The car shop stage of the annual engine blowout.
For the past 15 years, the Renault movement in Maine has celebrated a unique form of conspicuous consumption. As part of the annual Open Day event, employees picked up an old motorcycle, opened the accelerator wide, and bet on machine death.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
At the end of last week, Renault in baxton, Maine, held its 15th annual motorcycle show. The most popular part of the show is the so-called bicycle strike, an old Reynolds tradition in which beat-up discounts are destroyed.
JOSHUA GLEASON: this bike doomed to fail, ’78 yamaha 1100 will be drained and the throttle is on, until it stops or explodes. No. Before we go that far, technician Al Windom (ph), the execution hand, will burn the rubber on the back tire until it bursts.
Mr. AL WINDOM (technician) : today is the day I destroy.
GLEASON: Al puts the bike in what is called a burning pit, basically a flat piece of concrete with a short metal track at one end to hold the bike in place.
Gleeson: he waits a moment to get together, then he hugs the gas.
Gleason: soon, there’s a lot of smoke, and you can’t even see the bike, it’s just the dim light of its headlights.
Mr. WINDOM: now 62? Pick a square.
Gleason: in front, people are betting on how long the bike will last. John Tiambro (ph), an aspiring mechanic, can grow up to 19 minutes in a digital four-cylinder yamaha.
Mr. JOHN TIAMBRO (aspiring mechanic) : it’s cool to blow things. It’s always been. Show us that we’re not perfect, I think. We can’t make something that doesn’t explode. God can.
Grayson: Ryan Jenkins (ph) and his wife angie and their three children are here. ‘in such an event, you might hear the last thing,’ he said.
RYAN JENKINS (audience, Reynolds Motorsports 15th annual motorcycle show) : it’s good for kids.
GLEASON: yeah, yeah. Why is that? What do you mean it’s good for them? Like milk?
Mr. Jenkins: at the end – yes, why not. It’s good to ride a bike and ride a bike outdoors.
Gregson: now, aren’t you afraid they’ll want to be their own riders?
Mr. Jenkins: there’s nothing to be afraid of. Get up and ride.
GLEASON: the faded yamaha with a soft tire was taken to the grass next to the dealership. More than a hundred people gathered together. Reynolds’ employees watched with their fire extinguishers. It’s time.
GLEASON: about the first 30 seconds, it looks like she’s fine, and then it gets dark.
(laughter and applause)
Unidentified man # 1: come on. Come on.
Unidentified man # 2: she’s gone.
Gleason: people are riding bikes, taking pictures with their phones and checking the damage in a respectful way, as if they were checking a falling meteor.
Part manager Joe Pierce (ph) explains the cause of death.
Mr. JOE PIERCE (Renault sports parts manager) : oh, ethane just blew it away, overheated and almost destroyed the motor.
GLEASON: Barbara Carols-Bath (ph) is closest to expiration – a minute and 32 seconds. But she would not share the joy. She was actually a little sad.
BARBARA CAROLS-BATH (audience, the 15th annual motorcycle show of the Renault motor movement) : it is sad to see all the parts fall off and the life of this scooter. I’m a sentimental person, but I won.
Glisson: exactly $170. She plans to use the money to buy some motorcycle boots.
For NPR news, I’m josh gleason.