By David Soderhom
I’m kind of a motorcycle nut. Anytime I have the chance to get in on a cool motorcycle thing, I’m game all the way. When I got wind of Suzuki USA needing MSF instructors for leading and chasing the 2017-2018 Suzuki Demo Fleet rides at various dealers over a few days I jumped with both feet. Getting paid to run demo rides over an extended time period and riding all of the models offered really gave me a chance to do a super test of sorts. The routes encompassed city, country and freeway portions to give a great impression under the various conditions you may find yourself riding in. I’m going to break each motorcycle category down with the various options from Suzuki that were present to ride. Let me say this right up front – Suzuki is back and should be on your list of bikes to purchase.
250 cc or less
VanVan 200 – ($4599.00) The VanVan is an all new 200cc dual purpose bike. Fat tires front and rear immediately bring to mind the Yamaha TW200. This is a more stylish Suzuki version with a fun retro flair. The seat is FANTASTIC and the light nimble fun handling and controls make it a hoot to toss around. Fuel Injection make starting simple. A front disc brake works well and it tops out at about 70 MPH. It would make a great cabin bike or legit scooter alternative in town.
GW250 – ($4099.00) The GW is a very nice fuel injected liquid cooled parallel twin 250 with a cool modern look and an uprightstandard riding position. It’s got good power for a 250. From 6-11k on the tach it will accelerate quite nicely. Clutch and throttle work smooth and new rider friendly. An 80 MPH top speed give it actual freeway potential and twin disc brakes (f & R) make stopping effective and easy. Great new rider friendly mount with a modern and attractive instrument cluster.
TU250X – ($4399.00) A retro standard with a nice front disc brake, good suspension (cool twin rear shocks) easy handling and a somewhat torquey responsive air cooled fuel injected 250 cc single. Another very new rider friendly motorcycle to learn the ropes on. This is a great city bike and would even serve well on 2 lane back roads.
GSX-250R – ($4499.00) An early release 2018 model. I didn’t ride this one, as it was a preview unit not for official riding yet. It slips nicely into the resurgent small sporty bike market. The seating is actually quite comfortable and it is very nicely finished. It does not appear to be a cheap inexpensive bike at all! On the contrary it feels and looks like it was put together with care and quality. I can’t wait to try one out…
DRZ400SM – ($7199.00) The DRZ is a supermoto hooligan for the street. A fuel injected 400cc liquid cooled high revving single make it versatile and fun to ride. The seat is a bit hard, but there is not much else to complain about. It will run freeway speeds (chassis is a bit lively there) and it makes city riding an absolute joy. Pot holes, curbs, speed bumps simply disappear under the great suspension. Handling in town is ridiculously good and entertaining. Wheelies, stoppies, backing it in – all simple affairs…..or so I’ve heard. It WILL leave a smile on your face.
DR650S – ($6499.00) The DR is the grown up to the DRZ. A big torquey air cooled 650cc single will punch away from stop lights or loft the front with ease. Not quite as quick revving as the DRZ, but easier to use on the street. Good suspension front and rear make bumps on the street disappear. Less hooligan on the street than the DRZ, but oh so much more trail worthy. It’s also better over longer distances than the DRZ with a better settled chassis and seat. Noah rode one when he built the Ark, but it’s still a great bike.
DL1000-Vstrom ($12,999) The 1000 Vstrom is a revised early release 2018 model. It comes in two flavors, standard and XT versions. The XT version comes with tubeless spoked wheels and a tapered handle bar. For 2018, the Vstrom has revised styling and A new, five-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) providing vehicle spacial information to the innovative Motion Track Anti-lock* & Combined Brake System. It also features refinements from 2014’s full revision in the engine mapping, controls and aerodynamics. Look for our full test on the V-strom 1000 next month! For now, I’ll say if you are looking in the ADV shopping space be sure to check it out.
Boulevard M90 – ($11,199) The M90 is a great looking muscle cruiser. It’s got a fantastic liquid cooled 1500 cc v-twin engine. The 90 ci engine is filled with torque and makes a great hot rod rush to redline. The feet forward riding position is actually nicely compact and comfortable with a great seat. A speedometer mounted on the bars is easy to see. Sensibly, but still meaty sized tire selection lets the handling shine. I’d put this one right up there with the Victory Octane in fun – and if you read my review of the Octane, that’s saying a lot! The Victory is lighter and more nimble, but the Suzuki really works well as a package.
Boulevard M109R B.O.S.S. – ($14,999) The muscled butch brother of the M90. Goodness me – this engine is a ripper! This bike has one flat out ripping muscular V-twin. Great fueling and torquey rippling muscle everywhere with a fantastic sound track mixed in. I’m not sure how they got it past the sound check guys – but it’s fantastic. It’s a stretch to the pegs and the drag bars fold you over a bit, but the seat is good. The optional touring shield on it was great. The shifting is industrial, especially in first to second gear shifts. Brakes are fantastic with radial mounted front calipers. Handling isn’t as nimble and easy as its little brother, being negatively affected by that huge rear tire. Just remember to keep counter steering through corners and you’re good to go.
