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Old 05-21-04, 03:53 AM   #1
Cobra
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Riding in thunderstorms?

What do you people think about riding in thunderstorms? This time of the year around here, we start getting some bad weather.
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Old 05-21-04, 04:19 AM   #2
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I got hit by a storm Wednesday on the way home. I was ok with the rain but when the lightning got close I found a church entryway for cover. I think the odds of getting hit are pretty slim, but I don't think its worth the risk. One things does make me nervous is the reduced visibilty when raining hard. Especially for the cars I share the road with.

I guess it just come down to how much risk will you accept.

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Old 05-21-04, 05:00 AM   #3
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I got caught in a rainstorm on my roadie the other day. Normally I don't mind if I'm on my mtb but I try to keep my roadie clean. Anyway that all went down the drain when I tried to take a fast corner at 20mph, hit a pothole, slipped, and ended up sliding on the pavement for 40 ft.

Make sure you have lights galore if it's dark out, cars have a real hard time seeing in rain. Avoid metal on the road at all costs, especially construction plates and manhole covers. Ride slow heh.
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Old 05-21-04, 05:22 AM   #4
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the chances of being hit by lightening should be fairly slim- I am no electrical expert but as I understand it the main danger with lightening is when your body is well earthed. In this case the lightening might find your body to be an easier path to ground than just going through the air and might be attracted to you (best to avoid acting as a human lightening rod). On a bike you are not that well earthed as you are balanced on rubber which is a bad conductor. So you should not be an attractive target for the lightening- there is of course always the chance that you might just be in the wrong place at the wrong time though.
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Old 05-21-04, 06:11 AM   #5
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Despite any impression my handle might give, I don't "love" riding in rain, but I accept it as part of being a bicycle commuter. I turn on my lights and wear my orange reflective vest usually reserved for my morning commute in the dark. Lightning does give me the heebie jeebies. I will ride as long as it is obviously a couple of miles away. If it seems to be getting close I will seek shelter and wait until it moves on, usually only a few minutes. I have shelter spots picked out every couple of miles along my route - 2 miles form office is my LBS, another couple of miles is an underpass, 2 more miles a bus stop shelter, then a picnic shelter on the lakefront, then a friend with a front porch, another picnic shelter, then home. I'm pretty lucky with my route, but if you look pay attention you may be able to spot emergency shelters on yours.

slvoid, I would add that one thing I have resigned myself to when riding in the rain or wet streets is to keep my speed well below 15, probably more like 12, and even slower around corners. Slowing down takes a little longer, but I figure 1)if it's raining, I'm usually not going to get any wetter if it takes 10-15 minutes longer to get home, and 2) I stay upright.

This allows me more time to spot and avoid potential hazards like potholes, slick manhole covers, etc.. What many may not realize unless they have had, uh, personal experience, as slvoid and I have, is that any metal surface has been polished to a near gloss by years of vehicle tires with a little grit. This may not not even be noticable when dry, but the SLIGHTEST amount of moisture makes the metal surface slick as grease. Avoid them if you can, but if you are too close, DON'T try to steer as you cross them, just roll across smoothly with your front wheel perfectly straight or you risk going down. Bridge gratings are terrible. Even short ones are too long to safely ride across. Even the macho roadie snobs (term used with affection and humor, not derision) on their high-powered weekend training rides actually WALK over the bridge grating on one bridge if there is even a hint of moisture. And those guys and gals don't slow down for anything, I assure you.
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Old 05-21-04, 07:27 AM   #6
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I can ride on glass covered in oil.

Snow and sheet ice are preferable to thundershowers - you can shake it off when you get to work. You have to have new clothes with you when it's really pouring.
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Old 05-21-04, 07:51 AM   #7
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Exactly and if you have to turn, slow down way before you get there and turn with your wheel instead of relying on banking to turn, otherwise it's like having someone pull the carpet out under your feet, as I so gracefully demonstrated.
Puddles hide nasty surprises. Someone else pointed out in another thread that there was a man who walked into a puddle and dissappeared because the puddle was actually over an open manhole cover.
Also resign to the fact, even more than usual, that EVERY car on the road can't see you because during a downpour, that's most often true. You are essentially invisible, Mr.Cellophane. I usually slow down and do doughnuts around an intersection or try to sneak by traffic, if it's raining, I just suck it up and wait.
If you have fenders, make sure your front fenders go out far enough, otherwise the water that's kicked up ends up going back into your face and eyes.
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Old 05-21-04, 08:15 AM   #8
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I try and plan ahead and ride the mtb with fenders. I always carry my poncho in my backpack, it folds up to about the size of a sandwich.....but man am I slow with all that gear on...if i have a headwind the poncho acts like a sail in reverse...keeps me dry tho.

hear is a pic of my gear for the ride in this mornin:
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Old 05-21-04, 08:36 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cobra
What do you people think about riding in thunderstorms? This time of the year around here, we start getting some bad weather.
funny you should ask. rode through a healthy one this morning on the way to work.

