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How do you handle a week of thunderstorms?

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How do you handle a week of thunderstorms?

Old 06-08-19, 04:15 PM
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elle107
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How do you handle a week of thunderstorms?

Thereís a 80-90% chance of rain/thunder/lightening for the next three days and a 50-60% chance the following two days. How do you experienced tourists handle these forecasts?

Iím on my first bike tour and am faced with a five-day long thunderstorm. It started raining two days ago. The first day that it rained, I biked only half the day and payed for a campsite at a park. The next day, the weather cleared enough (including one hour-long storm) for me to cover 60 miles to stay with a Warm Showers host who had to go out of town after my one night. I travelled a few miles from the Warm Showers host to a motel for the day/night, but itís costing me $75.

While it didnít end up raining this morning as predicted, it poured with lightening in the evening. I was upset that I missed cycling all day, but beyond relieved that I wasnít stuck in the afternoon storm. I got caught in the storm yesterday afternoon and felt really unsafe.

Iím touring on a budget, i.e. free camping and Warm Showers. I feel like Iíve failed because Iíve already payed for a night at a campsite and another at a motel. My options are to stay at this motel in an undesirable, but safe location or try to get to a state park nearby where itís cheaper.

What do you guys do?
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Old 06-08-19, 06:09 PM
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I feel for you, that sucks that the weather is like this. Ive generally been pretty lucky, well, no, not lucky, as Ive toured in months that are statiscally drier, ie summer months and or the dry season in other countries--so I had that stats behind me.

and I get the whole "wasting money" thing, that is significant, so that sucks too.

now we get to the "old guy" thing. I do find it curious when (I assume) young people go on the internet to get answers from strangers about what to do. Curious and I guess a little baffling too, as bozo strangers on the interwebs should not be your point of reference, I mean sure, folks can tell you what they have done, but we arent there, we arent following the weather on the internet that you obviously can and should be doing, so you are the best person to make the decisions that will affect you, not us sitting in our basements in our underwear, never really getting out on bikes but pretending we know what we are talking about (this is sarcasm btw, but I hope you get my drift)

listen, good luck with deciding what to do. It sucks that there is so much rain. It aint fun thats for sure riding in rain, so you have to decide and see what is best. Only you know what is best for you, and only you know the options you have, and the time constraints you have.

yours truly
some old fart stranger giving you a fricken lecture
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Old 06-08-19, 06:40 PM
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Aside from a light rain on a hot day, riding in the rain sucks in general. Dangerous enough in a hard rain due to lose of visibility of you by other drivers. You don't want to add a t storm on top of that danger.

It really depends on how scattered the storms are. I have ridden on days of scattered t-storms. When he downpours start or t-storms start I sought shelter to wait it out.

If it is really that bad that it is all day then I would just pay for a motel room. It would really suck to be stuck in a tent for 2 or 3 days.
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Old 06-08-19, 06:59 PM
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As spin said, taking finding shelter in a real thunderstorm is always the wisest thing to do. With experience and simple observation, you get good at judging time left before out hits and spotting good shelter areas.

Where are you? Mississippi, France? Australia?
I ask because in this part of Canada it's been pretty rainy lately, more flooding than other years, but summer storms in this part of eastern Canada tend to be short lived, and usually rare to have actual days of rain-- but it depends where you are.

Too late for you perhaps, but having full rain gear, rain jacket, pants and booties, makes ALL the difference, cuz at least everything isn't soaked for days.
This has made it a lot easier with dealing with bad weather and just soldiering on.
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Old 06-08-19, 07:51 PM
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Rain happens and so do storms. On a TransAm attempt a few years back we gave up after 400 miles, partially because of rain every damn day. Only one thunderstorm that I recall, but plenty of rain. We both had rain gear and experience but it's tough going up against the weather sometimes.
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Old 06-08-19, 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted by elle107 View Post
Thereís a 80-90% chance of rain/thunder/lightening for the next three days and a 50-60% chance the following two days. How do you experienced tourists handle these forecasts?

Iím on my first bike tour and am faced with a five-day long thunderstorm. It started raining two days ago. The first day that it rained, I biked only half the day and payed for a campsite at a park. The next day, the weather cleared enough (including one hour-long storm) for me to cover 60 miles to stay with a Warm Showers host who had to go out of town after my one night. I travelled a few miles from the Warm Showers host to a motel for the day/night, but itís costing me $75.

