It is being reported that solicitor Asif Ahmed is suing mountain bike instructor Leon MacLean for £4million in damages following an accident during a skills course which left Ahmed paralysed. Ahmed faces the rest of his life in a wheelchair following the accident on the trail ‘Barry Knows Best’ on Holmbury Hill, Surrey.
Mr Ahmed’s QC describes the 2012 crash as happening ‘during a descent described variously as a slope, gully, drop off or bombhole at part of the route known as Barry Knows Best’. The High Court heard that Ahmed went over the bars and landed on the front of his head, just above the forehead, after his front wheel jammed on ‘what looked like a clumpy, grassy piece of ground’.
Leon MacLean is accused of a ‘lazy form of teaching’, and that ‘his instruction on this occasion was woefully inadequate’, with Ahmed’s lawyers saying that ‘The accident occurred because of defective instruction and defective teaching’. MacLean denies this and his lawyers state that he put no pressure on his students to go beyond their safe limits. MacLean has also said that Ahmed rode down the ‘wrong part of the track’, and that on a second attempt ‘made exactly the same error’.
Ahmed’s QC claims that the instructor had ‘progressed the group too fast’, while MacLean says that Mr Ahmed ‘knew that he could walk when he wanted to’ and that ‘he was under no pressure to undertake anything which he thought was beyond him’, and that MacLean had ‘satisfied himself by the time they got to Barry Knows Best that they were ready for it’. The £79 course was aimed at riders wanted to tackle ‘technically demanding terrain in a safe and controlled manner’.
As Cedric Gracia’s crash video shows, life threatening and terrible accidents can happen on the most innocuous of trails. And as Red Bull Rampage shows us, they can also happen on insane trails. The risk is there, no matter what the trail, and when you get on your bike you accept it. You might mitigate it by wearing protection, or choosing trails within your capability, but the risk is there. The whole point of going on a skills course is to extend that capability – the instructor is there to help you learn the handling skills required, and to judge when you’re ready to push your limits. While we’re not going to comment on where fault may or may not lie in the case above, this does raise some interesting questions about responsibility and liability when it comes to mountain bike tuition.