To wear or not to wear? That is the question.

Published: June 26, 2014

Now here’s a debate that’s sure to get you talking. We all know it’s illegal to ride a motorcycle on the road without wearing a helmet but what really baffles Devitt blogger Ray is the none existent laws regarding wearing other protective clothing. After all, it’s not just the head that can be seriously damaged in an accident. Should there be a change in the law? Read on to hear Ray’s views on the matter.

Isn’t it amazing how a little sunshine and the warm weather brings out the ‘Free-spirit’ in everyone?

There I was sat at the side of my bike, parked at the side of my tent talking to Graham a fellow camper.  We were discussing the presentations we’d attended the previous night at the HUBBUK 2014 meeting, when we both stopped to watch a couple of guys on BMW GSA1200’s ride past.

The road through the camp site was bone dry and strewn with rocks the size of your fist. Both riders were stood up on the pegs, leaning forward over the bars with elbows at almost right angle ‘Nick Plumb Style’. I had to smile, coating us both in a fine layer of dust as they passed. The GSA’s were fully loaded with all the adventure gear, both riders wearing huge motocross style boots, heavily armed trousers, vests and ………no helmets! Not that it was a problem being on private land & away from the public highway.

Yet another great turn out
Yet another great turn out

“I’d hate to think what damage they would do if they came off” I commented to Alan who had just walked over to join the conversation.

“The cost of fixing the bikes would have them in tears well before the pain of the grazed arms kicked in” came the comical reply.

However it was not their attire that made me smile as free-spirited as it may have been. No, it was an article I’d read very recently about the proposed increase in the fine for not wearing a helmet from £30 to £2000!

Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I was always lead to believe that it was against the law to ride on a public highway without a helmet! One thing is for sure I would never ride my bike anywhere without my trusty lid well and truly fastened on my head.

What confuses me even more is the fact that there are no laws governing the compulsory wearing of safety clothing!

How many of us have seen the proverbial free-spirited holidaymaker flying around the local resort with the full-face helmet perched on the top of their head? Blasting around unfamiliar roads on hired scooters wearing nothing but shorts and flip-flops. The vision only being made worse when both the rider wearing trunks and his female pillion in the inevitable bikini fly past at full tilt.

Only today I saw one of my neighbours riding home from work on his L-plated Honda CB125 wearing armoured jacket, work boots, biking gloves and helmet plus a nice pair of Puma shorts. I just hate to think what would happen if he went down the road at 30 miles an hour in those.

My question is not about increasing the fine for not wearing a helmet but “should the fine also include the compulsory wearing of safety clothing?”

Boots and helmet

A reporter gave an example of some one being fined £30 for riding to the local shop without a helmet. However the rider was wearing all the other protective clothing along with a good set of biking gloves. “Where is the logic in that?” I ask you?

I understand that ‘freedom of choice’ is paramount to many riders and the introduction of such a law would be classed at yet another ‘unnecessary’ (in some peoples opinion, mine not being one of them) evil but what a difference it would make to road safety. The wearing of safety approved motorcycle helmets has been compulsory since 1st June 1973 when the Motorcycle Crash Helmet Act came into force. The law was introduced to great dismay by numerous motorcycle organisations stating it was removing the free-spirited riders freedoms of choice. All arguments were met with statistics of increased life expectancy if a rider was wearing an approved safety helmet.

So if you planning on increasing a fine for not wearing one piece of essential safety equipment that you ‘must wear by law’ then why not change the law to include protective clothing too? Surely that make more sense don’t you think?

The amazing industry that has sprung up since the Motor Cycle Crash Helmet Act came into force is now a multi billion pound industry. Followed very closely by the ‘safety attire’ industry producing everything from, gloves to back protectors to Kevlar jeans and full leather suits. Would it not make sense to enforce the wearing of such safety attire and include it under the same legal requirement as the crash helmet?

Having been over the handlebars a few times the first thing to hit the ground is always my head, (which many will say accounts for my ramblings). It certainly accounts for my pro-safety gear opinions!

