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How dangerous is it to ride in the rain?

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How dangerous is it to ride in the rain?

Old 07-13-11, 09:44 AM
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RadioFlyer
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How dangerous is it to ride in the rain?

In the past week, I've had three commutes home where I'm thinking to myself that this is a bad idea. The lightning has been pretty heavy and there has been multiple tornado sirens.

I saw a couple riders hanging out under a bridge, I guess waiting for it to clear up and that's when it really sunk in... how dangerous is it? Should I wait for better weather or are the odds so low that it makes no difference?

thanks for any weather danger facts or insights!
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Old 07-13-11, 09:48 AM
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When the lightning gets too near, I too will hang out under a bridge or somewhere relatively safer than being out in the open.

Probably not a good idea to ride in a tornado either.
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Old 07-13-11, 09:50 AM
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regular old rain isn't a deal breaker for me most of the time, but thunderstorms give me more pause because lightning does kinda freak me out a bit (i know the odds of actually being struck are stupidly low, but it's a primal-level fear thing for me, not an analysis of the situation based on raw cold logic).

i got caught in a savage storm on my ride into work monday morning this week and that was not fun - 80 mph winds, lightning flashing everywhere, limbs and whole trees crashing down around me. i was within blocks of my parent's place at the time (yeah, my daily commute route pretty much takes me right past their apartment) so i ducked in there for some cover and waited the worst of the storm out. when big tree limbs are being cracked off and smashing into parked cars on the street below, it's definitely time to seek shelter.

Last edited by Steely Dan; 07-13-11 at 09:57 AM.
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Old 07-13-11, 10:00 AM
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Strong winds worry me more than anything else. Getting blown into traffic, flying debris, falling trees - not good. I'll ride in thunderstorms, but take shelter if the wind kicks up. Usually the windy portion passes quickly enough, then I continue on my way.

I actually like lightning and thunder. I'll take shelter if it's really close though.
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Old 07-13-11, 10:07 AM
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In the winter it rains here almost all the time and I have made the discovery that it is just made of water which is non toxic and fairly harmless.
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Old 07-13-11, 10:33 AM
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Like another poster said, the rain itself isn't that big of a deal for me so far but we dont' get as much rain here as in places like the midwest. Wind, though, can be pretty dangerous. If there are tornado sirens it would be a good idea to take shelter. I spent some time in Missouri and did get caught while out on the bike in hard rain, but when there were tornado sirens it was a definite stop to take shelter for me.

Out here there can be storms with very gusty wind, and while I do usually ride in them I have to be much more careful (and change routes when I can) since those crosswinds can get me dangerously close to cars.
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Old 07-13-11, 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by scroca View Post
When the lightning gets too near, I too will hang out under a bridge or somewhere relatively safer than being out in the open.
How do you define "too near"? Are you just counting between lightning and thunder? Thing is, I can usually count to two, but yesterday, there were two strikes that seemed way too close, but then the rest seemed far enough away. I don't want to get struck, but I also don't want to wait when there really isn't a need.


Originally Posted by Steely Dan View Post
i got caught in a savage storm on my ride into work monday morning this week and that was not fun - 80 mph winds, lightning flashing everywhere, limbs and whole trees crashing down around me. i was within blocks of my parent's place at the time (yeah, my daily commute route pretty much takes me right past their apartment) so i ducked in there for some cover and waited the worst of the storm out. when big tree limbs are being cracked off and smashing into parked cars on the street below, it's definitely time to seek shelter.
lol, yeah, tree limbs flying around are a deal breaker. That's a crazy @ss storm you were in!


Originally Posted by dcrowell View Post
Strong winds worry me more than anything else. Getting blown into traffic, flying debris, falling trees - not good. I'll ride in thunderstorms, but take shelter if the wind kicks up. Usually the windy portion passes quickly enough, then I continue on my way.

I actually like lightning and thunder. I'll take shelter if it's really close though.
I too really enjoy it and since I ride about 95% on trail, I'm not worried about being blown into traffic, but now that you mentioned it, I'd hate to be blown into the creek.

I guess "really close" is just subjective?

Are there signs, like feeling electricity and hairs standing or is it too late at that point? Is it possible to quantify when to seek shelter?
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Old 07-13-11, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by somedood View Post
Like another poster said, the rain itself isn't that big of a deal for me so far but we dont' get as much rain here as in places like the midwest. Wind, though, can be pretty dangerous. If there are tornado sirens it would be a good idea to take shelter. I spent some time in Missouri and did get caught while out on the bike in hard rain, but when there were tornado sirens it was a definite stop to take shelter for me.

