First Ride Review
When Suzuki introduced the V-Strom DL1000 for 2002, the adventure touring landscape was much more barren than it is today. BMW’s big GS had a cult following, but liter-class dual-sports hadn’t yet caught on here in the U.S. With a retuned version of the 996cc, 90-degree V-twin from the TL1000S sportbike, long-travel suspension and a 19-inch front wheel, Suzuki called the DL1000 a “sport enduro tourer.” We awarded it Motorcycle of the Year because “rarely do we come across a new motorcycle that dishes out so much fun” and “can be all things to all riders.” Generous torque, good handling, a 200-mile-plus range and a sub-$9,000 price made it a winner, as long as off-pavement excursions were more bunny slope than black diamond.
We loved it, but American buyers were a bit perplexed and the DL1000 didn’t exactly fly out of showrooms. The V-Strom’s tall seat height and rumors of poor fueling and clutch problems probably didn’t help. It was the 2004 debut of the DL650, with a 645cc V-twin derived from the popular SV650, 50 pounds less weight, a $2,300 lower price, a lower seat and even longer range, that brought adventure touring to the masses, outselling the DL1000 3-to-1.
Due to its greater popularity, the “Wee” Strom was the first to get a major update, for 2012. Now the spotlight is back on the 1000, which has been overhauled from the rooter to the tooter.
Suzuki launched the V-Strom 1000 with a two-day, 500-mile ride in Southern California that included everything from traffic-choked freeways to twisty back roads and a loose, sandy track. I’ll cut right to the chase: the new V-Strom 1000 is much better than its predecessor, but some changes won’t suit everyone, such as the 5.3-gallon fuel capacity (down from 5.8) and 33.5-inch seat height (up from 33.1). Suzuki has stayed true to the V-Strom’s original mission as a street-biased adventure tourer, yet it has newfound off-road capabilities.
For most of their history the V-Strom 650 and 1000 appeared nearly identical, but now each has a distinct look. The 1000’s new beak was inspired by Suzuki’s 1988 DR-Z Paris-Dakar rally racer, and its vertically stacked headlights were inspired by the company’s GSX-R and Hayabusa sportbikes. From a distance as well as from the cockpit, the new V-Strom is more compact. With the handlebar 1.3 inches closer to the rider and the footpegs 0.6 inch farther back, the revised ergonomic layout is ideal for my rangy frame—relaxed with plenty of legroom. Even though the thicker, more supportive seat is narrower in front, its taller height won’t do any favors for shorter riders (an accessory 32.3-inch low seat will be available). One advantage of the smaller fuel tank is that it’s less bulky between the knees for both sit-down and stand-up riding.
A new windscreen is nine-way adjustable (three heights with tools, three angles on the fly), but the helmet buffeting that plagued the previous model hasn’t been entirely fixed, and, with slimmer bodywork and no hand guards, there’s less wind protection than before. The redesigned instrument panel is modern and tidy, with a large analog tach and an easy-to-read LCD display that includes speed, gear position, fuel level, engine temperature, clock and various other functions that can be cycled through via the rocker switch on the left switch cluster.
Although still a liquid-cooled, 90-degree V-twin with DOHC and 4 valves per cylinder, nearly every part of the engine has been revised. The engine is smoother, quieter and more rev-happy than before, yet retains a distinctive V-twin character. A 100mm bore (up from 98mm) and 66mm stroke result in a larger displacement of 1,037cc. Claimed horsepower has increased from 95.5 at 7,600 rpm to 99.2 at 8,000 rpm, and claimed torque is up from 74.5 lb-ft at 6,400 rpm to 76 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm. Peak gains may be modest, but now there’s a heapin’ helpin’ of torque right in the heart of the midrange. The old DL1000 had a notorious flat spot around 4,000 rpm, and that’s exactly where the new model pulls the strongest. Downshifts from top gear are no longer required to make quick passes and corner exits are much friskier.
To reduce mechanical losses, the engine got lightweight pistons, thinner piston rings, low-friction SCEM-plated cylinders, a redesigned flywheel magneto and an open-type rectifier, while a new dual-spark cylinder head and 10-hole fuel injectors improve combustion efficiency. Other changes contributed to a claimed 17-pound weight loss, from 520 to 503 pounds wet. A higher capacity radiator eliminated the need for an oil cooler, saving 2.8 pounds. The exhaust system, which now has a servo-controlled butterfly valve for smoother throttle response, has a single muffler instead of two, saving another 10.4 pounds. The 6-speed transmission shifts easier thanks to the Suzuki Clutch Assist System, which lightens clutch pull and has a slipper function for smoother downshifts. Final drive is still via chain, which is lighter than a shaft but requires more maintenance. Everything about the new powertrain feels more refined, less lethargic and easier to control, especially when chugging along at low revs.
To complement the engine upgrades, the V-Strom’s chassis has been thoroughly modernized. A redesigned aluminum twin-spar frame is 13 percent lighter and 33 percent more rigid. Wheelbase is longer (61.2 inches, up from 60.4), with a shorter distance between the front axle and swingarm pivot for more agility and a longer swingarm for more stability. Even though rake and trail (26.5 degrees and 4.4 inches) are unchanged, steering is noticeably lighter and less vague. Part of the more confident handling is due to a new fully adjustable 43mm male-slider KYB fork that has much better damping than the non-adjustable conventional fork it replaces.
Suspension travel is still 6.3 inches front and rear, and the rear shock’s damping settings have been revised to complement the new fork. A couple of extra clicks on the shock’s remote preload adjuster made it just to my liking. Ride quality is plush without being too soft or bouncy.
The new V-Strom 1000 is equipped with Suzuki’s first-ever traction control system, which has two modes to manage excessive rear wheel spin (mode 1 allows limited slip, mode 2 allows none) or it can be turned off. Buttons on the left switch cluster make it easy to change TC settings on the fly. ABS is now standard but it cannot be turned off, which will limit the V-Strom’s appeal among those whose recipe for adventure calls for extra dirt. But on that aforementioned sandy road, with TC set to 1, controllable power slides were a breeze and slowing the V-Strom down wasn’t the freewheeling pucker-fest that I had feared. New Tokico radial-mount 4-piston front calipers are much stronger than the 2-piston calipers they replace, but the power is easy to modulate and ABS doesn’t engage prematurely. The 1-piston rear caliper, on the other hand, is weak.
New 10-spoke cast aluminum wheels are in the same 19-inch front/17-inch rear wheel sizes as before, but now they’re shod with Bridgestone Battle Wings that have a higher speed rating than the previous Trail Wings. Grip is good on pavement, but they leave a lot to be desired off-road. A 12V outlet and an aluminum luggage rack are standard, but to keep the price down Suzuki relegated many nice-to-haves to its accessory catalog, such a centerstand, hand guards, heated grips and more. All V-Stroms will come with a lockset for the new factory accessory 3-piece luggage system, which includes a 35-liter top case and 26-/29-liter side cases.
The V-Strom 1000 ABS occupies a middle ground between 800cc and 1,200cc adventure bikes. It makes more power and is better suited for two-up touring than the smaller bikes, but is lighter and less expensive than the larger ones. After soldiering on for over a decade with few changes, it is now fully up-to-date and more capable on- and off-road. Two versions will be in dealerships this spring: a standard model ($12,699) in Candy Daring Red or Glass Desert Khaki, and an adventure model ($13,999) in Glass Sparkle Black with hand guards, a touring windscreen, side cases with mounts, engine guards and a lower engine cowl.