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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 05-31-06, 08:26 AM   #1
purple hayes
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[weather related] what would you have done?

Last week, on the ride home. The clouds behind me looked gray and foreboding, but the clouds in front of me look OK.

2 miles into the ride, it starts to rain. Not bad, just off and on. I'm thinking I can easily handle this for the remaining 16 miles.

About 9 miles into the ride, it starts raining pretty hard. At 10 miles it starts hailing, the wind gets feirce and there's lightning off a bit (a couple miles?). I ditch under a bank drive-thru until the hail clears. I tried to call my wife to let her know that i'll be a little late, but she doesn't answer.

Hail and heavy winds subside, so I start off again. At about mile 13 the heavy wind and rain start back up, but this time, I have to place to seek cover because it's all residential and I'd have to backtrack almost 3 miles to find cover. By mile 16, it starts to hail again. Still no place to seek cover, but the hail was only pea-sized. But GOOD GRIEF, it was raining HARD.

I ended up riding the whole way home, but with the lightning, high winds, heavy rain and intermittent hail, I'm not sure that was the best idea.

How would you have handled the situation?
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Old 05-31-06, 10:24 AM   #2
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That's a tough one. I always check the local weather forecast. One channel has a "pinpoint" forecast that shows time lapse forecast with color coded chances of percip. If it's above 40% I simply don't ride on that day, there are too many good days.

Other than annoying hail, the real problem is lightning. It is common for lightning strikes to reach out 3 to 5 miles from cloud origins. Rubber tires are not insulators. I don't risk it.

Other option is to check your departure time with current radar, something like weather.com or wunderground.com. It might make sense some days to float your departure time, or call for a ride.
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Old 05-31-06, 10:51 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by purple hayes
How would you have handled the situation?
Pretty much what you did.

In the residential area depending on how bad the hail hurt I may have found a friendly front overhang to go under.

Al
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Old 05-31-06, 10:54 AM   #4
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i'd have ridden home cause i had no other choice...

but hail, umm, that hurts.

when in cold rain, i usually just put the pedal to the metal to try and stay warm but i must say i have never hit hail bigger than normal raindrop size.

i don't worry about lightning. i figure with all the other things around for it to hit what are the odds...

banks make good stop overs (atm encloures), bus stops...
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Old 05-31-06, 10:56 AM   #5
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Well, as long as you don't seek shelter under a tree.....
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Old 05-31-06, 11:05 AM   #6
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My commute is a good deal shorter than yours, 8 miles. Because it is so short, I've ridden through lightning storms before. Not the brightest idea, but home is close. If the hail was not too painful, I probably would have ridden right through as most of my ride is through suburbia, without public shelter. Sounds brutal though.

Agree with HiYoSilver. I live by weather.com. Anything yellow or red on the radar (heavy rains and where the lightning is going to be) and I'll try to go early or wait it out at home or work. Green (light to moderate rain) means go.
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Old 05-31-06, 11:16 AM   #7
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Yesterday morning I passed on a very pleasent morning commute because the National Weather Service was predicting a 70% chance of T-storms in the afternoon. I usually always check with the National Weather Service site before I go but yesterday morning it was the last thing I did. I hestitated but since my commute is 14 miles then another 12 miles by car I figured I would be screwed if I got caught up in severe weather. As it turned out I would have made it because the storms did not come until 8 PM. . . . but when they did come they came with a vengence. I guess I am like HiYoSilver. I take my chances up to a 50% chance then I drive.
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Old 05-31-06, 11:31 AM   #8
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Sorry about the double post ^^^^. Rookie move.

If you feel comfortable riding in a heavy rain and you have a little flexibility in your departure times you should be able to avoiding riding in a lightning storm. At least around here, it usually only thunders and lightnings for 30 minutes at the most, then moves on. You can see it coming using doppler radar.

In 5 years of commuting, I have regretted riding once (roads were too icy). I have frequently regretted not riding.
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Old 05-31-06, 11:32 AM   #9
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I check weatherunderground.com in the morning. If its more than a 20% chance of precipitation, I take my rain gear. Then if I find myself in a situation like yours, I stop and put on my rain gear asap. At least my rain proof jacket.
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Old 05-31-06, 03:05 PM   #10
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You're stud for riding in that weather. A stupid stud, but stud nonetheless. No, seriously, sounds like you did your best. Lightning is dagerous stuff, though. Don't mess with it.
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Old 05-31-06, 03:12 PM   #11
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We could all be a bit more Cautious about Lightening!!!!
The rain is no fun, the hail hurts, but that one big zap will certainly kill you.

Glad you made it home. My hat is off to ya!
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Old 05-31-06, 03:20 PM   #12
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First I check the weather radar time lapse for yellow, orange or red blobs before I ride home. Green or light green blobs are okay, I'll just ride through those things in my regular bike clothes. If I estimate wrong and encounter a yellow, orange, or red blob, I've got a few pre selected locations to sit it out. Once it was a bank drive through too. Then I break out my mp3 or emergency paperback book and read for about an hour. Then continue after the yellow, orange, or red blobs go away.
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Old 05-31-06, 03:41 PM   #13
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This is funny. In the U.S. about 1000 people per year die bicycling and only about 100-200 die from being struck by lightning. And I doubt there are more cyclists in the U.S. than people who get caught in rain storms... So calling lightning dangerous but biking safe is strange, I'd say.

