German based Held may not be the most well known purveyor of motorcycle apparel, but that is certainly not because they are new to it. Fresh as they are to North America with their introduction to the market in 2014, the brand itself is pushing towards its 70th anniversary. Originally started as a maker of premium gloves, they quickly moved into motorcycle luggage and riding apparel. They were amongst the first to offer advanced textile riding suits in the early 1990s, a legacy that lives on in their current offerings such as the Held Carese II jacket and Torno II pant.
For the last several thousand miles, including a ride through the high Andes of Ecuador, I have done my best to thoroughly test their pinnacle adventure suit. From Arizona’s scorching heat, to torrential downpours on the edge of the Amazon basin, I have put this combination through nature’s worst. The conclusion of my testing was definitive. I need more testing––it’s simply too much fun.
Somewhere on the edge of the Amazon Basin in Ecuador.
Like many adventure touring systems, Held’s jacket and pant combination derives its weatherproofness from a 3-layer inner Gore-Tex® liner. Unlike most layered systems, the upper and lower waterproof liners are designed to be worn either under or over the outer layers for ease of use, and to protect the suit from dirt or saturation from heavy rain. The outer layers are constructed of 500 denier Cordura® for maximum durability and protection, and include stretch panels at key joints for unrestricted articulation.
The most noticeable attribute of this combination is the abundance of zippered vents. Between the jacket and pants, there are 22 individual vents creating impressive air pass-through. The full length front vent beneath the storm flap, paired to the sleeve vents, creates a rush of air which is easily managed even while riding, and a series of magnets placed throughout keep vent flaps in the open position.
Additional refinements abound with thermoformed shoulder caps, leather reinforcements at the seat and inner knees, and adjustment tabs at the waist and arms for fine tuning of the fit. The collar has a soft fleece edge to resist abrasion and the two lower cargo pockets on the front of the jacket are waterproof and held closed via velcro and magnets.
One of my favorite aspects of the Held Carese II is the attention to detail placed on the finish of the inner GoreTex® liner jacket. Some liners are crude productions with unsightly seams and strange shapes making them only appropriate as an under layer. The Carese II liner looks like a nice jacket on its own, something that came in handy when wearing it as my outer layer when going out to dinner in the cold rain of Quito, Ecuador. It doubles as my general travel jacket when not keeping me dry on the bike.
Inside the main jacket is a CoolMax® mesh liner and a comprehensive collection of zippered inner pockets. There is a padded accessory pocket for electronics and discrete security pockets for stashing travel documents or extra cash. The five external pockets are easily accessed although none of them are terribly large.
Safety features include CE-approved SAS-TEC protectors in the elbows, shoulders, and knees as well as a Temperfoam back and hip-pads. Reflective accents are placed at various points to provide 360º visibility and the jacket can be joined to the pants via a large gauge zipper for additional safety and weather resistance.
The thigh pockets feature a single zipper for light venting and a full retractible curtain for direct venting. The inner aspect of the knees are covered in supple leather with accordion swatches above the knee for unrestricted mobility. They are very comfortable pants.
At a shade over 6-feet tall and a pretty lean 170 pounds, I fit into the size medium jacket and pants perfectly with the pants only a tad bit short for me, which is all too common. Many European suits have a more slender cut than their North American counterparts and I’d say this is somewhat true of Held’s fit.
As good as some suits are, none are perfect. While nothing on the Carese II or Torno II falls even close to the deal-breaker category, I did find a few grouses that are worth mentioning. For starters, the open weave of the Cordura® outer shell, while very durable, sure does get dirty. After a full day in the rain soaked Andes, my suit looked positively disgusting, and getting it relatively clean was hardly worth the protracted effort. I have since treated the now cleaned outer layer with a waterproof coating, which has made subsequent cleanings more successful.
The magnets, of which there are many, initially seemed like a great idea, and perhaps they are, but they too get dirty and look a little weird after a few uses with little grungy round dots all over the suit making it look like it got attacked by a greasy octopus.
My final minor complaint, and this is almost not worth mentioning, is the time in which it takes to open or close the 22 vents. Once open the payoff on a hot day is worth the effort, but it does take some time to get the suit in full cooling mode.
Jacket $850, Pants $620
Why I love it:
The quality of construction and the thoughtfulness of the design makes this one of the better suits I’ve tested in the last couple of years. It is superbly crafted with at least a dozen different materials all chosen for their highly specified applications. As a traveling suit, it is extremely comfortable and offers ample storage for all the little things best kept close at hand. Most importantly, it accommodates true four-season riding.