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  1. #1
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    Biking in a thunderstorm: How safe if at all is it?

    See title. I seem to always get stuck a few miles from home (up a very large hill) and its starts pouring, getting very windy and eventually lightning and thunder come out. So I was wondering if I should keep riding or take cover. Take into account I live in southern new york, so these are not tornado bearing storms or supercells...

  2. #2
    Hills hurt.. Couches kill RacerOne's Avatar
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    If there is lightning about, it isn't safe.

  3. #3
    Bridge Burner RollCNY's Avatar
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    I would wager that you are safer getting home and out of a storm than lurking and waiting. I would just make sure you have a blinkie going and are visible, because I think the cars hitting you in a surprise down pour would be worse than the lightning.

  4. #4
    On the big ring deanp's Avatar
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    I associate t-storm with heavy rain and pour visibility. I think the chance of getting hit by a car is greater than being struck by lightning. In those conditions of reduced visibility drivers will be even less aware of bikes on the street.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    I wouldn't worry too much about being struck by lightning on a road bike, but I'd be somewhat concerned about the roads being suddenly wet (especially if they haven't been in a while and both you and the drivers have forgotten the experience a bit), driving rain, hail, winds, less visibility, and drivers in a hurry to get home.

    I spent the weekend climbing in Leavenworth, in the hot sun. On my way toward Blewett Pass, I went through a summer thunderstorm. It was producing hail the size of quarters. The music on the radio was interrupted twice for the emergency broadcast system, it warned of flash flooding in a particular canyon and urged people "to take immediate precautions to protect life and property." I don't think flash floods are going to be an issue in NY.
    Don't believe everything you think.

  6. #6
    Bridge Burner RollCNY's Avatar
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    Seattle, believe it or not, in most of New York, flash floods are one of the few common natural disasters.

  7. #7
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Approximately 100 people a year die in the U.S. from lightning strikes, or about 1/6th of the number of cyclists killed in car accidents.

    So it's not a huge risk statistically in an aggregate sense, but if you choose to ride in a thunderstorm, you're sitting up high in an exposed area, riding a bike that includes electrically consuctive parts, substantially increasing the odds you become one of those 100.

    Doesn't seem like a very bright thing to do to me.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
    You could get lost and die.
    You could hit a tree and die.
    OR YOU COULD STAY HOME AND FALL OFF THE COUCH AND DIE.

  8. #8
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    As long as you're not riding through a field you should be ok. Also, you're not grounded while on the bike (rubber tires) so you wouldn't get struck. I would worry about visibility and traction. We've been getting scattered storms the past two days (NYC) and I'm riding home tonight. It's mostly bike paths/lanes so I'll just have to worry about getting soaked and not taking a spill if I'm caught in a storm.
    Trek 1.5

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    looks like I better get some lights. got in my ride today before the storms come

  10. #10
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Icculus21 View Post
    As long as you're not riding through a field you should be ok. Also, you're not grounded while on the bike (rubber tires) so you wouldn't get struck. I would worry about visibility and traction. We've been getting scattered storms the past two days (NYC) and I'm riding home tonight. It's mostly bike paths/lanes so I'll just have to worry about getting soaked and not taking a spill if I'm caught in a storm.
    Complete fallacy. http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/psr/general/.../lightning.php

    The lightning bolt just jumped through miles of ungrounded air to reach you. You think it can't jump past 23mm of bike tire?

    Not even a substantially thicker car tire keeps you safe in a car. The fact that a car with a metal roof is a relatively safe place to be in a lightning storm is not because of the insulating effect of the tires, it's because the car's body acts as a Faraday cage. Your bike is not a faraday cage.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
    You could get lost and die.
    You could hit a tree and die.
    OR YOU COULD STAY HOME AND FALL OFF THE COUCH AND DIE.

  11. #11
    Bridge Burner RollCNY's Avatar
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    MerlinE~
    I disagree with nothing you say, however, if you are out riding and a thunderstorm occurs, unless you get inside at a stranger's home, you are equally exposed moving or stopping.

    In the out in an open field scenario, people think they should cower in a ditch. Ditches usually contain water, and have a higher exposure risk from ground currents.

    People think trees provide cover, but a lightning tree strike is a bad thing. Sap and water boil and the tree explodes. In hiking, secondary damage and ground currents cause similar damage as direct strikes.

    My opinion would be keep moving, avoid hill crests, and get out of the weather. Stopping under an overpass is safer than being in the open, but things can still happen there (ground currents).

  12. #12
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    ^ I'd agree with that as well.

    I do think you're at enough risk that you should watch the weather and try to avoid getting in situations where there's not actual shelter close by.

    If there's a high chance of thunderstorms, I'll try to ride close to my house, or on a route where there are frequent stores.


    But if you're going to ride in Florida in the summer time, you've got to take some risks , and you'll invariably at some point get caught out. My approach in those instances is to TT to the nearest shelter. At least you'd go down fighting rather than cowering in a ditch.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
    You could get lost and die.
    You could hit a tree and die.
    OR YOU COULD STAY HOME AND FALL OFF THE COUCH AND DIE.

  13. #13
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    I just got caught in a thunderstorm today. I was only 3 miles from home, so I just kept going.

