First, it is obvious that protective equipment mitigates some of the risks of riding a motorcycle, so also does attitude, training, experience, skill, and aptitude.
As protective equipment mitigates risk, I would say that riding ATGATT is an intelligent choice and also that refusing to ride with protective gear is an unintelligent or stupid choice. This is necessarily a subjective judgment based on the knowledge that protective equipment mitigates risk and my personal views on what levels of risk are acceptable. However, the exact same form of argument is equally valid from anyone arguing that driving a cage mitigates the risks of riding a motorcycle.
The OP is asking why people make stupid choices and implicit in his question is his personal judgment that many Harley riders are stupid for not riding ATGATT. Simultaneously the OP ignoring his own stupid choice to ride a motorcycle in the first place. Why do individuals make decisions, informed or otherwise, to engage in dangerous behaviors?
I think most Harley riders know that it is rather foolish to ride without protective gear and then they get defensive about the topic. My brother-in-law, a Harley rider, once stated that he did not ride with protective clothing because his medical insurance would pay for skin graphs but his motorcycle insurance would not pay a thin dime for a new jacket. Is this stupid or just a defensive rationalization in an attempt to justify his personal choice? I am more concerned about the safety of my sister riding pillion than the choices he makes for himself. At the same time I think the vast majority of motorcycle riders understand that making the choice to ride a motorcycle is stupid in that it is more dangerous than driving a car, and we also tend to get defensive.
Please note that risk is a continuum and that no behavior is inherently safe and no behavior is inherently dangerous. There is no point on the risk spectrum that clearly discriminates between a safe behavior and a dangerous behavior. At best, all we can say is that behavior A is somewhat more dangerous than behavior B, and that behavior C is somewhat safer than behavior D. Some behaviors entail more risk than others although it is not always possible to know which is safer if there are no data available to quantify the comparative levels of risk.
As an axiomatic principle, I accept that every man has a God given unalienable right to live his life as he chooses, the right to pursue happiness, and as a consequence I assert that no man has a right to determine what level of risk is acceptable for any other man. Moreover, I think it a moral evil to infringe this unalienable human right and I will be damned if I will let an evil man tell me that I can't ride a motorcycle (with or without a helmet), or screw lots of beautiful women (ugly women are not a consideration), or smoke dope (that ugly woman is looking better), or climb mountains, or ... so on.
To potential critics who think I am stupid for choosing to ride instead of drive, I will happily admit the validity of their opinions and will assert that they have every right to comport their own personal behaviors with the level of risk that they judge to be acceptable, but they have no right at all to make these same decisions for me; FYYFF. For anyone who continually bashes Harley riders for choosing to ride without gear, FYYFF also. No matter how stupid I might personally think this choice, it is their choice to make and not mine, and I can not rationally expect any man to respect my right to make choices about how to live my life if I have no respect for the choices others make. No Harley rider choosing to ride without gear has any obligation to justify that personal choice to anyone.
RHanson screwed with this post 02-04-2014 at 08:17 AM