There are things out there that should never happen, yet they happen often enough there’s a word for it. Necrophilia is one of those things, as is “Quesarito.” Another one of those things is degloving.

Degloving, you say? Isn’t that when you take off a glove? Sure, I guess so, but that’s not the primary usage of that word. You may Google it of course, but I strongly, strongly advise against it.

You did it anyway, didn’t you? I’m silently praying you didn’t search Google Images. If you did, I am truly sorry for what you saw. You will never be able to unsee it. But hey, at least we know what we’re talking about now, right?

Just in case you did an image search for "degloving," I've posted this photo of kittens as a mental cleanser.

Just in case you did an image search for “degloving,” I’ve posted this photo of kittens as a mental cleanser.

If you had the good judgment to not sully your browser history with gruesome photos, I’ll fill you in on what the guy in the next cubicle is barfing up his lunch over. Degloving is what happens when skin gets detached from the layers underneath, and there are dozens of gruesome ways this could happen. In regards to motorcyclists, it could happen when excessive heat and friction is applied to a patch of unprotected human skin, so that the layer of fat and sinew underneath heats up and deteriorates, allowing the skin to come loose and strip away in whole sheets. I’m guessing, at some point, the skin from somebody’s hand came off, like a glove, hence the name.

That’s why I’m mystified when I see a certain kind of rider, and I see scads of them here in San Francisco. I call them ATGATTEFG, which of course stands for “all the gear, all the time, except for gloves,” pronounced “at-gatt-effig.” They are easy to spot, as they are wearing boots, a full-face helmet, a sturdy, motorcycle-appropriate jacket and even moto-specific trousers or leathers. I’ve actually spotted a guy in full roadracing leathers without gloves, which is like seeing the Monopoly guy without his monocle.

This column is not about squids. Your average shorts-and-tank-top guy or scooter fashion plate can’t be bothered with gloves because they are idiots (which isn’t really fair to idiots) and can only live in the present. For instance, last Friday I saw a man in his 60s astride a 1990’s-vintage sportbike wearing a motocross helmet and pajamas. Yes, pajamas. And no, he was not Hugh Hefner. He was not wearing gloves, and I have no expectation that he would ever wear gloves. Because to him, a motorcycle isn’t capable of becoming an instrument of dismemberment and mayhem if he makes a mistake or bad decision—it’s just some kind of cheap, easy-to-park musclecar he can use to troll for whomever a badly repainted ZX-7R and purple gorilla-print pajamas hold irresistible appeal.

Unless you are as tough and leathery as Keith Richards, you should wear gloves when you ride.

Unless you are as tough and leathery as Keith Richards, you should wear gloves when you ride.

It’s Mr. (or Ms.) ATGATTEFG that stupefy me. These are people who seem to have some knowledge of the risks of injury while riding, evidenced by their almost-complete protective riding gear.  If they haven’t Googled “degloving,” or its ghastly handmaiden, subcutaneous emphysema (this is, sadly, also a real thing where an abrasion injury opens a hole in the skin and allows the rush of air to inflate the person like a volleyball), they at least understand abrasion-resistant materials are a good thing to cover your body with while you ride.

So, why don’t they wear gloves? I asked one guy at a stoplight, and he screamed, “because I’m a f-ing asshole, man!“, which shut down any hope of productive discussion. A query on a local discussion forum similarly came up with just a few relevant replies; a couple of guys admitted to very occasionally taking short trips with no gear at all—and who can say they’ve never done that?—but no ATGATTEFG’s chimed in.

Since I don't want to post horrible photos of human bodies mangled and disfigured, I've posted this photo of the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb tests, because it's a really cool photo. No people were harmed, but there were goats and pigs on the ships.

Since I don’t want to post horrible photos of human bodies mangled and disfigured, I’ve posted this photo of the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb tests, because it’s a really cool photo. No people were harmed, but there were goats and pigs on the ships.

So here are a list of possible explanations for ATGATTEFGism:

I lost my gloves: This has, I’m sure, happened more than once in San Francisco. I often leave my gloves in my helmet, which I lock to my bike with a cable lock thinking even the most desperate junkie won’t bother taking them, as they have an odd smell. This is foolish. Junkies will steal the steam off of a hot bowl of soup.