Out here there can be storms with very gusty wind, and while I do usually ride in them I have to be much more careful (and change routes when I can) since those crosswinds can get me dangerously close to cars.
I don't want to sound flippant about it, but it seems like a tornado touching down and the correlation to sirens is extremely low. I appreciate the sirens, but I guess it's getting like "Peter Crying Wolf" after years of hearing them and the news almost never covering an actual tornado?
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Old 07-13-11, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Steely Dan View Post
regular old rain isn't a deal breaker for me most of the time, but thunderstorms give me more pause because lightning does kinda freak me out a bit (i know the odds of actually being struck are stupidly low, but it's a primal-level fear thing for me, not an analysis of the situation based on raw cold logic).

i got caught in a savage storm on my ride into work monday morning this week and that was not fun - 80 mph winds, lightning flashing everywhere, limbs and whole trees crashing down around me. i was within blocks of my parent's place at the time (yeah, my daily commute route pretty much takes me right past their apartment) so i ducked in there for some cover and waited the worst of the storm out. when big tree limbs are being cracked off and smashing into parked cars on the street below, it's definitely time to seek shelter.
steely,

i was lucky as i start work at 7am and missed that storm, a coworker that rides just walked through the front door when the storm was starting.
the route i take still has little branches all over the road, so i have had to take the less scenic route this week.
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Old 07-13-11, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by RadioFlyer View Post
I don't want to sound flippant about it, but it seems like a tornado touching down and the correlation to sirens is extremely low. I appreciate the sirens, but I guess it's getting like "Peter Crying Wolf" after years of hearing them and the news almost never covering an actual tornado?
The sirens don't go off here unless a funnel cloud was sighted or the winds on their own are determined to be dangerous enough. Problem is that tornadoes are a very local phenomena. A few years ago a tornado ripped through a four block area not far from where I live. You can still see where it went through because most of the trees are gone. But at my house less than a mile away it seemed like a fairly mild storm. I'm sure sirens were going off anywhere in that path of that storm but the tornado itself only impacted a tiny area.

It's a personal decision. I love watching lighting and I've weathered many thunderstorms protected by nothing more than a tent. On the other hand, it's not uncommon for me to see things that have been struck by lightning so it does happen. Fortunately most thunderstorms are short lived and if worse comes to worse you can find shelter and wait them out.
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Old 07-13-11, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
The sirens don't go off here unless a funnel cloud was sighted or the winds on their own are determined to be dangerous enough. Problem is that tornadoes are a very local phenomena. A few years ago a tornado ripped through a four block area not far from where I live. You can still see where it went through because most of the trees are gone. But at my house less than a mile away it seemed like a fairly mild storm. I'm sure sirens were going off anywhere in that path of that storm but the tornado itself only impacted a tiny area.

It's a personal decision. I love watching lighting and I've weathered many thunderstorms protected by nothing more than a tent. On the other hand, it's not uncommon for me to see things that have been struck by lightning so it does happen. Fortunately most thunderstorms are short lived and if worse comes to worse you can find shelter and wait them out.
Thanks for the feedback. Real thunderstorms here in Denver are a rare treat. When it started to rain yesterday, our 3yo son ran outside to stand in it until he got too wet and ran back inside and he laughs when lightning cracks.

Thunderstorms are fun... and dangerous, but so far, I'm not hearing from any of y'all, "you're taking a bad risk for being out in them." So I guess I'll just judge each on the fly.
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Old 07-13-11, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by RadioFlyer View Post
I too really enjoy it and since I ride about 95% on trail, I'm not worried about being blown into traffic, but now that you mentioned it, I'd hate to be blown into the creek.

I guess "really close" is just subjective?

Are there signs, like feeling electricity and hairs standing or is it too late at that point? Is it possible to quantify when to seek shelter?
I assume there are trees near the trail. Trees landing on your head would ruin your day.

"Really close" is subjective. Where's your comfort level? I can't answer that for you.

I think if you are feeling tingling from electricity, you might be better off diving for the ground, but it's probably too late.

Years ago, I was delivering pizza in a thunderstorm. As I got out of the car with the pizza and began to run to the house, lightning struck across the street, less than 200 feet away. I could feel the electricity in the air. I could feel the heat. The sound wasn't thunder, it was almost a ZZZZZZPOW! I almost lost control of my bladder. I don't want to ride in that.

