What do you think of when you think, “Suzuki?” Ten years ago, a GSX-R probably popped into your head. It was the sharpest, fastest sportbike out there. Nowadays? Well, if recent successes from the brand are any indication, what you should be thinking is “value.” Read why in this 2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS Review.
It’s tempting to write the new V-Strom off as simply an update of the old model, released way back in 2002. And, despite Suzuki’s insistence that it’s, “all new,” it technically is an update. However, it is a very, very thorough one.
Starting with the 1st generation’s TL-based V-twin, Suzuki has redesigned the cylinders, cylinder heads, pistons, piston rings, piston pins, connecting rods, crankshaft, crankcase, magneto, fly wheel, clutch, transmission and spark plugs. See what we mean by thorough?
Those changes have taken the motor from 996 to 1,037cc, added a slipper clutch (with assist function to reduce lever effort) and new, twin-sparkplug heads. That doesn’t add up to a lot more power — now 99.2 instead of 95.5 — but rather it moves the torque curve down the rev range and makes it fatter. Maximum torque of 76 lb.-ft. now arrives at 4,000 rpm. The old model made 74.5 lb.-ft., but at 6,400 rpm.
So too, is the new frame visually similar to the old one, even if it is a totally new item with enhanced rigidity, lower weight and new geometry. Now, the swingarm pivot has been moved closer (957 vs 963mm to the front axel) and further from the rear. The swingarm is now 20mm longer. Those changes should make steering faster, while accomplishing the seemingly divergent goal of adding both stability and traction. Rake and trail are a little more aggressive and the steering angle increases considerably from 36 to 40 degrees. All that further speeds steering.
Additionally, curb weight is down 17.5 lbs to just 503 lbs.
For the first time on a Suzuki, the V-Strom 1000 is equipped with traction control. It’s switchable between two levels of intervention and off. The standard ABS is not switchable, but can be disabled by pulling its fuse.
We spent two days and 500 miles on the bike in and around the Southern California desert, riding the bike on congested freeways, city surface streets, fun mountain roads, the open highway and even a few miles on a dirt road.
Out of the parking lot on the first morning, the first impression was in how easily controllable the 1000 feels. You can’t detect any additional weight, size or challenge over its uber-popular 650cc little brother. The 1000 is actually slimmer between your legs than the 650 — and feels it. But, also immediately apparent over that bike is a superior quality suspension set up considerably stiffer and sportier. Spring rates are stiffer, but the damping controls it well, leading to a responsive, controlled, capable ride.
Stand up on the bike and try and navigate the parking lot at a walking pace and the new, dual-throttle valve (one’s electronic, one’s manual) arrangement still throws some herks and jerks in your way below 3,000rpm. That disappears totally in higher gears and at higher revs.
Suzuki makes much of its new, easily-adjustable windscreen. There’s three height settings (10mm apart) you need an (included) Allen wrench to alter and then — this is the neat part — you push on the screen to move it through three ratcheting locations. Starting in the lowest, you push it up one notch for medium and up another for high. Push it further and it returns to the start. This is the kind of simple, elegant, successful solution that embodies the spirit with which the rest of the bike was designed. Why go through the expense and complication of electric adjustment when a manual system like this works equally well?
That screen is remarkably effective given its size, but ultimately isn’t able to keep the wind fully off your shoulders or helmet, if you’re tall like me.
We weren’t able to try the “Adventure” model which packages a taller “touring screen” and several other accessories like the much-needed lever guards into one cost-efficient upgrade. All 1000s shipped come with a lock-set under the seat, keyed to be the same as the bike’s ignition. Should you later buy hard luggage, you’ll be able to key it easily.
Suzuki is eager to push the V-Strom’s new accessory range and has gone so far to include specially designed bags which fit narrower than the handlebars and even looked to the aftermarket — SW Motech in this case — for important protection parts like the available sump guard. That part will be in high demand, the front cylinder’s header and the oil filter are both incredibly exposed.
Even without total wind protection, the 1000 cruises at highway speeds remarkably comfortably. 70 mph in 6th equates to that 4,000rpm torque peak, a point at which the motor is completely smooth and totally capable of urgently passing other vehicles. If it weren’t for the too-hard seat, you could sit there all day as well as you would on any big touring bike.
One of the areas Suzuki targeted for improvement was stability. With Southern California’s Santa Ana winds in full effect, that’s something we tested over each and every one of the 500 miles. And it is; completely and totally stable no matter how strong the cross wind or how significant another vehicle buffets you.
The 33.5-inch seat height is tall, but both higher and lower options are available and the area where the tank meets the seat is so slim that even the short of leg will be able to flat foot the 1000. Yay, V-twins.
Standing up in order to ride off-road is also refreshingly comfortable. The bars are high, the pegs low and the seat/tank slim enough that you have good control, comfort and plenty of room to move around.
The dirt road we attempted was sandier than first thought, proving an actual challenge for the road-tire-equipped bikes we were on. Three other journalists wiped out in the deep sand. We were actually surprised at what a willing dirt partner this supposedly road-focused bike turned out to be. Its ABS isn’t remarkably effective in the soft stuff, as you’d expect, but is at least capable of keeping the front from washing if you stand on the front brake. The traction control works better, keeping the rear from spinning out of control while (in the lower level 1) allowing you to apply enough power to make progress. Level 2 gets in the way more, but at least there’s no chance you’ll get into trouble with it enabled.
Suspension, which feels stiff and responsive on the road, actually tackles gentle dirt roading better than you’d expect. It’s not dirt bike soft, but it at least gives you good feel to inform your riding and won’t pitch you out of the seat. With Continental TKC80s fitted, the 1000 will actually be a fairly capable dirt road tool.