I can’t text with gloves on: If you’ve been to S.F. in the last few years after a prolonged absence, you may think 95 percent of the city’s population has joined a cult that requires you to stare at a chocolate bar-shaped object at all times. I think there are many ATGATTEFGers that need 24/7 access to their iPhone, which you can’t use with regular gloves.

My hands get too hot: My four-year-old son has very, very hot hands and feet. I have read or heard comments from riders who really can’t handle the discomfort of sweaty hands. If they crash and lose all the meat on their palms, they won’t be able to sweat from there anymore, so it’s win-win either way, I guess.

I can’t find gloves that fit: I can sympathize with this one, as I have been wearing ill-fitting gloves for decades—and it may have given me arthritis in my thumb joint. My thumb is too long for medium-sized gloves, but my hand is too narrow for larges. Most gloves, especially the Chinese-made ones, seem to use the exact same pattern and never fit right. Custom gloves are expensive (but worth it!).

I am a Kung-Fu master and have toughened my hands using an ancient technique: Some guys really do think their hands are so tough they don’t need gloves. They might be right. I shook hands with a contractor once and it felt like holding a piece of carved mahogany. His hands are probably more abrasion resistant than some of the cheap-o gloves I see for sale.

So fess up—are you an ATGATTEFGer? Why? Help me understand! If you’re not a staunch ATGATTEFGer, remember: wear gloves. Or get de-gloved.

Gabe Ets-Hokin is online, Googling himself furiously, which may be another explanation for the arthritis in his thumb.

  • mugwump

    There was a Held booth at Mid Ohio a couple years ago I didn’t know they had “long” as an option. I wish they’d resurface that place.I’ve run with out gear,but never without gloves.but I’d become familiar with the process of debridement before I knew there was a word for that.

  • Gruf Rude

    I have a white scar-patch on my left forearm that reminds me that when I first started riding 50 years ago, I sometimes did not wear a jacket, but I have always worn heavy pants, helmet, boots and gloves.

  • Mahatma

    Remember as a kid trying to jump a fence,and snagged it with the tip of my shoe.Reuslt?Landing on my palms,and even from that low speed,the rash I got when connecting with asphalt made me realise that gloves is one of the more important things when riding motorcycle.One thing I want though is a glove with longer sleeve.The ones in stores always stop just short of the sleeve which annoys me in less than good weather.Not talking about those germans ones from the second world war,but maybe somewhere in the middle.

    • RinSF

      Try the Knox recon – they’ve got a good few inches above the wrist. Comfy too.

      • Bill Manewal

        Or Lee Parks Designs deerskin gloves. Most comfortable I’ve ever worn. Generous gauntlet. Easy to get on and off. Secure wrist strap and I even tested them 13 feet across the asphalt.

        http://www.leeparksdesign.com/gloves/

  • JMDonald

    Gloves unlike the government are your friends.

  • BDan75

    I’m guessing some combination of #s 1 thru 4, plus the fact that if you’re on and off the bike a lot for whatever reason, it’s kind of a pain to take gloves on and off. Never enough of a pain to keep me from doing it, mind you (I have a vivid imagination when it comes to injury, at least these days)…but enough that I’m always self-conscious as my non-wrist-strapped-glove-wearing, non-glasses-wearing riding buddy sits twiddling his thumbs while I remove glasses, don helmet, thread glasses into helmet, open velcro jacket cuff, get glove mini-gauntlet inside, fasten glove velcro, close jacket cuff velcro, repeat on the other side, and finally fire up the bike.

    • bvail

      Closing jacket cuff is a very good thing, at least for me. I was crossing southern CA and it was hotter than hell. Left my cuffs open and Yikes! a yellowjacket got up inside the sleeve and bit me about three times on my elbow. Like getting struck by a mini-lightning bolt. I was on my way back to Colorado from a 29 day USA4Corners ride of 29 days. During those days, the worst was crossing the Mojave desert from CA to Cedar City UT in one day. Had get it over with due to triple digit temperatures and a high of 113f.

  • http://www.proteusmusic.com/ MrBlenderson

    I’ll admit to becoming a bit of a squid since moving to Miami, as I have been making short trips in my neighborhood in whatever I’m wearing plus full-face and gloves. Normal rides (commuting, etc) I always also add jacket and boots, and moto-pants for fun rides and weekend trips. Full-face helmet and gloves are the two that I will NEVER get on the bike without, so I definitely don’t understand skipping gloves.

