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Old 05-12-09, 09:15 PM   #1
duke_of_hazard
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cycling through a thunderstorm, wait for it to pass?

suppose there is a sporadic thunderstorms with lightning around you. Is it safe to ride through it when the rain has stopped. Should we wait for all the lightning around you to go away?

I know when people play golf they say it's not safe to be outside even if it's not raining yet. Does a steel bicycle have a similar effect to attracting lightning as a golf club?
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Old 05-12-09, 09:20 PM   #2
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You are probably safer to wait for the lightening to pass -- but don't wait under a tree. More people are killed by lightening than most people realize. The highest point will be the most likely path for lightening.
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Old 05-12-09, 10:21 PM   #3
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Yes - safest to do as the National Weather Service instructs: Indoors, away from windows & doors.

I once ducked under the car-port at a church when the bolts started to fly. Then I had an eerie feeling to leave and go to another - stone - building across the road. I did. No sooner had I arrived, a lightning bolt came down on that car-port! I said: "Nyah! Nyah! You missed me!"

I waited out the storm.
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Old 05-13-09, 01:19 AM   #4
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You're as likely to get hit on a bike as you are in a car.

Now, if there's hail, or falling trees, then you might want to seek shelter.
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Old 05-13-09, 04:43 AM   #5
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You're as likely to get hit on a bike as you are in a car.
Yes, but, in a car the metal cage conducts the electricity around you. (The phenomenon is called 'Faraday cage' or something.) On a bike, the electricity goes through you. This is an important difference .
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Old 05-13-09, 06:37 AM   #6
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Yes, but, in a car the metal cage conducts the electricity around you. (The phenomenon is called 'Faraday cage' or something.) On a bike, the electricity goes through you. This is an important difference .
Sure, but how often does that happen anyway?
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Old 05-13-09, 07:45 AM   #7
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Sure, but how often does that happen anyway?
How often does it happen to all cyclists in the US over the course of a year? Or how often does it happen to a lone cyclist riding on a road through an open plain during a lightning storm with no trees, buildings, telephone poles, or other better targets for a lightning strike?

Every situation is different. If you know that shelter is ten minutes away, it might be best to keep going, but if you're not sure about anything beyond that culvert or underpass, stopping there might be wiser. The point isn't that the odds of being hit are small either way, but that the boredom from having to wait things out for half an hour is even more minor than the small risk of something catastrophic. Why take the risk?
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Old 05-13-09, 08:04 AM   #8
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I've been known to ride through a couple of thunderstorms, mainly to get to some sort of shelter like a tractor shed, or a friendly convenience store or coffee shop to wait it out.

Here's the info they give out each year to riders at the Hotter 'n Hell Hundred in north central Texas, where these storms can come up pretty quickly:


A PREPAREDNESS GUIDE for severe weather is published by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service. The following points on protection from lightning have been excerpted adapted for cyclists' special situation on the road, where there may not be any effective shelter accessible if a storm is imminent. The NWS has reviewed and approved these adaptations.

Cyclists on the road are most at risk from thunderstorms if they are under or near tall trees, are on or near hilltops, or are themselves high points on flat terrain (such as crossing an open field).

Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.

Rubber-soled shoes and rubber bicycle tires provide NO protection from lightning.

If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Look for safe shelter immediately!

When skies darken, look AND listen for increasing wind, flashes of lightning, sound of thunder
Lightning remains a danger even when a thunderstorm is dissipating or has passed by.

When thunderstorms approach . . .
If you are on a hill with exposure to the sky, try to head downhill, seeking out an overhanging bluff or a valley or ravine where you can lower your exposure.

Move to a sturdy building or shelter if there is one within reach (such as an underpass, a large barn, a store or railroad station). Do not take shelter in small sheds or under isolated trees.

However, get to higher ground if flash flooding is possible where you are (such as by a creek bed).

If caught outdoors and no shelter is nearby . . .
Find a low spot away from trees, fences, and poles. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.

If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees. (Lightning is more likely to strike the tallest trees.)

If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, dismount fast, get away from your bike, and squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible, and minimize your contact with the ground.


