Held Women’s Carese II & Torno II suit

Whether you’ve come across Held or not, this German manufacturer has been in its stride for over 70 years, starting out as glove makers. Being one of the first to offer up textile motorcycle apparel back in 1991, the Held Carese II jacket and Torno II pants go all out to harness the latest fabric technology. To a woman rider’s advantage?

True to size?

On and off road in Alberta, Canada I was fortunate to test, exert and comfortably sweat in the women’s suit in late summer at 85F, the slightest of autumnal windows where the temperatures and rain began to fall, and the onset of a long and unforgiving sub-zero winter. As far as sizing goes (XS to 4XL), I’m 5-feet 5 with a 27-inch waist and 29-inch inseam. The women’s small jacket was true to size although I needed to go one larger against Held’s size guide with the medium pants—both giving a favored, slightly more European fit conscious to my curves.

Functionality

Like all adventure touring ensembles wanting to reset the industry standard, the Carese II and Torno II achieve its absolute weatherproofing from a 3-layer inner Gore-Tex® liner. Alas, it’s a layered system so during heavy downpours, there’s still a need to stop and waterproof oneself while getting wet.

Pleasingly though, the membrane liners are designed to be worn either under or over the suit, where opting for the respective latter shields the suit from the dust and dirt (chomping at the bit to stain the grey sections), and a darn good soaking too. A no-brainer when camping remotely in wet conditions with limited opportunity to dry out your gear in the tent.

Considerately, there are stretch panels at the joints for dynamic movement, especially unhampering in upright and three-quarter riding positions, and even swinging my leg over to mount the DR650. They prevent bunching in the suit too. The 500-denier Cordura undeniably gives the suit its bombproof construction for longevity as much as protection.

Protection is everything

Speaking of protection, safety extends to CE-approved SAS-TEC cloverleaf shock-dispersing armor in most of the usual suspects: elbows and forearms, shoulders and knees. Aiding better temperature stability on top. While hip pads and a Temperfoam back pad are included, bizarrely, the full-length SAS-TEC back protector is “optional” rather than standard. For me, a tough pill to swallow against the cost of the jacket and all the niceties loaded on the piece. A 360 degree zipper joins the upper and lower pieces, fostering further safety and sanctuary from the weather, and 3M SCOTCHLITE™ reflectors promote good visibility all round.

Unique selling points

For me, the unique selling point of the suit has to be the bounty of zippered and panel vents at one’s fingertips. Between the upper and lower, I stopped counting after 20 vents. Having ventured on two wheels through Death Valley’s 100+F hot spots and the dripping wet heat on the Baja California, Mexico in September, this ensemble would undoubtedly come into its own.

Coupled with an array of magnets and the use of COOLMAX® sweat-wicking inner mesh lining, means the welcome rush of air keeps charging through the suit—underarm, front-to-back and laterally—in full flow. For sure, a lot of openings to close when the weather turns cooler but beyond worth it in searing heat. Furthermore, at the back of the outer shell of the jacket, there’s an air mesh construction: a micro-climate enhancing layer, which traps heat on inclement days as well as managing moisture and good circulation on warmer ones.

Other thoughtful features comprise Superfabric® on the shoulder (tiny, ceramic laser-welded plates) for superior protection over Cordura or leather. Although as a trivial nit pick, I would’ve opted for an extension of the Superfabric® coming over the shoulder. A soft fleece-lined high collar edged in neoprene offers daylong comfort; and a waist belt, dual arm and double leg adjustment really refines the fit top and bottom, all of which are still a rarity on some women’s gear.

Storage still eludes some women’s gear

Brilliantly, there’s ample storage on the jacket, which is invaluable on a suit you practically live in.

Eight pockets in total on the jacket including: two handy compartments on the lower back for your liners; concealed zippered security pockets; a map pocket; another internal neoprene accessory pocket for small electronic devices; and two lower cargo compartments that are waterproof but not zippered. Regardless, all the zips employed are YKK. There are four pockets on the high-waisted pants although none of them are particularly big. Mayhap exclusively, the magnetic closure technology on the pockets, located on the upper and lower pieces double as air vents to boot. How nifty.

