What Is A Duathlon? Everything You Need To Know

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Perhaps you’re tempted by the idea of a triathlon, but can’t bring yourself to brave the icy waters for the swim. Or perhaps you just love cycling and running, and want a way to compete in both at the same time.

Well, there may be just the event for you: duathlon!

But what is a duathlon – and what do you need to know before getting involved for yourself?

Put simply, a duathlon is a multisport race consisting of a run, a cycle, and another run. It’s similar to a triathlon, but the swimming section is changed to be another run.

In this article, we’ll be covering:

  • What Is A Duathlon?
  • What Are The Rules Of A Duathlon?
  • 6 Things You Need To Enter A Duathlon
  • What Do I Need To Do Before My First Duathlon?
  • How Can I Get Involved With The Duathlon Community?

Ready to get to grips with all things duathlon?

Let’s get going!

What Is A Duathlon: Title Image

What Is A Duathlon?

A duathlon is a multisport race made up of a run, a cycle, and another run.

It’s fundamentally similar to a triathlon, but with the swimming leg swapped out for an additional running section.

Duathlons generally take place in the autumn or spring but can be held in most weather conditions. Unlike triathlons, water temperature isn’t a concern.

Duathlons feature two transitions between the start and finish line: mounting your bike (thankfully without a wetsuit to worry about) for the cycle and dismounting your bike for the second run.

Swimming is often a triathlete’s least favorite leg, and the duathlon favors those who prefer running.

If you’re interested, an aquathlon race is made up of swimming and running with no cycling leg, and an aquabike race features swimming and cycling legs with no run.

There are several types of duathlon, with standard duathlon distances attached to them:

  • Sprint Duathlon: Run 5 km (3 miles), Cycle 20 km (13 miles), Run 2.5 km (1.5 miles)
  • Standard Duathlon: Run 10 km (6 miles), Cycle 40 km (26 miles), Run 5 km (3 miles)
  • Ultra Duathlon: Run 20 km (13 miles), Cycle 80 km (50 miles), Run 10 km (6 miles)

A Relay Duathlon is undertaken in pairs. One competitor does both running sections, while the other does the cycling leg. A timing chip is passed between pairs in the transition area between sections.

The Team Duathlon is another run/cycle/run event but raced in teams.

Rather than being a race split into distinct sections, one team member must be running at all times whilst the rest cycle. The challenge is rotating positions at the best rate to get the fastest time.

Offroad duathlons, known as the “Dirty-Du”, involve trail running and mountain biking, generally over shorter distances to account for more challenging terrain.

The Dirty-Du was born in Texas, and the USA remains the event’s home with most races taking place in the States.

The World Duathlon Championships are hosted yearly by World Triathlon. Since 1994 the format has followed the “standard” duathlon distance of a 10 km run, a 40 km cycle, and a 5km run.

Currently, the world’s most popular duathlon is held yearly in London. It has attracted over four thousand competitors in the past, and features half, full, ultra, and relay duathlons.

The event regarded as the most prestigious is the Swiss Powerman Zofingen, featuring a mountainous cycle and two brutal trail runs. Powerman host a series of other duathlons around the world.

A duathlete in a red jersey approaches a transition zone.

What Are The Rules Of A Duathlon

These vary somewhat from event to event, so make sure you check ahead of time. Typically, the rules include:

  • Like triathlons, the event is timed from when you start to when you cross the finish line. Time in the transition area getting onto and off of your bike is included, so try to be speedy!
  • Unlike running races, earphones are banned at multisport events, including duathlons. Situational awareness is important more with cycling involved.
  • You must start the race with your chosen wave. Generally, waves are set based on your rough expected finishing time. This prevents the course from becoming too crowded.
  • You cannot cycle in the transition area. You’ll have to push your bike up to the mount line before you get on.
  • You must wear a helmet, fastened up, to leave the transition area on your bike. Riding without a helmet will result in disqualification.
  • While cycling, drafting is prohibited. There is no riding in packs. Cyclists must not ride within three bike lengths of one another unless overtaking.
  • Overtaking must be done on the outside, and defending an overtake is forbidden. You must wait, and then attempt another overtake yourself.
  • You must ride on the inside, to allow easy overtaking. Riding in the outside is blocking and carries a time penalty.
  • If you suffer a puncture or any other bike issues, you must fix it yourself. Race officials or spectators are not allowed to help.
  • You must dismount before the mount line and push your bike back to its rack before starting the second run.
  • In the transition area, glass, friends and family, and nudity are prohibited!
A duathlete's equipment laid out in the transition zone.

