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Held Carese II Textile Jacket

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Published in: Gear

HeldCarese-IIProductINTRO.jpg

I suspect that I’m little different to most readers when it comes to looking for a new motorcycle jacket. First of all, I want a jacket that’s going to keep me safe, and comfortable. It has to be tough, and flexible enough to deal with the all conditions of wear that I’m going to give it. And, the poser in me wants it to look good, too.

00 SAM HeldCarese900BOPDY

Most motorcyclists in the U.S. will have heard of Held’s superb range of motorcycle gloves and will probably know that they have linked up with Schuberth helmets on a joint design project. But I suspect that not many have come across their jackets and riding pants. With that in mind, this review has to start off with, who on earth are Held?

The company is a German family business and has been around for over 70 years. It’s highly respected in Europe, and leading German motorcycle magazine Motorrad has recently awarded their “Best Brand” category to Held, three times. The company’s business model has been to grow gently, with well-designed and extreme tested gear, that’s made of top quality materials. To back this up, their size ranges and customer service are second to none.

I’ve been wearing Held gear for about 10 years, so when the chance came up to review their Carese II jacket, I leapt at it. Over the last three years I’ve been riding five to six-week trips in the U.S. and have been hugely aware that your country has an incredible spread of temperatures and climate zones. I’ve ridden from 30°F and snow, to a baking 125°F. The jacket is classified by Held as “quattrotempi” or four season, so the test for me had to be in determining if this claim was accurate.

Starting with the poser factor, there’s a wide range of colors available. The Carese II comes in grey and red, plain black, grey and orange, and a grey-blue combo. All variations are well equipped with subtle but effective 3M Scotchlite reflectors. Helping the jacket to fit your personal shape are bands on each arm, and a waist band. The riding pants to go with the jacket are Held’s Torno 11.

The armor in the DuPont Cordura 500D outer jacket is in the form of CE-approved Held cloverleaf SAS-TEC shoulder and elbows protectors, which fit in very comfortably. They stayed in place well when riding, and when putting on or taking off the jacket. I like the point that the elbow protectors not only cup the elbow, they continue down the arm for a good seven inches. There isn’t an additional high abrasion layer on the elbows of the jacket, but I think that the Cordura when combined with this elbow protector design will do a good job. There’s a full-length pocket in the jacket lining for a back protector. And the jacket does come with a Temperfoam protector, but I have a preferred back protector and was glad to see that it slotted in snugly.

02 Sleeve HELD 900BODY

Speaking of pockets, this jacket is not short of them. There are two waterproof outer pockets, and two pockets in the rear below the waist. Inside are three pockets and a cell phone pocket, none of which are waterproof. And that is one of my few criticisms of this jacket. I would have liked to see at least one more waterproofed pocket.

The jacket itself fastens with a heavy duty main zip and has a Velcro and magnetic button overflap. I really like the fact that, gloves on, I’m not messing around with poppers! The magnet/Velcro combination is powerful enough to keep the flap firmly in place even in high winds and at high speed. I was surprised that there isn’t a security fastener of some sort at the base of the main zip. I know that Held test their gear rigorously, so perhaps it’s simply not needed.

The collar is just less than two inches high at the front and two and a half at the back. For me, those measurements are perfect. Weather and wind protection, but no element of strangulation! The collar has a soft lining and you can clip it back if you wish, using a loop and hook arrangement.

This is not a laminated jacket but has a removable GORETEX liner, which has a five-year guarantee. The liner fits snuggly inside the jacket as you’d expect, and it’s held into place with easy action zips down the front, and at the wrists.

The waterproof layer is designed in such a way that you can wear it on the outside of the jacket, too. It even has reflective strips and decals. I really like this concept because with waterproof membrane jackets, you always face the chore, when rain is on the way, of having to strip off your jacket so you can reinsert the membrane. None of that hassle with this. The option to wear it on the outside also means that the jacket isn’t soaking up water. The downside of a wet jacket is that when the moisture is wicked away by slipstream you have an added chill to your ride.

