What is an Adventure Touring bike? Ask ten riders and you’re likely to receive ten different answers ranging from a lightweight, knobbied big-bore Single with a luggage rack to a 600-pound, multi-cylindered monster with electrically-warmed everything. Although the descriptions vary, we all know a true adventure bike when we see it, and the 2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 will not be mistaken for anything but. Now the real question is where does it fall in the spectrum of adventure-ness? We found ourselves in the usually sunny coast of Southern Spain to find out.
In the past few years the sales of the V-Strom 1000 have dropped drastically, in large part to the economy but also because of the success of the smaller V-Strom 650
and the removal of the larger V-Strom
from several markets because of emissions regulations. When Suzuki
decided to move forward with a new 1000, they focused on European markets and conducted extensive surveys to find out what current and potential V-Strom owners liked, disliked and wanted. Features such as traction control and ABS were high on the wish list, but just as important were excellent handling and all-day comfort. Suzuki responded with an all-new V-Strom 1000 featuring an updated engine, chassis and look. Additionally Suzuki’s very first traction control was fitted along with ABS.
Suzuki laid-out nearly 200 miles of winding asphalt for our ride around the coastal town of Almeria, but not a lick of dirt. This is telling of the placement and purpose of the V-Strom 1000. While it features the requisite front beak that says, “point me at the dirt,” the V-Strom will spend most, if not all, of its time on the street. Suzuki went heavy on street prowess as most owners of ADV bikes will never see anything more nasty than a fireroad. Hill-climbing and log-jumping is the dream sold in brochures, but not the reality. Of course, there are exceptions, but those people are not the majority. It’s far better to sell to the masses and not the few, right?
So the V-Strom may not get full off-road capability, it does have the upright riding position, wide bars and big seat that allows for striking out for the horizon and beyond. The bars are pulled back 34.2mm and the footpegs migrated 15mm aft as well for a more relaxed fit than the previous model. The seat height is unaltered at 33.5 inches but the shape has been thinned at the front to allow for an easier reach to the ground. Suzuki also has a wide range of accessories available, including a 1.2-inch lower option and a 1.4-inch taller unit.
Sitting on the V-Strom it was an easy reach to the pavement with my 32 inch inseam, and I would say the standard seat height will work for those that are even slightly vertically challenged. Taking hold of the steel handlebars found a very natural and comfortable layout with plenty of leverage. The feel of the levers are thin and not as quality feeling as I would expect from a machine in this segment. The rest of the cockpit is excellent however; the instrument cluster relays all the info that is needed, including instant and average fuel mileage, ambient temperature, miles to empty, gear position and traction control level. The LCD gauge also displays the speed with a large analog tachometer to the left. Switching through the modes and traction control levels is simple and straightforward with the left thumb control. Other brands should take note. The slick three-position ratcheting windshield is easy to use and provides adequate protection. It doesn’t punch a huge hole in the air to hide behind, but it does take the weight off your chest and head enough to have a comfortable ride.
Once underway, rolling the wrist back satisfies with meaty torque right off the bottom that hits its peak at just 4000 rpm. The 2mm larger bore, bringing the displacement up to 1037cc, is filled by new pistons that weigh the same despite being larger. Thinner piston rings give higher combustion efficiency through less friction. Dual spark plugs boost the power as well as smooth the idle. A 15% greater flywheel inertia and new low-loss magneto material make for a more controllable engine character while boosting the low and mid-range power levels. The 76 lb-ft of torque on tap makes shifting in the twisties optional rather than a requirement. Put it in third gear and just go. The motor chugs out of the corner with authority before tapering off at just 8000 rpm. Not much really happens after 6000 rpm, and revving the piss out of the V-Strom will only result in more noise rather than acceleration. Short-shifting is the key to getting the most out of this engine.
