At the end of 2019, Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor set off from Ushuaia in Patagonia, the southernmost tip of South America, to travel 13,000 miles to Los Angeles. They gave themselves a timeframe of 100 days to complete the journey.
This was, of course, not their first rodeo. They rode around the world in 2004 for their first adventure: the Long Way Round. Some three years later they rode down to Cape Town in South Africa on an odyssey that came to be known as the Long Way Down. No prizes for originality, therefore, goes to the person who decided to call this latest excursion the Long Way Up.
But this time round, things were to be different. Instead of riding ever-dependable BMWs, they elected to undertake the journey on Harley Davidsons. But not just any Harley Davidsons. They decided to ride on electric Harley Davidsons; basically a version of the company’s LiveWire bike.
By now, the TV programme that followed their adventures in South America will have aired on Apple TV.
Now clearly, preparations for the journey began a long time before a single wheel turned in anger. It was in 2017 that Belstaff came to see us here at Motolegends to discuss the design of a new technical suit for Charley. Jim Ratcliffe, himself a mad-keen adventure biker, had recently acquired the company. He had a vision to take Belstaff into a more technical arena. And the Long Way Up was, we were told, to be the first step in this direction. And so Belstaff came to us to discuss our opinions about the elements that would be deemed important to a high-end, technical suit.
Jim Ratcliffe had historically ridden in Klim, and what Belstaff wanted to do was create an outfit that would be a match for the best the market had to offer. We are the UK’s largest seller of Klim, as indeed we are of Halvarssons. We are the exclusive importer of Stadler in the UK. We also sell a huge amount of Rukka gear, so it did not surprise us that Belstaff wanted our input.
We showed them, and talked about, suits like the Klim Badlands and Kodiak, the Stadler Supervent, the Nivala and the Kallavesi from Rukka, the Oman and Luxor from Halvarssons. We told them that, even though a real adventure suit does not have a membrane, we felt the benchmark was a suit made with a Gore-Tex, 3-layer Pro Shell. We spoke about venting, armour, the need for multiple adjusters, pockets, thermal layers and a myriad of other minor details.
We had a couple of meetings at our offices, and told Belstaff’s design team all the components that we felt would be deemed necessary in a top end, technical suit. We had no input into the design itself, of course, but we felt flattered that Belstaff had gone to the trouble of seeking out our opinions.
It then all went quiet until the EICMA motorcycle trade show in Milan in October of last year, when we saw the pre-production samples. We were enormously impressed with the adventure suit that Belstaff showed us. The company had come a very long way in a very short period of time. The suit looked fantastic, and it appeared to have every feature, every gadget and every gizmo one could possibly have wanted.
We made a couple of observations; some of which were to become incorporated into the final production, some of which failed to make the cut. None of these suggestions made it into the suit that Charley actually wore, because his departure was due to be just a few weeks after the show.
Of course, the technical suit is not the only item of protective wear in Belstaff’s Long Way Up collection. Whilst Charley wore the new suit, Ewan elected to go down more of a classic, trials route. He decided to wear, and had a hand in designing, a new wax cotton jacket. He also chose to wear a pair of tight-fitting leather, jean-style pants.
A duvet-style, duck-down thermal jacket, similar to the one created by Rukka for the Nivala jacket, was also produced for the collection, as was a pair of single-layer, protective jeans woven with Dyneema.
This, basically, was the range of clothing created by Belstaff for the trip.
What we know is that Charley wore the new suit for large tracts of the trip. It comes in three colourways, and we have been told that he alternated between the olive and the sand versions. What we would say is that this is a very outstanding bit of kit. Of course, nothing is perfect, and it would have been unrealistic to have expected Belstaff to get every detail perfect at their first attempt. There are some things we would have done differently, but it is nonetheless a truly impressive debut, and for Belstaff to have come so far in such a short space of time is nothing short of remarkable. For a full review of the suit, click here.
