Why do SWAT teams all wear body armor? Maybe because they know there is a chance they will get shot? Maybe wearing that armor pushes their chance of survival WAY up? No guarantees, mind you, but definitely better to be shot with it, than without it.
Riding a motorcycle is the definition of fast, fun, freedom right? So taking time putting on all that safety gear can feel like a real nuisance.
ATGATT – how to look uncool?
We all want to look cool, not like some safety gear nerd with balls the size of peanuts! Putting on all that gear can be a cumbersome buzz kill – there is no doubt about it, 5 minutes of faffing around to get kitted up is not as much fun as actually riding a motorcycle..who would have knew.
I know the struggle, but I’m now an ATGATT rider 99.9% of the time. You can make up your own mind, but good medicine does not always taste nice, but it is good for you in the long run ( and you’ll quickly get used to the taste) !
What marks a really great rider, is having that awareness, that appreciation, for just how dangerous the sport / hobby can be, for those who are unprepared.
What’s the worst that could happen?
As a coping mechanism, it is healthy human nature not to continually think about the worst that could happen, otherwise, we might never leave the house! But, we should take some time to appreciate and consider the consequences of what might happen if things go wrong, it helps us prepare intelligently. (Smart Motorcycling!)
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
Learning to acknowledge potential issues in life, helps us make informed decisions and prepare better to deal with them when they come along.
One of the things you might like to avoid is road rash. Instead of that little red tingly rash on your elbow that its name implies…instead, the accounts of riders who have experienced this say it’s not ‘rash’. Instead, think of the pain of your skin being ripped and shredded. How would it feel to have a cheese grater rubbed on your buttock, but not just an ordinary a cheese grater, but one moving at 30mph?
Hundreds of our biker brothers die on our roads ever year, BUT hundreds are SAVED by helmets. Research by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) says that around 1860 lives are saved in a single year, by motorcycle helmets.
A study by the University of Michigan looked at 15,000 motorcycle crashes over 4 years, and calculated that the risk of fatality as ALMOST 300% higher for riders not wearing a helmet.
Talk to your biking buddies, even talk your other less cool ‘non biker’ friends, heavens, even talk to your parents. You WILL hear lots of stories about someone getting killed or seriously injured on a motorcycle, so let us be smart about this : if someone told you there is some way to avoid the chances of death by a factor of 300%, would you ignore them?
Maybe you hate wearing armored gloves because because it reduces the intimate feeling you have between man and machine…how could you ride like Rossi if you cannot truly ‘feel’ those controls? On the other hand, what about when you loose the skin on your fingers and hands…you’ll never again be able to feel what is like to ‘touch’ the skin of someone you love again..is that worth feeling the rubber of the handlebars?
What about those times when having to put on full boots with ankle protection is too much of chore? Would it be worth that struggle if it meant you will be able to play football again in the future, or does having the tendons in your ankles torn off sound like more fun?
If you’re riding a bike, you’re a grown up. It is up to you decide on the risk you take, but the above examples are something to think about.
It really is up to you…
Going ATGATT is about being always prepared for the worst, but hoping for the best. At the end of day, the choice is up to the individual rider, you you must be prepared to live with the consequences of your choice of protection. For me, ATGATT provides me with the best ‘chance’ to ride another day, if things go seriously wrong. For that reason, for me, ATGATT will always be worth the hassle, always worth the cost.
The notes on the gear below are just some summary notes to think about – we will publish more detail guides around these individual parts of your gear in the future!
Properly fitting, full face helmet
If you can, go into the your local motorcycle dealership and get them to help you with helmet fitment. If your dealer is worth their salt, then they’ll know exactly how to size you up. Expect them to twist your helmet to check for movement on your head – they will maybe press their fingers in around your cheeks and forehead – they will ask you lots questions. The helmet will feel very tight if you’ve not had one on before. Over time the foam pads does soften, but it needs to be REALLY snug. (You can still buy your helmet online – as long you’re confident in the fitment and that the online is reputable – do not buy from ebay second hand.) Make sure the helmet you buy has the appropriate safety makings. If must have at LEAST ONE of the three safety markings DOT , ECE , SNELL , if not walk away.
Full Gauntlet Gloves
Gloves are important – getting a stone chip on your knuckle at 60mph is going to feel like a bullet, and frozen hands can really impede your ability to control your motorcycle.
Good gloves will still leave you with enough flexibility and feeling to have excellent dexterity and mobility to best control your motorcycle.
Pay for good, motorcycle, armored /reinforced gloves. Those mittens your Granny knitted are good for playing in the snow, not for your motorcycle.
A gauntlet glove is one that has extended coverage that comes right down over your wrists. The idea of this is that your wrist is a weak point – vulnerable to injury; gauntlet gloves are the best gloved protection you can get – NB often a requirement to Track days.
Be sure the material in your gloves is an appropriate leather, reinforced stitching. Armored gloves can have CE rated plastics and armors around fingers and knuckles, with Kevlar panels, & always try get a pair additional palm protection sliders.
Trousers & Jackets
The best projection is usually the kit that required for the track, like a one piece leather race suit ( airbags became mandatory in MotoGP since the beginning of the 2018 World Championship season!) but for road riding there are more practical and affordable solutions.
Beyond the full race suit, you can have a slightly more practical split 2 piece leather kit, which usually connects at the waist, but there are lots of options and combinations of leather, textiles that blends of different materials, all designed specifically to protect you if you hit the tarmac ! (NB even Leather race suits (and 2 piece leathers) are also often blended with textiles for flexibility and air flow)
It’s important to remember you can build up your kit as you progress : mix and match! For example, you could add a premium piece of protection like an air bag vest (or an armored vest) to a relatively inexpensive textile textile kevlar reinforced jacket (which might have it’s own armor too) to ‘double up’ allowing you to seriously ‘upgrade’ your protection level.
If not going for leather, trousers/pants and jackets are usually made from a ‘Kevlar type’ of reinforced textile material to designed with abrasion resistance to protect from slides (be sure the details in the product description has information about the materials, look out for some mention of abrasion resistance grade!). Textile jackets and trousers/pants will often be blended with other composite/natural fibers and textiles to allow breath ability and additional flexibility.
Additionally, many trousers and jackets should have composite amour and padding in areas that need the most protection in a fall or crash. (Be sure if the product has ‘pockets’ for amour (rather than it being built in) – do not forget to actually buy the armor to fill those pockets!) It is best to make sure your jacket has some kind back / spine protection as a minimum.
With all of your kit – you need to consider the type of riding you will be doing (mostly) and your climate! (Air flow, breathability versus weather protection & warmth!)
There are two temptations when it comes to footwear. The first option is to to go for your running shoes, lots of grip on the pegs, light, breathable, and great feel, but you zero protection if foot suddenly gets caught on something in the road. The other temptation is your work construction boots (Dr Martin’s or something) – this is definitely better but not designed for the job.
Even wearing the best motorcycle armored full boot, if your foot gets caught in the chain when you have fall – you could still in some trouble, but you will be in better shape with a CE armored race boot, versus wearing trainers.
Again, review materials of the footwear you are considering versus one another : while obviously the best protection is a full race boot (as I noted above, the most protective kit is usually race/track orientated gear) but there are lots of alternatives with varying degrees of practicality, each designed with specific uses (and budgets) in mind – again as above, you need to consider the type of riding you will be doing (mostly) and your climate!
Ride Safe, Ride Smart
Smart Motorcycling Guide