While it didnít end up raining this morning as predicted, it poured with lightening in the evening. I was upset that I missed cycling all day, but beyond relieved that I wasnít stuck in the afternoon storm. I got caught in the storm yesterday afternoon and felt really unsafe.

Iím touring on a budget, i.e. free camping and Warm Showers. I feel like Iíve failed because Iíve already payed for a night at a campsite and another at a motel. My options are to stay at this motel in an undesirable, but safe location or try to get to a state park nearby where itís cheaper.

What do you guys do?

-- Hop on a bus or train and go somewhere else.

-- Rent a car and go somewhere else.

-- Stay in indoor accommodation for a few days until the storm passes (we had to do that when we were hit with a massive Atlantic storm on the west coast of France in 2012).

-- Change the format of the tour to a "hub-and-spoke" tour and explore the area during the nice moments.

-- If we've decided to do a "hub-and-spoke" style tour, we might look at other activities ... museums, hikes, swimming, organised tours, etc., etc.



From my experience, it is a good idea to incorporate flexibility into the tour plans.
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Old 06-08-19, 08:19 PM
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Well, let's say you are half-way across nowhere, Kansas, and the alternatives are to hole up and wait it out (if the lightning and tornadoes don't kill you the boredom will), or suck it up and hope you don't get sucked up?

I suspect it is far too late for the following advice:

Do the Pacific Coast route in the summer as a first tour. Not a whole lot of rain, and none south of Mendocino. It seldom gets too hot, too humid, or too cold. Ride North to South and you will usually have a tail-wind.
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Old 06-08-19, 08:46 PM
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Cycling in harsh weather is "Type II fun." If you spend a season outside, you're going to get all sorts of weather. (After a week or two of a severe heat wave, you will welcome the first good thunderstorm.)

Clothing is important, but experience is more so. I've learned not to try to keep myself dry. Wet and warm works fine, with the right clothing. But keeping packed sleeping insulation dry is critical.

I've found a limit of four days of constant rain, after which I start to look for a way to dry out. That could be a laundromat, a half hour of sunshine, a blazing fire, or the home of a kind stranger or WS host. Others will have different limits.

About fifteen years ago I started using single wall shelters, which makes setting up in pouring rain easier. And I no longer carry a stove, so meals in harsh weather are easier.

Unless I'm cycling in alpine terrain above tree line, I don't get too freaked out by lightning. If I absolutely need to take shelter in open terrain, I'll pitch my tent, sit on my insulated sleeping pad, and take the time to eat and rest. Tornadoes certainly bear a close watch, but that's easier to do now with weather apps on phones.

Keep in mind the need to maintain your machine after days of cycling in the rain.
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Old 06-08-19, 09:02 PM
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Using today's smart phone and weather satellite technology, the path and intensity of storm cells can be estimated. Accuweather and the Weather Channel have good satellite images of storms. Depending where you are, finding a spot to wait out approaching thunderstorms is possible. Thunder storms are a easier to deal with than long periods of constant rain. My wife and I were on a tour where we had 35 days were it rained for at least part of the day. Our guideline for riding in the rain while touring is: if it is not raining when we are ready to leave in the morning we will give it a try. If it is raining, we have the option of taking a rain day or waiting out the storm. We don't always make the correct call.

This was a thunderstorm in Belgium, at 10:00 AM, and it was as dark as it gets at 10 PM. The shot was taken at 1/60, f2.8 and an ISO of 400 using the camera's popup flash. It was too dark to get a decent picture even at that setting. It was actually a little scary.




This is my wife's shot of me digging out the tent's rainfly, so we could wrap up in it and wait out the storm. It was an intense shower with lots of lightning, but only lasted a long 20 minutes. This was a picture using the flash. It was very dark.


This setup (helmet cover, rain jacket, rain pants, and waterproof panniers) makes riding in wet weather bearable If it is warm, I don't usually worry about my feet. If it is cold, a plastic grocery bag over my socks will keep the feet warm and dry.


This young lady we met on the Icefield Parkway in AB, Canada, had the right idea. She was not going to let a little rain slow her down.

