By Tim Erickson
It took mere minutes aboard the latest 2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 to realize why the “adventure” category is one of the best-selling motorcycle segments in North America. These bikes have a do it all mission, offering all-road capability, touring comfort, sporty handling and enough capacity to pack the goods from an efficiency apartment to spend time traversing the continent.
I held the keys for a week, during which its tires trod over dry freeway, wet back roads, gravel shortcuts and other thoroughfares to get a great feel and understanding of what Suzuki was up to with its updated 1000 V-Strom. And while I didn’t hit an ocean coast and back, my 700 test miles were plenty to explore the bike’s personality and find its nuances.
First and foremost, the latest incarnation – 2018 – is an update to the 2014 redesign which had a significant upgrade in styling, chassis and engine. Under its more understated, more beaked out pleasing blend of bodywork and mechanical art is an updated chassis, recalibrated and refined engine, an electronics package and a host of other updates that when added to the spec sheet help create its $12,999 bottom line. It’s worth noting this price is unchanged from when the bike debuted as a 2014 model. An XT package, with wire spoked wheels and tapered Fat Bar cost $300.00 more.
From the first moments underway I was appreciative of the reworked engine. The dual overhead cam 90-degree 1037cc Vee is well balanced from vibration and provides strong, usable torque through a meaty midrange. For the occasional light offroad adventure seeker, first gear is short, but the transfer of power is smooth and linear to remove any jerky low-speed, on-throttle maneuvering, even without feathering the slipper clutch – no doubt playing a role in overall driveline smoothness.
I expected a little more top-end engine power; by displacement the engine’s 90-ballpark horsepower is on the low side of high performance. The powerband flattens after 6500 rpm in its climb to a 9200 redline, and after a few orientation miles I rarely directed the engine to report more than 6000 rpm on the analog tach. It doesn’t mean the displacement lacks fun and an energetic ride; it’s more about how it’s calibrated for low- and mid-range grunt with close gear ratios. Roll-on thrust anywhere in the midrange is rapid if not thrilling.
There is one caveat, however. In one instance, the close ratio tranny and an instantaneous throttle response caused me to nearly overshoot the apex of a 20 mph 90-degree right turn with a second gear upshift. One of the bike’s nuances is it’s difficult to be smooth in this particular scenario. Acceleration wasn’t a threat to overall control, but it did require a quick reaction to keep the bike leaned over when the chassis impulse was to stand up, straighten out and propel me into a Pontiac fender on the other side of the painted lane divider. The moment fine-tuned my brain calibration to be more sensitive to second gear roll ons.
The best engine power observed is in the 3200 to 4500 rpm range where the response is instant and third-through-sixth upshifts smooth and seamless. It’s this same range where I consistently found a harmonic vibration that “hummed” the chassis a bit. Despite chain final drive and regardless of gear selection, I chalk up the resonance to unused torque escaping as lost energy in the chassis, now 13% lighter and constructed stiffer than its DL predecessor.
There are three ECU-mapped drive modes commanding the traction control system. Think of Mode 2 as eliminates wheel spin, whereas Mode 1 limits wheel spin. A third option disables the TC. I found a remote, gravel road for better feel of the traction control system capabilities. Hard acceleration while exiting a gravel turn at a moderate lean was a suitable test combination. The warning indicator flashed while the engine acted as if I triggered a soft rev limiter. The net result was the bike held its line without rear end drift, without over-rev. Chalk it up to a system that works as designed.
Handling is predictable, fluid and controlled, in part from the wide bars and tall stance (ground clearance is 6.75 inches) that gives riders great leverage on a high cg. Unlike many bikes of similar stance, the V-Strom doesn’t feel too top heavy with a turn in too abrupt. It’s all road surfaces intent is supported by its all road surfaces behavior, much of it supported by its well composed suspension.
Suspension is fully adjustable up front and rebound adjustable in the rear, which is one of the things that keeps the price modest compared to other bikes in the liter-bike adventure touring class outfitted with full electronic suspension. The front has the typical inverted coil spring forks with spring preload adjustment, as well as compression and rebound adjustment to control the oil flow thought the valve stack. The rear link-type swingarm behavior is supervised by a shock with a remote collar spring preload adjustment.
Brakes are excellent and without negative critique. The Tokico radially mounted calipers squeeze with good feel, offering adequate stopping power without drama. ABS is standard on the V-Strom 1000, and we did not have cause, thankfully, to test a full squeeze on the lever to check the “it works” box. There is no option to disable the ABS.
In the saddle the V-Strom positions riders upright, in a commanding, square shouldered posture. Suzuki engineered the seat shape with a front taper to make it easier for those riders with shorter-inseams to get their feet on deck, and added grippy material panels to the seat sides helps riders hold the bike in place if their legs are at full extension from the 33.4-inch seat height.
Though the seat and slightly forward lean from handlebar orientation make it difficult to have more than one position when aboard, the seat is easily comfortable enough to extend through its 250ish mile fuel range, visible to the rider in the LCD information panel. The rider also has fingertip access to the traction control settings, a fuel gauge, two trip odometers and other welcome info such as actual and average fuel consumption, gear indicator, air temp and a clock.
The cockpit is also armed with a handy 12V outlet, a prerequisite of any bike with a hint of adventure touring pedigree. To power plug-ins and accessory lighting Suzuki fitted a 490 watt alternator. The stock windscreen has three positions to control windflow. Riders who touch the 6-foot mark may want to consider aftermarket options. The stock shield was semi-functional at highway speed in the tallest position, which puts the screen most vertical, though we noted slight buffeting in the chest and chin area. In the low position at freeway cruise speeds we were directing wind to the helmet front. The screen was most effective and appreciated while riding in rain showers.
Later in our test we tried an MRA screen with the adjustable top spoiler, and wind protection was superior. By contrast we could ride with helmet visors wide open at highway speeds without complaint using the MRA.
Over the various terrain the all-purpose tires trod, it was hard to find fault in the latest V-Strom that aren’t subject to personal preferences. Some riders will want a more powerful engine. Others might want electronic suspension adjustment. Others will prefer shaft vs. the higher maintenance chain. All those other features add cost, whereas the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 remains modest by comparison. In our opinion, the Suzuki emerges as the best value in adventure bikes, especially because you’d have to look harder to find one at full MSRP vs. one with out-the-door discounts.