Cycle Torque Test – 2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650

AFTER riding the new and updated V-Strom 650 we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s perhaps the best value for money motorcycle we’ve ever ridden. Sure there’s lots of cheaper bikes out there, some of them built for an adventure but none offer the same level of real world ability as the V-Strom 650.

There’s a reason why the outgoing model (for $9,990 ride away until stocks last by the way) has proven extremely popular with adventure riders out for big bang for bucks. We bet there’s loads of riders who bought the old model on the ability rather than dollars equation too.Out with the old The first thing V-Strom diehards will notice is the styling.

The older model was never what you would call pretty, and neither is the new one for that matter, but it has been modernised somewhat. Apparently the black bits you see are fibre-reinforced and therefore tougher and easier to repair as well, although most repairs these days are rip and replace. There’s a reshaped and manually adjustable screen (three position) and the dash offers a bit more info for the adventure rider, like ambient air temperature and average fuel usage. Suzuki loves gear indicators and so do we – The V-Strom has one, and it has even got a road freeze warning which lets you know if the road conditions will be dodgy.

Overall at first glance it looks more modern and has ABS brakes standard but there’s much more to the updated 2012 model than first meets the eye. The 650cc V-Twin engine is also used in the Gladius and has been around for a number of years now, proving itself extremely reliable. It is fuel injected and for 2012 has a number of updates like low friction pistons and rings and a six speed gearbox with closer ratios and tougher internals. With more lower and mid range power the engine is happy in its adventure role.

Suspension and brakes sound basic on paper, with 43mm forks with spring preload adjustment only. A link type single rear shock has hydraulic preload adjustment and rebound adjustment too, and twin piston calipers are fitted up front on dual 310mm discs. Wheel sizes are adventure friendly, with a 19 inch unit up front and a 17 inch rear, with 110/80 and 150/70 Bridgestone Trail Wings fitted standard.Road and trail For riders around the six foot mark we have always found the seat to footpeg distance a bit short, although shorter riders will probably find it near on perfect. The new model is no different so prior to heading out for our 1000 kilometre test journey we slipped on an Airhawk seat to give us some extra height. In fact the standard seat is very comfortable, the height issue is a personal thing. Straight away we found the suspension beautifully plush and within 10 kilometres from the start we were on dirt roads, with the suspension soaking up pot holes and wooden bridges with ease.

On budget bikes usually the first thing you notice is the budget suspension. Not so on the new V-Strom, and after travelling about 80 kilometres of back road to meet up with our travel partners we were very impressed with the bike. It seems narrower than before, has more power and better suspension. You could cruise at speeds way over the national speed limit, and top speed is somewhere near 180km/h, maybe more. With the Airhawk seat giving us slightly more leg room we found the riding position spot on, and the adjustable screen works amazingly well, even wearing a peaked adventure helmet. A handy rack comes standard and it has a slip resistant rubber mat fitted. We were able to strap down a big bag over the rack and pillion section of the seat, and still had plenty of room. There’s a some occy strap points which help you tie the whole lot down.

It might be billed as an adventure bike but the baby V-Strom is sure fun in the corners, with the Trailwings giving a decent amount of grip. The only issue is the softish front forks giving the odd wallow or two but this was when we were riding it way beyond the design parameters so that’s probably an unfair criticism. Touring on the open road is so easy, with the bike loping along with ease at 100-130km/h. We couldn’t help but constantly come back to the two things which ‘make’ this bike, its engine and suspension. It was a pure pleasure to ride on the road.

Off the beaten track
At one stage we decided to test the bike out on a section of the Bridle Track near Hill End in country NSW. Ruts, erosion banks or corrugated corners, the V-Strom took them all in its stride and there’s enough power to loft the front wheel without much trouble. As no bash plate comes standard we would want to fit one before we did much more of this type of riding. Ground clearance doesn’t seem to be a problem, and the hydraulic preload adjustment was so easy to get to it made softening the rear for the dirt trails a simple affair. We didn’t even bother adjusting the forks for the dirt and they never felt like they needed it.

ABS is a feature generally unloved by off-road riders. We purposely engaged the ABS on numerous occasions, in a straight line and in corners and try as we might we couldn’t get the ABS on the bike to do anything crazy but this is not likely to sway the hard core adventure riders who just seem to believe it’s a bad thing. While overall the brakes are fine on the road, they are even better on the dirt. Take away the ABS equation and the brakes have enough bite without too much initial bite which is great for dirt riding. They have good feel too

A few of the crew rode the bike during the 1000 kays and everyone loved the bike, commenting they were amazed at the ability of the new bike, especially considering its price. The main high points for each rider were the supple suspension and extremely flexible engine which could lope along in a tall gear, pulling away from very low revs without trouble. Nice one Suzuki.

Every now and then you ride a smaller capacity bike and ask if you need anything more. The 2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650 is one of those bikes. It’s hard to come up with any real faults other than the seat to footpeg distance, and as said before this is very much a personal thing. For $10,800???? + ORC this has to be one of the best buys now, if not ever. On face value it makes many other adventure bikes look real expensive but of course there’s always more to the story than that. The difference in the stories is only a few pages though.

About the author: Matt O'Connell

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