In our north Atlantic climate we are not often bothered by temperatures which make regular riding gear too hot to wear. But on those rare scorching days when your bike kit boils you and you have a real risk of heat stroke, what does the law say about minimum protection levels?
The criminal law says you must wear a type approved helmet and be decent. The civil law says that if you do not get knocked off it is no one’s business but your own. But if you and your bike part company does the law hold the bare naked rider at least partially to blame?
The answer is not clear. If your feet are damaged and you were not wearing ‘stout footwear’ then you will be looking at a modest reduction of damages. In much the same way as your unbuckled helmet will attract a 10% reduction in a head or facial injury claim, not following clear Highway Code guidance on suitable footwear will result in some blame for any injuries swinging back your way. Riding and regular jeans, T-shirt, and soft boots would not usually attract any sort of reduction. Likewise choosing an open faced helmet and sunglasses is of no legal consequence. Your summer kit is a matter of personal choice so long as you have a legal helmet and stout footwear.
Some of the most horrendous and complex low speed injuries involve unprotected feet. Trainers offer no protection and, along with shoes, can fly off feet in an impact.
I subscribe to the view that if you are riding in no protective kit you will ride very carefully and I am quite relaxed about my own riding kit – I have been known to ride in a T-shirt and jeans in an urban environment, but always with solid footwear which covers the ankle. Just putting your feet down in a hurry on a tarmac road can cost you toes – experience has made me especially squeamish about unprotected feet.
One of the saddest cases I dealt with was a young rider who died of gravel rash, riding in jeans and a T-shirt. Not a single bone was broken, but the shock of losing his skin killed him. His speed was 40-SOmph. My conclusion is mesh gear is worth having, but if you cannot stretch to it protect your feet at all costs and if you are going to be riding at any sort of speed an abrasion resistant layer can save your life.
Statistically you are unlikely to be involved in a collision on any ride so I do not go along with the view that you need fully armoured leathers to pop down to the shops. But, in the unlikely event of an off, protective kit so massively increases your chance of walking away that, ignoring the inconvenience and heat, I wear a minimum of an armoured mesh jacket with a back protector, soft motorcycle boots and gloves. I take my chances in ordinary jeans if Kevlar will cook me.
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