6 Things You Need To Enter A Duathlon

#1. Running Shoes

You’ll need a good pair of running shoes.

Remember these shoes need to protect you not just during the duathlon itself, but through your training too. Some duathletes prefer to have separate pairs for training and racing, but you should make sure your trainers have been broken in before race day.

Offroad duathletes should look into trail running shoes.

Elastic laces are also a good option for slipping in and out of running shoes during transitions.

#2. Clothing

For your feet, a good pair of sports socks for running and cycling go a long way (no pun intended!).

For your body, a tri-suit is a great option to wear as they’re designed to be aerodynamic and functional during the running and cycling sections of a triathlon.

However, as you don’t need to consider the swimming leg, any outdoor sports clothing which allows you to move freely whilst looking after your body temperature and protecting against chafing will do the job just fine.

#3. A Bike!

Again, getting the obvious out of the way: you’ll need a bicycle.

You don’t need an expensive racing bike to race in a duathlon. Any reliable bike is fine when you’re starting out: road, mountain, or otherwise.

If you are looking to slash down your time, a tri-bike is designed specifically with these events in mind and cut through the air like a knife, increasing your speed and preserving energy for the final running section.

Events do not provide bicycles so you’ll need to bring your own and check it into the transition area ahead of the race.

Again, if you’re looking to be as fast as possible, clipless pedals are always recommended for competitive cycling.

For a really quick transition, we recommend clipping your cleats into your bike ahead of time and slipping your feet into them on the go.

But riding clipless isn’t a requirement to race, have fun, and do well in a duathlon. And if it seems like one step too many in your transitions then just keep it simple.

#4. A Helmet

As mentioned, you have to wear a helmet during the cycling portion. You won’t be allowed out of the transition area without one.

Any bike helmet will do, though the more aerodynamic the better.

Cycling glasses are also recommended. Even if the weather is dull they’ll keep the wind out of your eyes.

#5. Puncture Repair Kit

It’s on you to mend a puncture or any other bike trouble during the race.

Spectators and officials are not allowed to help, so a puncture repair kit mounted to your bike is strongly recommended.

This means inner tubes and patches, tire levers, and a pump, and we also recommend a small multi-tool for good measure.

Make sure you’re comfortable changing your inner tubes ahead of race day. Check out our guide here!

#6. A Training Plan

To enter an event of this sort, no matter the distance, whether a beginner or veteran, training is important.

We’ve put together BikeTips training plans to get you up to competition standards. If you’re going to put in the work before the event, you should be organized.

Practicing your transitions ahead of time is also recommended. Getting comfortable with the maneuvers in a nearby car park can save you time (and potentially embarrassment) on race day.

A cyclist rides a time trial bike during a duathlon.

What Do I Need To Do Before My First Duathlon?

So you’ve registered for the event, trained, and familiarised yourself with the rules – now it’s race day!

It’s always a good idea to give your bike a once-over before the event to make sure it’s in working order. And make sure not to eat too much! A light meal which you’re used to having before training is best.

Arrive around 90 minutes before you’re due to start.

Once you’ve arrived you’ll need to check into your transition spot with a race official. This means placing your bike at your rack, making sure it’s in a low gear to pull away in, and laying out the kit you’ll need, like your helmet or shoes, on the side you’ll be approaching from.

Next, pick out a landmark so you’ll easily be able to find your spot in the rush of the race, and familiarise yourself with the entrance and exits so you know where to go during transitions.

With all this done, you’re good to go!

Runners competing in the running leg of a duathlon.

How Can I Get Involved With The Duathlon Community?

The duathlon community is friendly and supportive. Look into training groups in your local area, and online forums for nearby events.

Finding other like-minded people to train, or even compete with, can be rewarding and enriching, especially if you’re new to the duathlon.

People enter multi-sport events for all sorts of reasons, from ultra to sprint level.

No matter your fitness or experience, duathlons are fun and inclusive, and a great experience for any cyclist. Could a duathlon be your next race?

Enjoyed this duathlon guide? Check out more from the BikeTips experts below!

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One of BikeTips' experienced cycling writers, Riley spends most of his time in the saddle of a sturdy old Genesis Croix De Fer 20, battling the hills of the Chilterns or winds of North Cornwall. Off the bike you're likely to find him with his nose in a book.

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