With the blowout, Barone "landed 100 yards past the bike. He was hospitalized for three months here in Leon with broken ribs, bones, ligaments," Alcalde says.
Worse, while he was recovering, an Austrian came to Cerro Negro and broke the mountain bike speed record Barone had just set, reaching more than 102 mph. Barone still holds the prototype bike speed record.
Each of us has been given a canvas bag containing a bright orange jump suit and green goggles. Alcalde showed us how to sit on the wooden sled, which is nothing but a piece of plywood with a crude seat and a rope handle. Formica had been placed on the bottom to reduce drag. The only brakes are heels plunged into the cinders.
At the bottom of the slope, a tour company employee aimed a radar gun, clocking the speed of each sledder.
The top speed among the 17,000 people Bigfoot Nicaragua has sent down the slopes is 54 mph, held by a woman.
One by one, the Australians, a Scotsman and two young American women in our group, push off, kicking up a cloud of dust as they gather velocity. A few tumble off their sleds part way down.
A lump gathers in my throat, made worse by a comment from a friend who wonders if I might win the "most stupid dad" award for letting my daughter plunge down the mountain. I was glad her mother decided to take a pass on the adventure.
It was her turn, then mine.
The sled starts out slowly but quickly gathers speed, swooshing over the tiny rocky cinders. Cinders pile around my legs as dust and sand pummel my face. I remember to keep my mouth shut.
When I get off the sled at the bottom, I take off the goggles and see a jubilant Sara Marie Sanders from Columbus, Ohio. Soot smears her face, setting off her huge white smile.
"Oh my gosh, it was absolutely amazing. You can't really tell how it's going to feel until you're going down it," Sanders said. "I would do it over again 100 times."
Organizers say the only common injury is a light gravel rash. Volcanic pebbles can be sharp. It's ill advised to put hands down unless one is wearing gloves.
After a bumpy, 45-minute ride back to Leon, the Australians gather in a pool at the hostel where Bigfoot Nicaragua operates, reliving the thrill.
"It's one of the best things I've ever done, hands down," said 24-year-old Michael John David.
"I've snowboarded, surfed my whole life. And it was an epic day today, loads of fun," echoed Poochie Davidson, another Australian. "It's the novelty factor. Like, how many people can say they bombed down a volcano in their lives and had a cold beer at the bottom?"
Volcano-boarding adds to other activities — including surfing and jungle zip-lining — that place Nicaragua on the adventure trail. Long overshadowed by Costa Rica to the south, with its developed tourist industry, Nicaragua has its own luster.
"People who come up here from Costa Rica always say, 'I love Nicaragua. Everything is cheaper.' But it's not just the economics," Alcalde said.
Cope of Bigfoot Nicaragua chimes in: "It has amazing jungles, it has great mountains, it has beautiful beaches, it has colonial cities, and the culture of the people, you know, is incredible."
Last but not least, there's a lot to "lava" about speeding down a volcano.