in pretty much every race.

In the early stages of the bike course there will often be a lot cyclists jockeying for position. Often people will get frustrated. They’re not supposed to draft yet find themselves behind a wall of cyclists. There’s no room to pass on the left so they see an opening and pass someone on the right.

ironman bike etiquette

Slow down and spread out as you near the bike/run transition. Image by author. Main Street Penticton B.C.

In most cases there’s not a lot of room on the right and if the bike in front happens to swerve to the right it could result in a serious accident. They won’t be expecting anyone to pass them on that side and might not even see them until its too late.

In general the rule is to stay near the right shoulder unless you plan on passing. That way the left side is open for faster cyclists to go by. Sometimes it’s the person who is leaving too large a gap on their right who is at fault.

The way to prevent anyone from passing you on the right is to not leave room. Ride as close to the right shoulder as can. This also leaves more room on the left for faster cyclists and is proper Ironman bike etiquette.

If you are stuck behind slower traffic the best practice is to slow down and stay in the no-draft zone(usually three bike lengths)until things open up and you have room to pass on the left without crossing the center line.

***Be extra careful when returning your water bottle to the bottle cage. Things can get hectic and in their haste people don’t always get the bottle firmly into the cage.

All it takes is a bit of a bump and the water bottle can shake loose. The water bottle can end up under your rear tire, but most likely it will fall right into the path of the cyclists behind you.

It a water bottle is run over at a high rate of speed it can easily cause a cyclist to lose control and crash.

***Aid stations on the bike course can be a dangerous place for cyclists and volunteers.

If you can see the station coming up, begin to slow down and pull over toward the right side of the road. Not everyone is planning to take on fuel and they will be going full speed past the station.

If there are several bikes approaching at the same time be sure to leave plenty of room between yourself and the bike in front of you.

ironman bike etiquette

Slow down, leave some space, and keep to the right if you are getting aid.

If you plan to come to a complete stop go past the station and then pull over and stop once you clear the main traffic area.

***The last few hundred meters of the bike course is not really the time to try and blow by someone.

Being a bike catcher can be risky because some people come into transition way too fast. It’s much easier and safer for the bike catchers if you are just barely moving when you reach them.

There’s an entire marathon to run and the few seconds you gain by speeding into transition is really not worth the risk.

Finishing the Ironman bike course for the first time can be a great experience and a huge accomplishment after a 2.4 mile swim. It’s way more enjoyable if you demonstrate some Ironman bike etiquette along the way.

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About Ray

Ray hasn’t stopped since his first Ironman in Kona, 1984. He has since run 14 more Ironman races, authored 5 Triathlon books, and is now bringing together a passionate community of triathletes. Contact Ray at

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