Is it a dirtbike or is it a roadbike? Suzuki will have you believe that...
The very underrated DL650 and 1000 Suzuki V-Strom offerings are far from hardcore, but as we found out in Far North Queensland, these two machines can hack it with the best of them.
Seventeen years ago, the V-Strom concept was born. The first 1000 rolled off the production line in 2002 made up of bits and pieces left over from the abandoned TL1000 project and when 13,400 units sold on debut there were high fives all around the Hamamatsu factory.
Suzuki was so happy that it set about creating a baby Strom, the 650, which was introduced at the end of 2003. In its first full sales year, 19,500 flew out the door.
Ever since those early days both V-Stroms have become important models for Suzuki and this year sees the modes getting freshened up.
For the first time we see the 1000 offered in wire-wheeled XT guise, which gives it a rugged off-road appeal. There are also some subtle aesthetic changes that Suzuki hopes will keep the V-Strom near the top of the heap on the styling front.
There’s a new screen which uses Suzuki’s ratchet system to the fullest, giving the rider three options in angle adjustment to keep the wind at bay.
An Inertial Measurement Unit is now mounted on the big Suzuki so that the ABS system can be actuated differently on the lean angle versus upright braking. It’s a massive step forward in braking ability on a bike that already had some of the best stoppers around.
The engine has been modified to meet Euro 4 standards, giving the bike slightly less torque than last year, but only by 2Nm, so in the real world it’s not noticeable. What is noticeable though is the big thousand’s ability to loft the wheel in the air at a whim, making party tricks a breeze.
The chassis is the same unit as last year, as is all the basic running gear. The forks and shock on the 1000 are high-spec units and absorb bumps with a much nicer action than its smaller sister.
Having spent two days riding through creeks and sliding along dirt roads, I understand why Suzuki hasn’t touched any handling aspect of the bike – there’s not much to be done. Sticking with what works was a good option, and apart from perhaps adding more suspension stroke or more off-road orientated tyres, it would have been easy to take a backwards step.
There is still the two-step traction control system and that does a great job of making the 1000cc twin manageable. It’s by no means a sports system, but there is the option to turn it off completely if you want to live a little.
The big news for 2017 though is the amount of attention the 650 has received. It’s had a complete cosmetic makeover and is now sharper and more attractive than ever.
It’s actually hard to tell the two bikes apart when they are standing side by side, with only the conventional fork set-up on the 650 giving it away.
The complete rear end has been redesigned to allow the better fitment of an integrated luggage system and the rear luggage rack has also been lowered to match seat level, making it much easier to tie on luggage.
And while the 1000 engine was only given a small tickle to meet Euro 4 standards, the 650 had a full-blown work out; now it not only meets the spec but is more efficient and yet powerful at the same time. The 650 keeps its sweetness and reminds me of a 350 motocross bike in the way it builds its power – just perfect.
There’s also traction control fitted to the 650 for the first time with a similar twin-mode set-up to its big sibling.
As on the V-Strom 1000, the chassis and running gear remains the same, and once again it is surprising how well this little package performs.
It’s so nimble and handles so easily – whether on or off road to it makes you look good and feel good as a rider. The power delivery is smooth and tractable, never giving you any ugly surprises and making the whole package gel nicely.
We spent more time off road than Suzuki intended on our Far North adventure but it showed off the bikes to best advantage. They both shone, and not a spanner was wielded on what was a tough trip. With a few modifications these V-Stroms would make excellent budget adventurers, capable of keeping up with the pack – and maybe even leading sometimes.
Look out for a full report soon in AMCN.