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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 12-13-00, 09:22 AM   #1
RainmanP
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I have only been commuting by bike for a couple of months and have been lucky weather-wise. It has only rained on planned recovery days or other days that I had to drive anyway for one reason or another. I am prepared for rain, but it occurs to me that lightning is another matter. I assume the usual advice applies: "Whaddayanuts? Stay out of the weather!" Does anyone have any stories/advice about riding/not riding when there is a chance of lightning? What about the really hardy souls who don't even own cars?
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Old 12-14-00, 05:24 PM   #2
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Lightning

Personally I love riding in storms when there is lightning about. In fact, at this time of year I prefer it to the so-called "fine" weather. With a bit of luck it will bring some rain with it and cool things down a little.

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Old 12-14-00, 05:58 PM   #3
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Lightning

I have had some memorable rides in thunderstorms, wind howling, lightning crashing around me. If nothing else, it does wonders for one's average speed.

I rode home after dark one summer night a few years ago... whenever the lightning lit the sky, I could see giant thunderclouds towering around me, like flying mountains! Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries would have been a good sound track. One truck driver offered me a ride, but I was soaked through by then, and rather caught up in the fury of it all... I declined, and splashed home by myself.

If you worry about being struck by lightning... well, that is a very real possibility. Your bike's tires offer a few centimeters of insulation from ground... not nearly enough.

Statistically, however, golfers, swimmers, and electric co. linemen fare worse in such storms. Bicyclists aren't often hit, or at least, aren't reported. vaporised, perhaps?

Resist the urge to wear an alloy helmet.
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Old 10-04-07, 05:27 AM   #4
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Rain, Lightning, Thunder

I get hit with T-Storms many afternoons in the spring. 1st: take off the glasses, you won't see well with the rain drops on them, 2nd: more distance breaking when going down hills, 3rd: don't take corners as sharp as you would on the dry road, 4th: relax and enjoy it! Be comforted in the fact you are not putting any money in the big oil machine while you are riding!
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Old 10-04-07, 05:42 AM   #5
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If there is a lot of lightning nearby, I head for cover. Unlike a car, you have no protection from lightning while on a bike. I've also had some memorable rides trying to outrun a storm, but if caught, I will run for cover. I don't mind getting wet but I don't want to get fried.
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Old 10-04-07, 06:19 AM   #6
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If you're out in an electrical storm, you're in danger of getting zapped, yes. In fact, if you're out and there's an approaching electrical storm, you're in danger of getting zapped (hence the alarms on golf courses in the southwestern US that chase people off the course well in advance of any rain). Bicycling isn't the most dangerous thing to do in an electrical storm, but it isn't the safest, either. If you can't get indoors or in a car, the best place to be is in a deep (not shallow) cave or in a large group of trees of similar height, not standing on bare rock (ideally, standing on something like a foam cushion). BTW, tires on a bicycle don't "insulate" and protect you any more than the tires on a car do -- a car is a relatively safe place to be because of the skin effect, not the rubber tires.
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Old 10-04-07, 06:32 AM   #7
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lightning and I have an agreement, I ignore it and it ignores me, so far we have both been keeping our agreements......
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Old 10-04-07, 07:05 AM   #8
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or in a large group of trees of similar height
I thought you were supposed to stay away from the trees & lie down in a field or something.
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Old 10-04-07, 07:06 AM   #9
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If you're out in an electrical storm, you're in danger of getting zapped, yes. In fact, if you're out and there's an approaching electrical storm, you're in danger of getting zapped (hence the alarms on golf courses in the southwestern US that chase people off the course well in advance of any rain). Bicycling isn't the most dangerous thing to do in an electrical storm, but it isn't the safest, either. If you can't get indoors or in a car, the best place to be is in a deep (not shallow) cave or in a large group of trees of similar height, not standing on bare rock (ideally, standing on something like a foam cushion). BTW, tires on a bicycle don't "insulate" and protect you any more than the tires on a car do -- a car is a relatively safe place to be because of the skin effect, not the rubber tires.
Yeah right. I know of one cave on my commute, and I wouldn't head in there without a biohazard suit and some serious firepower. I think if you are caught out the first thing to do is not freak out. Just focus on pedalling hard and take any of the shortcuts you would take if you were running late. It is just lightning.

You can't seriously support bicycle commuting and follow the advice of brown bat, the NOAA, and other saftey nannies; at least not where I live. There are entire months in the midwest when you wouldn't be able to reliably get to work by bike if you hid from every thunderstorm in a 200 mile radius.
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Old 10-04-07, 07:12 AM   #10
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Lightning hardly kills any people, but not because it isn't dangerous...it's because most people aren't out there waiting to get hit....they seek shelter.
I'm fortunate to commute in a city where there are reasonbly high (3-50 storey) buildings all along my route and no open stretches so I don't worry about getting hit if I am riding in a storm. However I would avoid crossing any open space like a park, field, bridge, schoolyard where I wasn't dwarfed by taller structures. If I was out in the open I would seek shelter just as others have advised.
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Old 10-04-07, 07:14 AM   #11
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I thought you were supposed to stay away from the trees & lie down in a field or something.

Stay away from lone trees. If it's a woodlot or forest you should be ok because none of them stands out as a target.
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Old 10-04-07, 07:48 AM   #12
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You can't seriously support bicycle commuting and follow the advice of brown bat, the NOAA, and other saftey nannies; at least not where I live. There are entire months in the midwest when you wouldn't be able to reliably get to work by bike if you hid from every thunderstorm in a 200 mile radius.
Bull. It may mean delaying travel for a half hour, but the pop-up storms midwest style are easy to see/smell coming if you're paying attention (and esier yet if you actually check the radar). Mornings are fine and afternoons...well, you just pay attention and check the weather before you leave. Storms don't go from nothing to massive thundercell in 20 minutes, so unless you just didn't pay attention, they're not all that hard to avoid. You don't really need to avoid every storm in a 200 mile radius since they don't travel 200 miles very quickly. I'd avoid the ones heading for you. Additionally, the stronger thundercells which generate a lot of lightning have a tendency to generate tornadoes in the midwest/south, and tornadoes aren't very much fun when you're on the road. Trust me.

