The V-Strom is a well established stalwart for Suzuki and has been a great success throughout its long life cycle. In fact the larger engined variant of the V-Strom range reached adulthood this year.
That’s right, the Strom has now been around for 18 years and to mark that milestone Suzuki have loaded the, previously quite basic DL, with a whole suite of extra technology that brings it into line with comparably priced machines in the adventure-touring segment.
So does ride-by-wire with the accompanying gamut of riding modes, swtichable traction control settings, lean angle sensitive ABS and Hill Hold Control add a whole lot to the riding experience? Not really.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s all high-spec’ tech powered by a Bosch IMU complete with a three-axis gyro and accelerometer that is new to the V-Strom, but in this segment of the market punters expect nothing less, most bikes in the market have had this sort of wizardry for years. Of course, these are important safety aids and a great inclusion, and it is good to see Suzuki step up to the plate in this area. It is also nice to see that the bike retains the traction control setting you had selected even after turning the ignition off. Win.
The top of the range XT model we tested has what Suzuki refer to as a ‘Motion Track Brake System’ which offers two different levels of ABS intervention, road and off-road. This is part of the Suzuki electronics suite which they’ve dubbed the ‘Suzuki Intelligent Ride System’, S.I.R.S. Suzuki do love an acronym or two…
For most riders the much improved new adjustable screen and cruise control will be much more useful in the real world than rider modes and the like. The screen adjustment is manual through a range of 11 steps on the XT (three steps on base model), and is easily done at a standstill with a minimum of fuss. The cruise control is intuitive to use and smooth in operation.
Despite all the increased focus on tech which moves the V-Strom a little more upmarket, heated grips are still not standard. There is no tyre pressure monitoring, or even right-angle valves to make tyre pressures easy to check for that matter. Checking the pressures on the fancy spoked rims of the XT model we had on test was a knuckle crunching affair. I’d like to take a hammer to the knuckles of the beancounter back in Hamamatsu responsible for that decision. They are tubeless though which is an advantage.
There are no integrated pannier mounts in the rear sub-frame which means when it comes to hard luggage it is back to old style pannier racks that stick the luggage out a lot further than would be ideal. If heading off-road I would be sticking to soft luggage from a local manufacturer like Andy Strapz or the like.
The hand-guards are simple plastic affairs and might survive one stationary tip over, if you are lucky, but they’re certainly no Barkbusters. The levers though are adjustable and finished nicely.
Despite being ‘new’, the LCD instrumentation resembles something like an early greyscale Game Boy and the menu system is not all that intuitive.
Still, it is better than before and alongside the regular speedo/odo/trip functions it boasts a gear position indicator, instantaneous fuel consumption, average fuel consumption, driving range, fuel level indicator, engine coolant temperature indicator, ambient air temperature indicator, clock, voltage meter, service reminder, SDMS mode, traction control mode, cruise control indicator, ABS mode, hill hold indicator, engine rpm indicator light, frost indicator light, turn signal indicator light, high beam indicator light, traction control indicator light, ABS indicator light, and neutral indicator light. Bit going on then…
It must be said though that while it has no fancy colours or squillion pixel resolution it works well enough. A handy USB port is also included in the instrument panel which is a win.
But let’s face it, the V-Strom has never been about tech. It’s always been a supremely comfortable and competent all-roads touring motorcycle, with a distinct emphasis on the more tarmac based component of the touring equation. And there nothing has changed, in fact, it has got a whole lot better.
The way it steers really is quite sublime and at its heart, the V-Strom is a backroads brawler par excellence.
I had to remind myself a few times that the temperatures had not even hit double digits as the cold tarmac glistened with damp spots. The Strom was shod with chunky Pirelli STR rubber, but it still just begged me to tip in harder and lean over further. Such is the way it inspires confidence when the road turns really tight and testing.
On a proper twisty stretch of black-top it has always been a weapon and now feels sharper than ever. Shod with road rubber it would take someone working pretty hard on something sporting to stick with you.
On the Strom you just sit back, point, brake, pull the trigger out the other side, the speed just comes without any fuss.
And trust me, on tight and testing roads it generates very serious pace and really is one of the most undemanding bikes to carry a brisk pace on. It really does urge you push the front end into a turn. The geometry must be some sort of holy grail equation as nothing with a 19-inch front is meant to turn-in this well. Of course we are not talking about 200 km/h sweepers here that offer up shitloads of grip, but tortuous stretches of gnarly blacktop that can be enjoyed without endangering your licence.
Rear pre-load is adjustable via a hand-wheel that takes no effort to turn. KYB provide the suspenders at both ends and the damping at both ends is taut and well controlled.
Lighter riders might prefer to back the pre-load and damping off at both ends if they like their bikes set-up soft. If I was doing plenty of off-road work I would also wind a bit of damping off, but with the clickers on standard I found it well tuned for some very spirited road riding.
