Two to four players may choose one of three ways to play Survival Relay. The matchup chosen will change the number of laps the race will last:
Two players vs. six E-10000 units
Three players vs. five E-10000 units
Four players vs. four E-10000 units
Two players vs. two players
Once a matchup has been chosen, the players may choose any available circuit, followed by their Extreme Gear, and two Gear Parts. The leader is the only one who gets to pick an Extreme Gear for the rest of the race; the others must use the leader's chosen Extreme Gear in order to compete.
The race starts out and develops in the same way as a normal race in Sonic Free Riders. The only difference is that when the player is near the finish line, their character will stop and the players need to swap out so that the next player gets to play; only then is a lap is completed. Before doing this though, the previous player may refill the gear's Air Tank with Air by moving their arms up and down as if using an overhead pump. The race will continue until the final character gets their turn and subsequently finishes the race. In addition, the number of Rings collected will pass over to the next player.
Despite Relay Race being a mode intended to be played with multiple players, the match-ups against E-10000 units can be played with just one human player. Likewise, when the chosen match-up is two players vs. two players, only two human players are required.
Dr. Eggman and Vector cannot be used by the players in Relay Race, nor do they participate as computer-controlled characters.
Furthermore, because only character-exclusive Gears can be chosen in Relay Race, no Bike-type Gears can be ridden in this mode at all.