  • Larry

    I didn’t know ATGATTEFG was a thing. I live in Colorado and about 75% of the riders in my town don’t even wear helmets, but most still wear gloves. I’m cringing just thinking about going down with no gloves on.

  • Born to Ride

    I have the most miserable time finding gloves. My parents saw fit to bestow me with larger meaty hands and short fingers. I have only ever had luck with Cycle Gear house brands, as evidently, their hands models appear to be similarly deformed. My first good pair of leather gloves were “Frank Thomas” and I got 5 great years out of them before my palms and finger tips wore holes through the leather (I ride a lot). I tried Dianese, A-Stars, Spidi, and Cortech for replacements at the local dealerships to no avail. Randomly stumbled into Cycle Gear to pick up a sport chalk and they had a pair of “Sedici” gloves marked down 50% in the clearance bin. They fit like a friggin glove. I never ride without them.

    On a separate note, I used to never wear my gloves riding my dirt bikes as a kid. I crashed a lot. This taught me how to protect my hands really well when I crash. This is not recommended

  • Alexander Pityuk

    Hey, Gabe, ya gimme my money back for that lunch of mine, hear me?!
    Ofc it’s a combo of factors, one of which is not mentioned imo – trying to make a show-off wearing everything that looks cool and is not PITA to take on and off.
    I have the same type of hand by the way, but slight discomfort vs degloving? No brainer.
    And sweating? I mean, come on! Sweating hands is the last thing I am worried on a motorcycle. You can always wash them anywhere, apart from the rest of the body.

  • Pushr0d

    Never ride without gloves, or all the other stuff, except armored pants. Just too damn hot here.
    The gloves I find all have thumbs too short for my opposing digits, but I wear them anyway. I’m thinking of taking my Held’s to a local bootsmith…

  • bvail

    Necrophilia? Well, I googled that and you’re absolutely correct. A thing that should never happen. I also googled necrosis. Uffdah!!! Something that should never ever happen to oneself…ugg! I think the latter is what you were referring to unless you meant having intimate relations with a corpse while ATTGATTEFG. I would definitely suggest using gloves.

    Not into that, but I always wear gloves while motoring down the road on my scoot.

  • Steve C

    Years ago I got my first pair of summer gloves and shortly there after pulled into a state park driveway that had just been chip sealed but unmarked as such, anyway I went down hit the ground plams first. I was amazed at the number of small rocks stuck in the leather, my hands where fine, haven’t ridden without gloves since.

  • Gary J Boulanger

    Spot on as always, Gabe.

  • John A. Stockman

    Ha, the part where the guy said he was an asshole! Hits home with me, as I’ve ridden with many different types of riders and many different groups. For certain groups in my area anyway, trying to just talk about gear and/or training is frustrating and many times my relatives, sexual orientation and maternal heritage has been questioned and insulted. “Hey, let’s get together for a practice session, it’ll be fun…”. “That’s stupid, I’ve been riding for 20 years, I’ve learned all I need.” Or any other excuse you can imagine. I rode with those folks and they are the ones that need some practice/skill sessions, even if they’re just informal like I suggested. Also the lack of gear is commensurate with the skill levels. You can ride whatever you like, wear whatever you like and conduct your training, skills development and attitudes about it in any fashion you wish. The end-result is that people who vote & complain already have a misconception viewpoint about motorcycles/riders, and their perceptions are negatively affected by that I-don’t-need-better-skills and I-don’t have to-wear-a-kit type of rider. I can only control what I do, and I will always wear my kit. It doesn’t mean I can’t try to have a discussion and suggest solutions.

  • ‘Mike Smith

    I leave my gloves on my handle bars, covering the red plastic buttons that so commonly fade to pink. I really hope someone steals them and my helmet. Then I’d have a good excuse to buy a new helmet and gloves! So, if you are in the West coast of Florida and want some worn out and faded gloves and a sweat stinking helmet, they’re free, sitting on my bike.

  • Davidabl2

    Some old dudes have been riding long enough so that they aren’t going to get into any more accidents, even wearing purple gorilla print pj’s. Not before they actually go senile,which could explain the pj’s. Otoh they could be considered as high-viz gear
    could they not?