Back in ’82 I remember a white mini bus I was following in atrocious conditions pulling out to overtake a couple of parked cars, only to stop dead mid overtake. I hit the brakes on the old Suzuki GT380 but slid on the wet road straight into the back of the mini bus leaving a perfect ‘ i ‘ imprint in the back door.

The next thing I remember was the foot peg sticking into my left leg, the scar from which I still carry to this day.  The driver did no more, he started taking a statement from a passer-by whilst the workmen on the bus jumped out and lifted the bike off my leg. It turned out to be the bus driver’s third accident in as many weeks!

Now if I had not had my helmet on I’d hate to think what damage I could have done to the bus, let alone my head. Plus if protective clothing had been a legal requirement I’d probably not have a dint in my left leg.

It’s not up to me to decide if the wearing of protective clothing should be made a legal requirement, but how can one piece of equipment be legal, and the rest of the riding gear be optional?

You decide.

All the gear, All the time!
All the gear, All the time!


The Wandering Walton

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14 comments on “To wear or not to wear? That is the question.”

avatarAlan Patersonsays:

not in favour of this at all, mainly due to the freedom of choice argument, but also surly all the kit you have now would have to be replaced as you would need to buy new kit that had been tested to the new legal standard, great news for the already Multi million pound industry, as they would get an instant boast to their profits, while we the ordinary bikers would be out of pocket by a not inconsiderable amount.

avatarFig Jamsays:

I could agree with the freedom of choice argument except for when a motorcycle is being ridden for work purposes, in which case, the dreaded Health and Safety at Work Act comes into play. An employer, including self-employer, is required to provide suitable safety equipment, which the employee is required to use.

I usually ride in armoured jeans, a Cordura jacket, leather-palmed gloves, boots and the obligatory helmet. Sometimes, for example when temperatures are over 25, I leave the jacket off. Without the freedom to choose, I’d not ride in hot weather.

avatarJason Boycesays:

Personal choice. …if safety gear is dictated then prices will rocket without real consideration of safety. Remember compulsory leg protectors. ….I wear a leatt brace even on the road. My choice….and not one that everyone would be comfortable making either.


As usual the majority (sensible & responsible bikers) have to suffer for the minority who think it’ll never happen to them! If you want choice then fine, but if you get hurt whilst not taking sensible precautions, you should pay a fee to get repaired by the services to which we all contribute.

avatarIan Melrosesays:

I’m certainly not in favour of compulsion. I do wear decent quality boots, trousers, jacket and helmet although I will admit to wearing an open face helmet when the weather is nice. In my mind wearing decent protective kit is just common sense. Having said that I will never support legislation that requires me to wear it. If you follow that line of thought motorcycling is doomed. It is inherently risky but that can be mitigated to some degree by applying common sense. If everybody on the roads, car drivers and bike riders alike, did the same thing then there would be a whole lot less risk involved. If everybody took responsibility for their own actions and showed fellow road users the regard they would like themselves it would get safer still. Rather than worrying about hi-tech attempts to keep us safe why don’t we just tackle the major issue that causes the problem in the first place.


Hi all in biking of loving of same,

My family and I have moved to the UK in the last 7 months. I know all to well about the discussion about safety ware for bikes. What I would like very much to bring to the table here is the motoring law here in the UK. I have noticed that where I live there is a large round about or Island as some people in the UK call them. There is no “Give Way” sign on this round about. As a result, the motoring public, all might I add are four wheel motorist. Don’t give way to people crossing the road on foot. In fact, When they see the pedestrian, they look the other way and pretend they don’t see them. Then stop their car on at the junction. Leaving the person to walk up to the back of their car and cross behind them. My point been. If they have no respect for people walking, well I know they have no respect for bikers. How do I know this you may ask. Oh, I forgot to mention that I purchased a Fazer 6 when I arrived here in the UK and find the more than two wheeled public full of a thing called Hate for other road users. Their unforgiven approach to people who just want to cross the road. It has long gone beyond road rage now and to think that even schools are teaching a thing Tolerance for other religions, when there is NO tolerance for each other.

avatarGreg Bentonsays:

Good article, well written. Let’s not forget the impact on “the rest of us” and the NHS when mopping up afer road traffic collisions. One persons freedom of choice may adversely impact many more people and force uip insurance premiums again. Alan Paterson has a good point – who sets the standard and when is it introduced? For sure there are manufacturers and dealers out there who would try to cash in with no shame at all. A difficult balance to strike which needs us THE BIKERS involved in the debate, not just the supposed “great and the good” who perhaps have little direct experience of day to day motorcycling.


