Monday, October 12, 2015

When is a Squid Not a Squid?

Me riding through Arches National Park, Utah, June 17, 2015
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.


  1. The first thing that came to mind when I saw your title was "when it's an octopus". My mind is a sarcastic beast though.

    I think discussing ATGATT is about risk. Motorcycling and what gear anyone chooses to wear or not to wear is about the risk they as an individual are willing to take.

    I personally wear ATGATT, but in my 20's I didn't. As I have gotten older I have seen too many articles about road rash and other injuries so I minimize my risk by wearing armored pants, jacket, full face belt, always gloves, etc. I choose to minimize my risk of road rash.

    We live in a collage town and see many (usually sport bike riders) wearing flip flops, shorts and a tank top when riding, some with no gloves. I would never say anything to them about what I think of their gear. They only risk their own skin when they ride that way.

    Maybe the perception is that if one doesn't ride with all the gear they haven't had proper training or additional training. Just a thought trying to figure out the stereotype of a perceived squid.

  2. I partially agree with what you say here. I have been motorcycling for the past 10 years and am also a motorcycle dealer and I feel that no amount of protection can keep you 100% safe. If you are destined to die, you will die. But risking death is a completely different thing. I have seen many people ride without giving an iota of care to protection or even to their motorcycle. They keep their motorcycles ill maintained. At any given point of time, it is always better to save yourself from bad rashes by wearing enough protective gear. Accidents are not in our control but atleast precaution is. I am not saying that going overboard with the protective equipments is a good idea but atleast one can wear minimal protective gears like helmets, armoured jackets, gloves, long pants and comfortable boots. Some motorcyclists don't even get proper training before riding and this is completely wrong. Why put someone else's life in danger just because you didn't get the time to undergo a proper training!

  3. I may not be able to provide a perfect description, but I know a squid when I see one.

    Ride up on the Ortega some weekend; any weekend, really: They're the ones passing you on blind corners and, later, being hauled down the mountain by the EMTs...

  4. I agree completely. I wear what I wear and care nothing about what others wear or think what I should wear. Call me a squid; I'm still riding.

  5. I do ATTGATT for the most part. I commute to work on my bike nearly every day and it's not really possible for me to have on riding boots or leather pants because I have an office job. I do wear the helmet, the jacket, the gloves...I know that concrete and asphalt will not give and are much harder than my head. Training classes help and ALL bikers should practice at least the basic safety protocols. That being said, wear a helmet at least.

  6. Are ATGATTers (I'm one of them) and squids polar opposites? Sure, squids tend to ride in tank tops and flip-flops with an $800 helmet bungee netted to the rear seat. But the lack of gear isn't what makes them squids, at least in my mind. It's the lack of common sense, the "I'll pass you in traffic in a no passing zone" kind of attitude, the "I like my chain that dry and loose" way of thinking. Kind of like the loud pipes save lives kind of people..

    If squids tend to be 18 to 30 year olds with no brains or real skill, just $ for a bike and a get out of my way I have no fear(or common sense) attitude... Are they far off from a certain set of cruiser types, the ones with 6 year old bikes with 2000 miles on them... the ones that believe front brakes are dangerous and often have to lay her down to avoid an accident? They ones that always seem to be in the paper as having "lost control in the corner"... just before the crash

  7. As a squid who's perfectly comfortable in his own tentacles, I respect the ATGATTers until they become preachy. I enjoy riding in the summer in a tee shirt and shorts though I traded in the flip flops for sneakers when I graduated from a 50 cc scooter to a 250. I'm content to live and let live until somebody tries to tell ME what to do and how to do it. Until then I'm happy not to make fun of anybody who wants to look like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle when it's 90 degrees in the shade with 95% humidity.

    - Joe at Scootin' da Valley

  8. My pet peeve is the stealth helmet etc so popular these days . OK,I admit it I'm a day-glow nutball.But seriously,why would anyone in their right mind purchase a flat black lid? The highest spot on your rig & you're doing you're best to make it invisible!

  9. If everything exists in "binary opposition," what opposes binary opposition?
    It may not be necessary to identify with any particular side of an issue to increase one's understanding of the issue, then make a personal decision about how to respond--all the while remaining unidentified (non/minimally-attached) with the issue.
    Even if we accept binary opposition as one perspective, and might describe it's opposite as, e.g., "polysingle unity," still, these positions (no matter their number) exist within a field or context greater than the concepts themselves--despite our best efforts to concretize them through language.
    And safe as our brain may have the potential keep us, if it wasn't for its surrounding skull, life would have a few more challenges. . .
    If the matter is genuinely about no promised tomorrows and living life as if it could end at any moment, then a genuine acceptance of death would, more likely than not, prove useful in expressing an ever deepening reverence and acceptance for life in its myriad forms and diverse expressions.
    Life is more complex than we are individually and collectively capable of understanding--and I would have many questions for those who claim otherwise.
    This "complex life" dilemma provides many opportunities for ongoing learning, no matter where one may be (physically or mentally).
    I have a hunch the death/life understanding/acceptance realms, unanswerable as these matters remain in the greater scheme of things, play a role in the "ATGATT"/Squid" squabble.
    We make our choices and manage the outcome as best we can--noting, too, the emerging delusions/illusions surrounding our attachments/identifications with the perceived outcome (distant I hope it remains).
    In the meantime, learn as you as you are able and ride accordingly.
    Steven N
    Denver, CO

  10. Invitation to a patch open to all riders

    The patch: “Highway 101 Relics” is associated with the world’s longest highway (the Pan-American), which is also known as Highway 101 which stretches through the United States and Canada. This simple patch is about freedom, no borders and is free for anyone to use. It is free to all riders of all makes of bikes, and as an open patch it connects everyone to the history of riding (Relics) and available to lone riders or to new riding clubs. For information on how to view or how to obtain this patch directly from Hero Patches, email:


  11. And has the author been to ER and seen the metal grater to remove gravel. Or seen how missed gravel in a wound goes septic quickly leading to removal of parts. Gear is about mitigating this risk. Getting back to caring for dependents soon after an off. If u cant work due to skin grafts how do you pay bills and look after family.


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)