ATGATT, or All The Gear All The Time, is a prevalent philosophy among responsible motorcycle riders. Their answer to the high risk of motorcycle rides is the best protection in the form of motorcycle safety gear. What differentiates them from other riders: they wear the full protection for every trip, no matter how short or warm it is.
The other side of the debate are the motorcyclists who dress for the ride. At worst, they wear just a helmet or no protective gear at all. What are the respective group’s arguments, and how useful is ATGATT in the first place?
The Anatomy of ATGATT
To determine whether ATGATT is a necessary practice for motorcycle riders, we should take a look at the ATG. What exactly counts as the gear they consider necessary protection? An alternative acronym is PPE, the personal protective equipment, colloquially known as motorcycle gear. The term PPE entails that it reaches the European Commission’s safety standards (CE) for protective gear.
It consists of:
- motorcycle clothing
- motorcycle helmets
- motorcycle gloves
- motorcycle boots
Which type of the respective items should be chosen, is another more detailed discussion between motorcycle riders. They typically exclude anything other than full-face helmets and gear specifically made for motorcycle rides. Leather gloves and clothing without additional protection and regular boots are not qualified.
The Use of Motorcycle Gear
Regardless of protection level, the gear has 5 basic purposes:
- Abrasion-Resistance: The PPE shields your skin from contact with the pavement and other objects that cause superficial wounds. Motorcycle clothing uses leather and other tough textiles that can withstand high velocity contact with the road and aren’t easily penetrated.
- Armor: The PPE has additional padding and armor plates to protect from impacts and penetrations. Foam and hard shells absorb impacts and distribute the force across their surface to lessen its effect on the body. They usually cover vulnerable spots and stabilize joints.
- Weather Protection: The PPE protects from hypothermia caused by the air flow or cold weather. It shields from rain and UV-rays. Vents and perforation can help cool down in the summer.
- Improved Visibility: Bright colors and reflective materials make the rider more visible to other road users.
- Comfort & Utility: The weather protection and stabilization offered by the gear make a ride more comfortable. Gloves can help to reduce the numbing vibration of the road and give a tighter grip and control. Some types of gear can add additional benefits, such as battery powered heating elements or reflective backpack covers.
The Downsides of ATGATT
With these benefits listed, it is hard to imagine why some people would argue against ATGATT. What are their reasons?
- is bulky & restrictive.
- is hot in the summer.
- takes time & effort to put on.
- complicates time off the bike.
The protection and stabilization from motorcycle gear comes with a cost. It is often tight, bulky, and stiff. Putting on a whole set of gear and taking it off takes some time. You cannot just hop in your car and start driving but have to go through some preparation first.
Using your motorcycle to drive to an activity can be complicated if you do not want to keep wearing your gear or pack a change of clothes. Good motorcycle boots with bracing around the ankles are too stiff to walk around in comfortably. And all those layers that are supposed to keep you warm in the wind and cold are not exactly inviting in the summer.
Instead of going through these steps, they prefer to dress for the ride, meaning they leave some gear at home for short trips or in the summertime.
Better Safe Than Sorry
There is another popular reason why some riders forgo their PPE:
They trust in their ability.
Essentially, those who dress for the ride choose to favor their comfort over their protection. They calculate if the extra effort is worth the risk they expect a ride to have. One of the most prevalent assumptions is that short rides are less dangerous than long-distance rides. While a longer time on the road leaves a longer timespan for something to happen in, it is still a miscalculation.
The median distance between car and motorcycle accidents and the residence of the people involved is:
- 6 miles (7.4 km) for accidents causing injuries and
- 5 miles (ca. 9 km) for fatal collisions.
Even if the rider is on the road for a short time, they cannot predict when an accident is going to happen, because their skill is not the only deciding factor. Unpredictable events and other road users, especially cars, cause a large portion of accidents.
While ATGATT seems excessive at time, it is a smart choice for motorcycle riders. Motorcycle gear can protect you in an accident. Since it is impossible to predict whether an accident is going to happen, choosing to forgo protective gear is always a gamble on your health. With the high risk of accidents occuring for motorcycle riders, it is best to pick responsible riding over comfort, laziness, or overconfidence.