Be careful how you pedal; you just might start a wildfire. As much as this sounds like an urban legend, or just a goofy excuse not to cycle, it actually happened in California. Apparently when your hot, metal pedal strikes a rock, sparks can occur and a wildfire can knock out many acres. This is a lesson in being careful – and knowing your surroundings.

We Can’t Prevent Them All

A statement posted Wednesday on the Inyo National Forest Facebook Page claimed that an investigation determined the cause of the blaze to be a pedal strike. “The cause of the Rock Creek fire that started on August 5th has been determined. Investigators have concluded that the fire was started from a bicycle pedal strike to a rock. Conclusive evidence was found in the fire origin area that was on the Lower Rock Creek mountain bike trail. A fire ignition from this type of trigger is a testament to how dry the area is right now. All residents and visitors are asked to be extremely careful with anything that may cause a fire while you are out in the forest,” the post read.

The Rock Creek fire burned approximately 122 acres before it was suppressed. Of course, the Inyo National Forest is also in a high drought area, so anything that had the teeniest spark probably would have caused a fire. The rock was buried under quick-growing cheatgrass – which is also easy to ignite with the tiniest spark. But, it is still important that you are careful when cycling.

While this may seem like an incredibly unlikely chain of events, the US Forest Service has evidence that this has happened before. Sparks from chainsaws and lawn mowers are frequent causes of wildfires. To date, there have been 4,084 wildfires in California, burning a total of 150,498 acres in 2016. This isn’t a reason to stop riding, but it is a reason to be careful and to make sure that your bike is up to par.

Rusty pedals? Squeaky pedals? Grinding pedals? Replace them. Grease them. Yes, it costs money, but it will make it safer for everyone out there – and your cycling will become smoother. You cycle better with optimal gear – and your pedals are not exception. While you may be used to the squeaking, the rustiness, the grinding sounds – they can be hazardous to the environment and everyone in that area, if you somehow happen to cause a spark. You are better to be safer than sorry – just think of the bikers who rode through Inyo National that day: How many are wondering if they caused the fire? Probably a lot, since it is a popular mountain biking area. You can’t stop most wildfires from happening, thanks to those who refuse to not burn leaves, or build campfires, in the extreme drought. But, we cyclers can check our bikes to make sure that we cannot contribute to the issue.