UPDATED: Judge deems handlebars to be at fault. Three year old handlebars.

Sussex cyclist wins crash claim

Earlier this week, accountant Alan Ide won his High Court compensation claim against ATB Sales, the UK Marin importer.

Mr Ide crashed his £1200 Marin bike in 2002. No one witnessed the crash, in which the helmet-wearing cyclist suffered serious head injuries. Because of these injuries, Mr Ide has no recollection of the crash.

On Tuesday, Mr Justice Gray found for Mr Ide, ruling that a "catastrophic defect" in the bike’s handlebars caused the crash.

Mr Ide is in line to receive a substantial damages payment, likely to be many millions of pounds. He said: "I am pleased with the judge’s decision but there is still a chance the company could appeal."

Mr Ide’s barrister said the left end of the bike’s three year old aluminium handlebar "suddenly snapped".

The legal team acting for ATB Sales said the crash occurred after Mr Ide lost his balance and the handlebar snapped upon impact with the ground.

Finding for Mr Ide, Mr Justice Gray said: "I accept that, at the time when Mr Ide met with his accident, there was a defect in his Marin bike. I further accept that, as a matter of probability, it was that defect…which caused it to fracture."

The case revolved around the testimony of expert witnesses.

Referring to the one he believed the most, Mr Justice Gray said:

"The fact that Dr Morgan is outnumbered by other experts who disagree with him is of course no reason to reject his explanation."

Dr Morgan is Senior Lecturer in Material Science at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Bristol University.

Dr Morgan believes the handlebars failed through the mechanism of a "time-dependent micro-crack growth." This micro-crack was caused, said Dr Morgan, by the CNC-made markings on the handlebars, which are cosmetic designs.

Mr Ide had ridden his bike for hundreds of hours, agreed the judge, and this bike had been involved in an earlier crash, a collision between Mr Ide and a pedestrian. This impact had been so severe Mr Ide had been unable to cycle for six months. This previous crash didn’t appear to be factored into any ‘metal fatigue’ arguments from the expert witnesses.

ATB Sales proved they provide an owner’s manual with all bikes sold which states:

Depending on how heavy the usage, ultra lightweight handle-bars and other components, as come equipped on some Marin models, need to be inspected and replaced periodically.

In general, if you notice at any time a crack or bend in the frame, stem or bars of your bicycle, stop riding it immediately. Take it to the dealer where you purchased the bicycle and have them inspect it for possible damage."

The full judgement can be read on the website of the British and Irish Legal Information Institute.

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