I have recently taken my motorbike in for a tyre change, chain and sprockets replacement and a service with a non-franchised dealer. You would probably say that he was a bit of a backstreet dealer, I also wanted the rubbers on my hand grips changed.

I picked up the motorbike, and when riding home the grip for the throttle literally twisted off the throttle as I accelerated. The throttle rubber did not quite come off in my hand, but it slid off by a good couple of inches, and the throttle snapped off shut. I pulled the rubber off, and rode back to the shop just using the plastic throttle body. The proprietor was horrified.

He told me he would replace the grips, refund me for the original grips and said at my next service I could buy parts at trade prices and wouldn’t be charged labour. He dragged out the apprentice, who had replaced the grips, proceeded to verbally rip his head off and spit down the hole, it turned out that the apprentice had left some sort of soapy lube on the grips and had not properly measured the handlebar bores and this was the reason why the grips slid off. That incident gave me a hell of a fright. I do not think that a free service is good enough. I could have been killed. Do I have any legal redress?


Honestly, no. The apprentice mechanic has cocked up. If you had actually been hurt of course you would have a cast iron motorcycle claim but the law does not compensate for near misses, except in the very peculiar circumstances of a very serious psychiatric reaction, which you have not had.

In fact all the shop needs to do in law is remedy its error by properly refitting the correct hand grips. The free service and discounted parts are a peace offering and an apology, if you really want to make your life and the shop’s life unnecessarily hard you could have the grips fitted at another workshop, and send the bill for the replacement grips to the original dealer, but you would be on a very sticky legal wicket because the retailer is entitled to have a reasonable chance of making good his error.

You could say that because they had made a safety critical error you do not want them to touch your bike again, but I suspect that you will get little in the way of sympathy off any district judge hearing this case at a small claims tribunal, I suppose the dealer might pay to get rid of you, but he really does not have to. If you were prepared to go to the small claims court I would expect you would lose and you would have to pay the witness expenses of the apprentice and the proprietor at about £95 each, so going to law is a plan with some pretty major drawbacks.

The option offered by the ‘backstreet’ garage is a much better plan. The apprentice made a mistake. The proprietor did not check his work, it was an error but it happens. No real harm was done, so you have no cause of action in English law. There was negligence, but there was no meaningful loss, without loss you have no claim. For what it is worth, I think the proprietor in the shop has treated you perfectly fairly and I would simply accept his offer if I were you.

Andrew Dalton

Fast Bikes June 2018