You’ve probably heard this old motorcycling maxim before: ”There are two kinds of motorcycle riders, those who have been down and those who are going down.” Unfortunately, riders have to contemplate the possibility of an accident every time they swing a leg over their favorite ride. The risk of an accident can be substantially reduced with ongoing rider training and education, but it cannot be eliminated and that’s where ATGATT comes in. To help mitigate the risk of a serious motorcycle riding injury, you simply have to wear All The Gear All The Time.
Here are the essential components of effective motorcycle protective gear:
- Full-Face, DOT Approved Helmet: Despite anything you may have heard to the contrary, the asphalt isn’t any softer in states that don’t require riders to wear helmets. Because head trauma is a leading cause of death and severe injury in motorcycle accidents, it only makes sense to have the best protection possible for your head. And that protection should be for your whole head, not just part of it. Those little half helmets may look cool (and be cooler temperature wise) than a full-face one, but they’re also telling everyone how little the wearer values what’s inside the helmet. I know from personal experience how important it is to always wear a full-face helmet.
- Jacket with Armor: Any motorcycle jacket worth having and wearing should provide both abrasion and impact protection. Thick leather jackets are probably the best protection against road rash, but can be uncomfortable on hot days. Textile jackets also can provide abrasion protection (although not to the same degree as leather) and are usually more adaptable and comfortable in a wide range of climate conditions. They also come in bright colors that improve rider visibility to other motorists. A brightly colored riding vest can accomplish the same objective for dark colored jackets. Regardless of the type worn, however, the riding jacket should have built-in CE approved body armor for the shoulders, back and elbows. For those jackets that have only a thin rubbery cushion for their back armor, consider strapping on a separate back protector under the jacket.
- Pants with Armor: Ordinary jeans provide little, if any, abrasion protection and absolutely no impact protection. Always wear motorcycle riding pants, constructed of either leather or textile, with CE approved armor protecting the knees. Some of the textile pants have a removable cold weather liner and are waterproof. Also, riding jeans made with Kevlar® are an alternative to textile pants and are more protective than normal denim.
- Motorcycle Boots: If you value your feet and ankles, wear sturdy leather boots with slip resistant soles. They should be of sufficient height to protect your ankles. If possible, wear motorcycle riding boots that also have extra protection for the toes and ankles.
- Motorcycle Gloves: Because it’s a natural tendency to try and cushion a fall with your hands, they are often the first body part to make contact with the pavement. Bare hands, in these situations, are likely to be shredded or mangled. The best hand protection is provided with thick gauntlet type gloves that are specifically designed for motorcycle riding. You may prefer lighter weight gloves for riding in summer and insulated gloves for the winter, but all of your riding gloves should cover all of your digits and have extra protection over-the-knuckles and palms.
There are countless rationalizations for not following ATGATT—too hot, not cool looking, too restrictive, takes too much time to put on and take off, not required by law, etc.–but, at one time or another, you’re likely to need protective gear and none of these excuses will matter when you do. It’s your choice, but choose wisely.