Suzuki’s entry into the large capacity adventure bike world may not be the most adventurous or tech heavy, but with an entry price hard to match you’ll be surprised just what the Suzuki Swiss Army Knife can accomplish.
Words and Photos by Mathieu Day-Gillett
The Suzuki V-Strom has somewhat evolved into the adventure class over its near two decades of production.
While the bike started out as more of a tourer, the latest iteration of Suzuki’s big ‘Strom proudly states its intentions on its fairings. You see, the V-Strom is a Sports Adventure Tourer in Suzuki’s eyes and I have to admit, they really do have a point.
Today’s adventure motorcycle market is bursting at the seams with a contender from nearly every manufacturer of note, and while the competition seemingly fall over each other in a barfight for class supremacy, the humble V-Strom soldiers on quietly in the background.
Notably, in the 2017 overhaul of the V-Strom, the bike further added to its adventure credentials with better technology, chassis developments and some formidable brakes.
One of the standouts is the Champion Yellow colour scheme of our test bike. In a world where matt black is the new black – and boring seems to sell – the bright yellow Suzuki with its gold anodised spoked wheels is a breath of fresh air and the combination gives the rather low-key V-Strom some much needed visual presence.
Headlining the sports aspect of the V-Strom’s personality is its 1037cc V-Twin engine - itself an evolution of the unit which powered the infamous TL1000 sportsbike of the late 1990s. In V-Strom tune, the engine is a low-end powerhouse with plenty of grunt available up to 7500rpm where the wave of power starts to peter out. Luckily the V-Strom is bestowed with a 6-speed gearbox so there are plenty of ratios to play with to keep you in the meat of the powerband.
The chassis is also rather sporty, with a twin-spar aluminium frame mated to fully adjustable suspension up front and preload adjustable monoshock out back allowing for the V-Strom to be tailored to both rider and conditions.
Braking from the twin Tokico calipers up front is first class, with the V-Strom easily scrubbing off speed when called for and we loved the brake 'feel' from the adjustable brake lever.
With the adventure market still one of the stronger aspects of the worldwide motorcycle, the V-Strom 1000X needed to deliver the ability for riders to take the road less travelled if they so desired. Unlike other entries into the big adventure bike segment which go all-out to lean into the adventure side, the Suzuki takes a more balanced approach with a smaller 19-inch front wheel as opposed to the 21-inch units of some other big adventurers, with a 17-inch unit in the rear – both with strong laced wheels for durability.
The tyres are another nod to adventure with tubeless Bridgestone BattleWing tyres fitted from factory. The Battlewings aren't the most aggressive off-road tyre by a long shot, but provide a good hold of most surfaces while providing the right aesthetic for the adventure style of the V-Strom.
Rounding out the V-Strom’s impressive split personality is its touring amenities, which let the rider take to the highway and soak up the kilometres in relative comfort.
A large 20-litre fuel tank takes care of fuel range, with approximately 400 kilometres or more able to be squeezed in between drinks. We averaged 5.2 L/100km during our time with the V-Strom. A respectable figure in our books.
The seat is large and offers plenty of space for you to plant your backside, with the same going for the pillion accommodation which also benefits from sturdy grab handles built into the alloy luggage rack behind the seat.
Up front rider comfort is also looked after by the Suzuki factory with the adjustable windscreen. Unique to the Suzuki, the windscreen is easily adjusted up to 35mm by pushing it away from the rider which gives more wind deflection by changing the aerodynamic profile of the windscreen rather than the height. It’s clever, simple, and really does work as we quickly found out.
Suzuki has also equipped a factory 12v power outlet integrated into the factory dash which allows for charging of a wide variety of devices (from GPS to cellphone and everything in between) via the cigarette lighter style outlet.
Suzuki’s Swiss Army Knife
After collecting the V-Strom 1000X from Hamilton’s Boyds Motorcycles, we immediately hit State Highway 1 and headed north for Auckland. While a short distance by big touring motorcycle standards, it did show that the hand guards work a treat at keeping wind blast off your hands and the adjustable windscreen is a top feature. Adjusting the windscreen while riding was an easy manoeuvre, but we did miss the cruise control found on other bikes in this class on our trip north.
