Bike Crash. Damn big bike crash.

So, on September 12th, a fine clear late summer day, I was minding my own business enjoying my ride home on my bicycle:

Sachs bike

Mid-1980s Sachs road bicycle

A nice Sachs road bike I rescued from rusting oblivion, abandoned for seven months on the bike rack where I work.  Technically, I probably stole it.  If the owner ever shows up and asks for it, he can have it back (after paying for the bits I replaced).  But, I digress.

There I was, no shit (that’s how you tell the difference between a story and a fairy tale).  Just starting my ride home down the Rue Grande, leaving SHAPE in the direction of Mons.  This is one of the short stretches of my 8.5 km ride home that is on a road.   And, it’s a nice downhill run.  Since I was on my road bike, I was riding at a good speed.  Probably approaching 60 km/h.

Near the bottom of that hill, on my right, is a small shopping center.  The two lanes in my direction are split into one through lane, and one right turn only lane.  On the uphill side, there is a left turn only lane, where cars wait for the downhill traffic to clear before crossing the downhill lane and entering the shopping center.  That’s the idea, anyway.  Here’s a diagram of my crash, drawn from my perspective of riding downhill:

crash diagram

Diagram of my bicycle crash

Here’s what happened:  At time T1, the three involved vehicles were in positions A1, B1, and C1.  Vehicle B, an Opel station wagon, saw car A clear the intersection.  He saw no more traffic coming downhill, and began his left turn into the driveway of the shopping center.

Except I was still coming downhill, and damned fast.  The driver of car B didn’t look for any other traffic except car traffic.  Realizing there was no way I was going to avoid this impact, my best course of action was to get on the brakes as hard as I could and bleed off as much speed as possible before I hit.  Force is a product of mass and velocity squared.  So, half the speed is a quarter of the force of impact.

At T2 the three vehicles are in their postions A2, B2, and C2.  This is when I hit car B at roughly 30 km/h.  That’s a wild guess, I just know it was less than my full downhill speed, because I was able to get some braking before impact.

At time T3, I was in position C3.  That bubble over my head in the diagram is a dialog bubble.  You can imagine what I said and fill it in yourself.  I remember no details of the actual impact, it was too fast.  I heard a really loud bang as my head hit the road.  I think my head hit first, then my right shoulder.

Anyway, I was ambulatory, sat up and looked around, then got the hell off of the road.  I sure didn’t need some car driving over me to boot.  There was a surprising number of people who saw this happen, and were there to help me.  One was an off duty pompier (fireman for the provincial people who don’t speak French), and he insisted on calling an ambulance.

So, away I went to the emergency room of Ambroise Pare hospital.  Where, after a bunch of radiographs, I found I had a broken clavicle and three broken ribs.  Which would explain the pain.  After a couple hours of lying on a table staring at the ceiling, the doctor finally got back to me and put a figure of eight sling around my shoulders.  I couldn’t reach him or I’d of punched him.  That hurt like hell.

The next Monday, I saw the orthopedist, who gave me a sling to hold my arm down.  It helps with the pain in my shoulder, but does nothing for the broken ribs.  Sleeping isn’t so good, there’s no comfortable position.

The following day, we went back to one of the stores in that shopping center to pick up my bike.  It still rolled.  The only visible damage was the rear wheel was knocked out of true by about six millimeters and the spring for the clapper on my bell was gone.  Wierd.  I’d have expected the front wheel to be mangled, but it was undamaged.  Regardless, I dropped it off at my local bike shop to have all the spokes replaced and true that rear wheel up if possible.  When I rescued that bike, all the spokes were quite rusted.  I sanded the rust off and painted them white, as you see in the above picture.  It looks nice, but it’s not durable.

Yesterday, I had a closer look at the helmet I was wearing, a 2000 model from Giro, the Terramoto.  You may remember last year, I got car-doored near my house.  I didn’t have a helmet on that day, and my head did hit the street, but not hard.  Nevertheless, I re-evaluated my continued exposure to risk since I commute daily, and decided a helmet at all times was appropriate.

On first glance, the damage to my Terramoto helmet seemed superficial.  The scuff pattern on the shell is barely visible:

helmet shell

The shell of my crashed Giro Terramoto helmet

That section of the helmet is the front right quarter.  You can see the vertical scuff marks and the cracked section of the shell on the bottom edge of that vent.  Doesn’t look so bad. But something made that loud bang when my head hit something.

Further inspection on the inside of the helmet reveals a crack and displacement completely through the helmet:

Cracked helmet

Giro Terramoto helmet after a crash, cracked through.

Clearly, I hit something with my head, and damned forcefully.  Have you ever tried to break one of these helmets?  That foam is pretty tough stuff.

Next, I removed the helmet shell to have a look underneath it:

deformed helmet

Giro Terramoto helmet, deformed in a crash.

