What is ATGATT? It is an acronym for All The Gear All The Time and is used by the American Motorcycle Safety Foundation and other courses to drive home to their students the need to always wear appropriate protective gear when riding a motorcycle.
While wearing ATGATT will not make you a better rider, in many cases it will lessen the damage your body receives should you be involved in a crash and in some cases it could be the difference between surviving or dying.
The Problem With ATGATT
Some bikers kick back at ATGATT believing its ‘the man’ insisting all bikers ride around wearing something akin to a construction workers hi-viz yellow vest and a pair of $900 MotoGP boots on.
Others don’t want to wear ATGATT because they believe the gear doesn’t look cool, others because it makes them too hot during the height of riding season.
Whilst these arguments may once have had credence, when the retro bike scene took off the motorcycle gear manufacturers were quick to catch up. They realised that for the buyers of these motorcycles, style and looks took precedence over speed and performance.
They started producing protective gear that not only got the required certifications, it looked great too.
Would we really have single layer motorcycle jeans today with a longer slide time than cow hide without the retro biker scene taking off?
Today if you wanted you can easily kit yourself out with ATGATT and you could walk into a bar and nobody would know you had arrived on a motorcycle.
Unless you are carrying your helmet of course, that may give it away!
As for being too hot, it’s true traditional biker jackets definitely get uncomfortable when the heat gets up but today textile jackets perform just as well as leather and have the added bonus of being lighter and they are available with air vents to keep you cool during the summer.
What Should ATGATT Do As a Minimum?
Increase your visibility to other road users
A lot of riding gear comes with reflective stripes or patches that are only visible at night. If you plan to do some motorcycle night riding you should consider choosing this type of gear.
Protect against the elements
Your riding gear should protect you from the wind, rain and cold as well as flying debris and insects. If you plan on doing more riding the whole year through then you should factor in wind chill when purchasing your gear.
Your gear should have extra protection in areas likely to be impacted in a crash. For example, at the least your jacket should have shoulder padding in case you go over the handle bars and your gloves should have palm protection for the same reason.
Your elbows, knees, hips, feet, ankles and hands are all vulnerable in a slide and the better quality jackets, pants and gloves will often have armor at these points or at the least, pockets so that you can fit some yourself.
D3O armor remains soft and flexible so easily bends to fit around your knees and elbows but on impact immediately solidifies to absorb the energy and help spread the impact.
D3O Ghost is the latest in armor. It is much thinner than regular armor and can’t be seen through your jeans or jacket.
How Much Should You Spend on Motorcycle Gear?
You could spend thousands on motorcycle protective gear.
For example, if you were the owner of a high performance liter bike which you wanted to take to track days at the weekend you would find a lot of tracks will insist on a full circumference leather suit with back protector and a Snell approved helmet.
Some track days in the UK have even started insisting on air bag vests.
They do this to limit the risk of injury as best they can should you lay your motorcycle down on the tarmac.
This type of setup would start at around $1500 but if you wanted to you could easily blow that on just the helmet!
Now, this is at the high end of the protective gear range and owners of these sport bikes or their sibling naked bike equivalent are for the most part experienced bikers already fully aware of what they need to comply with ATGATT.
As you’re reading this I’m assuming you’re much more likely to be a newcomer to motorcycling and you’ll be pleased to hear that kitting yourself out so you can wear all the right gear, all the time doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
In fact, with so many manufacturers competing for your custom, it’s a lot cheaper than it used to be. Below are some examples of good quality motorcycle safety gear together with prices.
Protective Gear Examples
This is a list of what you will need as a bare minimum to set you up with the right riding gear. Once you have been riding a while you will find you add to your set up. For example many riders have a jacket for the height of summer and then another for the cooler rides.
The ‘expect to pay’ shown for each item is for clothing from reputable manufacturers. Yes you will find cheaper but my advice is to buy the best you can afford and always buy from a motorcycle clothing brand you recognise.
Expect to pay from $100
The most important bit of safety gear you should own, even though I know some prefer to ride without.