Last edited by dcrowell; 07-13-11 at 11:45 AM. Reason: to many 's's
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Old 07-13-11, 11:19 AM
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I live in the Pacific Northwet. We've got no choice but to ride in the rain, sometimes for weeks on end; but it's just pissy little drizzle rain, not a freakin' tornado or crazy lightning storms.

I don't think I'd ride while under tornado watch or with some of the insane pounding rain/lightning storms I've been through in the midwest.
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Old 07-13-11, 11:46 AM
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Rain, as indicated in this thread, is not a reason to avoid riding. But it is a reason to go a little slower than you normally would and pay extra attention to stopping distances and cornering.

Lightning is not something to have panic attacks over, but is something you should avoid riding during a close-by lightning storm. In other words if the flash and boom are close together, it is better to seek a nearby safe place to hang out until the danger passes.

Same is true of tornado's and their warning sirens. If the siren is going, look around. If there is enough light to judge where the funnel cloud/tornado is and the direction it is going, then use your best judgement on how much danger it poses to you. If you can't see anything, then consider that such sirens go off for a reason, even if not apparent to you. Act as you see fit, but don't blame anybody else if you end up doing a Dorothy...
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Old 07-13-11, 11:53 AM
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Depends on the terrain too. You don't want to be near the tallest object in an open area and you definitely don't want to be the tallest object in an open area.

Riding on a MUP through the woods probably isn't too bad during a thunderstorm. Likewise riding on street surrounded by high rise buildings is less risky than being on a lonely road running along a ridge.
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Old 07-13-11, 01:05 PM
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I don't fear riding in the rain, just the Los Angeles drivers that don't know how to drive in it.
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Old 07-13-11, 01:07 PM
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Woot, something I know about! I'm a former lightning protection system engineer so I have a bit of knowledge about lightning.

Originally Posted by RadioFlyer View Post
...I guess "really close" is just subjective?...
Yup, "close" is subjective. The fact is, if you can hear thunder, you are technically close enough to be struck by lightning. Period. Beyond that, it's all a matter of your personal comfort with taking risks.

Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
Depends on the terrain too. You don't want to be near the tallest object in an open area and you definitely don't want to be the tallest object in an open area....
Good point! If you are the tallest object in your immediate vicinity, you are at a much higher risk of being struck by lightning. Depending on what is around you, "immediate vicinity" could be up to a maximum radius of 150 feet, and it's only that big if there is a 150' object 150' away from you. If there's nothing taller than you within 150' then you should probably rethink being out in a thunderstorm!

That being said, you can use this to your advantage if you have no good place to shelter. Light poles and flag poles will provide protection from lightning iff you stay 10' away, but no further away than about 75% of the the height of the pole. I hope that makes sense. Basically tall metal objects will be struck by lightning before you will if you are near enough to them. But, if you are too close (usually about 6 feet), you can get electrocuted when the pole is struck.

If you are going to shelter next to a pole though, get off your bike, keep your feet together on the ground and don't hold your bike!

Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
...Riding on a MUP through the woods probably isn't too bad during a thunderstorm. Likewise riding on street surrounded by high rise buildings is less risky than being on a lonely road running along a ridge.
Well, riding on a MUP through the woods is not the best place to be. This would be a case where you're too close to an object that has a higher likelihood of being struck (the trees!) and if the tree is struck when you're close to it, the lightning can "side flash" and catch you too!

Originally Posted by scroca View Post
When the lightning gets too near, I too will hang out under a bridge or somewhere relatively safer than being out in the open...
Yup, bridges are protection against lightning, but not tornadoes. If you hear tornado sirens, find a ditch, lie down and cover your head!

Originally Posted by RadioFlyer View Post
Are there signs, like feeling electricity and hairs standing or is it too late at that point? Is it possible to quantify when to seek shelter?
Yes there are signs, and it may not be too late by the time you notice them. Right before a strike, you'll feel all your hair stand on end as your immediate area is electrified. If you ever took physics and had a chance to play with a Van De Graaff generator, you'll know the feeling.

Get off your bike as quickly and safely as you can, put your feet together, and crouch in a little ball. Your feet should be the only things touching the ground. You want to be in a ball in case you are struck directly so that the lightning goes through as little as you as possible. You want your feet together in case the lightning strikes near you so you don't get zapped by the electric drop-potential in the ground around the strike. Do not lay down on the ground!

