March 09, 2015

The Mystery of the Exploding Bike

There were many things in my semester abroad that intrigued or fascinated me, but only a few that flat-out confused me. Italy’s biggest mystery was the Mystery of the Exploding Bike.

The Explosion that Makes Almost No Sense

It started on a regular day in Florence, Italy, just taking a stroll, when I suddenly passed by a pile of ashes, metal parts, and dust next to the sidewalk. It was right where citizens usually park their bikes, so my first thought was somehow a bike caught fire and burned into the street.

Definitive diagnostic research from me staring for a couple moments concluded a bike probably exploded here.

First I was upset I didn’t see the fire, I also realized there were lots of confusing clues around the explosion site. The biggest was from looking at the bikes lined up next to the one that blew up.

These are the bikes lucky enough to see the cool explosion, at extremely close range too.

All these bikes, while still technically standing, got burned pretty badly. Their seats were charred, the ground around them also burnt, and huge chunks of their bodies were disintegrated. This means the first bike’s explosion must’ve been so big it scalded all these too.

I’m no expert in Italian engineering, but I still can’t wrap my head around how an explosion from one scooter could have enough power to reach the length of four other scooters. Unless some combustible wine bottles were in the trunk, it’s a stretch.

Now it Makes even LESS Sense!

It gets even weirder with the direction of the explosion. In the many times we’ve seen cars blow up in movies, the explosion goes out in a pretty even, circular shape right?

Look closely at the ground in the next picture. There’s only damage in one direction, and it goes directly towards the other bikes. It barely even goes over the bike lane into the main street.

One theory: the explosion had a vendetta against all the other bikes.

I first thought that all the bikes simply caught on fire, but that wouldn’t explain why the bikes get progressively less burned as the move away from the destroyed one. The explosion is still my best theory.

So this explosion, not only is it oddly powerful, it’s also oddly focused in one direction. And I mean only one direction. On the other side of the bike, the nearby car had no damage other than a melted bumper, despite being just a few away.

One would at least expect someone to be yelling over the damages, in Italy or in America.

For some added weirdness, notice that even though the ground isn’t scorched around this car, the trunk door and rear lights are badly damaged. This raises even more questions:

  • Was the fire’s sheer heat strong enough to do this?
  • How did the rear lights around the trunk door melt, but the glass right between them come out just fine?
  • How is that old man in the red car not been staring at all this while waiting at the light?
  • Do insurance companies in Italy cover these kinds of phantom explosions?

A Forever Mystery

To this day I can’t think of a rational explanation for how a bike could explode with such a powerful, yet limited, range. The best one I have is that the spirit of a baby fire bull was born in it, breathing a short-range fireball on the other bikes before fleeing.

Then I realized this makes no sense. I would’ve seen the fire bull’s tracks leaving the scene.

So the Mystery of the Exploding Bike in Florence will, at least now, remain unsolved. But may that’s a good thing. Digital living gets us used to having easy answers available, so having someone that defies all this is refreshing. It even gives us a sense of wonder, reminding us there’s still some things we’ll never really know. These are things like the meaning of life, the nature of reality, why Internet Explorer is still taken seriously by some people, or just little things like how a bike in Italy exploded.

Something forever unexplained is basically the same as magic, so if not knowing something brings is a little magical, I’m fine with that. Ignorance can be more than bliss, it can be a blessing.