That’s some pretty significant deformation, over a large area.  The foam of these helmets is quite stiff.  To put dents of that depth over that large of an area of impact took some considerable force.

I doubt I’d have survived that impact without that helmet on my head.  I’ll repeat that thought.  I’d be dead now without it.

Don’t be an ass.  Don’t be a dumbass.  No justification exists to not wear a helmet on a bicycle.

The crash I experienced is a common type of crash.  It is also common with motorcycles, and I knew this.  I saw where this car was positioned, and I saw what could have happened before it happened.  I had good momentum, and just wanted to get home to supper.  I pushed a bad position.  Even though I had priority, and made no mistakes, I’m still the one with broken bones.  I was wearing a bright yellow jacket, I was in the correct lane position.

The thing to do would have been to bleed off some speed until I was either clear of the danger or could stop if I needed to.  It would’ve cost me 15 seconds in time of my ride.  My judgment a year ago to always wear a helmet was sound.  My judgment of this little traffic situation, not so much.

Learn from this.  Save you, it can.


Le Labyrinthe

We’ve been out and about doing tons of family activities recently. Two weekends ago we went to Le Labyrinthe – a huge maze constructed of… maize! Each year the labyrinth has a different theme. This year it was the Mayans. I’m sure the animations and spectacles were fun and interesting, but for the boys the real fun was just getting themselves lost and then finding their way out again!

We didn’t beat the rain back to the car. Liam and Jesse took shelter under an umbrella, and Harry insisted on going back on the *^&%$ swing, so I got to stand in the rain with him. After 5-10 minutes, Jesse decided it was time to call it quits. We took refuge in the cafeteria tent. And good thing we did: the sky let loose after that! We waited out the rain and headed back to the car. A fabulous day well spent!

early July pics

hamming it up at the playground.


Harry playing at the park in Mons

together at Madame Muriel’s.

He’s an old man

getting some help from Dad

Liam’s amazed at Harry’s mad skills.

so, so close!

last day of school and first days of summer

Photographic evidence that we are, in fact, all still alive! So far it hasn’t been much of a summer. Cold and rainy, lots of indoor time, no exciting trips or events as of yet.

Harry, walking home from the last day of school.

Jesse and Harry, making the last trek home from school of the year.

Me, leaving for a run on one of the few warm days we’ve had.

Liam with his bulletin, aka report card. He’s now officially a third grader!

The last couple weeks the boys have been busy with stages – very popular activities over here akin to day camps. The first week they were together in a small group setting and had a fab time together. The second week Liam was in an artsy type stage and Harry was doing his first bicycle stage! He’s not quite there yet, but he is so close to being able to ride on his own! Hoping to get lots of practice time in this next week in between the rain clouds.

Next week our schedule is a little more relaxed – the boys will be home with me, probably driving me each other crazy. Every day on the lunch hour they’ll have swim lessons. I’m determined that this is the year!

I never ride it any more.


I bought this motorcycle, my 2001 BMW R-1200C in August 2001.  I’ve been riding my bicycles to work now for about a year and a half, and I am simply not driving this motorcycle any longer.  I’ve probably had it out five times in the last year.

It’s been the motorcycle I’ve liked the most, of all that I’ve had.  I wish I had a barn in which I could store all the machines I’ve ever owned.  But, the reality is, that it costs to keep a machine road worthy.  Routine maintenance.  Road tax.  Insurance.   Just to have it in the way in my garage.

Not only that, this machine was designed and built to be driven.

So, I think it’s time to sell it.

2000 BMW R-1200C Phoenix

2000 BMW R-1200C Phoenix

2000 BMW R-1200C Phoenix

What can go wrong with a motorcycle after 11 years?  It’s always little stuff.  The bezel of the rear tail light housing cracked.  A common failing in this model.

2000 BMW R-1200C Phoenix

The turn signal lenses usually do not survive a removal to change a bulb.  The pillar into which the retaining screw engages cracks off from the inside.

2000 BMW R-1200C Phoenix

right front turn signal

The chrome plating on the headers is not invincible.

2000 BMW R-1200C Phoenix

left side header

2000 BMW R-1200C Phoenix

right side header

If this sells, I will miss it.  Just like I miss all the other motorcycles I’ve had in the past.  C’est la vie.

new bike

Liam is definitely his father’s son. At eight years old, he stands a head taller than all but one of the kids in his class. The seat of his old bike was adjusted to the very limits, but it was time to get him something bigger. Did we go to the local sporting goods store and get him a perfectly functional but non-descript bike, like my white B’Twin?

No. We did not.

That? Is a Gazelle Freestyler 3-speed. It’s the same make as our Dutch bikes, and it is a work of art.

And that? Is a very very happy kid.

