Riding in a thunderstorm...how stupid is it?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Riding in a thunderstorm...how stupid is it?

    I live approx. 8 miles from my work on pretty wide open country roads. Ive had to ride home from work 4 times in the last couple months in torrential downpours (which don't even slow me down) with really bad thunder and lightning. I haven't gotten struck yet though. (thank God!!)

    My question is: how dangerous is it really?

    Should I just lock my bike up in the basement of the restaurant and catch a ride home from one of the cooks?

  2. #2
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    Really stupid....

    I have done it twice, both times my hair has stood up on end cause of static and the ozone smell was very noticable...

    Both times I figured I was okay, but and windshift put the damn thing right on top of me...

    You should be able to estimate the storm track, get it on-line, or just wait it out...

    Generally the problems are right at the front of the storm and once that has passed the remaining lightening is not nearly as threatening.
    Last edited by jeffscott; 07-23-2010 at 12:21 PM.

  3. #3
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    My problem is that I live in western NY, our weather is affected by the great lakes and tends to be very unpredictable, storms like to go away, only to circle back a few minutes later.

    My ride home takes 25-35 min depending on how i feel and what bike im on. I just don't wanna get caught out in it because most of my commute there is no place to find shelter

  4. #4
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    i just tell people to **** off if they get anywhere near me no matter what the circumstance.

  5. #5
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    A you really worried about getting hit by lightning? Seems like it would be rare. Look it up and see if you can find out how many people every year are actually hit by lightning let alone while biking. There is definitely a higher chance of being hit by lightning if you are out side, however I bet the chance of getting killed in a car accident is just as high if not higher. Don't be scared, ride your bike. Riding in the rain is awesome.
    Last edited by bridgestone14; 07-23-2010 at 08:09 PM.
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  6. #6
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    Well, these cows weren't worried either:


    Yes, the risk of being hit by lightning is pretty low, but that's partly because all those who can are safely inside, and it's only lightning in so many places at any given time. If you're out in it, your chances go up significantly.

    Some info from NOAA:
    Motorcyclist/Bicyclist
    People have been hit by lightning while riding motorcycles and bikes. Here are just a few examples:
    Virginia Beach, VA: Motorcyclist killed while traveling on Route 58.
    Colorado: a 16 year old boy killed while riding a bicycle.
    Tennessee: a 47 year old man killed while leaning against his motorcycle.
    Virginia: a man killed riding his motorcycle.
    Protect yourself when on a bicycle, motorcycle or dirt bike. Carry a portable NOAA Weather Radio or listen to commercial radio. If you see threatening skies in the distance and you are near a safe building, pull over and wait 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder before resuming your ride.

    Their site http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/outdoors.htm has good info on what is/isn't a safe building, what to do if you can't seek shelter, etc.

    On the other hand, if you never rode when there is a "chance" of thunderstorms, the whole summer could pass you by. I definitely avoid "severe" thunderstorms, which also have danger from falling trees, etc. I also check the radar online before I leave work to see if something big is coming. Although VT is rural, at least in this area I am never too far from a house, barn, etc. where I could seek shelter if it got scary.
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  7. #7
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    Quantitative risk management requires both calculating the probability of an event occurring along with the severity. Calculate the probability of being struck by lightening as well as the severity - the probability of death/severe injury/hospitalization/etc and then compare that with the probability of being struck by a car/truck and the likely severity of the injuries that you will receive - death, paralysis, etc. Once you have that all worked out the answer should be clear. ride on!

  8. #8
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    I rode home in a thunderstorm once, and wondered the same thing. Interesting thread.
    When under pressure, your level of performance will sink to your level of preparation.

  9. #9
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    I was on a very tall mountain one time years ago. The rains came in before we could move. This particular mountain has a very long knife edge traverse that is not optional. The lightning began driving up from the ground from everywhere. We broke for the traverse. Cowering was certain death. We had to get down. I turned and looked back. Marty was yelling at his girlfriend Jenny back on the scree. Jenny was crying and her long hair was straight up in the air. She was crippled in fear.

    I ran back through the lightning amazed that I was not dead. The odds were bad. The lightning was everywhere. 100 strikes at a time all the time. It gets rough at 14,000 feet in a mountain storm. I pushed Marty aside, grabbed Jenny by the arm, and yanked her to the knife edge. She stuck to me like glue the entire way as I skipped the entire edge in almost a run what we had all slide across on our butts merely minutes before. As I skipped with one foot planted on one side of the edge, and one foot planted on the other, I ran into the lightning. We all made it down alive and the first thing that I realized was that Jenny was no longer Marty's girl.



    I ride in storms. I start rides in storms. I enjoy storms. I never think about lightning. My rain gear is always in my pack, and I use it while commuting often.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbxplorer
    ../if you never rode when there is a "chance" of thunderstorms, the whole summer could pass you by. I definitely avoid "severe" thunderstorms, which also have danger from falling trees, etc. I also check the radar online before I leave work to see if something big is coming. Although VT is rural, at least in this area I am never too far from a house, barn, etc. where I could seek shelter if it got scary.
    Severe thunderstorms can bring not only lightning, but hail, blinding downpours where you can't breath without choking the rain is so thick, wind gusts, downbursts, and tornados. If you have been caught in anything like these outdoors and unprotected, you'll realize this is not cycling weather.