    As for cars, they might be safer than bikes, but my friend's Odyssey got hit by lightning last year and it killed it dead (I-295 in NJ). The car's electronics were fried to the point that the insurance company wrote it off.

  14. #14
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGukLuXzH1E

    Set F1re To The Ra1n ( NY Night Rain Ride)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7jfcWEkSrI

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    Beyond the previously mentioned lightening, hail, and heavy rains/visibility issues, the winds that sometimes precede the storms can be a big problem. Wind gusts in many thunderstorms will routinely will hit 60 - 70 mph, which would either put you on the ground, put you in front of a vehicle, sandblast the exposed skin off of you, or all of the above.

    I was caught in a bad one a few years back. Weather forecast didn't suggest a problem but found myself turning around and TT'ing for home. Had a huge tailwind so I thought I could outrun the storm but found out later it was moving close to 60 mph. Thankfully, I ditched my bike on the side of the road and ducked into a State Trooper's car about 30 sec before all hell broke loose. I had about 1/4 mile to a river bridge but these were hailstones that could potentially kill you. Troopers car was literally destroyed by the time he got me home and the bike took a good beating. He could have easily just passed me by but I am grateful he stopped. Thankfully, this was before I bought my carbon road bike. That wouldn't have been pretty.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RollCNY View Post
    Seattle, believe it or not, in most of New York, flash floods are one of the few common natural disasters.
    Well, I stand corrected.
    Don't believe everything you think.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
    Approximately 100 people a year die in the U.S. from lightning strikes, or about 1/6th of the number of cyclists killed in car accidents.

    So it's not a huge risk statistically in an aggregate sense, but if you choose to ride in a thunderstorm, you're sitting up high in an exposed area, riding a bike that includes electrically consuctive parts, substantially increasing the odds you become one of those 100.

    Doesn't seem like a very bright thing to do to me.
    Don't believe everything you think.

  18. #18
    Devourer of souls Dead Roman's Avatar
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    I ride in storms regularly. Its a refreshing change from the blistering texas heat. The odds of you gettin hit by lightning are far slimmer than the odds of you getting hit by a car whilst riding.
    The road of life is winding, but the pavement is smooth

  19. #19
    Bridge Burner RollCNY's Avatar
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    I was sitting on top of Mt. Marcy (highest point in NY) about five years ago, all alone (which is a rare summit to have solo) when hail started. I was thinking it was pretty, until I thought about the lightning that usually follows. I ran from the top of that summit, and I have no idea if lightning stuck that day, but it scared the crap out of me.

    But that is the type of situation that results in lightning strikes. Not so much your bike on the side of road. No guarantee expressed or implied.

  20. #20
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dead Roman View Post
    I ride in storms regularly. Its a refreshing change from the blistering texas heat. The odds of you gettin hit by lightning are far slimmer than the odds of you getting hit by a car whilst riding.
    Raw data, yes. But adjust for choices and the risk changes. Ride prudently, not drunk, not at night with no lights, and your risk of getting hit by a car drops significantly.

    Ride intentionally in thunderstorms, oblivious to the risk, and your risk of being struck by lightning, as well as being hit by a car rises dramatically.

    Long winded way to say the cartoon above is correct.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
    You could get lost and die.
    You could hit a tree and die.
    OR YOU COULD STAY HOME AND FALL OFF THE COUCH AND DIE.

  21. #21
    Devourer of souls Dead Roman's Avatar
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    Blahg, whatever. Ill keep riding in the crisp, cool rain. You guys can sit in front of your comps and argue statistics and garbage all you want, ill be out riding instead of looking for excuses not to ride.
    The road of life is winding, but the pavement is smooth

  22. #22
    Zoom zoom zoom zoom bonk znomit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RacerOne View Post
    If there is lightning about, it isn't safe.
    Yeah, you might get wet and all, and a gritty drivetrain. Chaffing factor goes up by a billion too.

  23. #23
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dead Roman View Post
    Blahg, whatever. Ill keep riding in the crisp, cool rain. You guys can sit in front of your comps and argue statistics and garbage all you want, ill be out riding instead of looking for excuses not to ride.
    No. We'll be on the trainer doing structured work, getting faster.

    With a little sense, watching the forecast, adjusting routes, start times, and occasionally using the trainer, no reason to miss workouts, and also not get fried.

    Your position is really stupid. Admittedly not many people die from lightning strikes. But that's in part because most rational people mitigate the risk by making reasonable choices.

    You're the poster child for the cartoon above.
    Last edited by merlinextraligh; 08-09-13 at 05:56 PM.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
    You could get lost and die.
    You could hit a tree and die.
    OR YOU COULD STAY HOME AND FALL OFF THE COUCH AND DIE.

  24. #24
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    Lethal lightning strikes were once far more common. They have gone way down not because the lightning has changed, but because people are more likely to take shelter or have shelter available. Riding in a storm and citing lightning statistics is much like standing in the middle of a freeway while shouting about how unlikely it is to be hit by a car.

    And lightning isn't even the most likely way a storm can kill you.

  25. #25
    Devourer of souls Dead Roman's Avatar
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    My position(and therefore myself) may be stupid, but at least I dont have to resort to petty name calling. If I wanted to be holed up in a room, i wouldnt have bought a bicycle.
    The road of life is winding, but the pavement is smooth

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