ATGATT: An Intro to Motorcycle Riding Gear
ATTGATT is the mantra of a prepared motorcyclist. All The Gear, All The Time. This concept is a blanket statement for the essentials: helmet, jacket, gloves, pants and boots.
Motorcycle riding gear is meant to protect you when you need it most. The only thing protecting your skin while you're riding on (or falling off) your motorcycle is what you're wearing, so you should never ride with clothing that leaves you exposed. Fortunately, there's plenty of gear available to fit your needs. The first step after finding gear that works for you is committing to wearing it every time you ride. Here's a rundown of the basic motorcycle riding gear you should be wearing at all times.
A time may come when every U.S. state passes laws that make helmets mandatory for riding. Even though helmet laws vary from state to state, you should wear one at all times.
Motorcycle helmets come in varieties that include full face, three-quarter and half helmets. Like all apparel, they vary in price based on materials and design. Your best protection is obviously a full-face helmet. Getting the right helmet size is crucial to both your comfort and safety, so get a helmet that fits snug, not so tight that it gives you headaches. Regardless of your style preference, a solid helmet is the first line of defense against severe head injuries in the case of a dismount, and therefore the most important piece of riding gear you can buy.
The first body part to make contact with the ground in most accidents will be your hands. After all, it's a natural instinct to put your arms out to protect yourself when falling.
Motorcycle gloves protect your hands from the elements while riding, and a decent glove with reinforced palms stops you from destroying your hands upon impact with the ground. Designs vary from short gloves that stop at your wrist to gauntlet style gloves that provide wrist support. Gauntlet gloves offer a little more protection, and keep the wind and elements from blowing up your sleeve.
Jackets are an effective barrier between your skin and the road. When it comes to riding jackets, you have two main category options: leather and textile. Leather motorcycle jackets have come a long way over the years, with some options fitted with impact armor in the shoulders and elbows to offer improved road rash protection. For warmer climates, choose a jacket made of synthetic materials to allow air to flow through. Textile jackets are lighter, and provide more color options and reflective material for greater visibility. While synthetic mesh jackets aren’t as durable as leather, they offer much better protection than nothing at all.
If you care at all about your legs, then shorts are never a viable option for riding a motorcycle. Jeans at least cover your legs if you want to keep things casual, and can withstand a small amount of punishment. However, we don't consider a standard pair of jeans "protective riding gear," and you shouldn't either. If you must ride with jeans, try reinforced jeans. They look perfectly normal, and are designed to protect you in a crash. Reinforced jeans are a good "happy medium" if you just want casual pants instead of leather pants.
If you're less dedicated to fashion and more inclined to safety, there are many leather and textile options for riding pants with varying levels of reinforcement. You can wear these pants as part of your outfit, or get overpants that go on top of your regular clothes. When you arrive at your destination, just pull the overpants off and toss them in your bag.
Just like with pants, you should choose motorcycle boots that you can wear all day if you don't have a spare pair of shoes. Shin-height boots, for example, have hard soles, good ankle support and shin-to-leg protection.
There are also casual style shoes that offer a little less protection than full size boots, but still have hard soles and internal structure to protect your feet. Again, the footwear you choose will be based on your personal preference and how much protection you're comfortable riding with, but any motorcycle-specific boot or shoe is better than ordinary sneakers.
You never know which part of your body is going to hit the pavement first in a motorcycle accident, so ATGATT will save you a world of hurt. Whether you want all the gear all the time or not is your choice. However (at the risk of sounding like crafty salespeople here), you can't put a dollar amount on your safety. Remember, your motorcycle isn't equipped with the safety of your car, so don't skimp on protective motorcycle gear.
Wearing the bare minimum on your bike might make you look and feel like a rebel, but what good is looking like a badass if you're going to feel like a jackass after an accident? Your safety (and your life) is more than worth investing in extra protective gear.