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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 08-03-06, 06:18 AM   #1
dalmore
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Lightning? What to do?

The past couple of days we've had the typical southern scattered thunderstorms in the early evening. Last night's was very damaging in my neighborhood - trees down, lightning strikes knocking out power and cable. I was finished commuting and home drinking my scotch but it occured to me that for roughly half of my commute, it might be 15 minutes or so before I could take cover in a building. Short of knocking on someone's door that is.

What strategy should I adopt if I get caught in one of these storms? For those unfamilar with southern summer showers - they come fast, they can be violent, they are usually pretty short and the forecasters always predict a 30% chance of scattered showers so that's pretty useless in trying to avoid them.
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Old 08-03-06, 06:31 AM   #2
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ditch... you just don't want to be the highest object in your area the pure fact your on a metal bike doesn't mean your going to get struck. Path of least resistance like a tree or a tele pole or a house is a more likely candidate
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Old 08-03-06, 08:00 AM   #3
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Be watchful of the sideways lightning. It typically travels 5 to 6 miles from storm. If you can hear thunder, you are within hot zone.

I'ld check local radar and flex departure time to avoid as much as possible. It's better to drive than to be charcoal.
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Old 08-03-06, 08:06 AM   #4
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Wouldnt the rubber in the tyres on the bike block from being grounded therefore no toast?
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Old 08-03-06, 08:09 AM   #5
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No, not bikes. It's the cars metal cage that protects not tires. Last month a motorcyclists was killed riding a 4 lane highway about 3 miles from here. Storm was about 3 miles away when he was hit. Motorcycles have more rubber cushion than bikes, just doesn't work.
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Old 08-03-06, 08:38 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ryanparrish
Wouldnt the rubber in the tyres on the bike block from being grounded therefore no toast?
The lightening just jumped from a cloud the the ground. Probably les tha 40K feet. Now how much is that inch of tire going to matter?

Joe
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Old 08-03-06, 09:00 AM   #7
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Air is generally a good insulator too, except when you are talking about the potentials in a thunderstorm. A few millimeters of rubber are inconsequential. Closed metal vehicles are protective in thunderstorms because they function as a Faraday cage. Convertibles are out. So are bikes.
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Old 08-03-06, 09:05 AM   #8
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Look lightening is like crime, you can live in fear of it cowering inside and hiding under a blanket, or you can take the sensible approach: stay appraised of the situation, time the start of your commute using www.noaa.gov, but the fact is tens of thousands of people are caught outside in lightening storms every year and only a hundred are killed. Just ride through it. Me I only seek shelter when it starts hailing, penny sized hail on the back is really annoying.

Personally I think there are more important things to be worried about. Drunk/erratic drivers top my list. I see enough of these that I think my odds of being hit by one eventually must be pretty close to certain.
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Old 08-03-06, 09:08 AM   #9
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Lightning's like musical chairs. just don't be the tallest thing (i.e. make sure there's numerous things twice your height or greater) in your surroundings and you're not a likely target.

also, ride steel or carbon fiber. they're less conductive than ti or al bikes. shouldn't make a huge difference but in all plausbility I think it could.
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Old 08-03-06, 09:16 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bike2math
Just ride through it. Me I only seek shelter when it starts hailing, penny sized hail on the back is really annoying.

Personally I think there are more important things to be worried about. Drunk/erratic drivers top my list. I see enough of these that I think my odds of being hit by one eventually must be pretty close to certain.
1+. I try to avoid lightning storms if I can leave early or wait 'em out, but if I do get caught in one, I just ride through. My ride is in a city or on mostly hilly, suburban tree-lined streets, though. I would feel differently if I were riding over plains.

...and I almost got creamed by a woman driving through a red light this morning. I too feel like my chances are relatively better with lightning.
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Old 08-03-06, 09:30 AM   #11
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Yea, I agree that chances of getting hit are lottery-esque. Still if there is a something I can do in a pinch, I'd like to know about it.
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Old 08-03-06, 09:38 AM   #12
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Here in SW FL we have tstorms daily. I usually will wait for a break and then head home....probably get caught in one about once a week or so....I just keep on riding. Once the rain starts, I make sure my rear tailight is blinking (TL-LD1000), put a sweat band on to keep the rain from running the sweat and salt into my eyes thru the helmet and I have a half-visor I velcro onto my helmet....the visor keeps the rain from hitting my eyes, but more importantly, keeps the road spray from the cars from my eyes...

At 96 degrees and 99% humidity, am soaking withing 2 blocks of my office anyway, so I actually look forward to the rain...cools me and cools things down......in the heavy rain, I go very slow....my ice cold beer at home will just be a bit colder that night as it waits for me...
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Old 08-04-06, 04:10 AM   #13
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I think you've heard it all here but if I might sum up the best advice I've read here it's this. Check the weather before you hit the road and be ready to change your plans if the weather looks like it isn't going to cooperate. Don't get caught out in the open in a storm. If you do don't make yourself the tallest target. If that means getting into a ditch or culvert during a violent storm, do it. Don't stand under utility poles, trees, or other structures that might tend to attract lightning to them. If the storm is only rain with no lightning then simply ride through it if you wish.

I think that dealing with weather on a bike is all about common sense. Use it and you'll be just fine.

Mike
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