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Old 12-21-05, 03:22 PM   #1
vegcrow
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ride the lightning!

I awoke last night to the sound of thunder. More precisely, to my dog freaking out at the storm.

In my half-asleep foggy state, not realizing it was only 3am, I began thinking about my commute and wondering if cyclists have greater chances of being struck by lightning. Now that I'm awake, I think it's probably not likely, but I don't know the science to prove it.

My foggy-minded 3am rationale was that if a golfer can get struck by lightning holding a big metal rod, then having metal pipes between my legs might be bad, too. Go ahead, laugh at me, but then explain it to me, and if it has something to do with rubber, explain why rubber soles don't help protect a golfer.
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Old 12-21-05, 04:01 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vegcrow
I awoke last night to the sound of thunder.
How far off... I sat and wondered,
Started humming a song from 1962.
Funny how the night moves....

Ahhhem... sorry, got a lil' lost there for a second... Let's see lightning and bicycles:

Quote:

MYTH: Lightning only strikes good conductors like metal.

TRUTH:This can be a deadly assumption. Lightning can strike any material that is in its path. True, the lightning current is more likely to flow through good conductors, but like the first myth, lightning will strike the best conductor in a particular area. For instance, if there are two posts of the same height in a field, one wood and one steel, if they are far enough apart they are both equally vulnerable to a lightning strike. Only if they are close enough together will the lightning be more likely to strike the steel post. Some people think that riding a bicycle in a storm is dangerous because you are touching the bike's metal frame. Riding a bicycle in a storm IS dangerous, but you are just as likely to be hit by lightning if you are walking or riding an all-plastic vehicle.....the metal bike has little or no effect. The same applies to golf clubs: Holding a metal club, even in the air after a swing, has little or no effect on your chances of being struck by lightning. The difference between lightning current flowing through a good conductor and a bad conductor is this: Good conductors suffer little damage from lightning while bad conductors are generally severely damaged. Compare this concept to an electric heating element. The heating element glows red hot, while the wires connected to it stay cool, because the wires are much better conductors than the heating element. If lightning strikes a bad conductor like wood, the current will either flow over the surface with little damage, or flow through the material with destructive and explosive results. This is why some trees are totally splintered by lightning while others are unharmed.

Source

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Old 12-21-05, 04:52 PM   #3
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I was in a mountain bike race in North Tahoe back in 92. Before the race started, the weather was OK, but a thunderstorm was developing south over the lake. So, the race starts and off we go. The race looped through the deep forest along Tahoe's north shore. Halfway throught the race, the storm moved in and was directly overhead. The lightning was thundering down right on top of us as we flew down the forest trails. Some of the bolts must have been hitting trees (very tall pines) right behind me, because the flash and boom were at the same time.

It was my fastest time ever.
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Old 12-21-05, 09:11 PM   #4
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Its the things sticking up the most that get strikes - a golfer in the middle of a field, or the tallest tree at the edge of a field. Therefore dont shelter from the rain under the tallest tree. If you are riding on a street with tall buildings or trees either side, you should be OK. If you are on a road raised above the surrounding countryside start saying in a loud clear voice "Our Father which art in Heaven . . . ."
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Old 12-22-05, 12:38 AM   #5
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Darn !!!! I thought you were talking about my bike.

http://www.lightningbikes.com/phantom.htm
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Old 12-22-05, 01:10 AM   #6
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What makes cars relatively safer is not the rubber tires. It's the fact that the metal body encases the driver and passengers entirely. This creates what is known as a Faraday cage and the electricity flows around the outside of the car.

