I’ve been invited to perform as a fire unicyclist at the Crusty Demons show on Saturday (see The Crusty Website. Having never done any fire unicycling (apart from flaming puck uni hockey, thanks Darren!) I accepted, perhaps foolishly.
Anyway my plan is to weave some kevlar wick through my spokes and set it on fire and ride round thru the other fire performers till it goes out. Does anyone have any experience in this trick? The only photo I’ve seen of this is Jeremy Schafer of California who is wheel walking with his feet well above the flames in the pic. I wonder if it really is dangerous, or he’s just wheelwalking for extra skill.
What about pouring fuel on the tyre and setting in on fire? I recall seeing a photo online of this a long time ago… I think it resulted in a destroyed tyre. If I do this it will be a fairly final kind of finale.
I’ll be doing a few trial runs before the show, starting with small amounts of fuel and working up. Hopefully minimising the danger.
Be sure to check out The Dan’s video of the flaming puck hockey at NAUCC 2003 in Minnesota. It’s in the Flaming Puck Hockey gallery. The video includes Jacinto’s Wheel of Fire. Darren put some of his magical fire fluid on the tire. Jacinto rode through a small puddle of fire to light the tire and then… well he had to ride really fast.
That was done with just fluid on the tire. No wicks in the spokes. The tire didn’t seem to be damaged but it was only on fire for brief moments till the fluid burned up and the flames went away.
Note how the fire bulges out and gets close to the legs. Jacinto was riding with his feet on the outside edges of the pedals.
If the flames get too big then turning may be a problem because that will blow the flames on one side of the wheel right into your leg.
Its a NZ site, theres a guy there called charles who has done lots of staff twirling on a unicycle. If you search the forums for ‘unicycle’ and look through the posts you can find a pic or two of him doing it…hes a great spinner and rider and im sure he’ll be happy to help you. Here is the Photo .
Ive done it a few times but nothing ‘solid’, usually just mucking around…i am working on spinning (without uni), doing a big helicopter (horizontal staff, spinning above my head) throw, a trick mount, into an idle, then catching it…lots of fun.
I wont put his email here to avaoid spammers but its there on his profile.
have fun and good luck!
I wouldn’t recommend putting fuel of any kind on the tire or wicking in the spokes. The tire starts to melt/burn and smells bad. Your legs are really close to the spokes.
The flames are really unpredictable ! …and dangerous.
I don’t want to hear you got hurt or burned !
We played flaming puck hockey a bunch of times at 2003 NAUCC. We had a blast ! About 60 people each night.
Way bigger event than when we played in North Bend in 2002. (It would have been nice to have had you there last summer too.)
There is a small element of danger playing flaming puck hockey but lighting the tire is crazy.
We also did what you are thinking of doing. We were lucky we didn’t burn Jacinto. He even had long nylon pants on ! They could have melted to his legs.
THEDAN.COM, Dan Local, filmed it all. He did a awesome job putting together a video !
I would suggest making a torch or two and riding around with it/them. It would look much better at dusk or in the dark !
You can get a piece of pipe and wrap juggling torch wick around the end. Attach it with screws or a hose clamp. Dip it, light it then ride.
The pipe can be 2, 3 or 4 feet long.
To make the flame much bigger, wrap a few rows of wicking so the wick ends up being about 6" along the pipe.
Another suggestion is getting/using fire poi (or making some).
They are the balls/cubes of wick attached to some chain and rings that are held and swung like swinging clubs. Ride and swing them.
Make sure you have lots of room if you try this one.
Anyway, just take it easy and don’t get burnt whatever you end up doing.
Fire is cool as long as it is in control !
If not, it’s hot !
If you have a giraffe that you dont mind the weel getting a bit of un needed wear you can lace some wick through the spokes and light that on fire and ride arround. It probably is really bad for the wheel but your high enough that the flames wont burn you and it sure does look cool. I’ve seen a few performers do this in the past and also one crazy man (edit: Actually it was Jeremy Schafer same person who you saw pictures of) who would ride arround with a 700c and wick wrapped a quarter the way arround his wheel through the spokes. If you ride fast and wear pants it seemed fairly safe.
