“…to be ATGATT, or not to be ATGATT, that is the question…”

ATGATT, All The Gear All The Time, the issue every motorcycle rider has had on their mind at some point in their riding career. The issue that has destroyed friendships, broken families and split riding groups. Some random bloke at a pub even told me he read on the internet (must be true then) that the American Civil War started when the Harley riders of the South refused to wear full face helmets!

First, for the non riders among you, ATGATT refers to protective riding gear: helmet, jacket, gloves, boots, pants, kidney belt and goggles. Protective gear must meet strict European standard called PPE (European Personal Protective Equipment Directive) indicated by a CE label. Australia has a standard for some gear, such as helmets.

There are those who believe protective clothing should be worn on all rides, and there are those who don’t… Whenever the subject comes up in forums and discussion groups it sparks a heated debate. It seems many people on both sides of the debate feel very strongly about this subject.

So what is it about this topic that gets riders fired up?  Basically it comes down to one question: “dress for the ride” or “dress for the slide”?

All the Gear? On Every Ride? What for??? Just dress for the ride!

The riders on this side of the debate (ignoring food delivery riders and other scooter riders) believe in “dress for the ride”. Short city rides do not require full armour and riders can get away with the mandatory helmet.

They argue that wearing the full armour gear in winter makes you feel like the Michelin Man or an astronaut: big bulky and with restricted movement.

In summer with the full gear you’re hot and sweaty. Very hot, very sweaty, and when you take your gloves off the odour is such that you risk getting an infringement notice for environmental hazard.

They want to feel free, that’s what they got the bike for.

No Gear

They know the risks associated with not wearing full protective gear and are willing to take those risks.

There’s another point which I’d like to illustrate by describing a typical scenario from my own experience: driving my car in winter vs riding my bike in winter.
Car: unlock the car, get in the car, put seatbelt on, start the car, put the heater on full blast, start driving. Total time: 22 seconds.
Bike: put on winter pants, leather jacket, boots, balaclava, neck warmer, helmet and winter gloves (gosh, they are tight!). Get on the bike, realise key is in the jacket pocket, get off the bike, take one glove off (still tight). Get key out of pocket, put glove back on, get on the bike, start the bike and start riding. Total time: 8 minutes 49 seconds.

Get the idea?

All The Gear! Yes, On Every Ride! Dress For The Slide!

The shops down the road? Photo: Shanie Avrahami

The proponents of ATGATT believe they need to be protected. All The Time. Motorcycle riders are more vulnerable than drivers and anything can happen, anywhere, anytime. If an accident happens it really doesn’t matter who’s fault it is or if the accident was avoidable. The bottom line is the same: the rider can get injured. Only full protective gear can reduce the severity of an injury, or even prevent it altogether.

You only need to watch this video to realise just how vulnerable our skin is.

And many of us have seen these graphic images before:


Quality protective gear provides abrasion resistance and prevents cuts and rash in the event of sliding across the road. It protects arms, elbows, legs, knees and back. It can also reduce the severity of burns from touching the exhaust pipe or the engine. Boots are essential to protect the feet and ankles, which are highly vulnerable in accidents. You cannot do without goggles or visor for eye protection. You cannot do without good gloves to protect knuckles, fingers and palms.

If we still need to spell out the bleeding obvious, a study conducted by the George Institute does just that. It is titled “Investigating motorcycle protective clothing (GEAR)” and demonstrates the effectiveness of protective clothing in actual numbers.

Video: GEAR Study: Effectiveness of motorcycle clothing in crashes

My Personal Approach

In this post I tried to show the two sides of this age old debate. I do believe that for myself and my own rides I need to wear protective gear. So I adopted a split approach: MTG (Most of The Gear) when commuting and for short “down the road” rides. But always ATG on weekend rides and long rides.

Tell us what you do in the comments below.

Ride safe. Enjoy the ride.