He took it out for several trips today, scratched a bit of the paint in the first hour, and had a blast. I’m sure there will be plenty of dings and scratches in the future – we may have to repaint it when it comes time to pass it on to Harry. But this is a bike that will stand the test of time. He is in LOVE with his new bike. And, I must admit, I’m a little smitten, too.


garden time!

Spring has sprung here in Belgium! Which means, naturally, that it’s time to put in the garden. But first, a couple random shots of the boys enjoying rare cups of cocoa:


Liam looks thrilled beyond measure. Harry appears to be in shock that such a thing exists.

Now, on to the garden. Here is the before. Please to avoid looking at our redneck fencing. I’m hoping that will be replaced in the next year or so.

Much to be done in that plot. I spent an hour or two each day for about a week cleaning it up, turning the soil, and making it as hospitable as possible for all the seeds I was eagerly holding on to.

On paper it’s so neat and orderly. That means the reality will be a meticulous garden that practically weeds itself, right?

This weekend, Jesse built a trellis for our tomatoes and cucumbers, and a teepee for the peas to climb.

…or maybe that teepee was for kids to play in, I forget…

The first seeds went into the ground yesterday, with more planned about 2-3 weeks from now. The easy part is done. The hard part (the weeding, the constant upkeep, the harvesting before everything gets too big, the slug hunts) will be here before I know it.

first ride of the year

Today has been a beautiful spring day. Sadly, Harry and I laid low with bad colds. Jesse and Liam took advantage of the wonderful weather and our absence and took the motorcycle out for the first spin of the season. Here are a few photos from their grand day out.

taking a walk at the parc.

This is the "I'm cool" pose

enjoying an ice cream

enjoying the day

at the parc, with the pond and l'Orangerie in the distance.

They had a really nice time! Now, the two men are outside taking the lay of the land for my vegetable garden, Harry’s half-napping on the couch, and me? I’m sipping TheraFlu. Ahhh, the life.

heaven in a bowl

I made a new meal tonight. Or rather, I made a meal I haven’t made in about two years. We really enjoyed it the first time, as I recall. But somehow I never got around to making it again. This time I changed and simplified the recipe, so it would fit with our no-oil lifestyle. Oh, my goodness. Jesse literally said, multiple times, “This is the best thing you have EVER made!” I’m not quite sure that’s so, but it was absolutely delicious, and SO simple. It’s one of those meals that’s literally on the table in about ten minutes, but better than anything I’ve ever ordered in a restaurant. For the pleasure of your tastebuds:

Soba Noodles with Shitake Mushrooms and Snow Peas


  • 1 pack of shitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup of button mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups of snow peas (I used a bag of frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 2-3 cups of vegetable broth

Pour 2 cups boiling water over the dried shitake and let them rehydrate, about five minutes. Place the vegetable broth in a medium saucepan, drain the mushroom soaking liquid into the saucepan too, so you save all the delicious broth. Rough chop the shitake.

Place all the mushrooms in a frying pan with about 1/4 cup of water, the soy sauce, and the giner. Cook over medium heat until the mushrooms are softened, about five minutes. If using fresh snow peas, add them to the pan as well. If frozen, nuke those babies according to package directions.

Meanwhile, bring the broth to a boil, add your package of noodles and cook until al dente, just a few minutes. Add the vegetables to the saucepan of noodles, give it a toss to combine, and get it to the table pronto. I like a bit of spice so I added crushed red pepper to mine. Delicious and elegant!


It was a rather busy week at school for the boys. It was the week before the Carnaval vacation, so it was filled with special events and parties.

On Tuesday, each class put on a theatre presentation for the parents. Harry’s class did a skit about woodland elves. He is the elf (lutin) in a grey sweatshirt with a long green hat.

Liam’s class did a montage of big bad wolf stories. First they sang the song “Promenos-nous dans les bois”. Roughly translated, the lyrics are:

We go walking in the woods
While the wolf is not there.
If the wolf was there
He would eat us up!
But since he is not there
he will not eat us!

and so on…

The song was followed by Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs. Liam was the smart pig that built a house of brick. He had lines, but sadly there was too much noise in the room for me to get it on video. Next time! He really enjoyed acting, surprisingly, and tells me he’d like to do it again when he has a chance. Who knew?

Thursday, Harry’s class went to an indoor play park for the day and had a grand time. On Friday, Liam’s class went to a local indoor mini-golf establishment. He now believes golf to be the greatest sport on the planet and insists we go as a family tomorrow 🙂 Both boys had dress up parties at school on Friday as well. Liam’s class is studying pirates, so all the kids dressed up as pirates. Harry’s class dressed up as clowns. But since Liam was re-enacting a pirate scene for the photos, Harry decided to be THE pirate clown. I guess even pirates need comic relief.