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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The other day I took the long way home on my commute and got hit by the mother of all thunder storms. At first, I could count about 6 to 8 seconds between lightning flashes and the ensuring thunder but that quickly diminished until I had a few bursts occur just over my head, simultaneous flashes of lightning and claps, and I mean CLAPS!, of thunder that scared the bejeezus out of me, thinking I was about to be fried.

However, a couple of folks told me that the rubber tires had me insulated from a lightning strike, that if I kept moving I wasn't likely to be struck, but once I stopped and put my foot on the ground, I was more of a target. Is that really the case? Would it matter that I was on a steel bike cum lightning rod? Or am I just a 48-year old scaredy cat?
 

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The rubber tires on a car -- contrary to popular belief -- have absolutely nothing to do with the "why" a car is safe during a lightning storm. You are safe inside a car because the outside is metal, and if you're sitting on a seat, you aren't touching anything that conducts electricity worth a damn, so you are therefore safe. That doesn't really work on a bike.

I sure wouldn't want to be on a bike during a lightning storm. If you're in the middle of nowhere, you could easily be the highest spot around and therefore the most likely target. If you're under a tree when it gets hit -- well, you're still the tallest thing under the tree.

Basically, I'd get off the bike and into the lowest thing around. Lie down in a ditch somewhere if you can't get inside.
 

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Bike Crispies!

I would do anything to avoid becoming a Bike Crispy and follow the advice of the reply above by getting off the bike and staying low. I hate lightning. I've spent a fair amount of time hiking at altitude in the summer and have come close a couple of times. I have had 2 close calls. You know its close when your ears are temporarily deaf with the rininging from the clap.
 

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bleckb said:
The other day I took the long way home on my commute and got hit by the mother of all thunder storms. At first, I could count about 6 to 8 seconds between lightning flashes and the ensuring thunder but that quickly diminished until I had a few bursts occur just over my head, simultaneous flashes of lightning and claps, and I mean CLAPS!, of thunder that scared the bejeezus out of me, thinking I was about to be fried.

However, a couple of folks told me that the rubber tires had me insulated from a lightning strike, that if I kept moving I wasn't likely to be struck, but once I stopped and put my foot on the ground, I was more of a target. Is that really the case? Would it matter that I was on a steel bike cum lightning rod? Or am I just a 48-year old scaredy cat?


Your rubber tires will not help you at all. Every year we read about cyclists who were struck by lightning and their rubber tires did nothing to protect them.

click on surviving a thunderstom on this link>

http://www.bikeleague.org/resources/better/advancedcycling.php
 

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not quite either.
http://www.mos.org/sln/toe/cage.html

kfurrow said:
The rubber tires on a car -- contrary to popular belief -- have absolutely nothing to do with the "why" a car is safe during a lightning storm. You are safe inside a car because the outside is metal, and if you're sitting on a seat, you aren't touching anything that conducts electricity worth a damn, so you are therefore safe. That doesn't really work on a bike.

I sure wouldn't want to be on a bike during a lightning storm. If you're in the middle of nowhere, you could easily be the highest spot around and therefore the most likely target. If you're under a tree when it gets hit -- well, you're still the tallest thing under the tree.

Basically, I'd get off the bike and into the lowest thing around. Lie down in a ditch somewhere if you can't get inside.
 

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Think about it. Do you think that thin bike tires will insulate you from a lightning strike after the bolt has passed through hundreds of feet of air? Nope - not at all.

While trees could certainly explode from the instantly vaporized sap in a tree struck by lightning, the real danger is from the charge itself, not the tree. Trees are tall, and the sap can be somewhat conductive, creating a big lightning rod. When hit, the charge often spreads in many directions around the base of the tree looking for an electrical ground, and you might become part of that path if you're in the wrong place. We're very good conductors of electricity when compared to soil!

The best thing to do is get off your bike, and get in a ditch or other low spot away from tall objects if you're unable to find shelter.
 

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Your car works good for insulating you from lightning because it IS a Faraday cage. Skinny rubber insulators (i.e., your bike tires) aren't going to help. If the lighthing hits you, it'll probably just arc to the ground. As matter of fact, the lightning actually goes up from the ground to the cloud. Something called a "dart leader" establishes the path from the cloud to the ground and then the lightning bolt is generated from the ground to the cloud after the dart leader completes the circuit. (See The Handbook of Chemistry and Physics). With voltages like there are in lightning, it's nothing to play around with. The lightning is powerful enough to just go through and around anything to get to complete the "circuit." Lightning rods on houses work not to direct the lightning to a place to strike, but to make the structure look electrically "flat" to the lightning like surrounding fields. I think the rubber tires on a bike would make you more of a target by allowing whatever electrical charge to build up onto you, making you even a better target. Best thing to do is to find a place to wait it out, like a building.
 

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Lightning doesn't always strike the tallest object around; rarely is this the case in an environment composed of objects of similar height. You are still fair game if you aren't protected by a metal enclosure.

If you decide to go into crouch mode, do it away from long metal fences or other possible conductors that can carry the electricity to you in the event of a close strike. Keep your feet as close together as possible to minimize the chance of the current going up one leg and out the other. Crounching on a paved surface gives you a little more insulation than on bare ground, so if the road isn't busy, it might be better to crouch there. If you are with a group of people, spread out a good distance (+50 feet) to deter the bolt from passing through multiple people.

I would have crouched down if I saw a bolts striking the ground within a quarter mile of my location and was in a high risk area.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
no lightning today!

Thanks everyone for the thoughts. I guess my fear was what it should have been.

What I did was sprint, as much as my converted mtb for commuting allows, never mind my legs and lungs, to a golf course and called my wife for a ride home because when I called from my cell phone and I said "Rachel, I need a ride home right now!" and then the battery died. I didn't have a happy wife until well after I called her from the golf course proshop and got home, safe though.

I don't know that I could have been in a worse place to have to worry about the lightning: about 100 feet from a river, right beside a small sewage treatment plant with the only shelter being a thin strip of corrugated metal roofing. All the open ground was between pools of partially treated sewage and fairly tall trees. No flat ground of substance.

Thankfully, it's sunny today and I'm just about to head home, but by a somewhat shorter route than Friday.
 

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I agree w/ masterofblah. If a lightening bolt can span miles in the the sky why would a 1inch tire matter? The proximity of a lightening strike will fry you. Are you a target ground on a bike, maybe? After all the rain provides a good rim to ground trickle so there is no insulation anyway. Perhaps the rotation of the wheels generates a magnetic field as does your body offering an attractive link. I’ve had a bolt fly over my car once w/ sun roof open. The light was blinding, the expansion of air blasted into the car like an atomic bomb. There was little sound – just a horrendous pop then ringing in my ears. I had to pull over to get my s*** together.
 
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