Air Pollution Cycling When Wildfires Are Blazing

For many of us, getting on a bike isn’t just exercise. It’s a way to stay sane. To let off some steam. And most of all, have fun especially during this stressful period. Unfortunately, with the lightning siege from August 15th, nearly the entire region from the Bay Area up to Tahoe has been affected by fires. This has translated to some of the worst air quality in the world. Do air pollution & cycling mix? Just like any outdoor exercise, no it does not. To break it down a bit further, here’s the scoop on first why it’s bad for you but how to plan your rides so that you save them.

What’s Causing The Coughing & Itchy Eyes?

Wildfire smoke doesn’t just reduce how far you can see, it also irritates the respiratory system. The main concern is the particulate matter from the fires due to its health impacts from a short term perspective. The particulates that we need to worry about are the ones that are 2.5 micrometers in diameter – roughly 1/30 the width of the human hair. When we inhale these, they easily penetrate the body’s natural defenses and travel deep into our lungs.

Save Your Lungs

saving lungs during bad air pollution

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Some of us are more vulnerable to moderate levels than others, such as people with asthma or children. As we said above, this air pollution is so bad that it CAN affect even the healthiest of people.

What To Do If You Want To Ride Your Bike

tool to deal with air pollution for cyclingPlan ahead and check your local AQI. Air Quality Index is the calculated measured amount of ‘particulate matter’ (microscopic pollutants) in the atmosphere. A good tool to find the AQI is the Purple Air interactive map. This website provides local sensors and lets you know if the air quality is ‘very good’ to ‘good’, ‘fair’, ‘poor’, ‘very poor’ and ‘hazardous’. Another great tool to plan your ride is IQ Air. It doesn’t just provide the current levels, it also gives a forecast over the next 3 days on an hourly basis to help plan your outdoor excursions. Also, if you’re wondering why Purple Air doesn’t match other sensor maps all you need to do is select under the Map Data Layer section the drop-down and pick LRAPA.

We hope this helps you so that you can save your lungs and ride at the best time possible. Safe pedaling.