An experienced road-tripper learns from the master of adventure.
First impressions are important. Most people put their best foot forward when meeting somebody for the first time, and I tend to take the same approach when swinging a leg over a new motorcycle. Unlike most people, a bike is more forthcoming upon introduction and readily declares its preferences and limitations. Respecting or disrespecting those warnings is the difference between a good day and a bad one, especially when you’re atop a 545-pound liter bike.
With that in mind, I was on my best behavior when I picked up a 2020 V-Strom 1050 XT from Suzuki of America headquarters in Brea, California. I took possession of Hamamatsu’s latest adventure bike following a quick briefing from the friendly staff. After a mirror and windscreen adjustment, I set off to put the new V-Strom to its first test—a 30-mile gallop through the Los Angeles freeway system.
While I was minding my best road manners, the V-Strom unapologetically ate up the pavement. At 5,500 rpm in fourth gear, the Suzuki adventurer loped along at a steady 75 mph. It seemed happiest at the lower end of the power band and wasn’t afraid to let me know. Though the Euro 5-compliant 1,037cc v-twin now maxes out at 12,000 rpm, a white LED light over the LCD display flashes as soon as the pistons hit 6,500 rpm.
Reaching peak torque (74 lb-ft) at 6,000 rpm and 106 horsepower at 8,000 rpm, it’s no wonder the V-Strom prefers to play in the middle of the rev range. I was more than happy to heed the bike's warnings as the revamped motor’s buttery power delivery made interstate travel feel more like a stroll in the park. A supple throttle hand can keep the V-Strom singing for hours, but the addition of cruise control for the 2020 model makes highway hauls even more effortless.
Once I got the 1050 XT home, I turned the adjustable clutch lever to the closest setting. The clutch engagement point felt far out and vague on several occasions during the maiden voyage, but a quick turn of stock lever dial remedied the situation. On the other hand, the brake lever was positioned perfectly, readily clamping the Tokico 4-piston calipers on the dual-rotors with the slightest pull.
On the road again, I decided to weave the tourer through the close confines of LA traffic. Though it’s completely capable, the V-Strom preferred the open road over the city congestion of Sunset Boulevard. Halfway through Hollywood, the motor started throwing heat onto the backs of my legs. Luckily, the traffic was relatively light due to the ongoing lockdown and the adventurer escaped the urban jungle practically unphased.
The engine heat subsided once we dipped into Beverly Hills, and as soon as we hit Pacific Palisades, it vanished completely. The 1050 XT thrived in the onshore breeze along the Malibu coast, humming up the Pacific Coast Highway with little effort. Hitting cruise control again, I was able to take in the scenery and regulate my speed before the California Highway Patrol did it for me.
A jaunt down the 101 South led me back to LA, but the setting sun over my shoulder reflected harshly off the dash’s gloss finish. That minor annoyance was very circumstantial and the only tick mark against the LCD display. Throughout the ride, it clearly and accurately listed the engine temperature, miles left, ride mode, traction control, current gear, speed, and ABS setting all on the home screen.
After clocking 160 miles on the first day, it was time to let the big adventure tourer rest. I was comfortable with the riding position and I felt reassured by the motorcycle’s demeanor. Next, I plan to explore the V-Strom's power modes and traction control settings. At times, the new throttle-by-wire felt more like an on/off switch and I hope the other modes deliver a less binary experience.
I was very happy with my introduction to the V-Strom 1050 XT. Out of the box, Suzuki’s flagship adventure tourer has more than enough power and features to fuel any long-distance road trip. I’m looking forward to learning more about the bike over the next few months and enjoying some much-needed travels. As Bogart put it, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”