There are so many motorcycle helmet types to choose from (open, half, full, modular) that I don’t see a reason not to wear one but that’s just me. I started riding legally in May 1980 and helmets were already compulsory at that time in Great Britain so wearing a brain bucket has always been second nature for me.
For the likes of the Honda CB300 R, a popular naked roadster ideal for the novice rider, the Bell Qualifier is a good starter helmet. It’s DOT approved, looks great, reasonably priced and comes from a reputable brand.
- Lightweight Polycarbonate/ABS shell.
- Padded wind collar to reduce wind and road noise
- Quick release shield for fast, easy and tool-free replacement
- Adjustable ventilation system
- DOT approved. Meets the FMVSS 218 Standard
For a more aggressive look you may be tempted by the LS2 Streetfighter helmet. While it costs more, this helmet is both DOT and Snell approved.
Get the Bane look with this great looking Snell approved Street Fighter helmet
- DOT rated and Snell approved
- 20% lighter than previous models
- Excellent ventilation system
- Wide eye port for great visibility
- No ECE rated version
Expect to pay from $150
I remember buying my first proper motorcycle jacket in 1980. Kings Motorcycles in Worksop, Nottinghamshire had any jacket you wanted as long as it was leather and as long as it was black. I think the only option I actually got was did I want one with a fringe down the arms or without?
Today there’s literally hundreds of approved leather jackets and thousands of textile jackets.
Often a jacket is good for riding over 3 seasons thanks to a detachable inner liner. You simply remove it for the summer and put it back in once the weather cools.
I currently have a couple of cowhide and 3 textile jackets although I was late to the textile party. A leather jacket has very little in the way of thermal qualities so is fine until it gets wet or the weather gets too warm or too cold.
Today, a textile jacket can offer the same level of protection as cowhide yet is much more comfortable in wet, hot or cold weather and is a lot lighter than leather.
If your riding mostly consists of commuting to work every day with a bit of touring or cruising at the weekend, go for textile.
- Buy a brand name that’s associated with biker safety gear and avoid generic Chinese made jackets found on Amazon.
- Make sure when comparing prices you are judging them on a like for like basis. What’s the abrasion resistance? Is a back protector included? Is the armor in the shoulders and elbows level 1 or level 2? (2 is better than 1)
- Is it waterproof and does it have vents for hot summer days?
Textile Jacket Example
Something like this Jacket by Speed and Strength would be ideal for commuting to work and cruising during the riding season. It comes with removable hoodie, Vault CE-approved shoulder, elbow and spine protector and starts at around $200.
Traditional Biker Jacket Example
If it has to be a more traditional biker jacket you won't find much better than the ScorpionExo 1909. It's DOT approved, packed with safety features and looks badass.
- Distressed and aged 1.4mm top grain leather and YKK zippers
- Reinforced safety stitching on all critical seams
- Shoulder and elbow SAS-Tec body armor included
- Perforated inner arm and torso panels to help keep you cool in hot weather
- Removable Everheat thermal liner to keep you warmer in the winter
Expect to pay from $75 for reinforced lined jeans and from $200 for single skin.
Motorcycle jeans are ideal for cruising and commuting while leather is still top choice for the sports or naked bike rider.
Today, you can buy riding jeans that are single skin denim where as previously they were lined with a kevlar or similar ballistic nylon to pass abrasion resistance testing. This made them heavy, hot and sweaty when you were off the bike.
The single skin denim riding pants have the kevlar interwoven with the denim keeping them light and comfortable even when you’ve reached your destination and are walking around.
They’re also incredibly strong with many having a slide time longer than traditional leather pants meaning they provide excellent protection against road rash.
Regular jeans will be useless to you if you’re involved in a crash. Always purchase jeans specifically built for motorcycle riding, they’re not much dearer than a pair of 501’s.
Expect to pay from $100
Riding boots are different to your regular boots. While better than wearing sneakers, your Doc Martens are not motorcycle boots. The stitching will split open within a second of you having to lay your bike down.
The leather is too thin anyway and won’t survive much longer and they don’t have the necessary ankle protection and sole reinforcement.
