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Lightning dangerous while riding?

Discussion in 'General Motorcycling Discussion' started by Garido, Oct 7, 2011.

  1. Coming home from work this afternoon at around 5 pm, travelling towards Ringwood on Eastlink there was a thunderstorm with regular lightning on my right at the foot of the Dandenongs. As I had to head into that direction, I was wondering if my bike tires would act as a Faraday Shield, similar to a car, and if it was safe to ride a bike through a lightning storm. As it turned out, I just went around the storm and got home safe and sound.

    Any thoughts on this?
  2. A Faraday shield has to surround you, it is the cars body that acts as the shield. You don't have this protection on a bike. Rider have been struck by lightning in the past. Generally there are higher objects that you with better earths that will be struck first though. Trees, poles, buildings etc. If you are traveling in wide open flat areas in a storm it may be better to stop and get off the bike.
  3. Lighting is indiscriminate. Its a myth that it will strike a tall object first, it will strike anywhere.

    Being a sailor, I used to be paranoid about lightning, but after a lot of research and a presentation by an expert it does not concern me much anymore. ITs a pretty rare occurrence.

    The short story is, if you are outside, there is nothing you can do to reduce the risk of being struck by lightning.
  4. That video has it hitting pretty close!

    That's not true, it will take the path of least resistance - it is just that the path isn't always predictable. However, things like lightning rods do exist for a reason. Lightning rods will increase the chance of the lightning hitting them and going straight to the ground. i.e. in the middle of a city you have little chance of being hit. Lightning is more than discriminate. Shortest path in this case is path of least resistance. So stick yourself around stuff with a lower resistance than yourself. i.e. buildings with lightning rods.

    Ideally you want something of extremely high resistance between you and the source of lightning, i.e. like being inside under a roof.

    Even though on a bike, you aren't directly, electrically connected to the road it might just choose to use you and the bike to make a shortcut to ground.
  5. This sums it up well: http://stormhighway.com/lmwn1.shtml

    Lightning rods are there only to safely discharge the strike to ground, not to attract lightning.
  6. Dupe post
  7. #8 adprom, Oct 7, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 13, 2015
    As I said, it is a set of probabilities, and the lightning will choose the path of least resistance. In this case, to complete the circuit it didn't include that pole. That proves nothing.

    There is good electrical theory behind it all... Of course it won't just hit the tallest objects. You just don't know what the electrical conductance in the various sections of air was at that point.

    i.e. A river flows the path of least resistance from the highest point to the lowest point. Now you have to take into account the whole path it will take, not just look at a vertical section near the bottom and say it must use that, because for that local area it is the least resistance.

    A lightning rod provides the least resistance for that local area. However, the lightning hitting 20m away from a lightning pole can occur because the resistance across from the pole to the path of the lightning, and the pole itself exceeds the direct path to ground. As a hint, look at a video of a lightning strike and you will see there are often multiple arcs to the ground: [media=youtube]dxpw2r_39so[/media]

    i.e. The author of that website is a storm chaser, not someone who knows any electrical theory at all - clearly. I suggest you don't get your electrical theory off of a storm chasing website anymore than you would get your weather theory from an electrical enthusiast website. I'm willing to lay $5 I am far more qualified to talk about electrical theory than he is. Some of the stuff on their is blatantly incorrect, and appears to be conclusions he has arrived at simply through observing lightning - which to those without experience in the field might appear reasonable.

    The fun really begins when you look at the latest information on lightning which shows strikes that originate from the ground... i.e. Upwards lightning...

    In short: If you are next to a pole, you can decrease your chance of being hit, but depending on the exact path the lightning takes from the clouds down, it is no guarantee. You just gotta hope that the path to the pole from where the lightning has reached at each point of its development is more conductive than the path to you....


    Not a bad video there, and the creation is pretty cool. Also explains why you can be in danger, even if you aren't directly hit. Notice the lightning bolt hits that tall tree at the end? Quite simply, the water through the tree offered a nice path of low resistance for the lightning.

