Earlier this year, Suzuki launched their new V-Strom 1000 filling the gap that had been left when the previous model was discontinued. Although I had never ridden the old model, I have owned a Cagiva Raptor 1000 and I have tested the SV1000 which both share a similar engine so I knew that I would love the engine: a mean growl and plenty of torque!
First impressions are very important and I must say that when I originally saw the pre-launch photos of the bike last year, I was happy to see that Suzuki had done a pretty good job of styling the new V-Strom: they have taken styling cues from the old DR750 and looked at what else was available to see which way the market is heading. There was a pre-launch event a few months back and I was able to have a good look around the new bike and have a sit on it. I was impressed with a few details that Suzuki had introduced such as the adjustable screen, the 12 volt socket on the dash and, most of all, the lack of weight that it seemed to have: at 228kg (claimed) it is the lightest of the plus 1000cc adventure bikes.
Coming from the Triumph Tiger 800XC, I was surprised that I could get both feet flat on the floor. You feel that you are sitting in the bike, rather than on it and, having the weight low down, there is no problem with paddling the bike around when reversing out of a parking space. The ‘bars feel a bit narrow by comparison to the Triumph but the front end feels much lighter so there isn’t the need for the extra leverage. The dash felt a bit confusing as there was, for me, too much information on display to take in at a glance: this is something that an owner would get used to once they had worked out where the relevant information was located. One thing that irritated me was that the fuel low icon kept flashing throughout the whole test ride: I would prefer an amber light to appear on the clocks as it would be more obvious and less distracting every time I look down to check my speed.
I have a route that I usually take when I am test riding bikes which covers around 40 miles of urban and country roads and finish off with a blast down either the A12 or A14 just outside of Ipswich: this gives me around an hour of riding and covers most scenarios that you could encounter other than long distance touring.
As we pulled out from the motorcycle shop, the familiar V-twin torque and grumble made me smile: there’s something about the V configuration that other bikes don’t seem to have. Throttle action is light and the bike accelerates crisply and with a nice surge that brings a grin to your face. Riding through the to town is a pleasure with a nice, light hydraulic clutch taking the strain off the left hand. Gear changes were quite clunky, however, leaving the bike in second or third gear while trundling through the urban sprawl makes city riding a breeze. The low centre of gravity and the previously mentioned lack of weight and low seat mean that there is never any fear of being overwhelmed by the Strom.
With the town behind us, I was able to open the throttle and let the V-Strom sing. Again, the light throttle and light weight made this bike so easy to ride through the twisty roads of Suffolk, just leave the gearbox in third and the rest seems to be telepathy as you point and squirt from one bend to the next whilst riding on the crest of the torque curve. There was quite a bit of slow moving traffic on this balmy spring day so progress wasn’t as easy as I would have liked, however, all you need is a short stretch of clear road to make that overtaking manoeuver and the bike will fly once more. At one point, I came up behind a police car which made for a frustrating 10 minutes as I didn’t want to give the driver any excuse to pull me over!
Back on a clear road, I was able to make some progress through some lovely twisty roads, which showed the Strom’s abilities off at their best. The acceleration and stability of the bike were quite amazing as you just set the lean angle and power through the curves with wild abandon. The OE tyres that come with the bike are Bridgestone Battlewing dual sports that are the same as what was originally on my Tiger. I was never 100% confident with them on the 800 but on the Strom, they seem to work better: maybe this is down to the different sized front tyres or the fact that the weight is carried differently.
During my ride, I had the traction control set to its most intrusive setting just to see if I could provoke it into action. As it turned out neither the TC or the ABS came into use… or, if they did, I never noticed them!
There were a couple of gripes that I had with the bike but unfortunately only one of which could be quickly and cheaply adjusted: as I mentioned, the bars are quite narrow and this could have affected how the grips felt but, for me, the grips seemed to also be narrow and left me resting my palms on their outer edge. By the end of the ride, my hands were quite sore. If this were my bike, I would look at changing the bars and maybe the grips so that I would feel more comfortable on longer journeys.
Another irritation was that my knees touched the tank right at the bottom as it joins the side panel creating another pressure point causing fatigue. Fitting the taller seat option may alleviate this but I’m not sure. I would have to try both seats to compare the difference.
Finally, at speed I was experiencing quite a lot of turbulence around my helmet, which was cause by the screen. I was able to adjust the screen on the fly (which is one of the good features that Suzuki has included) but no matter what position the screen was in, the buzz was still there.
As we were two-up during this test ride, I am happy to say that I can also give a pillion’s view of the DL1000 that Alison gave to me once we returned to Orwell Motorcycles. Her initial impressions were very positive, especially with the comfort of the rear seat: her only comparison is the Tiger but she was very positive saying that it was larger and more comfortable than the XC’s pad. The same cannot be said for the grab rails, which are similar to the Tiger; her impression was that they were not big enough and positioned too close to the seat to be able to grip them firmly. At speeds below 50mph, she said that the V-Strom was pleasurable and comfortable, however, once over that speed, the vibrations from the V-twin and the turbulence from the screen made the experience an uncomfortable one. She said that any journey more than an hour would be beyond her levels of tolerance.
Even though we were out on the bike for an hour and covered around 40 miles, I would have liked to take the DL1000 V-Strom out for a weekend blast up to the Yorkshire Dales or the Lake District to get a better impression of how the bike would perform its intended role. Although the Strom is dressed in dual sport clothing, it is really, in all intents and purposes, a touring bike with a bit of stature that has followed the current trend of adventure styling. Having a 19-inch front wheel does give a nod towards a bit of light trail riding, however, I would prefer to see the bike with wire wheels: maybe an adventure version will be on the cards for next year!
Overall, I feel that Suzuki have created a really nice bike with some good features; it is certainly, in my opinion, the best looking Japanese bike in this sector with Yamaha’s XT660 Z Ténéré coming in a very close second. The ride is impeccable with the standard settings for me with Alison as a pillion with most road imperfections being smoothed out, leaving you to just enjoy the ride. The brakes are strong and progressive with plenty of feel at the lever letting the rider know what is happening and, although I have never activated the ABS on any bike, I’m sure that it would be a welcome safety net especially on wet roads.
The question is would I buy one? Well, the current answer is no; this is mainly due to the price being set at a smidge under £10,000. Capacity-wise, the DL1000 is right in the middle of the mid-weight 800s and the heavyweight 1200s and it seems as though Suzuki thin that the price should be in the middle too. The problem that I have is that the new Strom offers me nothing more than my current Tiger 800XC does, in fact, you could go as far as saying that the DL650 V-Strom offers exactly the same as its big brother for a lot less money: what you save by buying the Wee, you could spend on a long-distance trip around Europe and still have change. If Suzuki had given the DL1000 an £8,500 price point, I think they would have hit the mark and they would be flying out of dealers’ doors. They’ll probably still sell well due to the popularity of the previous model and the current trend in this style of bikes. I am pleased to stay with my Triumph but I was glad for the experience of riding the new Strom.