At least when it’s fitted with aftermarket crash protection. The three crashes all occurred at very low speed and all resulted in broken levers and missing pieces of bodywork. Sump guard and crash bars, stat, if you plan on keeping your V-Strom in tip-top shape.
Back on the asphalt, where the 1000 was designed to work best, things are much happier. The relatively lightweight and firm suspension make it responsive and willing at fast riding, if not all that outright fast. It’s the pegs with their inch-long feelers that will touch down first (and earlier than a dedicated sport rider would want), followed by the exhaust canister. Having said that, you can trail the 1000 into a corner very hard, relying on the feedback given by the excellent suspension and the strong-feel, radial brakes to combine perfectly with the easy downshifts of the slipper clutch. Steering is slower than you’d expect from a bike with such wide bars, but they ultimately do you give you the leverage to really crank it through a corner. It’s also impressive how early you can get on the power, aided by the natural traction of a big V-twin, the road-only Bridgestone Battlewings and the traction control. That last component may not sound as fancy as the multi-mode systems used by the European manufacturers, but it works with equal effect, allowing you a little slide and seamless safety
The biggest limitation on these 250-mile days, to me, was in the comfort of the seat. Where the V-Strom 650 comes with the world’s most comfortable, the 1000’s is harder. Other riders didn’t complain as much and it should be noted that that big accident a year ago has left me with a terminally sensitive rear end.
By throwing out the notion of the ADV-class’s traditionally dirty image, Suzuki has instead given buyers an excellent, practical, capable road bike. Think of it as a performance roadster that also happens to be very comfortable, easy to ride in traffic and which gives you a respectable turn of speed. It accomplishes the same trick as its 650cc counterpoint at being behind the competition at on-paper specs like peak horsepower and whizz-bang features, but delivering such solid, understated rideablity that it works better in the real world than the allegedly more capable stuff. If you’re using a bike everyday to do everything, you’ll appreciate what the V-Strom gives you.
This bike does every (on-road) task well — scratching, touring, commuting, whatever you need it to do.
Surprisingly comfortable on a dirt road, given its on-road focus. If your riding includes the occasional fire road or easy trail, the V-Strom will have no trouble tackling those too.
The engine delivers solid V-twin character combined with and inline-four-like smoothness at highway speeds. No numbness-inducing vibrations here.
While not mind-warpingly powerful, once you get over trying to see just how fast the V-Strom will go, the motor makes rapid progress smooth and easy.
The gearbox is typical Suzuki — slick and positive.
The new analog tachometer/digital speedo is easy and immediate to read night or day and includes a fuel gauge, external thermometer, fuel consumption readout and more.
A power jack in the dash — front and center — is ideally located to power your GPS or smart phone.
The two-mode traction control may not sound fancy, but it works smoothly and seamlessly to make you more confident in using the throttle.
Averaging around 40 mpg and fitted with a 5.3-gallon fuel tank, range is over 200 miles.
Even in its tallest, most forward position, the screen doesn’t totally shield a tall rider’s helmet from buffeting. A “touring” screen is available from Suzuki and comes standard on the Adventure model. Consider it necessary if you’ve over 5’10”.
The seat is supportive, slim and just right in every way, except in how hard it is. This butt was able to take it for 30 minutes before getting sore.
The brakes are powerful, but can be abrupt in their initial application. Combined with the long fork travel, this can lead to an unexpected dive when all you want is to slow down a little.
Very low in the rev range, 1st gear fueling can be jerky. Not a huge problem on a road-oriented bike, but if you did want to take one off-road, this would get in the way of walking it over challenging obstacles.
Crash protection is non existent. Even 10 mph topples in soft sand resulted in broken levers and broke off pieces of the plastic bodywork.
In keeping the cost down, the V-Strom misses out on modern features like LED or projector headlamps or the latest, multi-talented versions of Traction Control. It also does without luxury niceties like heated grips or cruise control.
This is where the V-Strom 1000 comes into it’s own. At $12,699 it packs an exceptional amount of ability into a price tag significantly lower than that of the competition. There’s nothing it can’t do better than either the $14,790 Yamaha Super Tenere or the $15,690 Triumph Tiger Explorer, including outright performance. It’s not nearly as awesome off-road as the $16,500 KTM 1190 Adventure, as gee-whizz as the $17,600 BMW R 1200 GS nor as fast as the $16,995 Ducati Multistrada 1200. However, we should also add that as a Suzuki, the V-Strom will have lower service needs and lower service rates from a dealer that’s likely much closer to you than its European competition. Factor in Suzuki’s 0% APR and you have a bike that’s easy to put in your garage.
This new V-Strom isn’t the fastest or fanciest bike out there. Considering the latest competition from Europe, there’s a gap there, too. But, it is affordable, easy to buy, available from a wide dealer network and gets its job done with remarkable efficacy. Look at this new 1000 next to other Suzuki models like the V-Strom 650and GW250and we’re seeing a re-consideration of what this brand represents. Of those three bikes, none are headline grabbers, none boast more power than their competitors and none are going to win any races with other bikes in their class, but all three are excellent value, comfortable and broadly capable in a way which defies current motorcycle convention. Exciting? A little. Sensible? Eminently. Good value? Arguably the best there is.
RideApart Rating: 8/10
More Photos: 2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS >>
What do you think? Would you pay more for electronic trickery, larger motors and more weight or do you value broad capability?
Helmet: AGV AX-8 Dual Evo Tour (Recommended, very fit dependent)
Jacket: Dainese Teren (Highly Recommended)
Pants: Dainese Teren (Highly Recommended)
Gloves: Racer Mickey (Highly Recommended)
Boots: Dainese Carroarmato (Highly Recommended)