I would've just ridden. Certainly wouldn't've backtracked 3 miles in search of cover (you say you did this at mile 13 out of 18 - so it would've been almost as fast to ride home!) In general I do not avoid biking in the rain but do look up forecasts to know how I should dress and whether I should take raingear or sunblock with me today. What does suck, however, is fixing flats in the rain...
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Old 06-01-06, 09:30 AM   #14
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The one time I was stuck with that kind of weather I sheltered under an I-70 underpass with a whole bunch of cars. Hail was big enough to crack windows and dent metal. A pity that a tiny tornado that wrecked two homes didn't hit mine. I was trying to get out of the mortgage. In the residential area you described I would have gone to a house with a covered front door and used my cell phone to call for a taxi. Or asked the residentss to call one for me. At the time the wife and I were car-free.
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Old 06-01-06, 09:36 AM   #15
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I carry bus passes for severe weather I can't handle. However, if I was stuck in it I would have sought shelter if I was worried for my safety.
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Old 06-01-06, 09:45 AM   #16
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This time of year in my area, there's a possibility for t-storms pretty much every day (8 out of the next 10 days says weather.com). If I didn't risk a ride in a thunderstorm, I might as well drive every day. I'd have finished my ride much like you did. If the rain got so hard that I could no longer see, I'd pull over and wait it out. Same with the hail although I'd probably find a tree or something to sit underneath.
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Old 06-01-06, 09:33 PM   #17
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I would have just kept riding, just as I've done in so many tropical storms over the years.
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Old 06-02-06, 05:48 PM   #18
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Here is a pretty horrific account of a cyclist getting struck by lightning.

In your situation I probably would have done the same as far as hail is concerned. I figure they're are much taller and better conductive targets while on my commute, though I wouldn't want to end up like the guy in the article.
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Old 06-03-06, 02:45 AM   #19
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I agree with the take shelter on someone's front porch or stoop, if you feel comfortable with neighborhood. I'd think in most neighborhoods, under those circumstances, most homeowners would not mind having you there, once they came out to talk with you to make sure you weren't trying to break in or something. Heck, some might even invite you inside and make you hot tea, and allow you to make a phone call. Most people can be nice when they feel sorry for you (assuming you can get over being felt sorry for)!

Last winter, with the temp about 20 degrees F, I got a flat in a residential neighborhood and set up changing into the spare tube in the driveway of someone who looked like they weren't home. I had to keep taking a break to stick my bare hands in my pockets to warm up. (I was wearing mittens for the ride, but you can't really change a tube with them!) Turns out the guy was home, and was very friendly, but too bad he only came out 5 minutes before I was done. I believe he may have offered to let me come inside to warm up, but I turned him down because I was late(r) by then and anxious to be on my way, then still had to tear myself away after about 10 minutes of his friendly yakking.

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Old 06-03-06, 06:27 AM   #20
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John, you've gotta move closer to work.

Hmm. I've ridden home in hard rain and wind (with falling trees, branches, and downed power lines) but not hail. With downed trees, etc. cars can't go because the streets are blocked. Those are the times when being on a bike is a lifesaver.

I guess doing what you did was the best thing. Just remember where you can find shelter for the times it hails or the storm gets really bad.
Do the Gwinnett buses run near your commute route? The buses have bike racks.

When bad weather threatens I check Intellicast's radar before leaving work. To see the local view click on "Metro View".

I checked it last night and thought sure I was going to get soaked on the way home. Dark clouds everywhere. I got lucky. It started raining about 10 minutes after I got home.

Stay safe out there in the hinterlands.
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Old 06-03-06, 06:37 AM   #21
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Properly played, an impending storm is a great excuse to leave work early (or come in late).
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Old 06-03-06, 07:27 AM   #22
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I have the weather channel as my default tv setting and refer to it the day before and the morning of my commutes. Even though I am only about 6 miles from work. I don't want to arrive sopping wet. The boss gets perturbed when I walk in looking like a drowned rat. I have often seen 60 and 70% chance of precip and decided to take the subway only to find it didn't rain at all and was, in fact, a very pleasant day. So, I now simply read the skies with my eye. If it's really threatening looking I don't ride, but if it looks like I've got 20 minutes at least, I go for it. I don't really care if it rains on my return home. I can always dry off and change when I get in. Weather prediction is an inaccurate science, at best.

I am in downtoen Toronto and don't really worry about the lightning. I'm not out ion the open as the only metal object and figure there are plenty of stronger electrical sources the lightning will be attracted to, but if it is a severe storm, I will find someplace safe to stop and wait it out. I see hundreds of riders out in all kinds of weather and have never heard of anyone being struck by lightning. I am more concerned with lack of braking, reduced visibility and maneuverability for motorists and myself (rain stings the eyes) and other hazards.
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