An excellent adventure tourer |
Even at very slow speeds, the V-Strom’s twin is smooth and beautifully tractable.
It’s funny how sometimes fate steps in and makes everything just work out.
I love a good road trip. I love the excitement of seeing new things and meeting new people and I love the freedom of the open road. It’s a time to leave the worries of reality back home or at the office for those few hundred (or thousand) kilometers.
What makes a good road trip a great one is the spirit for adventure and a willingness to take what comes in stride – for better or for worse.
My riding buddies and I set out to explore the lightly traveled secondary roads of rural West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Our collection of bikes was as motley as our personalities – ranging from a speed-crazed Ducati-rider to professor on a sport-touring bike.
I requested Suzuki’s all-new 2014 V-Strom 1000 SE “adventure bike” which seems appropriate for a trip that was to take me 1,500 kms on roads I’d never seen; to places I’d never been, and on a route I hadn’t planned.
It should be stated that I’m not really into adventure bikes like the V-Strom or BMW’s GS-series because of their sheer size, and have admittedly avoided them. I’m a man of average height, sporting a 31” inseam, which means very tall, heavy bikes become fearsome beasts in the event I find myself needing to shuffle around on a gritty incline imagining myself a ballet dancer in toe shoes carrying a moose.
While the V-Strom’s 33.4” seat height required me to remember when walking the bike into parking spaces that it carries a lot of mass up high, my apprehension proved unnecessary throughout the trip.
In fact, when moving – even at very slow speeds, the V-Strom’s twin is smooth and beautifully tractable making it easy work to thread the bike through tight confines that belies its size and capabilities. The tall seating position and wide bars ensure the rider is always in a commanding position to control the V-Strom.
2014 marks an all-new V-Strom 1000 as is immediately evident in the styling, which now sprouts a beak like all good contemporary adventure bikes do. Finished in “khaki” beige bodywork, my test bike really looked the part of a machine destined to find adventure no matter where it may be.
The frame on the new ‘Strom is lighter thanks to more judicious use of aluminum and the engine, while largely carry-over, is slightly bored out enabling a bit more low-end torque. And that it has in spades. Even with the panniers loaded up with three days’ worth of luggage (and I assure you I did not pack lightly figuring if I’ve got the space, I might as well use it), the 228 kg Suzuki pulls with robust torque from 3,000 rpms.
With around 90 horsepower from the big V-twin, acceleration is solid if not scintillating, but I had no problem merging with traffic at the rate of my riding companions on their sportier mounts. Where it excels though is in highway cruising, which shows the V-Strom turning just over 4,500 rpms at an indicated 120 km/h. In fact, the engine is so smooth, I found myself occasionally and inadvertently riding along on the highway in fifth gear, with sixth still available.
That butter-smooth power delivery was marred only by a throttle calibration that is a bit non-linear when first rolling on. The initial few degrees of rotation of the wrist produce no action, and then quickly changes to provide more gusto than expected. With time I adapted my riding style to accommodate, but would have liked to had a more linear calibration.
The transmission is good and crisp with only a few occasions where a 1-2 shift was a little clunky.
Getting back to that fate thing. Knowing that our mission was to seek out the routes coveted by motoring enthusiasts for decades, rivaling the tourist-riddled Tail of the Dragon (but without the tourists), I had second thoughts early on about my choice of bike compared to my friends.
As it happens, the V-Strom is surprisingly capable on the twisting pavement, giving up little on the street to the racier bikes despite the less-sticky Bridgestone Battle Wing rubber. Granted if the roads had been littered with very tight hairpins, the ‘Strom’s size may have been more of a hindrance.
Fate, however, provided us with completely uncooperative weather for the bulk of our journey, washing away dreams of aggressive corner carving through the forest in exchange for hundreds of kilometers of cautious, soggy travel.
Ah, the adventures of motorcycle touring.
Suddenly having a big, stable bike featuring both ABS and Suzuki’s first application of traction control left me with a lot more confidence. Those same touring-focused tires with their deeper grooves also prevented hydroplaning through the deluge.
Regardless of what the weather was doing, I appreciated the V-Strom’s excellent ergonomics. With the nine-position adjustable windscreen mounted on its highest setting, buffeting was happily minimized and the neutral riding stance along with a wide, comfy saddle meant 600+ km days without fatigue are completely doable.
Controls and gauges are high up and legible contributing to the rider’s comfort too, and the mirrors are large enough (and vibration-free) to provide a great view of what’s happening behind.
Best of all, my clothes and gadgets were kept dry in the panniers while my riding partners struggled with garbage bags inside their saddlebags to keep the rain at bay.
Suzuki has made a considerable effort in recreating the V-Strom for 2014 and their investment has paid off. The V-Strom 1000 SE is a bike that will swallow great distances comfortably regardless of road type or condition.
At $12,999 in SE trim with the panniers, it’s an excellent value too.