The law is simple as to what we motorcyclists must wear. Speedos and a buckled, type approved helmet will meet the legal requirements but would look foolish and not really work in our temperate island. Lady riders would do well to put a bikini top on to avoid public decency arrests but that is all you need to ride.
As a few more layers go on there are further legal requirements and advice contained in the Highway Code. If you have a visor it also must be type approved. And the highway code suggests stout shoes and clothing that can resist a slide down the road. And it hints at Day-glo and reflective being a good idea. But none of those are legal requirements. But in the event of a spill these can become very relevant. If you sustain a foot injury which would have been resisted by a stout motorcycle boot, but your Converse trainers have left your foot looking more like chopped liver, have you contributed to your own misfortune? In the cold light of a courtroom the answer is a possible yes.
Failure to comply with the advice of the Highway Code is indicative of, but not proof of, culpability on your part. It is pretty self-evident that your feet are better protected in a motorcycle boot than a trainer – but that does not prove contributory culpability on your part. I have seen this argument run a few times and the response of the usually reliably sensible judges is, ‘if he wants to wear trainers, that’s his business. There is no legal requirement to wear boots but there is a legal requirement not to knock motorcycle riders off their bikes’. But ride with an undone helmet and knock 10% off your claim if your head is hurt.
Day-Glo works for static things, or if you are riding a slow bike (pedal or motor). But for the classic T-bone, its benefit is far from proven. I am far from convinced it does any real good. The evidence on the point is at best divided. In US studies it was found to have had no effect, in European studies it was said to have had minor positive effect and I have never seen any case taken seriously about a ‘failure’ to wear Day-Glo. I have seen reflectives save lives but not in the way you’d expect.
In two cases an unconscious rider was picked up in police torches, and in one a rider who had come to rest on a live carriageway was spotted by a car who would have otherwise run him over. So how much kit is enough? That is a matter for you. I will ride to the shops in ordinary jeans, short boots and a leather jacket. Other riders will get into full protective kit, others regard the buckled helmet as a major imposition on their fundamental liberty to have control over their own destiny.
Andrew has been riding motorcycles since he was 10 years old and currently rides a GSX1400 as his daily commuter whether it is sunny or snowing. In addition, he is currently restoring an old Honda CB750 K1. Andrew practices across all areas of motorcycle law, with his practice involving both civil claims and motoring defence work.
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