A national study by the CDC looked at over 1.2 million none fatal motorcycle accidents across America and recorded all injuries by body location. They found the feet and leg area came top with a whopping 30% of all accidents resulting in injuries to the very lower part of the riders body. Source.
Riding boots come in all styles today, from MotoGP inspired footwear to my current favorites, these classic Cafe Racer boots.
Make sure you buy from a brand with some history of producing motorcycle footwear and always check they are CE approved. Use some common sense here as well. Do they look like they’ll protect your ankle with 400lbs of steel laid on top as they slide down the tarmac?
I’ve seen so called motorcycle boots for sale that look nothing more than sneakers. You want something that comes up past your ankles. Its a long road back from a shattered ankle so you need to properly protect your feet and lower leg with the best riding boots your budget allows.
Expect to pay from $40
I have gloves for winter, gloves for the hot summer months and also a mid range set of gloves for the spring and fall months.
Over the top? Probably, especially the winter gloves as I bet I’ve only worn them once or twice. The other 2 pair get plenty of use though.
Summer specific gloves need loads of ventilation otherwise your hands start sweating and you soon get uncomfortable. My spring, fall gloves offer a bit more protection against the colder air and I use these quite a bit.
Again, get the best riding gloves you can afford. Buy your first pair appropriate for the current time of year and then you can always purchase others as the climate changes.
A quality pair of summer gloves can be had for around $50 so there’s really no excuse.
The Open Face vs Full Face Helmet Debate
If you were introduced to the ATGATT acronym on a motorcycle safety course you will be aware they tend to push full face helmets as the only option. That’s because they’re proven to be safer and the stats show that they do save more lives.
I ride a Triumph Bobber and when I got it my own opinion was that the designers of my bike had spent large sums of cash and time trying to get a modern day motorcycle to look like it just rode in from the 1930’s and I wasn’t going to ruin their efforts by wearing a full face helmet.
Again though, that’s just me. As a teenager riding a Kawasaki KH250 I always had a full faced helmet.
Once I got my full license and purchased my first Triumph my outlook on riding changed and it became about the journey, not getting to the destination as quickly as possible.
In other words, since then I’ve always took the time to smell the flowers and was never hooked on speed (which is a good thing when your first Triumph was an old pre-unit original Triumph 5T Speed Twin 500).
I’m getting old now and ride appropriately for my age but these last few years I was always aware my chin was exposed.
This year I found a helmet that was the best of both worlds. The Bell Broozer is duel certified as both an open face and a full face with the chin bar being detachable.
The Bell Broozer is my favorite Street Fighter style helmet. It is a no frills, no playing around, mean looking lid backed by Bell’s long heritage of quality helmets.
The chin guard is removable so you can wear it as a DOT approved full face when you're crunching the miles and as a DOT approved open face when pottering around town.
- Dual-homologated for use as both open and full-face
- Detachable chin bar
- Dark and clear visors included
- 5 year warranty
- Dual-density EPS liner for the best protection
There are plenty of other helmets with a detachable chin guard but these actually offer no protection for the lower face, they’re nothing more than a face mask to keep the bugs out.
With the Bell Broozer the chin bar is solid and I wear it with the guard on for longer rides and road trips and without for pottering around town.
Yes, I’m aware that’s not ‘All The Gear, All The Time” but for me, it’s a good compromise.
A half or open face helmet will not protect you as well as a fully faced lid but it will protect you far better than wearing nothing at all.
If you do go down the open face helmet route then get some motorcycle goggles to protect your eyes and some ear plugs to help keep the wind noise down.
Don’t Be Caught Wearing Squid Gear!
A motorcycle squid is easily identified by the inappropriate clothing he’s wearing. Squids will think nothing of riding in a vest, shorts and flip flops.
It shouldn’t matter how short your journey is or how nice the weather is, don’t dress like a squid.
Most riders agree that ATGATT is a good thing.
For me, ATGATT is just a clever reminder to wear your riding gear regardless of how short your journey is or how nice the weather is.