Superbike Freaks conducted a lot of investigative work earlier this year examining the leathers industry and how manufacturers produce their suits. As a result of this, we learned an awful lot about the differing quality from brand to brand. As my 5-year old gloves were seriously past their best, I decided to apply my new-found knowledge and treat myself to a pair of top-of-the-range, custom-made Held Phantom II gloves.
We like to put our money where our mouth is at SBF so, as part of an ongoing investigation into the quality of gear, each of the three of us chose a different pair of gloves for the purposes of long-term reviews.
I went with Held Phantoms; Ben chose the Kushitani GPR-6, and Rich is now sporting a pair of Arc-on Apex gloves.
Whilst researching for the leathers feature, we spoke to a number of people who had crashed badly wearing other popular brands of gloves and suffered horrible injuries. One guy sent us pictures of his hand which had been ground away in a number of places when his top-spec Alpinestars gloves completely disintegrated in a crash. The rest of his gear (a different brand to his gloves) was only scuffed and protected him perfectly well. Now, of course every crash is unique but there’s no way he slid down the road at 130mph doing a handstand, so we’d argue that the gloves didn’t perform as they should have. This wasn’t an isolated incident – we heard the exact same thing from a female racer who’d been wearing the same model gloves. On both of these occasions, the manufacturer inspected the gloves and said they were not defective. Obviously.
Coincidentally, the gloves I’d been wearing for the last five years (and, indeed, my pair before that) were also Alpinestars GP Pros. Luckily, I’ve never had a serious crash so I hadn’t found out how they’d perform when it mattered, but either way, I was upgrading.
Held is a globally respected brand of impeccable quality and their gloves are arguably the very best on the market.
Every year, Motorrad magazine (which is the biggest European biking mag) conducts a survey of over 50,000 riders and Held was once again the winner of multiple categories in 2017. Held has won the Best Gloves category every year for the last 12 years with 62% of voters choosing them.
We heard from a number of people who’d been injured wearing other brands of gloves before moving to Held and they all said they would never wear another make of glove again.
Why Held Phantom IIs?
Held’s Phantom IIs are iconic gloves and one of the few gloves anywhere which are available as made-to-measure. I’d tried on some Held Titan Evos before and found the off-the-peg sizing didn’t quite suit me, so finding out I could get them custom-made was a revelation.
They offer the same features as the Titan Evos (including titanium knuckle protection and incredibly abrasion-resistant stingray leather on the outside of the palms, which is usually the first part to impact the ground in a crash) but are far more customisable when it comes to the options.
Tech specs and features
So what makes these so good?
In terms of protection, the key features are impressive. The back of the hand and the two outer fingers are lined with DuPont™ Kevlar® fibre and Held also use Suprotect® shock-absorbing special foam on the back of the hand & ball of the thumb. This is similar to the D30 product and absorbs a much higher level of force than most other body armour.
The knuckles are covered in titanium, which looks cool as fuck as well as highly functional, and there are GFK protectors on the edge of the hand underneath Held’s SuperFabric is used to reinforce key impact zones such as the edge of the hands and the fingers. Superfabric is an incredibly abrasion-resistant and flexible material which has proven to be up to 2.5x as tough as kangaroo leather in abrasion tests.
Stingray leather (tested at 5x the abrasion resistance of kangaroo leather) is used in a few key impact zones too, and underlaid with shock-absorbing foam.
Held Phantom IIs are CE approved under the EN 13594 legislation which covers protective gloves for motorcyclists. This is important to note as we’ve come across instances where certain manufacturers have had their gloves CE approved but under a category which doesn’t cover high-speed protection and is designed for gardening gloves and the like.
The palm has been specially formed to be crease-free and there is even a little visor wiper on the edge of a finger for when out in the rain. Lovely.
I contacted the MD of Held UK who I’d spoken to whilst writing the leathers article and he arranged for the crazy ball of energy that is Loz (aka Rastamouse) in his luminous trainers to call round one evening for the measuring and design process.
I’d agreed to Loz doing some filming to make into a video diary of the process but unfortunately I hadn’t got home early enough to tidy up. Given that my two housemates had just got back from a week at Glastonbury (which I can only assume they spent literally swimming in mud), the lounge was a complete state and resembled a Chinese laundry. Good times.
I wasn’t really too sure what to expect… I had thought it would take about an hour in all, 10-15 minutes to measure each hand and then maybe another 20 minutes or so for the design. As it happens, Loz gave up the whole of his evening, a good 2.5/3 hours, to make sure that I was completely measured (well, my hands at least).
Loz came in carrying a massive, magical hand-measuring device which turned out to be a photocopier so they could get the shape and size of my hands perfectly accurately. He took images of the fronts and backs of my hands, arranging my fingers on the glass screen like a fashion photographer fussing over his muse.
