View Full Version : Bicycles and lightning

08-26-2000, 08:12 AM
In another thread in this forum, I brought up a problem with bicycling and tingling in my hands. I was surprised at the response. Any number of possibilities and good suggestions. All the posts got me curious, so, I went out and biked for a while trying out some of the suggestions people made. Sure enough, they did help. However, while doing this, I came up with a new question.

While biking around the lake, a small shower broke out. No big deal because I could see that the clearing line was nearly above me. What was a concern was some cracks of thunder in the distance. Still, no big deal. It was far enough off and moving away from me. But it made me wonder- does a bicycle offer any safety from lightning?

08-26-2000, 09:29 AM
Probably not. The only insulation it would provide is an inch or so of probably wet rubber -- not much insulation by lightning standards, given that it's already jumped an air gap of several thousand feet. I suspect the purported safety of a car in a storm is that the body of the car offers a more direct ground path and may even act as a Faraday cage.

08-26-2000, 09:40 AM
Still wondering about the bike. In your example, what yould happen if you were in a convertable with the top down? Zap city?

08-26-2000, 04:02 PM
I suspect the purported safety of a car in a storm is that the body of the car offers a more direct ground path and may even act as a Faraday cage.The Faraday cage effect is more significant than the path-to-ground effect. Lightning has a tendancy to take all easy paths, and even if you're next to a metal car frame, you're still a pretty good path, by lightning's standards. Of course, it does help, so being in a convertable would still be better than just being out in the open, assuming that the windshield frame is metal (of course, you'd ruin the upholstery, but that's another matter). The effect from the tires is completely, utterly, totally negligable. Air is a much better insulator than rubber, and lightning laughs at air.

Being on a bike would probably be worse than just standing: The lighting only has to go through about a meter of flesh, and then a meter of metal, instead of about two meters of flesh. Unfortunately, the flesh that it does go through includes the head and the heart, so you'll still fry from it.

08-26-2000, 04:17 PM
Speaking from personal experience, a bike is no protection from a lightning strike. When I was growing up, a kid in my neighborhood was killed while riding his bike up his driveway. The neighbors later said it was the worst smell they've ever experienced. I do a lot of biking myself, and when I see lighting-I dismount.

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