Riding During Thunder and Lightning

If you're doing a long ride in New England, there is a chance of getting caught out in a thunderstorm.  When this happens, follow this protocol the ensure your safety.

Proper thunderstorm protocol is counterintuitive.  Read carefully. 

Most important:  Don't mess around with lightning; do not take it lightly.  Follow the 30/30 Rule:

  1. If the time gap between the lightning strike and the thunder clap is less than 30 seconds, get to shelter.  Basically, if you can hear thunder, you want to get to shelter.
  2. Wait 30 minutes after the last lightning before heading back out onto the trail.

The Safest Place in a Storm

The safest place to be in a thunderstorm is either:

  1. In a large building -- like a church, convenience store, etc.
  2. A car, van, truck or any large motorized vehicle

Vehicle Safety Protocol during a Lightning Storm

If a car, van, or truck is the closest safe place, get in it.  There is folklore about cars being dangerous in a thunderstorm but this is not true; other than a building, there is no safer freestanding structure than a vehicle.  Follow this procedure and you will be extremely safe:

  • Leave your bike outside and away from the vehicle; 100 feet or more is ideal.  Bikes -- anything metal that is not grounded -- can attract lightning.
  • Roll the windows up.  Keep the doors closed.
  • Turn off the engine.
  • Do not touch anything in the vehicle:  Do not touch door handles, door frames, steering wheel, gear shit, etc.  Keep your hands on your lap. 

If You Get Caught Out In A Storm

If you do get caught out, and there is no vehicle or large building nearby, do the following:

  • Get to the low ground, if possible.
  • Stay away from large bodies of water.
  • Tightly wooded areas are good.  Try to be near shorter trees.
  • Avoid lone items:  A tree, picnic shelter, single boulder, fencing, etc.
  • If you’re on an open plain, get to boulders and pick the smallest to hide next to.
  • Get away from your bike.  Get away from anything metal.  100 feet away is best.
  • Crouch as low as possible:
    • Minimize your contact with the ground:  Be on your toes.  This creates a poor path for electricity's journey to the ground.
    • Minimize your height.  Lightning searches for tall items.
    • Get your head lower than your back.  It's better to have your back struck than your head.
  • If you feel tingling and your hair is standing on end, crouch immediately on the balls of your feet, head low between your knees.  You are extremely close in proximity and time to a lightning strike.  Do not try to run.

If You're On A Overland Ride That Includes Vehicle Support

The OBC vehicle, or vehicles will be roaming the route.  This will ensure that the van is never very far from anyone.  The number one protocol for thunderstorm safety is to get in the OBC vehicle.  Call the the support Crew to find out where the vehicle is; this will help you determine the ideal course of action.