    As to risk management, some things you can't avoid, some you can. We avoid being hit by vehicles by limiting our exposure to dangerous roads and times, folllowing traffic laws (mostly) and riding defensively. We can't protect ourselves from a madman bent on destruction who suddenly comes across our path. Or a 20 ton roll of steel falling off a truck in front of us. Lightning is like that. But it isn't a random occurence. It is associated mostly with moderately severe to severe weather. So avoid severe thuinderstorms when lightning is fairly likely and sit it out until it isn't . Might be a good time to get out of the rain and lube the chain. Sure you might have gotten home sooner if you hadn't stopped but you did get home if you avoided being hooked by the bus.

  11. #11
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    Thanks for the replies everyone!! I've done alot of riding in downpours and 50-60mph winds. The rain doesnt bother me at all, Heck I love riding in the rain as long as its above 50 degrees out. The wind sucks.

    As far as the lightning goes, I absolutley love riding in it!! It's amazing!! However I wanted to gather opinions on the saftey of it. The best point I have seen on here so far is that I am more likely to get hit by a car than struck by lightning. Never looked at it that way before. Obviously, if its REALLY bad out im gonna wait it out, but as long as it doesn't resemble the apocalypse I shall ride on.

    Btw, dont think I'm a wimp for asking this, because I ride to work pretty much every day all year round. Living near buffalo, that means that sometimes there's a foot of snow on the road, 50mph winds, 0 visibility, and temps below 0. I take that like a man, and ride through it. Bad weather doesn't bother me, but lighting scares me a little lol

  12. #12
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    The cow shot is freaky.
    Just had to say that in case anybody didn`t notice.
    Recalculating....

  13. #13
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    Motorists can't see you very well in a storm. If you don't use lights in the day, or bright clothing, then ride into a thunderstorm, you approach actual invisibility like a Ninja under in the shadows, when under the dark sky of a thunderstorm. Some idiot drivers don't even turn on their lights.

    So yes, I'd say the chance of being hit by a motorist in a severe storm is WAY higher than by lightning, You must remeber that older motorists night vision fades so they avoid driving at night, but they may be caught driving in the same storm. Risk assessment is not what our brains do well, especially when we are less experienced. Maybe age adds a greater desire for preservation of self over a short-lived thrill. Rembember there are no old bold pilots.

  14. #14
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    I would say it could be dangerous if only you are not so visible to other pedestrians and vehicle traffic. As far as how dangerous is the thunderstorm itself, well I would have to say it depends where you are geographically...if you're riding in South Florida, where you could get hit by lightning on a sunny day, a t-storm would be quite dangerous to ride in, as well as heading west on I-70 in Kansas, where the tallest object could be you. Riding in the canyons of New York City, I wouldn't sweat it a bit.

  15. #15
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    I dont live in new york city, I live out in the country, 30 miles east of buffalo. Much of my commute is down country roads surrounded by nothing but fields for a good mile or so.

  16. #16
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    I got stuck in a big storm 2 years back on a open country road , had hail about quarter size man did that suck

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Destin
    I dont live in new york city, I live out in the country, 30 miles east of buffalo. Much of my commute is down country roads surrounded by nothing but fields for a good mile or so.

    Then you know it can be dangerous.

  18. #18
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    yeah. But at the same time I'm more likely to get hit by a drunk driver than struck my lightning...

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Destin
    yeah. But at the same time I'm more likely to get hit by a drunk driver than struck my lightning...

    Then get a ride home from one of the cooks.....

  20. #20
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    I posted the below in the other thread.

    Someone told me yesterday before my commute home: “Better watch the radar, nasty scattered thunderstorms out there.” Summer convection is the culprit in most places in the south this time of year. I have to say it doesn’t bother me much. If my choice is riding in temperatures of 94 (with heat indexes at 110+) or threatening showers/storms in the area that temps are 82ish with a cool summer breeze – I will gladly take that!

    Granted my commute is mostly through neighborhoods and downtown areas. So there is adequate place to seek cover should I get in a bind. Although, my commute is short 15-20 mins so I can usually eyeball the radar and make a dash home or to work around thunderstorms. Obviously, those having longer treks don’t have that luxury.

    I’ve been caught in the woods in thunderstorms, nothing quite like trees snapping all around you and no where safe to seek cover. I’m not sure what’s worse – out on the open road or in the woods when a cumulonimbus cloud rolls over you like creeping death.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Destin
    yeah. But at the same time I'm more likely to get hit by a drunk driver than struck my lightning...
    Ironically, one of the two riders killed in our community this year went down just this way... riding at night, during a thunderstorm, dark clothing, no lights or reflectors, in a narrow-laned construction zone.

    Motorists can't avoid you if'n they can't see you.
    Ride a mountain bike... you will not regret it if you live.
    (with apologies to Mark Twain & The Taming of the Bicycle)

  22. #22
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    I ride in storms all the time. Have too. I just keep my rain gear and lights on, its never the storm, wind, hail, lightning that worries me its the drivers who drive way over to the right so they dont drift into on coming traffic. They avoid the other cars but end up passing me by fractions of an inch. Itll only take a wind gust to blow at the exact time to get me nailed at a car going 55-60. I would say the storm itself is really the least dangerous part of riding in a storm. But I really enjoy riding in thunderstorms here. Really nothing prettier than a Texas thunder storm rolling in.

    It stormed on me last night and I had left my rain coat at the house, the one time I leave it it pours on me. That sucked, being wet and walking in to a building thats air conditioned to 72 isnt fun.

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