Last edited by Doug64; 06-09-19 at 09:13 AM.
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Old 06-08-19, 11:01 PM
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I sympathize; I don't hate riding in the rain but prefer dry. OTOH with proper clothes & fenders (disc brakes also help) rain is tolerable as Doug64 notes. I used to ride 250 miles/week in all conditions, never stopped for rain or thunderstorms. I figure if one is already on tour, just stick with the schedule & try to stay positive. Trying to avoid the rain might be more hassle than going with the flow.
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Old 06-09-19, 01:41 AM
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riding mornings before noontime/1 pm are usually better for avoiding t-storms. warmer temps/later in the day allows for higher humidity and the increased potential/intensity of t-storms.
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Old 06-09-19, 04:18 AM
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Weather is a critical factor in (leisure) bike touring.

Although not having the amount of experience of many members of this community (yet, 150 days in the past 3 years), we were lucky -- I can remember only one unpleasant ride in the rain.

1. We (two adults + 2 kids) strictly adhere to the motel-when-it-rains policy. To prevent rebellion -- we have some family members actually wishing for a rainy day

2. Our destinations are "weathersparked". If the likelihood of rainy day exceeds 30% on a given month, sorry but we won't ride there (then).

3. As others have noted, rain in warm weather isn't bad. Make sure that your panniers are waterproof and enjoy a different experience. I do not fight with rain under these circumstances. Sandals, shorts, synthetic clothing. We carry space blankets to fight hypothermia (one of our daughters ended up close to being unable to reach our destination because we were caught in unexpected come rain)

4. Makes for fun memories, a few years down the road. And is good for the skin.

5. Machka has a great list of rain avoidance strategies.
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Old 06-09-19, 04:44 AM
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Originally Posted by elle107 View Post
What do you guys do?
Usually I just make do as best I can. I try to be in camp during the actual thunderstorms. That usually means riding early and finishing up before the storms hit when they are expected since they are most often in the afternoon or evening.

I really haven't found thunderstorms to usually be as bad as all day rain. On the other hand they can be pretty scary in really open country in the west or if really severe anywhere. I have been hailed on quite a few times and the lightning was pretty terrifying sometimes when there was no cover for miles and miles.

I have found that some trips I am more tempted to stay in motels quite a few nights due to storms, but have also toughed it out on long trips with lots of storms.
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Old 06-09-19, 11:46 AM
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91 in Bavaria, I took the train to Strasbourg , So, traveled west of the storm,

97 on the west Irish coast there were rainy days , I used the Independent hostels ,

and not so stomy, I moved on riding down the road..






...
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Old 06-09-19, 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I really haven't found thunderstorms to usually be as bad as all day rain. On the other hand they can be pretty scary in really open country in the west or if really severe anywhere. I have been hailed on quite a few times and the lightning was pretty terrifying sometimes when there was no cover for miles and miles.

.
With the advent of smart phones with the Weather Channel app I find missing the thunderstorms aren't much of a problem. I duck for cover in restaurants, laundromats or libraries. Getting off the road is important in a thunderstorm, not because of the rain and lightning, but because the odds of getting hit by a car go way up. Lack of visibility in a sudden downpour scares me to no end.
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Old 06-09-19, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by boomhauer View Post
With the advent of smart phones with the Weather Channel app I find missing the thunderstorms aren't much of a problem. I duck for cover in restaurants, laundromats or libraries. Getting off the road is important in a thunderstorm, not because of the rain and lightning, but because the odds of getting hit by a car go way up. Lack of visibility in a sudden downpour scares me to no end.
Good points, but there are places in the US and I assume other places where the roads are remote and empty enough that for those locales your points can be kind of moot. For example a good portion of the Southern Tier I recall long distances between places to duck for cover. At times there is nothing pretty much all day. Even on more northern routes there can be some pretty long empty stretches in the West and the Great Plains.
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Old 06-09-19, 03:18 PM
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Keep on trucking.

I always say to start riding if itís not raining. Half of the time it wonít even rain. Half of the time the time it rains it wonít really bother you.

Also you donít need a lot of rain gear because you are going to get wet when it rains. Either from the rain or from sweat. Just have enough clothes on to keep from getting cold.

Be sure you have a dry bag for a change of clothes and for your sleeping gear. Thatís important.
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Old 06-09-19, 03:56 PM
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Re shelter and open areas, so far in my riding experience on trips I've never been in that situation, but can see how that would be scary.