I think many riders would be very surprised at just how taut the DL1050 package actually is. You have to remember that the frame of the Strom is an early generation sportsbike derived twin-spar alloy backbone that makes pretty much every other motorcycle in this segment look like it is made of Meccano. It’s a highly competent chassis.
The brakes might not have Brembo written on them but those four-piston Tokico stoppers are still very serious bits of kit. One finger is all that is required for most uses. Add a couple more fingers and prepare to hold yourself off the bars as there is a huge amount of braking power on offer. Love ‘em.
The updated engine revs long enough to nudge 200 km/h in fourth, but is also happy turning 3500 rpm in top for 100 km/h. It shines brightest when just surfing the mid-range between turns.
It’s a ‘real’ v-twin that serves up a punchy character in a way that only a true 90-degree twin can. Sure, it still only makes a touch over 100 horsepower, but they are pretty big horses that torque a strong game right from the stable.
It still doesn’t like lugging higher gears, but in this regard it is much improved in comparison to the 1000 cc generation Strom which really grumbled below 4000 rpm. In this latest 1050 guise you can drop as low as 2500 rpm before it starts getting a little uncultured.
I rarely felt the need for more top end power, and if I had more I don’t think myself and the bike would necessarily be any faster on my favourite roads, I’d just be pulling more wheelies….
It actually has half a dozen more ponies than its immediate 1050 predecessors and is much more willing to push past that 8500 rpm power peak than ever before.
With the earlier generation Stroms I actually favoured the bargain priced free-revving 650 variant, so much so I actually bought one. The bigger bike has now come of age though and is much sweeter than it has ever been.
Shifts are solid and positive but it does like the clutch to be used. I didn’t mind that, and the way the gears dropped in like a rifle bolt I really quite appreciated.
The seat is adjustable in height from 850 to 870 mm on the XT but it is not as simple to adjust as most in the market. That perch sounds high but it only ever feels tall when you are trying to sling a leg over the bike when the hard panniers are installed. While astride the bike you feel low enough to the ground.
The centre-stand is not all that easy to use and the side-stand leans the bike over further than ideal, which makes lifting the bike off its side-stand a heftier affair than it otherwise might be.
The seat itself on our XT test bike was really quite beautifully finished and added a bit of panache to the bike. It is wide and expansive under butt, however it’s quite narrow between your thighs which helps your feet touch the ground more easily. It is comfortable enough for most to last the full 400-kilometre touring range that the bike is capable of.
The base model is three-grand cheaper than the full fruit XT. It misses out on the centre-stand, cruise, hill hold control and the higher-spec cornering ABS. The lack of hand-guards, engine guard and some other trinkets in comparison to the XT though do save quite a bit of weight. Suzuki’s figures say the difference is a hefty 11 kilograms.
I reckon those fancy spoked rims might be responsible for a fair chunk of that weight difference. While spoked rims are generally chosen for their resistance to damage while running lower pressures off-road, they are generally heavier, and crucially, that is unsprung mass.
I took the XT to the snow and despite it rolling on chunky adventure rubber, when the going turned to mush and mud the front end of the Strom become vague and ponderous. I would hazard a bet that it would actually fare better on conventional alloy rims in really slippery conditions. I took other motorcycles from the soft side of the adventure spectrum up the same track on the same day that were shod with rubber that was far less suitable, yet they felt more sure-footed in the snot than the Strom.
Thus if the more hard core end of the adventure spectrum is where you are headed then the are better choices in this segment of the market. Of course, rider skill can make up for pretty much any shortcoming, but if you are not highly skilled and do want to venture into more serious terrain, then choosing something with a 21-inch front wheel will help you out considerably when the going gets proper rough.
Normal fire trails and dirt roads are absolutely no problem but despite the retro Dr Big looks the latest Strom is still primarily a road bike. And a really damn fine road bike at that.
I would happily load one up and set off around Australia tomorrow. The suspension is competent enough to handle such a venture two-up with luggage, and the standard rear luggage rack incorporates large passenger grab-rails.
I could definitely see this machine endearing itself to a new owner more and more as time wore on. Keep the oil changes up to it and I’d bet that it will just about go forever without a spanner ever being put upon it, outside of tyre changes and general servicing. The Suzuki has always been a much safer option in that regard than the European opposition, and that certainly still rings true today.
The price of admission is higher than before, $17,990 ride-away for the base model, or $20,990 ride-away for the XT we tested, but the V-Strom does exude a real sense of robustness and quality that is becoming quite rare in this day and age. For many, that is what will really make it a winner. The V-Strom has never really played the fashion game, so it will never really go out of fashion…
2020 Suzuki V-Strom DL1050 Specifications