Mountain Biking During Wildfire Season

August 21, 2023

These days it feels like August and September have become wildfire season in the west. In mid July the Bedrock Fire ignited in a campground northwest of Oakridge and has been sending intermittent smoke across central Oregon.

We’ve been here before; each fire become a character in and of themselves that contribute to the year’s mountain bike season. Over the past few years we’ve learned a few things about operating when active fires are burning in the region and riding when or where the air is clear.

Read on for tips on how to maximize your ride time in clean air and for late summer adventure rides in the high country.

Think Regionally

Think about riding opportunities at a regional level. Since the fire started a week ago, we’ve seen days of clean air and periods of unhealthy AQI in both Bend, Oakridge and other towns in the region.

The US Interagency Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program publishes smoke outlooks for regions near active fires a few days out so you can identify areas where the air will be clean and plan to ride there. We also use Open Snow’s new map overlays to predict smoke and find real time AQI. With that info we also ground truth it by looking at Mt. Bachelor’s webcams and Oregon Department of Transportation’s road cameras.

Be Flexible

Flexibility is key to ensuring good rides during wildfire season. Be willing to adjust your activity’s start time, we often suggest an earlier or later start for tours and skills sessions based on the smoke forecast. If you are visiting, build in a down day to allow outfitters like us to reschedule for another day.

The smoke tends to sit heavier in some areas than others. When this happens we can move tours and clinics to areas where the air is cleaner. Last week we moved a group ride for a bunch of teenagers to the Madras Trail System since the air was clear north of Bend.

Check Yourself

This time of year many of us are out camping and playing in the woods. Consider your self a risk factor and please be fire safe. Keep Oregon Green has tips for safe outdoor behavior including campfires (it’s a good idea to skip them for now), vehicles in the woods, firearms and smoking. Think Out Loud posted a podcast last week that included an interview with the Oregon State Fire Marshall about the recent fires and how to recreate responsibly during fire season.

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