Also, you say 'safety nannies' as if people who don't do stupid things should be insulted. It's your life; but don't expect others to make clearly dangerous choices. Like if you want to go jump off a roof; have at it! But it doesn't make me a 'nanny' because I realize it's a bad idea. Likewise, feel free to go play in lightning. Hell, take a golf club with you for all I care and point it at the sky. All I'm saying is if it means I stay at work for 20 minutes extra (or leave 20 minutes early) to avoid a strong thundercell - which aren't nearly as common as you seem to imply - that's what I'll do.
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Old 10-04-07, 08:28 AM   #13
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Yeah right. I know of one cave on my commute, and I wouldn't head in there without a biohazard suit and some serious firepower.
Can you read English? Did I say "Go jump in the nearest cave"?

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You can't seriously support bicycle commuting and follow the advice of brown bat, the NOAA, and other saftey nannies; at least not where I live. .
You are an unutterably ridiculous person.
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Old 10-04-07, 09:37 AM   #14
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I have had some memorable rides in thunderstorms, wind howling, lightning crashing around me. If nothing else, it does wonders for one's average speed.
I was just about to say that. It's amazing how much faster you ride when lightning is coming down. And you don't always need your lights to light the way.
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Old 10-04-07, 09:45 AM   #15
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It's a tough call sometimes. It's pouring but there is no lightning....then 5 minutes later lightning everywhere. Around here these types of storms pass through pretty quickly. If it feels like the lightning is too close or frequent, I'll wait before I go, or if I'm mid-ride I'll find some shelter under a bridge and wait a few minutes then proceed when the intensity or frequency seems reasonable.

There is a obviously a risk to riding in lightning, but there is risk riding a bike period. It's about how much you are comfortable with.
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Old 10-09-07, 10:26 PM   #16
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In four car-free years in Denver I've had to ride in 4 or 5 electric storms. Just took shelter once when the hailstones were marble sized and a tornado touched down a mile away. Ride anyway, I'd rather go cycling.
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Old 10-09-07, 10:31 PM   #17
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I thought you were supposed to stay away from the trees & lie down in a field or something.
You should not lie down in a field. If lightning strikes near you the electricity may pass through you and your heart. It's safer to kneel so in the event lightning strikes near you, the electricity will have a safer path and pass through your knees and feet; and not through your heart.
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Old 10-10-07, 03:37 AM   #18
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I've been caught in several lightning storms while commuting. Some have been pretty intense. Usually I try to head down into a valley if no shelter is available. My scariest experience, and one that has made me take lightning more seriously happened while on my road bike. My wife and I were riding along on top of a ridge with fields all around when it started to pour, along with lightning and thunder. We kep moving, knowing that the road decended into a valley soon. Just as we started down hill there was a flash and immediate loud thunder. We watched arcs travel down the telephone lines right beside us. The whole way down the hill lightning was crashing. I saw another strike as a tree across a field from us got hit. We found a bridge at the bottom of the hill to hide under, but it was only about five feet high so we had to crouch down. As we waited out the storm I wondered how much protection the bridge, only a few above us would offer. Obviously we survived, but if it is lightning I definetely try to avoid being out.
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Old 10-10-07, 03:46 AM   #19
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I just rode home in a wicked thunderstorm yesterday evening. It works best to have a visor on your helmet if you wear glasses. I just don't worry about it, because I have to get home. And the cars are so much more respectful of a crazy cyclist in a thunderstorm.
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Old 10-10-07, 04:28 AM   #20
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Oh goody, a really oooold thread. I've been through two lightning storms this week already. At least the rain offered some relief from the otherwise relentless heat.
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Old 10-10-07, 06:06 AM   #21
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Oh goody, a really oooold thread.
Looks like someone did a search for "lightning" and found this gem but didn't notice the date. When I first saw it I thought RainmanP was back on BF.

Hi Raymond, wherever you are. :wave:
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Old 10-10-07, 02:02 PM   #22
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Just ride wearing this, you'll be fine since it acts like a lightning rod.
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Old 10-12-07, 10:25 PM   #23
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I have had one unpleasant occasion where lightning actually hit across the street from me while riding home. It was so close, immediately after it struck, I smelled ozone, very, very strong. I was more than a little nervous at that point, me being on basically a rolling lightning rod and all, and pulled into the next gas station to wait it out.

As luck would have it, my girlfriend happened to be looking for me, as she knew I would be on my way home. She saw me pull into the gas station, and picked me up. Cool.

My main rule is only really related to wind speed; gust higher than 35 mph mixed with rain I won't ride in; way to easy to get in a sideways slide like that, and I just generally don't feel comfortable with the heavy traffic I have to contend with, and that combination. Lightning, I don't really have any hard-fast rules, except if I get a similar situation as the above, I'll take a similar action.

For rain, I mean bad rain, I'll drop the pressure in my tires a bit. Usually running around 100 psi f/r, I'll drop it as low as 60 psi. It seems to help my feel quite a lot, which obviously helps your confidence level, which also helps you ride better/more predictably.
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Old 10-12-07, 11:16 PM   #24
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Female cyclists are in no danger from lightning. Lightning favors men as targets!
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