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2015 Ultimate Sports-Adventure-Touring Shootout
MO’s Epic Going Postal California Coastal 9-Adventure Bike Comparo
In this, Motorcycle.com’s biggest shootout to date, we take nine of the latest and greatest Adventure-Touring bikes and head north to the Oregon border. Along the way we face good roads, bad roads, and sometimes no roads at all! Be sure to watch Part 2 for the conclusion to our trip.
We wound up staying in cheap motels about half the time and sleeping under the stars the other half, in order to see how these bikes would do loaded down with camping gear and clean undies, heavy camera gear in Evans’ case and his portable espresso maker. Not bad, as it turned out. Not bad at all — even the last-placed bike achieved a score of more than 80%, and the group was separated by just 8.4% from top to bottom. Let us observe a moment of silence for the Cargo Net and the Bungee Cord. Without further ado:
Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS – 80.2%
By Evans Brasfield
In every competition, someone has to finish last. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good. Rather, it simply states that on any given day, in a discrete set of circumstances, they finished last. The final man to cross the line at last weekend’s MotoGP race at Misano could wipe the floor with the top riders in any given national series. The same can be said of the Suzuki V-Strom, a bike with many admirable qualities. Still, it lacks something (or somethings) that keep it from rising to the top of the heap on our epic ride. Yet, it has adventure-touring creds that allow it to perform surprisingly well.
2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS Review – First Ride
First, let’s talk about where the V-Strom excelled. The Suzuki tips the scale 62 lb lighter than our heaviest bike, the Triumph Explorer XC. The second lightest bike, the BMW S1000XR, weighs just four pounds more. Still, being the lightest bike carries some weight on our scorecard. The Strom also scores well on the value scale, where it places second to the Versys 1000LT – although the $1,700 difference between the two feels larger than it should be.
Sez the Dukester: The Strom did well off-road, with its smaller size feeling more manageable than bikes like the Explorer, Capo and Versys, and its clutch provides a wide take-up zone to maneuver smoothly at slow speeds.
When riding the Suzuki, all testers noted it was the narrowest and lightest bike of the group, making it surprisingly competent off-road. (For this reason, this was the bike I selected to regain my mojo after my muddy face-plant on our dirt ride.) Off-road crash recovery instructor, Ken Hutchison, called the V-Strom “the ugly duckling of the group” but added that it was “surprisingly good at everything, although it’s not great at anything…except surviving dirt roads. Since the V-Strom is thin and light compared to these other behemoths in the test, it is very easy to toss around in the dirt by comparison. The V-Twin is well suited to a slow pace, picking its way through tough obstacles, too.”
That sentiment was shared by Burns who opined that the V-Strom would make a great urban mount, too: “For short adventures and around town, this is a great bike; skinniest and lightest, and the fact that its torque peak happens really low makes it a literal blast to ride.”
Even though the V-Strom came in last in both torque (69.1 lb-ft) and horsepower (91.6 hp), Kevin still had kind words for the Strom’s surprising power delivery, noting that while “its peak horsepower number is very modest, the Suzi’s 90-degree V-Twin feels stronger than the dyno indicates. With little ol’ me aboard, it out-pulled the Triumph (with T-Rod) in a 70-mph roll-on, and it nearly kept up with KTM’s 1190 with Gabe on the Katoom.” “The Strom surprised everyone with its ability to hang with the crowd,” concurred RC213V-S stud, Tom Roderick, “while being the least powerful bike of the bunch.”
Although down on power, the proven 1037cc 90° V-Twin has the chops to hang with the other bikes
In this field, crowded with electro-whiz-gadgetry, the Suzuki stood out in its reliance on old-school componentry. Well, so it is the first production Suzuki with traction control, and the TC performs way quicker than a right wrist in slippery stuff. Still, the plucky V-S remains more than a bit behind the curve electronically, lacking things like cruise control, electrically adjustable suspension and ride-by-wire throttle. All of this led Burns to ponder, “Why is this almost as expensive as some really sophisticated motorcycles here?”
Twentieth-century technology notwithstanding, after riding a section of road we dubbed 22 Miles of Heaven aboard the Strom, E-i-C Duke gushed that he wished the curves would go on for another 8 hours. “The 22-mile stretch of curving and snaking road would be a challenge for any bike,” enthused Duke, ”but the Strom proved itself quite capable of impersonating a sportbike, with a solid chassis and suspension better composed than expected.” Burns agreed “the fork can get a bit divey up front when ridden hard,” he added that “no electronic suspension doesn’t feel like much of a sacrifice.” He then brought us back to reality, noting that “other things like lack of CC really is.”
The Suzuki V-Strom proved to be a competent and easy-to-ride adventure bike worth a look.
- Lightest in test
- Good off-road performance for the price
- Engine punches out of its weight class on the road
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