HeldCarese rainliner900BODY2

The seat pocket is perfect for tucking away the GORETEX jacket liner; if you need to put it on in a hurry, there’s no messing around unpacking to get at it. You just reach round, unzip and pull it out, job done. As a bonus, off the bike you can wear the liner as a waterproof, breathable jacket. It actually looks rather smart.

With that clever design dealing with the waterproof side of things, how does the Carese II cope with high temperatures? It’s very capable. To begin with, the jacket lining is made of Coolmax, which is a breathable mesh. The sleeves have sixteen-inch two-way zips which go from wrist, to high on the bicep. I like this idea for two reasons: One, it’s really easy to put my gloves on at the wrist fastening point. You can adapt the jacket to your wrist size using Velcro straps. And two, undoing the zips from the top down to the wrist gives you a two-and-a-half-inch wide blast of air along your arms. This works really well, while still giving you the security of your wrists being firmly fastened.

04FRONT VENT Held 900BODY

The chest pockets aren’t pockets at all but are your next weapon against the heat. The zips open two sides of the “pockets” to expose more mesh. You simply fold the flaps in on themselves and magnets hold them in place. This gives you a good blast of air direct to the chest. There are also six-inch zipped vents to the arm side of these “pockets.” The final front airflow opportunity comes from the jacket’s main opening flap. You can use the magnets to fix the flap in the open position and that exposes a body length strip of mesh.

A ten-inch zippered opening across the upper back accesses more mesh, and six-inch openings on the back of the arms and eight-inch openings behind the shoulders complete the air flow possibilities.

I’m writing in such detail about these features because I really like the fact that this collection of cooling opportunities allows me to regulate how much exposure I need, and where it’s happening. I like the fact that when riding in warm but not extreme temperatures and I have the liner inside, the mix of vents allows a good draft between the layers. That helps the GORETEX to do its job of wicking away body perspiration.

07 Interior HELD 900BODY

In more extreme temperatures I’ve taken the GORETEX liner out and the difference is instantly noticeable. A key cooling point is that once the outside temperature is more than your body temperature, too many openings mean that you aren’t cooling your body at all. You are heating it up. When you reach these sort of temperatures it’s better to close almost all the vents and to allow no more than a slight breeze to flow through your jacket. The way this jacket is designed puts you firmly in control.

Finally, how does it deal with colder temperatures? There isn’t a quilted lining. When I first saw that I was concerned but then logic kicked in. You just rely on multipurpose layers; quality base layers, your fleece and so on. I like the practicality of that and the fact that it fits so easily with the two uses rule; so important when you are looking to keep luggage weight and bulk down. I like to have plenty of space for layers and prefer a relaxed fit, so I went for a size larger.

All in I think this is a well thought out jacket which puts the rider firmly in control of whatever the weather decides to throw at you. Its design, build quality and materials mean that you are going to be well protected if the worst happens. It looks great, too. This jacket isn’t cheap but, in this instance, you really do get what you pay for and that makes it really good value. I’m happy to give it four and a half stars. The missing half comes because I’d like to see it with more than two waterproof pockets and I’d like a security fastening at the base of the main jacket zip. Minor nitpicks….

MSRP: $849

HeldUSA.com

PROS:

  • Top quality materials
  • Excellent protective armor
  • A large back protector pocket
  • Flexibility
  • Waterproof liner fitting over the jacket as well as inside
  • Good number of pockets
  • Good length
  • Great selection of colors
  • Very useful and functional venting options
  • Very comfortable
  • Great zip tabs. Perfect when wearing gloves

CONS:

  • Not enough waterproof pockets
  • No security fastener at the base of the main zip
  • Slim fitting so if you like an easy fit then go for a size larger
  • No high abrasion resistant external elbow layer
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