Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom Touring – A wolf in granny’s clothing?
The V-Strom was launched late in 2001, to a UK market fixated with sports bikes; whilst our European biking neighbours have long favoured supermotos, enduros and big trailie bikes.
The Suzuki DL100 V-Strom Touring
Since then increasing speed enforcement measures and a successful TV series featuring a pair of globe trotting big trailies, have done much to boost UK sales in this sector and many riders are warming to the virtues of these style bikes, which transcend sheer terminal velocity and acceleration.
Described as a “Sports Enduro Tourer” by Suzuki, lately their emphasis has been its touring capabilities, with both Touring and Grand Touring versions offered. Die-hard sports bike riders should note that at its heart the V-Strom has a true sports bike engine from the much acclaimed Suzuki TL1000R which has been retuned to better suit the V-Strom’s character, with more low down grunt.
Our test bike had only done 186miles, we were advised it needed a first service at 600 miles, but we could clock up to 1,000 miles, “because it isn’t the sort of bike where you’ll be regularly revving it towards the red-line”, hmmm?
The Touring version adds a useful colour matched 48 litre top box, a centre stand and heated grips to the base specification, optional 35 litre panniers complete the touring luggage setup.
Comments on the bike’s appearance were luke warm. Without any major styling changes since 2001, perhaps it is like your granny’s looks and clothing, past their best with advancing years (sorry granny); but look a little deeper and it has some styling features, worthy of appreciation.
The purposefully raked nose fairing topped with adjustable screen, the upswept tank side paneling and the attractive twin exhausts make you begin to realise that under its rather plain exterior, lurks the heart of something altogether more adrenaline inducing than your granny!
Suzuki TL1000R derived engine powers the DL1000
Twin dual 60/55W headlights
The V-Strom has teeth, the TL1000R derived engine, is a 996cc, 90 degree V-twin, liquid-cooled, DOHC 4-stroke unit which has also seen service in the the Cagiva Raptor, Gran Canyon and a Bimota World Superbike that won at Phillip Island. Its sporting emphasis is further enhanced with a fuel injection system similar to that used on Suzuki’s successful GSXR sports bike range.
A V-twin is all about torque and the bike produces claimed figures of 68lflbt of torque and power of 105 BHP. This is fed through a positive feel six speed gear box, with sixth being an overdrive. There’s even a digital overdrive indicator on the instrument panel, shame this couldn’t have been a gear indicator instead.
With twin dual 60/55w headlights, both used in high and low beam settings the night time illumination is particularly good. There’s also a very clear instrument panel with a separate orange on black analogue speedometer and rev counter with chrome bevels and a comprehensive digital information panel set in between.
The clear instrument panel
The Tourer does have the useful 48 litre top box, set on a standard rear rubber padded rack. Under the seat there’s ample room for a set of waterproofs or lock, add the optional panniers and the bike can accommodate a surprising amount of stuff; making it an ideal long distance tourer. Note, with the top box, it is possible to lock your keys in it; you only use the key to open it, not to lock it!
Well let’s cut to the chase, like a wolf the V-Strom is agile and can cover long distances. Its top speed may not make it the fastest bike out there but it can cover such distances in real comfort.
I immediately noticed how comfortable this bike is, with its wide handlebars and the broad, accommodating, slightly stepped, dual seat. There’s ample leg room, no scrunched up sports bike riding position here, an altogether upright and relaxed riding position. In one day I rode 400 miles and at the end I still felt amazingly fresh. One of the secrets of a good tourer is enabling you to ride great distances without unduly tiring you and the V-Strom achieves this. With the added comfort of variable setting heated grips and hand guards which help deflect the worst of a cold wind, I found these useful additions when testing in the chilly Welsh mountains; plus the levers have span adjusters for comfortable positioning.
All in all, this bike offers a surprising amount of comfort and extras for your money. I would have liked the screen to be automatically adjustable, repositioning the screen means getting the tool kit out. However you must take the price into account, the chain drive V-Strom is only £6,749 (Jan 07 price) on the road, which is considerably below the prices of some of the more highbrow, traditional large shaft drive tourers.
