V-Strom 1000 Product Planner; Tomohisa Ichimaru

/ July 8, 2013

Following the launch of a brand new website dedicated to the forthcoming new V-Strom 1000, Suzuki Bulletin brings you the first interview with Product Planner  Tomohisa Ichimaru. Read what work Ichimaru-san undertook on the concept for the new model, the research undertaken, and what he thinks it means to Suzuki.

Design, testing, and production of a new motorcycle cannot exist without the initial ideas and plans. That responsibility lies with the Product Planner, who creates concepts, spawns ideas and then works to make them a reality.

Tomohisa Ichimaru has been with Suzuki since 1997, taking on the role of Assistant Manager in the Motorcycle Product Planning Department in 2000. He has previously  worked on a number of models, including the Bandit and GSR series, but he was also heavily involved in the development of the latest V-Strom 650 and the new 1000 model.

“For the development project of the new V-Strom 650 I was assigned as the person in charge of our Adventure Touring models, and worked on defining the concept, equipment level and the target performance of the new V-Strom 1000,” Ichimaru-san explains.

With Ichimaru-san owning a previous generation V-Strom, it made good sense for him to head up the planning of new Adventure Touring Models.

“I used to personally own a previous generation V-Strom 650 and I was put in charge of the project to develop the next generation of the very model I owned. My hobby is long distance touring. Every spring and summer I go for one week trips of long distance riding. Through these personal riding experiences, I had my opinions on how to improve the bike from an owner’s point of view. For a person like me it was a great opportunity to bring my ideas and experiences to the new model development.

“I usually ride 400km a day, 2,000-3,000km over a total trip. In my opinion, the joy of riding are those moments of feeling that the rider and machine are in unison. On a long tour, I can feel that joy for hours and that is the reason why I love long distance touring.

“Building a new model is challenging work, but all of our development team members have riding experience on European roads, and all of the team have a strong determination and enthusiasm for the project. Through the development work of the project, I was so confident and pleased of the improvements we had made, I purchased one!”

With high levels of experience using a V-Strom and undertaking the types of journeys and looking for the same things as target customers, Ichimaru-san knew what considerations were needed for a new, big capacity, adventure bike.

“In such distance riding, comfort on the highway, storage and carrying capacity plus many other elements are all required for the bike. However, I believe that a feeling of fun when riding a motorcycle, without a of feeling boredom, is the most fundamental thing before any other elements. I am confident the new V-Strom has them all. From my own experience, I can understand the reason why Adventure touring is booming because the demands on this segment are the ones I also have for my own riding.

“The concept of the V-Strom 650 was ‘comfortable, versatile and a fun to ride touring machine’. Although the product concept of the new V-Strom 1000 model is an extension of the 650’s concept, we have advanced the idea further to ‘best sized adventure tourer for fun and comfortable touring’. We aimed to build a bike which has ample power and the effortless performance of a big capacity bike. On the other hand the rider can enjoy a comfortable ride with great manoeuvrability.”

As well as drawing on his own experience and idea, extensive market research was carried out to further develop the concept and plans for a new V-Strom 1000.

“We undertook a survey in Europe. Through the survey, we learned that the customers of this type of motorcycle are experienced riders, 40 and up, who have plenty of knowledge and experience of motorcycling, as well as great riding skill.

“Our survey team conducted one week of long trips across Europe, and we felt the road conditions and surroundings from the rider’s point of view. After that we had conversations with local riders and dealers. We learned that customers use their bikes on a daily basis from everyday commuting to full, month long touring. It was a great opportunity for our development team to understand the usage and road conditions from a rider’s point of view. Development has gone smoothly and positively thanks to that riding experience in Europe.

After all the research had been conducted a number of aspects of creating a new adventure bike were raised. But after all the research and ideas had been carried out and formulated, design and planning could begin.

“Adventure touring bikes are fun and easy once you are moving. However, this category of bike can be big, bulky and intimidating before you ride away. We feel that this size and weight can compromise these bikes in city riding or on twisty roads. In my opinion, this is the weak point of large capacity adventure touring bikes. On the new V-Strom 1000, we have worked on solving this problem so that a wider range of riders can enjoy the fun of adventure touring.

“To achieve that target, the first thing we worked on was a weight reduction effort. Our development team worked hard on shaving weight from wherever possible. As a result of these efforts, we have increased ease of manoeuvrability, made it easier to lift from the side-stand, and improved cornering performance with more nimble handling. To achieve easy foot down control, we paid attention to the seat height and seat shape. Thanks to this and the slim V-twin engine design, reaching the floor is much easier.

“To enjoy long distance riding, versatility is required to deal with changeable road and weather conditions during a long tour. Alongside the weight reduction, we have enhanced handling stability by extending the wheelbase and increasing the frame rigidity. The 19-inch front wheel also enables an optimal balance between stability and agility.

“ABS is standard equipment, and the front brake calipers are the same radial mounted monobloc calipers as used on the 2011 GSX-R1000. In addition, a traction control system is included which is a first for a production Suzuki. As for the suspension, we have equipped new inverted front forks for greater stability and comfort. We also refined the riding position to achieve a more comfortable and controllable ride.

“A V-twin engine produces a unique exhaust sound and feel under acceleration and we focused on enhancing this character. Although the engine is based on the original V-Strom 1000, the internal parts have been thoroughly redesigned and refined to increase low-to-mid range controllability and acceleration performance.

“Full three-piece luggage is a very important feature, as most adventure touring riders use them on a daily basis. I also use three cases on my V-Strom 650. During the new V-Strom 1000 project, we put a big priority on development of the three bags. We started working on their development at a very early stage of the project to match the overall styling design of the model.”

With the creation of a new V-Strom 1000 now in the final stages, Ichimaru-san reflects on the concept, and what the new bike means to Suzuki.

“It was new challenge for Suzuki. I have a strong determination to build a bike only Suzuki can make. During the survey in Europe, I felt a big expectation for Suzuki’s adventure touring bike from dealers, customers and existing V-Strom owners. With that in mind, we had many internal discussions about what bike Suzuki should build for those customers.

“In addition, from my own touring rider’s point of view, I kept proposing new ideas to make the touring experience more fun and exciting. The target customer of the V-Strom is an experienced motorcycle enthusiast. As enthusiasts, we have made no compromises on the development. Each member of the team had a strong determination during the development process. For me, it is a great opportunity and I had many happy days during my involvement in the V-Strom project.

“For current V-Strom 650 owners, V-Strom 1000 owners, as well as every rider who loves long distance touring, I want all of you to try new V-Strom 1000. Please experience the fun and exciting world of V-Strom, I believe you will love it!”

Click here for the video and the V-Strom 1000 website