If you do get hit, hope that your riding buddies are CPR-certified...
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Old 05-13-09, 09:54 AM   #9
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Just use some common sense and don't rode in a thunder storm. It really isn't too hard to figure out.
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Old 05-13-09, 10:03 AM   #10
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If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, dismount fast, get away from your bike, and squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet.
balls of feet = SPD cleats. KAZAAM!
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Old 05-13-09, 08:25 PM   #11
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Lightning scares the you know what out of me. If I see a bolt 20 miles off I'm heading for the barn.
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Old 05-14-09, 06:52 AM   #12
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balls of feet = SPD cleats. KAZAAM!
But not everybody rides SPDs...

Me, I look for an opportunistic tractor shed, convenience store, or coffee shop to wait it out.
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Old 05-14-09, 08:12 AM   #13
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I won't ride in a thunder/lightening storm unless I am caught out in it, even on my motorcycle. If I am caught I only ride to the nearest shelter and wait it out. Rain I don't mind, lightening...no thanks.
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Old 05-14-09, 08:25 AM   #14
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But not everybody rides SPDs...
Sorry, just referring to myself.
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Old 05-14-09, 08:44 AM   #15
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If the lightning is copious or solid objects are airborne I'll seek shelter. Otherwise I just keep on riding. Don't forget there is also considerable hazard of hypothermia if you're without proper gear in a thunderstorm. Even in summer.
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Old 05-14-09, 08:48 AM   #16
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Agreed, I will ride in rain, but not lightning (fortunately thunderstorms are rare here in the Bay Area).
A motorcyclist was killed by lightning last month in Kansas.
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Old 05-14-09, 08:51 AM   #17
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Agreed, I will ride in rain, but not lightning (fortunately thunderstorms are rare here in the Bay Area).
A motorcyclist was killed by lightning last month in Kansas.
WTH happened to his Karma?
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Old 05-14-09, 08:51 AM   #18
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I won't ride in a thunder/lightening storm unless I am caught out in it, even on my motorcycle. If I am caught I only ride to the nearest shelter and wait it out. Rain I don't mind, lightening...no thanks.
Concurrence. Got caught out a couple days ago with the lightning crackling around. Man, that went from peaceful to way unfun, really quickly.
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Old 05-14-09, 09:22 AM   #19
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I used to not worry about it too much until one day lightning hit a tree maybe 100 yards away from me, causing involuntary bowel evacuation... like an electron enema.

I'm now a duck'n'cover kinda guy.
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Old 05-14-09, 09:26 AM   #20
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Thanks for all the replies. One thing I don't understand is why are cars immune to all this? Shouldn't they also seek cover during storms?
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Old 05-14-09, 09:42 AM   #21
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Thanks for all the replies. One thing I don't understand is why are cars immune to all this? Shouldn't they also seek cover during storms?
The Faraday cage effect
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Old 05-14-09, 10:51 AM   #22
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Didn't I just see this thread on the roadbikereview forums?

I would agree that you probably shouldn't be out on the open highway with no trees around where you're the highest point when there's a chance of lightning.

But where I live (Minnesota) nearly all my trails have trees, trees, and more trees around me. There's just so many points higher up than me.

It's not like your home is somehow 100% safe from lightning, either. A tree outside your house getting hit and falling onto your house can kill you. The electrical lines leading to your house can get hit by lightning, and if you happen to be touching something might fry you (I have personally known people to have their electronics fried this way).
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Old 05-14-09, 11:05 AM   #23
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i wouldn't ride if the lightning is close. I would if it's far off. I use the time delay to judge.
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Old 05-14-09, 11:22 AM   #24
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We lived in Colorado for a few years. Up there, a thunderstorm is going to sprinkle or hail on you a few minutes and then be on its way. So it's perfectly reasonable to sit it out. Down here in Texas, a thunderstorm can be a half-day event. So there is variation around the country.
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Old 05-14-09, 11:41 AM   #25
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I was hit by a lightning bolt - in my house!

The thing came through my screen-door. I was about to shut the outer-door when I saw a brilliant blue flash. The next thing I knew, I was across my living-room in the wall. I left a lasting impression, you might accurately say. Took out all my electronics - surge-protectors don't do squat for a direct strike. The only appliance that had been on was the TV - and it sputtered back to life! Everything else was toast.

As for me, my ears were ringing and my hair was frizzed. Other than that, and feeling a bit surreal, I was fine. I guess I'm made out of tougher stuff than Chinese electronics.
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