With the 22 litre fuel tank you can cover serious distances between fuel stops. Fuel economy ranged from 44.1 to 46.8 MPG, giving a range of about 225 miles. However the tank’s restrictive fuel neck filler makes it difficult to brim the tank.
The V-Strom immediately inspires rider confidence; as soon as I rode the bike, I felt a complete sense of confidence in its abilities. It feels like you’ve always owned the bike, it is so easy to ride. In some part this is due to the comfort level, but also it’s down to the impressive handling. The wide bars enable you to flick it into corners with ease and it instantly responds when shifting your body weight for cornering. Now I know the sports bike aficionados are going to “poo-poo” this, but it can really be hustled through the twisties with a serious degree of accomplishment, even though its not on road tyres, but shod with Bridgestone TrailWings. These offered a surprisingly good level of grip and also coped with gravely mountain roads. Do not be fooled into thinking this bike has any serious off road abilities though; the plastic belly pan, low down vulnerable oil cooler and close fitting front mud guard would soon fall foul of any muddy or rocky stuff, and the tyres aren’t true knobblies. Nevertheless it offers the ability to ride poor road surfaces and light gravel tracks, as sure footedly as a mountain goat and will enable you to put the available 105 BHP of power down where pure sports bikes would struggle. This sure footedness is aided by an advanced aluminum alloy twin-spar frame, complemented with 43mm cartridge type front forks and link type preload and rebound adjustable rear suspension. This compliant suspension set-up complements the comfort levels, soaking up all but the worst bumps. I would have preferred adjustable front forks to cope better with differing weight situations, on what is a bike with touring aspirations. The bike’s light off road ability is further enhanced by having a 19 inch front wheel and a smaller 17 inch rear wheel. The bike is very stable and was only affected by the very strongest of crosswinds.
Where the chase gets most interesting is in the power deliver. With some serious low down grunt in the lower gears from 2,000 RPM, it punches out of corners with a level of forward momentum that will really surprise you. The thrust continues to 8,000 RPM which is quite exhilarating, thereafter the power starts to tail off and the engine exhibits some mild vibration; 6,000 RPM seemed to be the engine sweet spot where it is delivering at its best. Exuberance saw me regularly taking it over 8,000 RPM before I managed to snatch the next gear change up, as the engine spins up surprisingly quickly. I will remember the V-Strom most for its impressive mid range punch. That’s what you need out on the road, not all top end power and top speed, but punch in that important 50MPH to 80MPH sector.
Sixth gear is truly an overdrive only and anything below 3,000 RPM in sixth results in snatchiness. In the lower gears below 2,000 RPM there is occasionally some mild hesitancy and surging in the power delivery. In sixth 3,600 RPM equated to a road speed of 70 MPH, with the red line set at 9,500 RPM.
Riding through the twisty Welsh mountains the punchy motor was simply a joy, with fourth and fifth providing ample overtaking power and overdrive sixth a relaxed cruising pace. The vocal performance is somewhat muted, the twin exhausts deliver a fairly low key note, only producing a deep guttural grunt when the bike is pushed hard. Initially I found the front brake needed a serious squeeze on the lever for hard barking and felt soft in its application, but this improved as the miles increased. It may well have been that the pads had initially not been sufficiently bedded in. Contrastingly the rear brake was very positive, with ample stopping power and proved particularly useful on the gravelly stuff!!
As an all round package this bike is incredibly competent and offers a level of performance that seems to belittle its 105 BHP power output. As a serious long distance tourer, commuter or even as a sports bike contender, this bike can cut it in most situations. The sports bike engine heart, combined with the tourer comfort and mild off road set-up offer a package solution for most riding situations.
As you ride off into the sunset on your Suzuki V-Strom, you can also be confident that under its unassuming exterior, lies an exhilarating machine that actually delivers real value for money when set against its more high brow competition.
Article and Photos by Jon Booth – www.inter-bike.co.uk – The UK Biker Site. Note all performance figures, weights and technical specifications are as claimed by the respective manufacturers
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Thanks to Suzuki GB for the loan of the Suzuki DL10000 V-Strom Touring