Loz then pulled out a pen and carefully drew around my hands. After that, he drew white lines on my hands, photographed them, and took exact measurements at every white line. This included round the wrists, from the wrist to the tip of my middle finger, the individual length and circumference of each finger and thumb, the whole works. I was amazed that some of the measurements differed by as much as a centimetre from one hand to the other. I mean, I always knew I was put together a bit like a Picasso painting, but still, that’s a huge difference!
After the measuring was done, we had a bit of break and a hilarious chat over coffee, before Loz let me loose on the online design software to pick my colours and designs.
I’m typically a bit of a monochrome fan – I love black and white with strong splashes of bright colours like green or purple. I decided to stick with this theme for the gloves and chose green as my accentuating colour to match the SBF logo. The final design is kind of Stormtrooper with a splash of lurid green, which won’t be to everyone’s taste at all but I love so, ner.
It probably took me a good 45 minutes before I was happy with the design and colour-scheme. Throughout the process, Loz left me to play around with the various options and was always on hand to offer some advice or suggestions when I asked for it. This was really helpful as he’s seen hundreds of pairs of gloves be designed and made and knows what works and what little touches really set the design off.
Finally, I was happy with everything. Not just happy – absolutely delighted. The design looked awesome and I was really excited to see what the gloves would be like in the flesh, but knew I had to wait around three months for them to be finished. I’m not the most patient of people at the best of times so this was going to be quite tortuous for me!
Loz then packed all his stuff away (Drift HD camera, photocopier, samples, leather suits he’d brought in for me to examine, etc.). I waved him off as he started the long drive down to Bournemouth ready for an appointment in the morning and went inside wondering how the fuck I was going to get through the next 12 or so weeks without going mad.
Delivery day (aka glovegasm)
After what seemed like fooooorrrreeeeevvvvveeeerrrrrr (but was actually only a few months), I had a message from Guy at Held to say my Held Phantom IIs had arrived and Loz would be in touch to arrange to deliver them and do a follow-up video. He sent a picture of them too with a note saying they were even better in the flesh but even the picture looked awesome and I couldn’t wait to see them properly.
Loz arranged a time with me and I made sure that the place didn’t look like a bomb had detonated in the lounge this time. The day arrived, Loz (still in day-glo trainers) came in and got set up with me trying my best not to rip into the box he’d put on the table straight away. I’m like a kid at Christmas at the best of times, so really struggled to wait until he had the Drift running to capture my reaction. I told him to expect the reaction of a 6-year old which he was fine with though I’m sure I’ll be cringing at myself when I see the clip!
My Held Phantom IIs
After Loz’s intro to camera, it was time to open them and I tore into the box like a priest on an altar boy. They looked absolutely fantastic, perfect down to every little detail.
I pulled them on and, even though I knew they were made-to-measure, I was still surprised at how perfectly they fit. I know that sounds like a really stupid thing to say, but the difference between them and every other pair of gloves I’ve ever worn was unbelievable. They’re so well formed that, when I’m wearing them, I can recognise the shape of my hands through the gloves. After wearing these, I don’t think I could ever go back to a pair of generic-sized off-the-peg gloves.
My reaction was akin to that of a puppy who hasn’t seen its owner for a month. I went a bit high-pitched and probably swore a few times saying they were “fucking amazing!” but I’m sure that can be bleeped over in the video when they edit it.
The detail in them is fantastic; the stitching is perfect, the fingers so neatly formed. They’re incredibly comfortable and the quality is evident wherever you look. They feel reassuring tough at the same time as being soft and almost luxurious. The colour is really bright & lairy, matching the Arai I wear on track perfectly, and the pictures just don’t do them justice.
Now, as I’ve just got back from Aragon, my bike has worn slicks on and I don’t have any road-legal tyres at the moment so it may be a little while before I’m able to test them out properly on the road. This article will therefore be followed up as soon as I’ve been able to do that with a review of what they’re like to wear on the bike.
So, how much are they?
There’s no doubt about it – these are stunning gloves. They are incredibly high-spec and then there is the whole making one unique pair to your specific measurements thing, so they’re not going to be cheap.
The standard, off-the-peg gloves retail for between £200 and £250 depending on the specification. To have them made to measure costs an extra 50% on top, so you’re looking at around £300 – £375. A fair bit of wedge, yes, but it’s not that much more than the cost of a set of tyres (which might last a couple of days on track) for a perfectly fitting, high quality pair of gloves made to your specific design which will last you years (depending on how often you crash!).
Yes, they’re expensive, but you will always have to pay for quality so it’s not just how much they are, it’s whether they’re worth it. And I think they definitely are.
- The Held team for making me an immaculate pair of gloves;
- Guy at Held for arranging everything; and
- Loz for all his time and help spent on measuring, design, and giving up his evenings to come and chat bike shit with me over coffee. Top dude!