Sounds cool Tony, go for it! If you are worried about your unicycle getting damaged, how about getting one of those fire suits and just setting yourself on fire? Then you could ride around on fire while unicycling. The spoke-wick and flaming tire ideas are good too. It would be awesome to go to the Crusty Demons show, you should have a fun time there. I’m jealous! I don’t think I would want to set my MUni on fire, but being there would be fun, and maybe doing it on a crap-cycle.
With any fire anywhere near your body, the trick is to keep the fire moving and not to stop at all. If you keep riding round with a fire wick in your wheel, you’d probably be fine. If you stop and idle, you’d get hot quickly and burn your trousers.
If you’re putting wick in the wheel, you want to make sure there are no sources of heat constantly near you. Instead of making a ring, which will constantly have fire next to the pedals and underneath the seatpost, probably the best thing to do would be to have two wraps of wick, at points in the rim that are 90 degrees from where your feet are. As long as you keep riding, I don’t see how this’d be much more dangerous than doing wraps with fire-poi or contact staff, which loads of people do.
Cotton / Wool trousers are pretty important. Jeans are the most obvious ones. Whatever you do, don’t wear cycling shorts or other lycra things, they melt really quickly.
The most important thing to remember is that if you start burning, bail out right away and roll on the floor. It’s the sort of event people are going to so they can see accidents, so the audience will probably be pretty good about it. If you haven’t played with fire much before, be really aware and look at your trousers every so often while riding, it’s sometimes possible to start burning and not notice it for a while.
Fire poi on a unicycle is great, but if you’re not already really good at doing both, it’d be irresponsible to attempt it in public, you’d be pretty likely to set yourself on fire doing it.
To set yourself on fire more safely, you really want fire gel. It’s what people use in films when they set themselves on fire.
There’s a music video where they used this stuff, with someone running around in a business suit with their legs on fire. Apparently they used loads of this stuff and then just lit the outside of their trousers with paraffin.
It’s really really expensive because you have to buy it in large quantities. If you’re doing part of a pro-act, there may be people using it anyway though.
Some more on setting yourself on fire below. Note that people who set themselves fully on fire both wear firesuits and use stunt gel, just one or the other isn’t enough for a big fire. Also they’re nutters and get hurt more often than is healthy.
I was going to suggest the same thing. 90 degrees away from your feet may even allow you to idle. Some.
More great advice.
Since they are apparently paying you, it is up to you to arrive at the location with something you already know is going to work. Practice ahead of time. Remember, the difference between the flaming puck stuff and what you’re going to be doing is they want you doing it for an hour or more (I assume). The unicycle and your clothes and body have to hold up.
Another idea I thought of for a visual but less destructive fire: attach sticks to the ends of your pedals, with wicks on the ends. This will give all the movement your feet do, while keeping the heat off you and your wheel. You’ll be able to idle, walk the wheel, etc. They don’t have to stick out too much, just enough to keep the flames away from your feet. There should be a relatively easy way to clamp them to the bottoms of your pedals or something.
The Crusty show was great fun. There were 20 other fire performers (no other unicyclists, but) and we got a 15min slot whilst Blindspott were playing metal-uh. In the troupe were fire devil-stickers, poi-ists, fire staffers, 4 fire breathers and coolest of all was Ray and his home-made flame thrower. He carried a 9kg fuel cylinder on his back and let off fireballs the size of station wagons - it was very impressive.
I used John Foss’ idea of attaching wick to the pedals instead of weaving wick in the spokes (thanks John!). I used 14 gauge wire to wrap around the wick and attached it to my Snafus with a nut and bolt thru the hole intended for attaching toeclips/reflectors. The closest part of the wick was about 15cm from the pedal. This worked quite well and I never felt in any real danger of being burnt. However the heat of the fire softened the wire and by the end of the show the wicks had bent 90 degrees towards the ground, though I don’t think this detracted from the performance. If i did this again I’d use something more solid than just wire.
No photos as yet - I will post them in my gallery when I get my hands on 'em.
Samuel - yes I know Charles well. In fact he gave me my fire wick for free! He does some very creative balloon sculpting and performing. He also sells fire wick and glow sticks at cost price [shameless plug for his Firebug business here :-)]. I like your avatar - Strongbad is so cool!