And you thought that "cages" was just a slang term for cars.
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Old 12-22-05, 01:21 AM   #7
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I thought this was about the mountian biking video .
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Old 12-22-05, 12:50 PM   #8
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I was caught in a lightning storm about 10 years ago, and I thought as was gonna get it. I was at a train crossing with guards down waiting when the lightning started. I was basically in the middle of a train yard thinking what a bad place to be at this moment. So needless to say I started to ride after the train went through and bam, a lightning strike about a half block from where I was. It did not get struck but I did feel a slight electric current going through my bike and body. I wondered after the incident if my tires were my saving grace.
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Old 12-22-05, 01:26 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diesel
I wondered after the incident if my tires were my saving grace.
Think about it. The electric charge had enough potential to jump from a cloud in the sky to the ground, (I know there is more to it) so I don't think 1 inch of rubber is going to affect the path of the lightning at all.
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Old 12-22-05, 02:19 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scarry
Think about it. The electric charge had enough potential to jump from a cloud in the sky to the ground, (I know there is more to it) so I don't think 1 inch of rubber is going to affect the path of the lightning at all.
I was about a half a block away from the strike, so I think the ground absorbed most of it and I felt the result. With two separate points of rubber contacting the ground wouldn't that create a flow through effect essentially cancelling out the effect of an electric current? It's when you do not have that second neutral contact point that creates the problem.

I am explaining my experience, so if you can give a more detailed analysis I'm all for it!
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Old 12-23-05, 11:30 AM   #11
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I know that if lightening strikes the ground, it creates a huge potential at that point. As you get further away the potential gets lower. The important thing is that if you create a connection between two points (such as with your feet), each with a different potential, then you have a circuit with a voltage across it. The larger the distance between the two points (your feet) then the larger the voltage. This is why cows have a big problem, as their front legs a a reasonable distance from their front legs, causing a large voltage across their body.

Whole fields of cows have died this way!
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Old 12-23-05, 11:43 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Artkansas
What makes cars relatively safer is not the rubber tires. It's the fact that the metal body encases the driver and passengers entirely. This creates what is known as a Faraday cage and the electricity flows around the outside of the car.

And you thought that "cages" was just a slang term for cars.


A steel car is a partial faraday cage. Not complete protection, but pretty good. Plastic cars and convertables don't work for this. Although, cars with lots of plastic in the body may have some sort of steel frame that will help.

Motorcycles, bicycles and golf shoes, don't do diddly squat for lightning protection.
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Old 12-23-05, 12:49 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jackohug
The important thing is that if you create a connection between two points (such as with your feet), each with a different potential, then you have a circuit with a voltage across it.
So the best vehicle to use in a lightning storm is a pogo stick?
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Old 12-24-05, 09:24 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vegcrow
So the best vehicle to use in a lightning storm is a pogo stick?
Or just keep your feet together!
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Old 12-24-05, 09:51 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diesel
I was about a half a block away from the strike, so I think the ground absorbed most of it and I felt the result. With two separate points of rubber contacting the ground wouldn't that create a flow through effect essentially cancelling out the effect of an electric current? It's when you do not have that second neutral contact point that creates the problem.

I am explaining my experience, so if you can give a more detailed analysis I'm all for it!
I've seen pictures of things taken taken by researchers just as they were hit by lightning, with super high speed film. After the lightning hits the main object, lots of small bolts radiate out in all directions along the ground for a distance.
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Old 12-24-05, 10:30 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vegcrow
So the best vehicle to use in a lightning storm is a pogo stick?
Unicycle. Perfect for those who "freak" about lightning storms when cycling.
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Old 12-24-05, 11:08 AM   #17
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How about a recumbent ... then you're lower to the ground compared to the other riders on diamond frame?
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Old 12-24-05, 11:45 AM   #18
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I thought you were talking about one of these:

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Old 12-24-05, 11:46 AM   #19
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How about a recumbent ... then you're lower to the ground compared to the other riders on diamond frame?
Better yet, a recumbent unicycle!
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Old 12-31-05, 07:36 PM   #20
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Well yes, if the recumbent had a full fairing of metal (see Steve Delaire of Rotator Recumbents) or had metal mesh in the fairing, including a clear (w/mesh) bubble over the head. See posts about Faraday cages. The very few times I've been riding in storms strong enough to start producing lightning I have gotten in or under adequate shelter. Even if one does not fear megawatt electric bolts cold rain, wind, and hailstones hurt.
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Old 12-31-05, 07:38 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by michaelnel
I thought you were talking about one of these:


Makes me think about a Metalicca song.
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