Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My bike caught on fire

Sitting at a stop light on Alaskan Way, right in front of the Colman Dock ferry terminal, when my light started giving me trouble.

It's a good light, sprays a robust beam of light ahead of me, illuminating the dark corners and keeping me from hitting any nocturnal wildlife on the pitch black country roads I often ride.

Jeremiah made it, modified a design he found on a steam punk Web site. Did a really good job, thought it out, executed. To get a light capable of similar brightness would cost hundreds of dollars. Money better spent on a new bike, new set of wheels, grape Swisher filler, anything. Altogether this was about $60.

His labor, his design, I bought the expensive parts. He turned it around in a week. A wonderful gift. Aren't night riders adorable?

So I'm sitting at the light, behind a cab, and the light won't work. A combo of tugging on the speaker wire -- which connects the light unit on the handlebars to the battery pack under the saddle -- and crummy Radio Shack components was the culprit.

I'm fiddling with it, nothing. Figure, screw it, no big deal. I'll fix it later. I had on a spare, a smaller marker light.

As I'm standing there, stradling the top tube, waiting for the light to change, I see a few fronds of smoke blow in front of the marker light beam. It looked like cigarette smoke.

Hmm, I thought.

I glanced again, more smoke.

Must be the exhaust from the taxi cab idling in front of me, I reckon.

Then more smoke. Lots of smoke. Smoke enveloping me.

I look down at the top tube, my crotch, and I see flames. Goldfish colored flames whipping up around my zipper.

The smoke is in my face, in my eyes. What the hell is happening?

I jump off my bike, Kali ma, and the flames try to give chase to my crotch.

I can see it now, the speaker wire is on fire, melting the plastic casing, sending up little black plumes of smoke, sizzling like spit on a hot iron.

I wheel Kali to the sidewalk, unplug the wire from the base.

The wire continued to sizzle, but the flames died down.

Amazing, I thought. I had a bike fire. That is so fucking COOL!

Jeremiah felt bad when I told him, which made me feel bad. I wasn't upset, I thought it was hilarious. I couldn't wait to tell everybody. He might have thought it shed a bad light on his design and workmanship (ha, pun intended), but I don't think so. He and his girlfriend had been running the speaker wire without incident.

Plus, he used the materials he had around. I respect that.

Without me asking, he volunteered to fix it, and figured out a badass replacement that actually constituted an improvement to his design, in my opinion.

So it turned out OK.

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