On the subject of shifting the V-Strom gets a sixth gear with a 1:1 gear ratio for highway duty. Clicking though the gears is precise and effort on the lever is light. A new clutch is outfitted with Suzuki’s Clutch Assist System (SCAS). The SCAS is a slipper and assist unit that is designed to allow for smooth downshifts and a lighter pull at the lever, and it works as advertised. At the hydraulic master cylinder the feel is solid and connected, yet feathery. Downshifts are drama free and even positively hooligan-ish three-gear downshift are met with a controllable rear-wheel slide rather than an out of control hop.
With such an agreeable torque profile, you’ll want to twist the grip out of every corner, perhaps even when the traction is not optimal. Suzuki’s traction control system uses two wheel speed sensors, as well as a gear position sensor, crank position
sensor and throttle position sensor all sampling at 250 times per second. These sensors transmit data to the ECM unit which meters the power output to the rear wheel.
Two levels of intervention are selectable on the fly as well as the option to turn the system off completely. Level 2 offers the biggest safety net, working to cut any rear-wheel slippage. In this mode, the orange TC light will flash often when turning the screws but the activation is smooth and not a hint of jerkiness can be perceived. Testing this setting in the dirt on the side of the road, found that you will not make much headway in gravel with this setting as the slightest amount of assertiveness with the right wrist is met with a cut in power. Level 1 is usable in the dirt and will allow for a bit of wheel spin before the system reins you in. On the street Level 1 will allow a slight amount of tire squirm before cutting back the power. Once again the engagement is seamless.
Braking performance from the Tokico monobloc front brakes is what I would classify as better than average. The 310mm front discs have plenty of leverage on the 19-inch wheel, but the standard master cylinder could provide a greater hydraulic advantage. The initial bite is good, but the overall power is lacking slightly just before the ABS kicks in. At the rear pedal, feel is somewhat spongy but the power is there. ABS does not interfere too soon and overall has a nice modulation when activated.
In the bends the V-Strom has a light feel that is easy to toss around. A 36mm longer swingarm adds stability while the distance between the swingarm pivot and front axle is 16mm shorter for sportier handling. When hustling the front drops in with little effort and will respond quickly to input on the big bars. The front fork is a fully adjustable KYB unit but I didn’t make any adjustments as I found it damped well for the pace and quality of the roads. The rear end is planted and stable, but I did add a turn or two on the shock’s remote preload adjuster for a little more sharpness. Cornering clearance is good, but the long footpeg feelers do touch down easily and often if you are a carver.
The sportier ride is also enhanced thanks to a weight loss of 18 pounds. Most of the mass was removed with the change from a dual exhaust configuration to a single canister. The lighter bodywork also contributed, as did the removal of the oil cooler due to better cooling efficiency of the larger radiator. The V-Strom now weighs in at just 502, and while that is not feather-light it is just as close to the weight of the 800 and 650 class machines as the big dogs of the ADV pack.
The media kit for the V-Strom 1000 includes a note that reads: “The traction control system is not a substitute for the rider’s throttle control. It cannot prevent loss of traction due to excessive speed when the rider enters a turn and/or applies the brakes. Neither can it prevent the front wheel from losing grip.” Unfortunately I tested (unsuccessfully) the last bit halfway through the day when my front tire found a patch of diesel fuel in a rather high-speed sweeping corner. The resulting low-side crash destroyed my assigned mount as well as a couple of my phalanges as I left the pavement after a prolonged slide. Fortunately, I had enough time on the bike to get a feel for just about every aspect besides the seat comfort for long stretches.
So my adventure ended early, but the short time I did have on the 2014 V-Strom was a positive experience. The engine is a wonderfully easy mover, with a character that lets you cover the distance without fatigue. Suzuki’s first TC system is simple to use and is well calibrated. Handling is light and the suspension soaks up the asphalt’s imperfections with confidence. While the V-Strom 1000 wouldn’t be on my short list for a dirt intensive trek, for everyday and street adventures it’s a winner, especially at just $12,699.