V-Strom 1000 Adventure UK Road Test

/ July 1, 2014
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Chris Moss is a hugely experienced motorcycle journalist, having ridden bikes and written about them for nearly every motorcycle publication on the market. He’s also raced the Isle of Man TT and likes thrashing about on dirt bikes. But last month he got his first ride on the new V-Strom 1000 Adventure.

IMG_0008I’m a big fan of adventure bikes thanks to their real world qualities, and was quite excited by the prospect of testing Suzuki’s new V-Strom 1000 Adventure. BMW’s 1200GS is the league leader, so I knew the Suzuki would have be good to get anywhere near it. But even after the first few miles, I realised the German bike has some serious competition.

As is always wise when trying a completely new bike for the first time, I took things gently to begin with. Yet just minutes into my first ride, the V-Strom had settled me enough to progress with lots of confidence. It says a lot about a bike when the initial ‘get to know you’ period is that short.

It was a bit of a surprise really. Being an adventure bike and weighing around 230 kilos (more with the optional panniers and top box my bike was fitted with) isn’t exactly sportsbike-light. Yet as it has the advantage of being nicely balanced, and thanks to a riding position that allows you to dominate the bike, the 1000 feels a lot lighter on its feet than you’d imagine. That manageability is a real bonus, allowing even shorter riders like me to realistically consider ownership of the V-Strom. Boosting this further, a free seat exchange arrangement allows you to have a 30mm lower riding position – or, if you’re a bit leggy, one making the seat height 35mm taller.

There’s a sharp and direct feel to the Suzuki’s steering and suspension, and turning into tight corners and roundabouts is easy work, with the direction-change feeling very sure-footed. Thanks to strong brakes, a keen and torquey motor and a level of comfort that encourages longer rides, by the time I got home after 80 miles, I was more than happy to give the bike a big nod of approval. I may not have travelled too far, but up to that point the Suzuki was all good.

Packing it up with enough kit for me to spend a couple of days away camping in Wales was going to be more of a test. The ‘vitals’ ended up adding a fair bit to its overall weight, but the Suzuki handled the extra kilos so easily I didn’t really notice them. By the time another hundred or so miles had been added to the clock, I was most impressed with the 1000. The big V-twin engine is really flexible and pulls strongly without having to resort to dropping gears and upping revs. It red-lines at just over 9000rpm, but during the journey I never went anywhere near that. There’s simply no need to, it’s not that sort of engine. Instead you just use the ample mid-range to generate healthy drive and short-shift your way through the slick box to keep it there. Thanks to the motor’s relaxing nature, rides on the V-Strom are calm, stress-free affairs – a more than useful quality on a bike if you’re planning longer distance outings.

With more mileage came more confidence to push on a bit, and in doing that I discovered the V-Strom has quite a sporty feel. The adjustable suspension offers good support, feel and feedback, and even when you’re riding quite aggressively doesn’t lose its composure. Combined with the excellent chassis stability and powerful radial ABS brakes – which can haul up the loaded up machine from any speed without any worry at all – the adventure bike has a really safe and composed feel to it overall.

I had a play with some of the bike’s toys when I got the chance, but as neither the standard-fitment ABS or two-stage traction control had been triggered during the ride, I had to prompt them into action deliberately. The brakes need to be used very aggressively before the system cuts in. When it does, it recovers very quickly and re-applies the braking pressure before you know it. I could only find out what the traction control felt like when I came across some loose chippings. Again, when it was activated, it felt pretty sophisticated and effective enough to boost my confidence in the bike even more.

DL1000AL4_action_7When it rained, as it seems to every time I go to Wales, my faith in the Suzuki remained undeterred. Thanks to the protection offered by the fairing, adjustable screen and handguards, I felt pretty sheltered. Arriving at my destination was a bit of a disappointment if I’m honest. After just 100 miles or so of riding, I felt as though I was just getting into things and wouldn’t have minded going well beyond that. The clocks said I still had another hundred miles of fuel left, and my enthusiasm was easily good enough to continue that far. It had been an enjoyable trip and the Suzuki had really earned my respect for its ability to cope with everything that’d been chucked at it. It’d given me the impression it’s a bit of a go ‘anywhere-anytime’ type of bike, and that’s a quality I very much enjoy and rate in a motorcycle. Recording up to 60mpg on its digital readout was pretty satisfying too. Overall average was 45mpg which equates to a very useful tank range of around 200-250miles.

The following day I spent around 120 miles on a BMW 1200GS Adventure and though the German bike is also worthy of praise, the ride on the GS did highlight the Suzuki’s advantages. Compared to the relatively bulky Bee-Em, it was a lot easier to deal with at times. Stuff like moving the 1000 about with the engine off, parking it or turning it around was a fair bit easier than the frankly massive 1200. The Suzuki’s steering felt shaper too, and with its more neutral, less quirky nature I ended up complimenting the V-Strom even more than I expected to. Don’t get me wrong, the GS is a good motorbike, it’s just that the Suzuki is so highly impressive.

Coming back from Wales to Gloucestershire, and it was a case of more of the same. Effective at covering distance, regardless of whether you want to do that in a steady or more hurried fashion, the V-Strom is one of those bikes that just gets on with the job. And by the time I got back home, the Suzuki had certainly scored many points and ticked many boxes. It’s a worker and one that provides fun while it’s toiling away.

Another trip I made a few days later, that should have been around 200 miles, ended up being another 70 more than that. And the simple reason for doing the extra was because I deliberately diverted to take in a some good roads. They took me out of my way, and to be honest I could have done with getting back home to do some work rather than swan around on a motorbike. But the V-Strom is just one of those sorts of bikes that invites you to ride. And that’s perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay it.

It later seduced me into spending more time on it, and because of its hospitable character and practicality, I ended up using it as my primary mode of transport for the next ten days. Adding another three hundred or so miles to the V-Strom turned out to be effortless work for both bike and rider. Carrying a pillion was just as straightforward and even without the optional top box, the passenger reported feeling secure as well as comfortable. No doubt the grabrails helped with this.

Travelling back to Milton Keynes to return the Suzuki back to its owners ended up being the only journey on it that I didn’t enjoy. Though because life without the bike felt quite empty, just a week later I rebooked it for a future trip up to Scotland. When I get back on the bike for that adventure, I’ll be aware of its strengths and mile-eating ability well enough to know the land north of the border will feel a lot closer, a doddle to get to, and a place I’ll thoroughly enjoy. The V-Strom 1000 is a machine that makes the world feel that bit smaller. It is, in my book, a bloody good motorbike.