All this being said, I'll still be out riding as today's afternoon thunderstorms roll though! Like I said earlier, it's all about how much risk you are willing to take.
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Old 07-13-11, 01:07 PM
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The only time I've really felt unsafe during a rain storm was on a couple of days when I guessed the weather wrong and rode my old steel-wheeled bike to work. It would be a misnomer to say that braking on that bike is poor in wet conditions. A more accurate statement would be that when it's wet, that bike has no brakes. A portion of my ride home is steep enough to require switchbacks on the MUP. That'll make you pucker when there's no brakes. Of course, the sensible thing would have been to dismount and walk down that hill, but I've never claimed to be overly sensible. At least during these times the rain made me the only person on the MUP.

Lightning doesn't really worry me as I realize my risk of being hit is astronomically low. Monster wind gusts are normal here on a "nice" day, so I'm used to them.

Never been on my bike when the tornado sirens went off, so I'm not sure how I would handle that. If I haven't left work yet, I'd probably stay put until they release an "all clear." If I'm on the road I'd probably just keep heading home.
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Old 07-13-11, 01:50 PM
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Rain is one thing, storms are another. When I clicked in here I was all ready to respond with "Not unless you're made out of sugar" or something like that.

The worst part of riding in a storm is the wind. Back on 07/01 I sprinted the last two miles of my commute home trying to outrun a storm. at one point I got hit so hard with a crosswind I thought for a second that for sure I was gonna get picked up and dropped. That's a 250 pound dude on a steel bike with bags.

Your chances of getting hit by lightning or snatched away by a tornado are in fact astronomically low. However, if it does happen you will be virtually 100% guaranteed to be called an idiot for having subjected yourself to the risk. The worst part about it is that they will be right.
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Old 07-13-11, 02:17 PM
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thanks for info on the lightning cone of protection. tdreyer1

tdreyer1: Thank you for the info on the "cone of protection" numbers for metal poles.

Interesting, because when there is lightning around, I don't lean on the poles where the MUP crosses busy roads because I could just see the pole takin' the hit with me leaning on it. *laughs* turns out that I'm still too close to the poles to make a difference. I'll try to stay > 6 feet from the poles during storms here. Thanks.

Yep. The afternoon storms around Denver have been pretty serious lately. Somehow, I've managed to avoid the worst of it. The storms are usually moving fast enough that a delayed departure is enough to miss the worst of it (or often all of it!)

I'm playin' the odds on lighting. *shrugs* I kinda figure the randomness of lightning is so great that when your number is up, you are going to get hit no matter what you do to avoid the lightning.

The sirens come on around Denver for severe weather. You don't need a real twister for the sirens to sound.

The biggest danger is probably from mud and sand washed out onto the route where you don't expect to see it. (I broke my arm about 5 years ago when I wiped out in slick mud the day after a rainstorm.)

Storm riding risk summary:
I've simply been "situationally aware" of the heavy weather and I keep in mind where the nearest shelter is along my route in case I need to make a run forward or backwards for it. A few years ago I took shelter in the cab of an excavator when some heavy weather caught me riding home.
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Old 07-13-11, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Steely Dan View Post
the odds of actually being struck are stupidly low
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Old 07-13-11, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by bluefoxicy View Post
Quite true. One should not confuse the overall chances with the chances while standing outside in a thunderstorm!
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Old 07-13-11, 02:29 PM
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I asked about lightning a week ago and I think we concluded that it's totally possible to ride in thunderstorms completely safely.

https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...ightning-right

I've ridden in a few downpours the past couple weeks and other than being completely soaked it wasn't much different. My tires didn't slip at all, but I took corners easy...
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Old 07-13-11, 02:42 PM
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Another thing you might want to consider is getting caught in a hail storm. It can happen several times in a pop up shower,especially here in the South. I have seen anything from pea size to golf ball size. Either one will hurt if you are in it. I wouldn't want to be miles from nowhere caught in golfball size hail. I can't imagine what a body would look like after being pounded by it.
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Old 07-13-11, 03:35 PM
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Originally Posted by MLKATO View Post
Another thing you might want to consider is getting caught in a hail storm. It can happen several times in a pop up shower,especially here in the South. I have seen anything from pea size to golf ball size. Either one will hurt if you are in it. I wouldn't want to be miles from nowhere caught in golfball size hail. I can't imagine what a body would look like after being pounded by it.
One thing I've noticed about hail though, the bigger it is, the softer it tends to be, - not saying it would be pleasant to get hit with it, but a helmet would be enough to protect your noggin.
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