Re rain gear, I'm completely in the corner that believes that full rain gear makes all the difference, rain booties that rain pants go over mean your shoes aren't soaked, and a helmet cover means rain isn't pouring down your face and neck.
Sure if it's super hot out it's not a huge deal being wet, but I've ridden in rain and storms tons of times where it's 20c or less , 68f or less, and you get miserably cold fast--and I'm talking summer months, July August.

We still don't know where this person is, if they are in North America June, France, although I kind of assume somewhere in North America, but could be wrong.

But no matter, that's a drag for their first trip bike touring experience they have had bad luck with so much forecasted rain.

I know when I started out touring, I didn't have rain gear, just a jacket, and kind of hoped for the best.
Only got more gear as the unpleasant experiences added up over the years.
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Old 06-09-19, 04:52 PM
  #19  
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It's all a matter of perception. Just tell yourself, at least it's not 110*F in the shade. And when it really IS 110*F in the shade, you tell yourself, at least it's not -20*F with a blizzard. In other words, trick yourself into thinking that you're actually pretty comfortable. 🙃😁
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Old 06-09-19, 05:44 PM
  #20  
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Did a NH, VT, ME loop last year. " Tropical downpours" was the term. Lightning is a different matter safety wise. Short sleeve wool shirts are awesome when it's 75-80 and pouring. Like harder than thunderstorm rain. A dry bag with the nights clothes in helps. Handle? I get a big cup of HTFU and beer in the side bag. Going from St Johnsbury VT up to Kingdom trails last year, it rained so hard the pickups were throwing waves of water and my sandals were going under water at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Good times. Free bike and clothes wash that day. Rolled up to Mikes tiki bar at Kingdom Trails ( its outside) and ordered an IPA. Even the mt bikers were looking at me, drenched and covered with this fine grey road slime. Had zero plans for that night. The one campsite was closed, hit up a cottage in West Burke, great suggestion from the bartender. Dry roof, hot shower, place to dry my clothes. Good choice there.
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Old 06-09-19, 11:08 PM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
I know when I started out touring, I didn't have rain gear, just a jacket, and kind of hoped for the best.
Only got more gear as the unpleasant experiences added up over the years.
I laugh at those times now.
At the time they weren't very funny.
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Old 06-10-19, 06:33 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
Re rain gear, I'm completely in the corner that believes that full rain gear makes all the difference, rain booties that rain pants go over mean your shoes aren't soaked, and a helmet cover means rain isn't pouring down your face and neck.
Sure if it's super hot out it's not a huge deal being wet, but I've ridden in rain and storms tons of times where it's 20c or less , 68f or less, and you get miserably cold fast--and I'm talking summer months, July August.
Different strokes... I always figured 50F and raining was fairly pleasant. It might get a little chilly on the long descents, but I can still work up a sweat on the climbs or even the flats.

I always figured that wind chill protection was the main thing more so than actually keeping dry. I take clothing that is warm when wet and a windproof shell that goes over it. I come from a whitewater kayaking background so being wet in anything above freezing was normal for me in that sport and I carried over some of the clothing strategy where I just expect to be wet.

I sometimes have ridden in sub freezing temps on tour in summer in the mountains but almost never much below 50F with rain. I am not sure at what point I would take a day off for a cold rain, but it hasn't happened yet.
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Old 06-10-19, 07:26 AM
  #23  
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I agree on the wind chill protection part, and while I think you are hardier than I am re cold and wet, certainly even with good rain gear we tend to get wet to a certain extent, but at least the rain gear as you say is keeping the wind chill thing at bay, and this is the big factor.

I figure that for summer tours, gear that keeps the wind chill thing is the most important.
My rain pants are fairly light and breathe fairly well, some North Face rain pants, so they work well for both aspects, and I do like that they go over my rain booties so my shoes dont get totally soaked.

re the shoe thing, once in France I had bad weather for a few days, cool and rainy, and no rain booties, so my shoes were soaked, my feet were cold, I was cold, I then got a cold, sniff sniff, and my shoes took a few days to dry out as the camping was damp and still not sunny.
So thats when I realized that my german riding partner's shoe rain booties were a good thing to look into, and have carried some with me ever since on trips.

my wife and I have done a week long supported trip many times, always in the beginning of aug, and on a few of them, the weather was not warm by any means, and one year in particular on the first day, it was cool to begin with, then started to rain, and then cooled some more and rained some more. We ended up with all of our rain gear on and continued on to the days destination, but there were loads and loads of people who just had either non waterproof thin jackets, or maybe a rain jacket but nothing else, so there lots of very miserable people, and many many that abandoned and were being trucked to the days end.
This was right beside the ST Lawrence river, which is cooler than most places because of the water staying cold all year round, which cools the air temp also.
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Old 06-10-19, 07:35 AM
  #24  
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I second the notion that OP is closest to the situation and best able to assess what specifically to do. Torrential downpours can be dangerous for visibility and lightning even more so. One can also get some clues from weather maps and reports on whether this is an intermittent phenomenon or longer lasting.

