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?
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.
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.
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.