Can someone ever rightfully claim to be a safe motorcycle rider? Can someone ever point out another rider as being unsafe? Can ATGATTers pat themselves on the back for being safe riders? Are squids destined to die?
I go crazy when I hear a rider point out another rider as being a "squid", or publicly espousing the virtues of wearing ATGATT, because those terms are relative. In some respects, they're just fantasy.
Binary Opposition is a subject that has been much observed particularly in recent times through feminism, racism, religion, and politics. It's basically refers to polar opposites. Humans measure things linearly. We understand expressions of "up and down", "hot and cold", "white and black", "male and female", "God and Satan", "gay and straight", "liberal and conservative", et al. But we tend to prefer one opposite over the other. Males tend to dominate females. God is good, Satan is bad. Whites are priviledged, Blacks are discriminated.
Humans are social animals, and as such, we assemble into groups and look at the world as "us versus them".
In motorcycling, ATGATT is perceived more favorably than Squid. And while ATGATT proponents point to data in the course of defending their position, the data still remains relative and inconclusive. That is, there are many motorcyclists who died despite wearing a lot of gear. Moreover, many of those lives could have been spared, had they wore even more gear.
And that's why I go crazy when I hear people espouse the virtues of ATGATT. It's simply impossible to wear all the gear, all the time. A rider can never wear enough gear to be 100% safe. You can always put on more gear that will get you closer to 100%, but you can never get to 100%.
But, safety and death do not have a direct correlation to gear. How much more gear you wear does not equate to how much more safe you'll be. Likewise, how little gear you wear does not equate to how many more injuries you'll suffer. It's very possible for an ATGATTer to suffer more injuries than a squid over the course of 100,000 miles.
So why do ATGATT afficionados like to point fingers at squids?
Again, "binary opposition" is one of those things that make up humanity. We're obsessed with polar opposites. I think it's because humans can never be 100% neutral. We're always going to have some bias, somewhere. And because we want to assemble with like-minded persons, we tend to point out those who are opposite to us. Some of this opposition becomes highly emotional, particularly with religion, politics, racism, and sexuality. I tend to witness the same emotional level of opposition in motorcycling.
I mean, look at Harley versus Metric. Cruiser versus Sportbike. Leather versus Textile. I've been around enough BMW riders to know how much they despise Harley riders. This is all under the supposed, "brotherhood of motorcycling", and yet the mudslinging can get pretty passionate.
Meanwhile, it's impossible to be a squid, simply because by definition, a squid is the polar opposite of ATGATT. And if you're the opposite of being 100% safe, then you're 100% dead. In my opinion, if a rider traveled from Point A to Point B safely, then technically speaking, they rode safely. It doesn't matter how much gear they wore, or even how fast.
In reality, we all exist in the grey area. We all wear some amount of gear, even if it's just a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. Even if you rode naked, you still have a brain that kept you safe.
Safety can only be declared at the end of the ride, and is not a reflection of how much gear you wear.
I will agree, however, that wearing more gear will reduce injury and the risk of death. But there's an irony in wearing more gear. If you agree that you can't wear enough gear to be 100% safe, then you're obviously willing to risk death. And if you're willing to risk death, are you not a squid?
Otherwise, the difference between ATGATT and squid is a sliding scale of risk, with each person getting to decide how risky they want to be. That's grey area. I can see how someone would "feel" more safe if they wore more gear, but does that make them more safe? Does that give them the right to declare someone else as unsafe?
So, when is a squid not a squid?
Well, we're all squids, and we're all ATGATTers. The sliding scale doesn't include or exclude us from either opposite. We can never be either or. That really ought to unite us all.
The terms "ATGATT" and "Squid" only end up dividing us.