it had everything you would want in a personal apocalyptic moment: ground strikes less than a mile away, lots of breaking and falling branches, a downed tree blocking the road (that i saw come down), bucketfuls of cold stinging rain, and a heavily gusting headwind.

haven't had that much fun riding to work in a while.

once you reach the saturation point, you're not going to get any wetter.
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Old 05-21-04, 09:22 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by svwagner
once you reach the saturation point, you're not going to get any wetter.
Yep, thats the way I look at it.
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Old 05-21-04, 09:40 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slvoid
...Someone else pointed out in another thread that there was a man who walked into a puddle and dissappeared because the puddle was actually over an open manhole cover...
A couple of years ago I was riding in a SEVERE thunderstorm. Thunder/lightning went quickly from safely distant to seemingly overhead just a few blocks from home so I pulled up under an apartment breezeway to wait for a while. After 10-15 minutes things had calmed down enough to move on. The streets had 6-12 inches of water. I didn't have a whole lot of choice but to ride through it for about 2 blocks, but luckily it was very clear and I was very familiar with all the bumps and holes. Near the end of the second block, in about 9 inches of water a dark green circle entered my field of vision just ahead. It didn't alarm me, but I automatically adjusted my course to avoid it. As I got closer I could see that it was a manhole that water pressure had popped the lid off of. The cover was a good 2 feet off to the side. I steered again to avoid it by considerably more than the few inches I had already allowed. Seeing that gaping hole was a real wakeup call about riding in water. Thank goodness the water was clear. I won't ride through any water I can't see through. Even what appears to be an inch of dirty water could be a deep pothole.

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Old 05-21-04, 10:25 AM   #12
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A suggestion I read on another website is to carry toe covers, skullcap or helmet cover, and a rain shell. My Canari shell rolls up very small and fits in my seat bag. Just in case I get caught in a rainstorm.
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Old 05-21-04, 10:54 AM   #13
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I actually don't mind a rainstorm-if it's on my ride from work and not to. I usually put my rain gear (to include skull cap) and lights on and just go for it. I figure I'm getting wet no matter what so I don't try and beat the storm home. I ride on a multi-use trail with many wooden pedestrian bridges. These get very slippery and I've nearly busted my butt on them several times, so I take them very slow, but otherwise keep my speed up. I ride a mtb with semi-slicks so I retain good traction. I keep several refuges in mind in case of lightning though, like one of several bridges I pass under, building awnings (in DC), or a sailing marina. Most are evenly spaced so I'm not caught in between two for very long. Other than that I like riding in the rain. The fenders are doing their thing and the rain usually cools things down and supresses the pollen. In addition, my commuter is an inexpensive frankenbike so it doesn't bother me when it gets wet.
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Old 05-21-04, 11:08 AM   #14
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I rode in one yesterday. I live in TN, but am currently working at Moody AFB in Valdosta, GA not too far from Tampa. I didn't really think about the storm until I saw the thunder head rolling in. My route through the week here is a thirty miler around the flightline so I am out in the open. I must admit I got real nervous, but luckily it was a small storm and the pavement dried before I was done. I don't mind riding in the rain, but I think my bike does.
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Old 05-21-04, 06:26 PM   #15
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Some of my most memorable commutes have been in thunderstorms or similar weather. In fact, it's about the only thing capable of making my commute even semi-exciting anymore. I've seen some memorable light shows across the South Pacific watching storms roll in. When this is happening, I genuniely feel sorry for those who miss such an opportunity to see nature at it's most inspiring.
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Old 05-21-04, 06:34 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by townandcountry
A suggestion I read on another website is to carry toe covers, skullcap or helmet cover, and a rain shell. My Canari shell rolls up very small and fits in my seat bag. Just in case I get caught in a rainstorm.
Question..Have you really found a rain shell that is reasonably waterproof...This canari shell meets your approval..Thing here..It only rains when it is chilly..Rest of the year- no rain...The rain shell we use here must be warm enough for below 55 degrees..
Warm rains sounds far more pleasant.. I have a Gore Tex jacket..Does a fair job.. What do you expect of your rain gear.? Totally dry?
Oh yes...I used to live in Florida..During the summers, they would say, the only spot on the planet with a greater chance of being hit by lightning is India. Guess, that means the odds are among the best on the planet. Sure does crackle all about.
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Old 05-21-04, 07:30 PM   #17
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Goretex only breathes so much. If you're pedaling at a good clip, expect to get soaked from sweat.
Goretex relies on wicking hydrophobic fabrics inside along with thermal transfer and it has to be water vapor. If you get saturated inside, be prepared to be soaked waterproof or not.
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Old 05-21-04, 08:47 PM   #18
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Most of you get warm summer rains. We don't ... What is a good summer weight rain jacket and how effective is it at keeping you dry.. Someday I might find myself facing such a situation.
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Old 05-21-04, 09:34 PM   #19
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Some people are in the grip of some myths about lightning. To begin with, rubber soles or tires are *not* protection against lightning strikes. These things will not enhance your safety in a lightning storm, so please don't think they will. (Well, they might make a bit safer, as I will explain in a moment, but not in the way most people think.)

