When I first started riding, a friend of mine who’d been riding just a little bit longer showed me his fairly cheap textile motorcycle jacket with built in shoulder and elbow armor. Up until that time I had been riding in a t-shirt, jeans, and a beat up old helmet my brother gave me. I had more or less bought a motorcycle on a whim with no prior riding experience and with only one friend who even had a bike, as such, I was completely ignorant of almost every facet of motorcycling, including what constituted proper riding gear. Seeing my friend’s cheap mesh jacket changed that. As soon as I could scrape up enough cash (I was flat broke and in college at the time), I bought an armored leather jacket and a brand new full-face helmet. The years since then have only added to my conviction that, if I am going to take the risk of riding motorcycles, I am going to mitigate that risk as much as possible through protective gear.
This seems, to me, a fairly logical conclusion to reach. Unfortunately, the ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time) issue has become a divisive one in the motorcycle community. From behind their glowing computer screens motorcyclists around the world debate the issue in those deep dark Internet recesses known as motorcycle forums and blogs. The pro-ATGATT side proclaims that theirs is the only way, and anyone who rides without gear is a fool. The other side comes back with some variation of, “don’t tell me what to do”, and from there it quickly descends into name-calling, petty insults, and lots of wasted time.
So, who’s right? Personally, I side with the ATGATT crowd because it’s simply safer. While I agree that we shouldn’t try to ram our ideology down someone else’s throat (you catch more flies with honey right?), if, like my friend did for me, I can convince someone to ride safer, I will. Though in all my years of riding I’ve yet to need any of the gear I wear, I still wear it all for the day I do. The truth is, a lot of time, money, and research have been poured into the development of the plethora of safety gear we have access to today, and it works. Armored clothing, gloves, boots, back protectors, and of course helmets can and do save lives and limbs. Without gear, even a relatively benign low-speed lay down can lead to weeks of recovery from painful road rash. I like to think of gear in the same way as I think of routine motorcycle maintenance. In the short term, it would be both cheaper and easier to ignore it. In the long run, however, ignoring routine maintenance is expensive and dangerous, and most of us would say, foolish.