What we do know, however, is that when the weather got better, and the temperatures rose, Charley quite sensibly and understandably decided to ride in his single layer jeans. This jean is called the Charley jean. It is, in its own way, as impressive as the new suit. Belstaff has never produced a proper, single-layer jean before, yet here is a jean that bears comparison with Rokker’s Rokkertech jeans. As you might anticipate, with single-layer jeans being one of our specialities, we have views. And these you can learn about in our video review. To watch the review, click here.
One item in the collection that we really love is the Belstaff Long Way Up down jacket. Like the Nivala jacket that inspired it, it’s made from 90% duckdown with 10% feathers. It’s going to be amazingly warm whatever it’s worn under. It’s a bit longer than the Rukka Down-X jacket, but as a result it probably works better as a street jacket. Both Charley and Ewan often wore the jacket, especially as the cold was, at times on their journey, bitter. To watch our video review on the LWU down jacket, click here.
As we have suggested, Ewan went down a different route to Charley as far as dressing for the adventure was concerned. Now we can only think that this was partly because, as a Hollywood A-lister, Ewan always has to be aware of his image and how he looks. And, from what we have seen of the series, he succeeds in always looking the part; the look of a quintessentially, unflusterd and unflappable Scottish explorer out on an adventure of great derring-do.
But we would have to say that a heavy wax cotton jacket, like the Belstaff McGregor Pro wax cotton jacket that he wore, would not have been our first choice. Wax cotton, when backed with a membrane, is very, very waterproof. But it doesn’t breathe well, making it difficult for the body to use perspiration as a means of cooling itself down. However, from what we have gleaned, it was very cold for much of the first part of the journey. And in these conditions, the McGregor Pro would have worked fine. For a full review of the Belstaff McGregor Pro, click here.
In fact, when the going got hot, Ewan often wore a mesh jacket called the Belstaff Temple, as indeed did Charley. It’s a great mesh jacket; and certainly one of the best looking. If you would like to read our review of the Belstaff Temple, click here.
The other half, the lower half, of Ewan’s outfit was a pair of leather pants. Again, we would assume that the look formed part of his decision to go with leather. There’s nothing wrong with leather pants, but not in a million years would we have undertaken a journey like this in leather trousers. Leather is fantastic. It looks amazing, it’s comfortable, and it’s highly abrasion resistant. But leather is useless in the rain, it doesn’t breathe well when it’s hot, and it offers little in the way of thermal protection. In fact, we have been told that when the boys reached that part of the continent where the temperatures started to soar, Ewan was provided with a pair of leather pants with extra perforated panels to help him keep cool. But don’t get us wrong. These leather pants are great. Indeed, for some time we have been looking for a classic, leather riding jeans just like these. They’re very rock ‘n’ roll. But we still wouldn’t have picked them for a ride like the one the boys embarked upon. For our full video of the Belstaff Long Way Up McGregor leather pant click here.
In terms of other gear and equipment, the boys both wore Arai Tour-X4 helmets; Ewan a silver one; Charley a white one.
For the trip, Ewan wore a pair of old Sidi boots. It’s a boot that is no longer in the Sidi range. Charley, from the footage we have seen, often wore the pair of boots that he bought from our shop. It’s the Terra Evo Low boot from Forma. It’s a shortened version of the company’s full-height adventure boot.
Charley also wore, at times, the Lee Parks summer gloves that, again, he bought from our shop. A great choice, in our view. These are some of the very strongest gloves we sell, even though they don’t look it. They’re made from deerskin, which is three times stronger than cowhide. Yet they are incredibly light and comfortable to wear. But they have nothing by way of thermal properties or protection from the rain, so even though we haven’t yet watched the whole series we’re going to assume he had more than one pair of gloves with him.. To watch our review of the Lee Parks gloves, click here.
As we write this, we have not, as I have mentioned, had the opportunity to watch the entire series, so we may well add to this story at a later date, in order to talk about other items of clothing that Ewan and Charley wore.
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