Going the extra mile

As much as I adore textile, I appreciate the stay-still tough reinforcement given by Pittards® Armor-Tan abrasion resistant leather at the seat and inner knees. Moreover, Nomex® appears on the lower leg—a heat-retardant fabric for a serious level of protection.

Going beyond the call of duty, Held has designed the jacket liner with style and function in mind. Unlike many, it’s actually not unattractive as a women’s jacket on its own. Happy to wear it while off the bike, it’s also waterproof so when it’s not keeping me dry on the bike, it saves me from taking a rainproof layer when out of the saddle as well. Another innovative two in one—glorious!

Stylistic preferences as a woman rider

Where some may find the Cordura’s open weave in the grey color of the suit (comparable to what I’d call stone), a royal pain to clean—lighter colors being susceptible to getting dirty quicker—to my mind, constitutes a functional plus. Having worn black from neck to toe over the last three years (also available in the jacket and pants if preferred), I’m disposed towards lighter colors because they keep me cooler. Less agitated and sane even. Come the hot weather, I’d rather be far cooler caked in dirt, than look cleaner in a heat-induced agony any day.

Why I love this suit

Why I love this suit really comes down to the one thing. It’s capable in every season. It has been crafted with a mindfulness you don’t see on the majority of women’s motorcycle apparel, certainly in its pre-eminent venting configuration and clever use of magnets (those that wear pacemakers BEWARE). Where some severely lack in storage, fit and, or ventilation, this one definitely does not. I’d even argue it’s one of the most striking and tailored adventure touring suits I’ve seen to date, joyfully lightweight too.

Nit picks

The only real gripes I have for this higher end priced masterpiece is the absence of a back protector, although in due course, let’s hope EU regulations stipulate one as mandatory. That, and the employment of waterproof liners over a fixed 3-layer laminate layer. Admittedly, the impressive ventilation solution may suffer with the inclined alternative. And I know, there’s no such thing as the perfect suit, the perfect bike or perfect anything.

Conclusion

Fundamentally, its top of the tree components meet if not surpass my needs as a long distance rider in all weathers ranging god-awful in the deep winter months and wettest of rainy seasons, to wonderful in the warmer ones. Fully featured is beautifully correlated to fully functional here. Women riders: there’s a lot going on for this genre of suit but when it all comes together, it’s a juggernaut. MSRP: $849 Jacket | $620.00 Pants HeldUSA.com

Pros

  • Unparalleled ventilation in a four-season, long distance adventure suit
  • Good bang for your buck against the wealth of apex materials with specific applications
  • Relatively lightweight for more active riding
  • Extra protection from dirt and water saturation with multi-purpose liners
  • Dynamic and adjustable fit with stylish lines and finish

Cons

  • The full-length back protector is optional, not standard
  • Manual waterproofing required

Helpfully, Held HQ in Germany responded to the optional full length back protector:

“We do not include the back protector, as many people like to wear a separate protector vest underneath. Anyway this might change in future, due to European regulations.”

Afterthoughts:

Indeed, many riders do prefer the level of protection afforded by wearing a separate back protector. I would too, particularly in the warmer climes worn beneath a loose, light layer; in sand; enduro riding; and, or motocross riding for example.
That said, based on my firsthand experience to date of riders wearing four-season adventure touring suits, I think many more people than the aforementioned “many” to which Held referred, would expect the back protector to be a standard feature, rather than an optional one.
I absolutely would not expect to see niceties such as a storm collar or a thermal under layer, nor would I expect suspenders on the Torno II pants. Certainly not with all the current features present, which collectively are phenomenal. For the price point of the jacket, however, a back protector, I would; to my mind, the overall safety as much as the preventative protection of the spine is surely compromised without one. It would be like wearing a two-point seat belt in a vehicle as opposed to a three-point one.
And to have to spend another $50 on top of $849 USD to achieve full protection seems unjustified. I’d rather see one of the nice-to-have refinements removed to keep the price unaffected. Without laboring the point, I can’t recall any other three-season and definitely not four-season jacket on the market right now that doesn’t include a back protector in with the price.
And please don’t misunderstand my overall view: I still very much adore the Carese II and Torno II ensemble. It’s phenomenally featured, where functionality and fit outshine many others in the four-season, adventure touring category on the market right now.