Arriving to the typical Auckland welcome, heavy congestion, revealed another trick the big V-Strom is holding up its sleeve. Cleverly, the bike knows when you are in a slow speed situation and ups the engine revolutions when the clutch is pulled to help prevent stalling.
After running a few errands and nipping through traffic on the surprisingly nimble Suzuki, we turned our sights on the Hunua Ranges in Auckland’s south to try the V-Strom in a more adventurous environment.
Upon arrival, the traction control system was disabled by using the switch mounted on the left switch gear. It’s an easy-to-use system, and can be adjusted on the fly if needed. Sadly ABS is non-adjustable, meaning extra care was going to be needed when it came to braking on the gravel roads ahead.
Once on the rough stuff the V-Stroms weight came into play, but surprisingly – and probably due to remnants of the Pro Rider Gravel Riding Course left in my brain – I soon found a groove with the 233kg V-Strom and let the Bridgestone Battlewing tyres do their thing. The Battlewings aren’t the most aggressive tyre, and out on the highways and backroads seems to be where they are designed to spend most of their time, but on the gravel they provided a good foothold to terra firma and didn’t once give me a fright.
Ergonomically the V-Strom leans more towards its tourer side than full on adventure, with rubber footpegs and a relatively low handlebar meaning that it is brilliant on the road, but not completely suited to the rough.
Seat height is an accessible 850mm with the front end of the seat reasonably narrow to allow for a wider range of riders to comfortable get a food down at a standstill.
Unfortunately for adrenalin junkies who like to fly over berms and bust ruts, the V-Strom 1000X is limited in ground clearance as part of its broad appeal design, with only 165mm of ground clearance under the bike. While the V-Strom sports a belly pan from factory, it is far from adequate protection from rocks and debris, and the position of the oil filter makes it rather vulnerable in some situations.
Thankfully Suzuki (and the wider aftermarket sector) actually has plenty of accessories on hand to improve this, with the must have for anyone looking at the road less travelled being the meaty alloy footpegs with sprung rubber inserts. These provide comfort on the road, but as soon as you stand on the pegs the rubber insert depresses and allows the alloy peg's teeth to bit into your boots. Considering the V-Strom's low price point it is a surprise that these pegs aren't just fitted from factory as they look very cool and function well.
But then again, those pegs being factory fitment would give off the impression that the V-Strom is something that it isn't – a fully fledged adventurer – to most riders. You see, the V-Strom has the ability to do just about anything. It is exactly what it says it is, a damn fine Sports Adventure Tourer. It will happily charge along your favourite backroads on any given Sunday, competently tackle loose surface roads and the odd track when needed, then allow you to ride home in complete comfort the long way.
Is it the perfect bike? No, but it is one hell of a motorised Swiss Army Knife.
PROS AND CONS | 2019 SUZUZKI DL1000X V-STROM
PROS: Versatile, capable all-rounder, low price-point, highly customiseable
CONS: Lacks X-factor, doesn’t have many modern amenities now standard on the competition, some aspects a little old school
2019 Suzuki DL1000X V-Strom Specs and Gallery
Engine Type: 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 90º V-twin
Engine Displacement: 1037cc
Bore x Stroke: 100mm x 66mm
Fuel System: Fuel Injection
Starter System: Electric
Overall Length: 2280mm
Overall Width: 930mm
Overall Height: 1470mm
Ground Clearance: 165mm
Seat Height: 850mm
Curb Mass: 233kg
Suspension - Front: Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped
Suspension - Rear: Link type, coil spring, oil damped
Brakes - Front: Disc, twin
Brakes - Rear: Disc
Tyre - Front: 110/80R19M/C 59V, tubeless
Tyre - Rear: 150/70R17M/C 69V, tubeless
Fuel Tank Capacity: 20-litres