Tech Talk: When Lightning Strikes

I live in a mountain community in the Rockies. I rolled out this afternoon and it was clear and sunny. An hour later, I'm pedaling back home for my life as lightning bolts are popping off all around me. I didn't mind the hail and rain as much as the fear that I was going to get electrocuted. My question is this: Do I have a greater, lesser or the same chance of ending up in an ashtray if I am riding my new carbon bike (Orbea Orca), my aluminum bike (Trek 2200) or my steel touring bike (Davidson)? What is the recommended course of action? Haul ass or seek a barn with an open door until it passes?

Dear George,
I doubt it makes a difference. If you receive a direct hit you are toast, whether you're on carbon, aluminum, steel or titanium. If you, the bike and the road are all drenched, there will be plenty of pathways for the electrical current to travel up from the road, through you and back to ground.

If lighting hits a nearby tree or other structure, you will get a big jolt if the current is running down the road toward you. If the strike is to the side and the current ?ows across the road and hits both wheels at the same time, you will get a milder shock.

If it is dry lightning, your tires should insulate you effectively from current running along the road no matter what kind of bike. The amount of insulation between you and the road is increased with all-carbon wheels and bike, but I doubt it would jump across the tires to the rims on a dry road anyway. And how often does lightning strike nearby when you and the roads are both dry?

As for going for the barn or hauling ass, if the barn is available, take it. Or if a car is willing to take you in, do that (you are protected in a car from lightning, even from a direct hit, because electric fields cannot exist inside closed metal surfaces; but don't get in a carbon ?ber car). Otherwise, haul ass.

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