Fire Down Below! Motorcycles and the art of fire extinguishing

Motorbike accident claim solicitor, Mike Clarke, takes a lighthearted look at at one of the many challenges facing motorbike riders

Police bikes carry fire extinguishers. So do paramedic bikes. Most civilians don’t, and with good reason. Firstly, you never seriously expect to have to use one; and secondly, even if you had one, some light-fingered little scallywag would have it off and the bike covered in foam in the 40 seconds it took you to get your coffee from Starbucks and stroll back to where you parked.

In the good old days of carburettors, there was such a thing as ‘blow-back’. Any kind of backfiring simply meant fuel was being burnt where it shouldn’t have been. Typically, this would be down the exhaust, causing a loud explosion and embarrassing the rider.

More rarely, there would be a backfire into the carb, which being full of fuel itself would very likely respond by catching fire in a spectacular fashion. The fuel in the lines and then the tank itself would enthusiastically join in, and by this time, the rider would be off the bike, have legged it to the nearest ditch and be trying to snuff out the smouldering at crotch level, while mentally composing the insurance write-off form. The most likely cause of this very expensive event would be an inlet valve not closing properly, or very bad valve timing. So, not your most common occurrence and one to be avoided.

All this came sharply to mind a couple of months ago, when my bike caught fire, some 20 seconds from having driven out of the office parking lot. A sudden glow of orange from under the front of the tank was followed within seconds by a gush of black smoke. There was barely time to hit the brakes, jump off and fumble excruciatingly under the front of the faring, trying desperately to extinguish the flames with gloved hand before the whole fuel tank went up. Fortunately, I managed, but a fire extinguisher would have been sooo much better. Sadly, I doubt it would have prevented the complete destruction of the wiring loom, which fused itself into an unrecognisable lump right where the maximum volume of wiring congregated, as a result of some gremlin-based short, the origin of which was utterly beyond determining by the time the fire had done its work.

So, some £850 worse off, I have now made two decisions:- to assume that lightning never strikes twice in the same place; but to get an extinguisher fitted anyway- not for me, but in case (God forbid) I should ever need it to help some other poor devil in like straits.

When not riding his motorbike, solicitor Mike Clarke is in the office dealing with injury and accident compensation cases. Mike specialises in handling motorbike claims on a No Win – No Fee basis. He is always very happy to discuss potential new cases, especially if it involves a chat about bikes! You can call Mike on freephone 0808 139 1598 or email him direct at mike.clarke@sleeblackwell.co.uk