We’ve covered the fact that the law doesn’t have a great deal to say about safety gear in previous issues of ABR.

The Highway Code simply encourages you to wear suitable clothing, stout footwear, and to think about donning something highly visible. But this does not stop the occasional foray into “had you been wearing better kit, you’d have been less injured” arguments being run in court in a bid to reduce the amount of damages being awarded to a rider.

So what about the trail rider who, through no fault of their own, is knocked off his motorcycle by a car on a tarmac stretch of road who is dressed in lightweight trail riding kit. I’m talking about a motocross-style jersey over soft under armour, plastic knee guards, and motocross trousers, which is a pretty common sight on UK green lanes.

The rider takes a long slide on tarmac, his soft armour melts into his flesh, his motocross jersey has the abrasion resistance of a teabag, and he ends his slide with complex abrasion injuries. Has he taken sufficient care of his own well being or should his damages be reduced in court because he was wearing riding gear better suited to a motocross track when he was riding on public roads amongst traffic?

In short, the law has nothing to say on this because the law is very settled. The driver of the car that knocked our trail rider off has to prove two things before the court will even hear submissions on reducing damages.

The first is that our trail rider was doing something morally or legally culpable in wearing trail riding gear on the road. Well, he is riding in suitable kit for motorcycling. His Alpinestars Tech 7 boots are nothing if not stout and he has his ECE approved helmet on and buckled up. So, what has he done that is either culpable or illegal? Answers on a very small postcard please, because I can see nothing he has done wrong.

However, food in the plastic surgery unit does not taste any better if it is eaten from the moral and legal high ground, so with my particular knowledge over what are now probably running into thousands of motorcycle accidents involving others, and a fair few of my own, I follow this compromise when it comes to riding a mix of tarmac and green lanes.

Invest in a good quality set of sturdy motocross boots. I see more mangled feet than any other injury, so I’d spend more on good boots than a helmet. I also wear trousers with a decent level of abrasion resistance but without armour in the knees as I am going to be wearing knee braces. I am not a fan of motocross trousers on the road because they really cannot cope with significant tarmac abrasion. I know this from experience.

My upper body kit tends to be road oriented. I’m a fan of CE-rated compression jackets with armour which have abrasion resistance, such as those made by Icon and Knox. I’ll also throw on an abrasion resistant overlayer which can come off when I get hot and need to do some bike wrangling on off-road sections.

In France, CE-rated gloves are compulsory. Everywhere else they’re just a really good idea and I always make sure I wear them when I ride. Most importantly, have fun, be safe, and enjoy the ride.

Andrew Dalton

Adventure Bike Rider – May/June 2023