Is It Safe To Ride A Motorcycle In A Lightning Storm?


There’s nothing quite like riding a motorcycle in the perfect temperatures. Even when the temperature isn’t perfect, riding is still fun. But sometimes the elements aren’t so kind to us motorcycle enthusiasts.

Getting caught in any kind of storm while riding can be scary. It can also be dangerous. Lightning storms are no exception and can be common among motorcycle riders who live in climates that have a lot of these.

Is it safe to ride a motorcycle in a lightning storm? It is not safe to ride a motorcycle in a lightning storm. Since you are touching the vehicle, your head is considered the highest point of it which will increase your risk of a lightning strike. Though this is not a common occurrence, it has happened before and it is best to not risk riding in a lightning storm.

Many riders mistakenly believe that because their vehicle is smaller, their chances decrease with getting hit by lightning. This is not so. There are several safety measures you should consider and prepare if you are caught in a lightning storm while riding your motorcycle.

The Dangers Of Riding In A Lightning Storm

Lightning is not anything you should ever take chances with. Lightning is one of the biggest causes of weather-related fatalities. But it’s hard as a motorcyclists to know exactly when you’ll hit a lightning storm because the weather can sometimes be unpredictable.

The odds of getting hit by lightning are pretty slim, but there is still a chance of it happening while you’re out riding a motorcycle in a storm. Lightning deaths happen mostly to people who are outside which is where you’ll be on your motorcycle. According to the CDC, lightning causes an average of 33 deaths per year in the United States. That’s 33 deaths too many. Don’t let yourself be one of them.

Motorcyclists often mistake that because those who are driving a car in a storm are relatively save, they should be too. People assume that the rubber tires are enough of an insulator and that if they keep their feet on the foot pets, they’re technically not grounded.

When lightning strikes a car, the electricity travels around the metal frame which is what protects the occupants inside as long as they aren’t touching anything metal (generally everything inside a car is plastic so people are usually safe). The metal shell around them is what keeps them safe, not the rubber tires.

A motorcycle does not provide that protection. Since you are touching the motorcycle, your head is considered the highest point of the vehicle which increases your chances of getting hit with lightning. The rubber tires will do nothing to keep you from being grounded as they will not stand a chance against a lightning bolt that produces a current of about 20,000 amps.

Lightning storms often produce heavy rain, hail, and can even be the beginning stages of a tornado. Lightning isn’t your only worry during a storm like this. Rain can make it hard to breath if it’s heavy enough and you don’t have a full-faced helmet on.

Hail can also be especially dangerous while riding a motorcycle. If it’s thick enough, it can be hard to see where you’re going. And even worse, that also makes it difficult for other drivers to see the road and to see you.

If the winds are high enough, that can make your balance on your motorcycle difficult to keep. Mix that in with water/hail and the dangers of lightning and you’re just about as unsafe as you can be while riding a motorcycle.

What To Do If You Are Caught In A Lightning Storm

It’s important you know how to handle a lightning storm before you’re caught in one while riding your motorcycle. Being prepared is what could be a matter of life or death.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “when the thunder roars, go indoors.” Just because it’s not raining or there’s no wind doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. Again, your biggest risk is the lightning.

If you are caught in a lightning storm, stop as soon as you can and seek shelter and wait out the storm. This could mean waiting in a gas station, a restaurant, a hotel, or even a random person’s porch. Do whatever you need to keep yourself away from the lightning.

If you can see a lightning storm off in the distance that hasn’t reached you yet, it can be difficult to know what to do. Obviously, if the storm is miles away, you probably won’t be affected by it.

A good lightning safety guide to abide to is the 30-30 rule. The CDC has stated “after you see lightning, start counting to 30. If you hear thunder before you reach 30, go indoors. Suspend activities for at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.”

What To Do If There Is No Shelter Nearby

Unfortunately, some of us riders may be out and about in the middle of nowhere and be caught in the middle of a lightning storm with nowhere to go for shelter. While this is unfortunate, it is possible because again, weather can be unpredictable and it’s important to be prepared in case you’re caught in a situation like this.

If a lightning storm is happening while you’re riding and there is no shelter near by, meaning no buildings to businesses to seek shelter at, there are a few things you can to keep yourself a little safer than simply continuing your ride.

First, park your motorcycle and stay at least ten or so feet away from it. If you’re riding in a forest area, you can seek shelter under the trees as long as there are dozens of them in a group. Do not touch any of the trees and try to seek shelter under trees that are shorter.

Do not lay on the ground. Instead, crouch over and get as low as you can while hugging your knees. Bow your head as low as possible and try to stand on your tippy toes to keep the least amount of you touching the ground as possible. Keep the heels of your feet touching.

Another option would be to find some sort of cave which would give you the best shelter, but those are often not available. Do not attempt to spend too much time looking for a cave, use the resources you have that are close to you.

If there is no forest, caves, or any type of shelter around you and you only have fields to work with, find the lowest point of the field you can see, park your motorcycle at least 10 feet away, and assume the same crouching position previously stated.

There is debate about whether or not you should use an isolated tree for protection. Some say that seeking shelter under an isolated tree is dangerous because it will attract lightning which could spread to you. The tree could also break in half and land on you. Others say that being under an isolated tree is better than being out in the open which is where most lightning strikes happen to individuals.

Riding Safety Tips

The biggest thing you can do for yourself before taking any motorcycle ride is to check the weather right before you go. If it’s supposed to rain at all, postpone your ride for another time. Not only do you risk riding in a lightning storm, but you also risk hydroplaning. Click here to see my article about motorcycles and hydroplaning.

Make sure to always wear the appropriate gear whether or not it’s supposed to rain. Having a good helmet with other body protection will keep you that much safer during an unexpected lightning storm.

Stay away from riding in puddles. Puddles have a tendency to hide large holes in the road which can really throw off your balance on a motorcycle. Ride on the driest part of the lane and stick to either the further right lane or furthest left lane to avoid having to worry about traffic on both sides of you.

Have a plan ready in case you do run in to a lightning storm. If you’re riding long distance, look at a map beforehand and know the closest places of shelter every 50 miles or so. Any time spent on planning to save your life is not time wasted.

Related Questions

Is it OK for a motorcycle to get wet? Most motorcycles were designed to get wet. It is OK for it to be rained on whether in the driveway or while you’re riding it. However, excessive exposure to water can eventually cause damage to your motorcycle. Click here to see my article for more info.

What damage can lightning do to a motorcycle? If a motorcycle happens to be struck by lightning, chances are the wiring, battery, and fuses have all blown and are fried. You will most likely need to get a new wiring harness as well as a new battery.

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