    Wikipedia also has some indepth info about the formation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightning#Leader_formation_and_the_return_stroke
  8. #9 TRA, Oct 7, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 13, 2015
    His explanations seem to line up with the lecture I had.
  9. What lecture? Who was the expert?
  10. If you haven't sacrificed a learner to the road Gods then yes.
  11. Are you high or did you simply not bother reading the supplied link? Nothing you have said so far is in any way different to what is on the website, apart from the obvious.

    If your knowledge on the subject is anything like your knowledge of bottom budget abs systems I wouldn't be counting on it.

    Cheap shot aside, I would much rather be receiving lightning theory from a weather expert than from someone with an electrical background, simply because of how much more complexity there is in weather theory and associated air patterns that can affect lightning throughout it's path. And that is beside the fact that most storm chasers are either on the hunt for their phD or doing further research.

  12. Good for you and nice story, however it still doesn't make the information supplied correct (much like the FUD spread about ABS here). Although you are more interested in having cheap shots at me than anything else lately - chip on shoulder much?

    More to the point, care to actually add anything of substance to this topic?
  13. Getting back on topic
    It seems some understanding of a faraday shield is necessary.

    firstly, you want a faraday cage to be a good conductor
    secondly, a true faraday cage will surround you, hence the term cage.

    A faraday cage is one that does not let any electrical field inside the cage. As the cage is a conductor, when the field (or lightning) comes in contact with the cage, the electricity simply goes around the outside and continues on until it finds ground - there is no reason for it to go inside the cage as that requires a much greater voltage than it takes to travel the outside.

    So it's not the tyres on a car that shields the driver from lightning, its actually the metal shell. In any case the resistance in tyres wouldn't be enough to protect the car from a lightning strike. And so the answer is no, a bike provides no protection.
  14. Considering that has been taken care of, I'm legitmately interested where you think the author has gone wrong because if you are honest with yourself, nothing you have posted so far actually disagrees with the article. All you have really done is state he is wrong without explaining how or why.

    Bear in mind that
    a) it is written for people with no idea at all and only have long held mythconceptions about lightning, not for those with a decent understanding of electrical theory
    b) it is written considering a macro scale rather than a very local area - everything you wrote was really only considering the last 20m of the leader's propagation where the article deals with everything before the last 20 metres as the primary argument for the thesis.

    PS. Regarding the "chip on the shoulder" if you are talking about how it takes you an hour to get to good riding roads, it would serve you well to re-read hornet's response after that.
  15. I did - I am not just talking about the last 20m. In fact it is impossible to just do that. However as explained, the process is far from unexplained, or entirely unpredictable.

    At the core, yes, where a lightning strike will occur, beginning in the clouds at any one point does appear to be somewhat random, and a meteorologist has the best chance of predicting. Once the lightning begins its path to earth, that is pure electrical principles.

    The short version is, that if you are surrounded by conductors that provdie a shorter electrical path than yourself, your chances of being hit can be significantly decreased. As explained, there will still be a chance, because there is a chance that electrical path could be formed at you, depending on what path it has taken before you.

    As for the topic at hand - on a bike, I'd be trying to find somewhere away from the lightning for me and the bike. Especially if it has EFI - a strike or a near strike (matter of metres) could fry the chips.
  16. Certainly, but I think that the author's point is as you said before. The path the lightning takes is so unpredictable simply because we have no knowledge of what electrical fields or resistances the air may be generating between the cloud and the ground, that given our lack of understanding it is truly random until someone manages to model the entirety of the combined equation of everything. And that is what I am repeating, that considering he is explaning the absolute bare basics, there really isn't any inherent disagreement. If you don't see that I think you might be misunderstanding the where the author is coming from and speaking to.

  17. Whats the point in even thinking about it. there is nothing you can do to prevent it and its an extremely rare event. Espc in consideration with the fact that, your on a bike and there are many many more things that could kill you that are far more likely to occur.
  18. I can just imagine TAC after reading this thread - motorcycles and lightning - it's up to you to reduce the risks. With some video if some poor bastard getting roasted while riding - probably overtaking as part of their fear campaign
  19. I've been a crash test dummy for a lot of things and situations on bikes.
    But you could not pay me enough to try that one out.
    But I would pay to watch it..... farken funny.