Suzuki’s middleweight V-Strom dual-sport could well be the motorcycle equivalent of the Swiss army knife.
Suzuki’s dual-sport (or adventure touring) model, the DL1000 V-Strom, arrived in 2002, a competent and affordable alternative to BMW’s excellent big-bore ‘duallie’ the R1150GS. Two years later the litre-power V-Strom was joined in Suzuki showrooms by a junior-burger version of itself, the DL650 V-Strom. As so often happens the best laid plans have little to do with actual outcomes – the lighter and more agile DL650 went on to steal the limelight from its big brother, outselling it by two or three to one in most markets.
DL650s are a smidgen prettier than most adventure tourers. The long-legged suspension, while providing a high stance and decent ground clearance, adds a touch of authority to their appearance. Don’t be fooled, however, by the V-Strom’s ‘city-slicker’ styling – its shiny exterior conceals a rugged motorcycle that takes the rough with the smooth, as all good ‘duallies’ must. Its heart, the liquid-cooled, 645cc, fuel-injected, V-twin engine and six-speed gearbox, combines with the light and rigid aluminium, twin-spar frame to produce a robust and capable chassis. Suspension duties are covered by a tough pre-load adjustable 43mm fork and a rebound and preload-adjustable monoshock. Rear preload can be changed easily using a conveniently located adjuster-knob.
Dual 310mm discs with twin-piston calipers and a 260mm rear disc with a single-piston caliper handle the braking (ABS was optional from 2007). While the 17-inch rear wheel is standard road-bike fare, the 19-inch front hints at some off-road capability.
Accommodation for rider and passenger is roomy, providing an upright seating position behind wide the bar – perfect for spotting and dodging hazards whether in urban traffic or on rural backroads. The half-fairing and height-adjustable screen give worthwhile protection from the elements. The bike feels tallish (820mm seat height), an issue perhaps for some shorter folk. However, a wide range of riders get their boots on the ground easily. A pair of easy-to-read analogue clocks with supplementary digital displays provide plenty of info.
The DL650 riding experience is all positive. It cleverly manages to be an easy ride for all comers in all conditions, as well as allowing expert riders to enjoy exploring its surprisingly impressive limits. It’s agile with plenty of steering lock for really tight, slow manoeuvres, and feels lighter than its actual 189kg (dry) weight. It’s also a faster steerer, once you hit the hills, than you expect from a duallie.
Its pearler of an engine is also equally good on a strop through the hills as on the daily commute – its midrange feels more like a 750 at times thanks to its torquey nature; but it’s also happy chasing the redline. Its seemingly modest 50kW max power actually delivers quite lively performance.
The clutch is light and progressive and gear changing is Suzuki-smooth. Suspension and brakes match the bike’s needs well. While the brakes lack sportsbike-style initial bite, they’re powerful and progressive and cope well with a full load (two-up with luggage).
The DL650 chassis never serves up nasty surprises in fast riding on bitumen or dirt. If exploiting its handy unsealed-road ability is part of your plan, budget for an aftermarket bash-plate to protect the very vulnerable oil filter and exhaust front-section from stone damage. A radiator guard is also money well spent.
The engine’s modest thirst provides a safe touring-range of at least 400km from the 22-litre tank.
While the heavily revised 2012 V-Strom incorporated a range of incremental improvements, our original version still measures up well against it, across the board.
You would buy a Suzuki DL650 for its versatility and overall competence, the pleasure of the ride, the value for money and because it won’t let you down, either on Parramatta Road or the Oodnadatta Track.
$9990 (2004) $10,390 (2011)
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The DL650 is a well-engineered and robust Suzuki motorcycle. There is no pattern of particular problems. Transmission whine is normal but noisy cam-chains could be an issue.
As usual check for damage and signs of neglect and factor in the cost of consumables like tyres, chain/sprockets, brake pads and brake rotors that will soon need replacing.
None of the detail changes during the seven-year model would rule out choosing a nice early example. Low kilometres and a good service record can be more important than the particular bike’s age.
The SV650 is a straightforward, reliable bike that poses few challenges in the maintenance department. Access is good for basic servicing. The bolt-on subframe simplifies DIY chassis repairs after an off.
Valve clearances require a bit of skill, given that the cams have to come out to change shims – this and engine-management electronics work is best left to specialist techs. The interval for oil and filter changes is 6000km, with new sparkplugs every 12,000km and valve clearances at 24,000km.