2015 Suzuki V-Strom

First Ride Review

The Suzuki V-Strom 650 occupies the middleweight niche between lighter dual-sports and larger adventure tourers, and its sheer versatility and low buy-in are hard to beat. When the highway miles stretch out between the unpaved bits, the “Wee-Strom” provides far more comfort than buzzy singles, a lower seat, lightweight handling and enough smooth torque from its 645cc V-twin for brisk passes and steep hills, even loaded up. It can also tackle rough dirt roads provided you account for its weight and slow down. A makeover in 2012 shaved a few pounds and gave the V-Strom 650 more power, tougher styling and revised suspension, and that same year Suzuki introduced an Adventure version that adds aluminum side cases, engine guards and an adjustable touring windscreen.

It’s ready for touring—how about rocky, rutted dirt road adventures? Almost. The exposed oil filter and lack of hand guards and centerstand can be addressed with accessories, but the always-on ABS can only be disabled for dirt downhills by removing a pair of fuses under the seat. The V-Strom 650/Adventure’s tubeless tires are easily plugged in the event of a puncture, but its cast wheels remain a liability—hit a rock or rut hard enough with an aired-down tire and you could be walking.

Garden-variety spoked wheels are tougher, but who wants to deal with tubes and tire irons on the side of the road? Enter the new V-Strom 650XT ABS for 2015. It comes with all of the accessories on the Adventure, plus 19- and 17-inch reverse-spoked aluminum wheels that offer more shock absorption and still carry tubeless tires. Suzuki has even bolted on a fashionably adventurous beak similar to the V-Strom 1000’s to give the XT that rally raid panache.

The 650XT/Adventure’s solidly mounted aluminum side cases hold 45 and 35 liters (but not a large full-face helmet), and have built-in tiedown slots on top, though they increase the bike’s width to an anxiety-inducing 45 inches. Both the bags and mounts are easily removed once you master getting the key into the finicky locks.

While you still have to add hand guards and a centerstand, and perhaps heated grips and gnarlier tires than its stock Bridgestone Trail Wings to complete the XT package, all are readily available. Let the lightweight adventure begin!