On my trip last month, there were forecasts of a front with ~3-5" of rain forecast moving through - though the timing wasn't 100% clear. The first day it was forecast for late afternoon, so I started in the morning and figured I would have a bail out option half way through if it became bad. Hence, perhaps an hour or so of cycling but not worse. As it turned out, it didn't really arrive until ~4am of the following morning so I was glad I got a day of riding in.

On the morning it came through, I figured I'd wait until 10am at latest to make a call. It was intermittent at times though not fully expected to clear until afternoon. I decided to take that day as a rain day. Glad I did. Even though it eventually became a beautiful day after 3pm or so and I could have had some hours of riding - it also would have been wet with not as much visibility before then.

However, circumstances and forecasts can vary a bunch...

As far as being caught in remote areas goes... my experience is many of the more remote areas in the lower-48 in the US are also arid. So they can get storms but it may not be as frequent. For example, on a trip across the ST, I had some windy days but not much rain in the drier areas. In Outback Australia I did get a rather big front coming through. I stopped mid-morning and set up my tent. The main front was fairly quick and two hours later, I packed up the tent and continued.

In Argentina, I started one morning with relatively light winds and what looked to be a reasonable day. A rather sharp front came through perhaps 15km into the ride. The wind picked up considerably and with it strong headwinds and a huge amount of dust. The dust storm really changed perspective and the winds made even pedaling some downhill pieces difficult. In that case, I soldiered on - but not quite as far as I otherwise would have ridden. So these arid regions I've definitely had other types of storm events that take some care.



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Old 06-10-19, 08:18 AM
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Rob_E
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I think it's already been said that there are several factors which can/should affect your decision. I've camped in rain and thunderstorms a number of times. It make me nervous, but accidents are rare, and depending on the location, you can do a fair amount to mitigate your risk. Most memorable recent storm was a few years ago where I was racing the rain to a state park. Got in, got set up up, started to heat up some water for dinner, and it started to pour. Nixed a hot dinner in favor of a few granola bars under my tarp and proceeded to hunker down in my hammock for the night. Thunder and lightning were pretty constant for a couple of hours. I talked myself through it by pointing out that I was camping near, but not not on, a lake, so I was in a lower lying area, but not the exposed, lakefront areas. Maybe I was fooling myself, but alternative was to hole up in the restroom for the night. But it does seems like the most severe type of lightning strike happens when a person is out in the open during a storm. In most places where I've traveled, not being the tallest thing around is pretty easy. Of course being next to the thing that is struck by lightning is also not good. But I figure if you're not the tallest thing around, and you're not under the tallest thing around, your odds are pretty good. In fact, death by lightning strike is way less common than a cyclist dying in a motor vehicle collision, which is also not that common. So my feeling is that if you're going to have to spend a lot of time out in the open, and there's a good chance of storms, think twice. And if you're going to have to be sharing the road with cars in a downpour, think three times. But if you feel like you can avoid those two situations, my technique is to wait for a break in the weather and go for it. We're currently "enjoying" a couple of weeks of daily thunderstorms. I have my "bus rack friendly" tires on my bike so I can switch to a bus commute if needed for comfort or safety, but it hasn't happened yet. The storms have blown through while I'm at work, leaving me to ride to and from work safely. Yesterday the rain came through while I was sitting in a movie theater, and I came out to find a soggy bike, but my ride home was fine. I've certainly spent my fair share of time lingering in a restaurant or hanging out in the overhang of a gas station waiting for weather to pass, but I've found that if I use the forecast to make all my decisions, I'll never leave the house, but if I use the actual weather that's happening right now to make a decision, I only occasionally end up soggy, or hiding under an awning. With the caveat that you don't want to set yourself up for seriously life threatening situations, my attitude has been to start riding when the rain stops and hope for the best.
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