Lightning is the connection of an electrical curcuit between the negatively charged lower cloud layers and the positively charged ground (a condition that arises in electrical storms). Air is a good electrical insulator. Yet lightning is energetic enough for a circuit to connect through *miles* of air from cloud to ground. A few mm of rubber along the way will make *no* difference whatsoever. So, don't think you're safer in a thunderstorm because of your rubber tires.

I think the myth about rubber protecting against lightning arose because (1) cars are good protection against lightning, and (2) people know rubber is an electrical insulator. Cars are good protection against lightning because they form Faraday cages. The metal frame of the car distributes the current around the outside of the car and down to the ground. The rubber tires have nothing to do with it. People just mistakenly inferred that they do.

Rubber soles or tires might help a bit in protecting against indirect lightning strikes. The rubber might help in marginal cases in which lightning has struck an object nearby and current is running through the ground. If the current is weakened sufficiently, yet still significant enough to hurt you otherwise, the rubber on the ground might help. This is an unlikely scenario for an already unlikely event, though.

Lightning is worth worrying about if you're outside in a storm. Don't be the highest thing around-- but don't be right next to the highest thing around, either. On the other hand, don't worry obsessively about lightning, either. Look at all the trees around you. They sit outside in every lightning storm, most of them are taller than you are, and the vast majority with get through their long lives without ever being struck. You probably won't be struck, either. Still, if I am in the open in a lightning storm I get out of the open.
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Old 05-21-04, 10:53 PM   #20
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Here's the problem...many bike tires have carbon as a component in their rubber.

Why is this a problem?

Carbon is classified as a static-safe material...meaning it dissipates static electricity but has enough resistance that the chance of electrocution is minimized. Key word here is minimized...if you are not in an ESD safe room, then you actually have -greater- chance of electrocution.

Now we all know lighting is merely a very massive display of static discharge...you can see where this is going....

Now back to the rubber....even street shoes often have high carbon content. My Vans I wear everyday actually meet ESD workplace standards, despite no attempts whatsoever by hte maker for those shoes to be so. My old leather Chuck Taylor hikers and my reebok hikers were the same as well. Actually, only tan and white rubbers are the only ones I can think of that would be certain to NOT have any significant carbon content.

BTW, my background on this is I work in a electronics whiteroom environment, so I have to test myself multiple times a day, and the test is for continuity, and to be within an exact range of resistance, too low and it's unsafe, too high and a component could get damaged. Part of the ESD program here is education on the materials used to maintain an ESD environment, so I got the whole rundown on why our labcoats work the way htey do, why we need special ESD shoes, why we use wriststraps, why we have to use cuffs to tightly couple ourselves to our labcoats, etc.
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Old 05-22-04, 12:44 AM   #21
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This is a fun one, in Outside Magazine, they answered a question about riding in a thunderstorm, and came up with the fact that tires on a bike are only about an inch thick, on a roadie, more on an MTB. They then took into account the air in the tire. None of these provide any grounding, at least that's what the story said. Their reccomendation, when it's thundering and lightening, get inside, don't risk getting hit. I've always enjoyed riding in thunderstormsa, except those real hard rains.
Today I was also out in the weather. I was on a commute to meet one of the forum members for a ride. He'd flown in this week for training and we were going for a ride today. We called it off due to the rain. I had ridden to our meeting point in the rain. Along the way I had one of those freak moments. I was checking the computer, my speed, average and all, I looked up and there was this guy in the middle of the street with an umbrella pulled down so he couldn't see me. I yelled, no good, we collided, he took a shoulder to the solar plexas and I continued on, stopping to check on him. He said he was okay, and I hauled off through the rain. What a freak accident. I can only wonder what might have happened if I looked up and found a car barreling down on me that wasn't able to stop. YIKES!
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Old 05-22-04, 09:14 AM   #22
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I'm not sure how much carbon's in my tire but yes carbon will conduct. When we get samples in the electron microscope that need to be mounted onto the specimen tray, we usually stick it onto the tray using carbon tape so it dissipates the charge from the beam through the aluminum tray.
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Old 05-22-04, 11:02 AM   #23
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I ride too fast to get hit by lightning.
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Old 05-22-04, 11:11 AM   #24
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I had fun last year about this time, when I was leaving work they were rounding up all the patients and heading to the basement, essentially, being an employee, I was suppose to go too, but I was off the clock, so I headed out the door into on wild summer thunderstorm. I don't really worry about being struck by lightening, it's the gale force winds that kick up, and the heavy rain, oh and the tree that falls across the path. Yeah, dig your way around a fallen Oak or Elm in a thunderstorm. It didn't fall on me, but I had no choice but to go through it, hauling the bike over the fallen trunk. Fun.
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Old 05-22-04, 07:17 PM   #25
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Keep in mind any black tire has a significant carbon content, since rubber is naturally a tan color. The carbon is added to tires mostly to increase it's durability (treadlife).

There may be other ways to make a tire black, but few will have the same treadlife increasing properties of carbon.
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