Leave it to choice. Every time I get on my bike, like many other sensible riders, I wear safety gear from head to toe. This is a choice that I make.
If I choose not to wear safety gear, that too is a choice, and I must be prepared to live with the consequences. Since safety gear affects no-one other than the rider, there is no reason for it to become law. After all, natural selection is there for a reason…


I wear all the gear by choice…. and I want it to stay that way. As soon as it becomes mandatory, it becomes expensive. We don’t need more Nanny State interference. Brussels would have a field day with this!

avatarTim Jamessays:

I agree with the majority here, freedom of choice, you can wear bright green vests, an inflatable michelin man suit and a £1000 helmet but if that 40 ton wagon goes over you none of the above will make any difference, riding motorcycles carry risks, ride sensibly and you reduce the risks ride like an idiot and you increase the risks, but do not let Europe tell us what we can wear, lets retain some freedom. if you agree with the writer of this article I suggest you sell your bike and buy a Volvo.


Freedom of choice vs compulsion… freedom to injure yourself, causing cost to the NHS and emotional strain on your family, vs compulsion to obey the law, enforced by fines or imprisonment (Remember Fred Hill? He went to prison for his freedom to ride without a helmet. The anti-helmet campaign led to the creation of MAG, the leading motorcylists’ rights campaigners in the UK.)

Now, replace the motorcycle safety gear discussion, with the argument about pedal-cyclists’ helmets, and watch the air turn blue as the cycling world ties itself in knots over the matter. The statistics are not clear on that one.

Then, if you really want to see a proper barney, have the same discussion about legalising cannabis, or restricting tobacco and alcohol.

Seems to me it’s called “freedom” when people want to do whatever they please to themselves, but “compulsion” when some people want to force others to do the “right” thing, for the general good.

Myself, I’m a voluntary “ATGATT” sort of bloke.

avatarSoapy Loofahsays:

“Seems to me it’s called “freedom” when people want to do whatever they please to themselves, but “compulsion” when some people want to force others to do the “right” thing, for the general good.”
Completely correct on all points, especially what I quoted above.

avatarPaul Tyesays:

Compulsory seat belts in cars took away a freedom of choice but has proven to have been a lifesaver to the point of being a no brainer….. If the correct gear is made compulsory then ok there will have to be a standard but then again what’s the point of wearing safety equipment if it’s not up to the job….as for the cost you can buy helmets that meet the kitemark standard that are under £40…. Personal choice should be whether you spend forty or fourhundred….. (if you look on the government websites a cheap helmet can have a better star rating than a leading brand name)

Hi Folk’s

Thank you all for taking the time to voice all opinions, its great to see such a wide spectrum of thought.

Just to throw things wide open, I’ve a confession to make. I have recently traded the Fireblade in for my dream bike, a Honda Goldwing. Without doubt its the best thing I’ve ever done as within a week my wife & son Ben have both ridden with me which is what I needed.

But heres the thing. My riding attire has changed 100% I now ride in Kevlar jeans, Leather jacket (armoured of course) and yesterday I bought a pair of shortie riding boots. This morning I’ve been scouring the net for a, get this ‘Open-face Helmet’ How diverse is that? Reason being I’ve not ridden a single mile on the ‘Wing’ with the visor down as it just cooks my head its so warm.

So you’re all right! Our choice of biking attire must be 100% “OUR OWN DECISION’ and not forced on us by bureaucrats.

Here’s to more happy wanderings.


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