(Let me throw in a recommendation here. If you are a sporty rider and going to be mostly street riding, do yourself a favor and buy one of these 3 motorcycles instead of a GSXR. They are all VASTLY superior in every single street situation you will find yourself in, and be cheaper on insurance in all cases. If you are racing or plan to do a lot of track days, then get a GSXR. They are exceptional on the track. Otherwise, take it from me and buy the sporty street mount of your choice below instead!)
SV650 – ($6999.00) The SV650 returns and is one great all around V-twin motorcycle. Suzuki KNOWS how to build a 650 v-twin. Within 100 yards I was comfortable on it. Balance is excellent, as is the controls and rider interface. It straddles the line between sport and standard wonderfully. It has fun sporty engine power, enough to entertain anyone but always manageable and with perfect fuel injection. The cockpit is modern and well finished. Seating is sporty standard and it has a feeling of quality and unity built into it. Everything about the SV just feels “right”. This is a bike you could comfortably ride to a track day, tape up the lights and have a great time (within suspension limits of course). At the end of the day, pull the tape off and take the long way home. On the street, on the track, new rider, experienced rider — it’s all covered by this great bike.
GSX-S750 – ($8299.00) The GSX-S750 is an early release 2018 model. Heavily updated and improved for the new release, this 750 is one fun sporty platform now! Brakes, suspension, engine and styling were all redone. Brakes are now radially mounted Nissin monoblocks and suspension is new preload adjustable KYB units front and rear. Both work great and the brakes are single finger stoppers. The engine sounds like a GSXR but has more torque at low RPM and rushes to redline with a great howl. Fueling is great at all times. Traction control is standard. Seating is sporty standard and the controls / instruments have a high quality look and feel. Tires are high quality Bridgestone Hypersport S21 tires. A bike that could excel at the track and still pull street duty with equal fun. Great job Suzuki! This 750 is a true surprise on the thoroughness of the revision made for 2018.
GSX-S1000 – ($9999.00) The S1000 is a holdover model and is the bigger brother to the S750. Like the 750, it has radially mounted brakes (Brembos this time) KYB suspension (fully adjustable this time) and high quality controls / instruments (including a Renthal fat bar). It uses a revised K5 GSX-R1000 motor that was torque rich to begin with. Minor tweaks to the engine boost the curve of the engine at street speeds even more. It is snappy, torque laden and quick revving with relatively low gearing. In other words it’s a heck of a lot of fun. The only fly in the ointment is a somewhat snatchy throttle in on-off transitions. It’s something you can get used to, but is noticeable for sure. Suspension, handling and brakes are magnificent. Seating position is again sporty standard. Even more capable on track than its 750 brother, it also excels in street situations. Both GSX-S models are a ton of fun and truly outshine any pure sportbike on the street while offering 90% of what they will do on a track day.
Race Replicas and Sportbikes
GSXR Line I’m going to lump all three of the GSXR’s together in one group. All have very high spec running gear, and are absolutely telepathic in their handling and braking at street speeds. Like production race bikes from other companies, their capabilities so far exceed anything you can do with them on the street that it’s ridiculous. They are meant to be pushed hard in a racetrack environment and are exceptional in that role. On the street, their punishing seating positions and restricted mirror visibility don’t make much sense. On the track – nirvana. The engines are all dead smooth, and turbine like with the 600 having the least low end and midrange power. It’s smoothness means it doesn’t fatigue you when running higher rpm’s though. The 750 has a decidedly stronger mid and top end hit and is a great street engine. The new for 2017 GSXR1000 is ripping fast at any rpm level – helped by a new VVT valve system. It also has a quick shifter and a very sophisticated electronic suite of rider aids that would definitely help control the power on the track. They are all mighty impressive, but if you are going to focus more on street vs track riding you are much better served with the GSX-S line of bikes.
Hayabusa ($14,599) Honestly for me, the shocking surprise of the group. We nicknamed it the Starship Enterprise. It looks so heavy and bulky, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Busa is rock solid, nimble and extremely competent. Aerodynamics are very smooth, and the seating position is dialed back from sportbike punishing…..just enough. The motor is an absolute rocket ship that still works on the street because of the controllable and buttery torque available. Make NO MISTAKE – this thing is mega fast, but feels so controllable and unstressed as you accelerate through the gears. Suspension and brakes are once again…fantastic. Always feeling smooth and composed. If you get one, keep an eye on the speedometer, it’s too easy to park it at 100 MPH and think you are doing 55…you’ve been warned!
In summary – I’d like to thank Doug Chapman and Suzuki for the opportunity to do this. Suzuki has a great lineup of bikes that need to be on your list of inquiries when you shop. Stay tuned for next issues 2018 Vstrom 1000 full test.