SUZUKI DL1000 V-STROM GT REVIEW
This is a large island we live on – nearly eight million square clicks the last time I checked. To get out and have a good look around requires a motorcycle with broad capability. You see, there are only limited sealed road options for crossing Oz on any compass bearing. Highway No. 1 doesn’t in fact take you to all the good places. No; to see Australia more fully we need to embrace dirt. The main unsealed arterials such as Oodnadatta, Tanami, Birdsville and more, suddenly come into sharp focus as they offer the only avenues to the ancient heart of this wondrous land.
Simply put, this is why more and more members of our esteemed Club are to be seen riding dual-sport machines of one sort or another.Suzuki’s all-new DL1000 V-Strom GT sits squarely in the pantheon of litre-plus dual-sport offerings from the various manufacturers that are designed to tackle just this environment. The vast majority of dual-sport riders will have an appetite for seeing the real Australia on a motorcycle capable of getting them there and back in comfort, safety, and with some panache while sticking to the main dirt arterials. And let me be very clear about this…the all-new V-Strom 1000 GT scores 10/10 in every category. It’s not a perfect bike, but it sure as hell is a great one!
Let’s start with the engine. There’s something about a V-twin and the human spirit. They go together like, say, beer and peanuts. Sort of made to marry, offering the rider rhythmic and primordial feedback. And this 100 hp 1037 cc V-twin is no exception. It delivers exactly the power needed for a great day in the saddle. No excessive mumbo to make you overly anxious, but enough to make you sit up and take notice if you rotate the throttle to its stop. And torque? Right on the money for a dual-sport bike.
Instant power available from anywhere in the rev range above 2000 rpm. It prefers to be short shifted for maximum acceleration, keeping the revs in the sweet spot between say 2000 and 6000. And the six-speed transmission is possibly the sweetest, slickest and most precise gearbox I have ever encountered. All that lovely mojo exits the casings through a hydraulically operated slipper clutch, and I must say I was constantly aware of what a great job it was doing in the down-shift department, particularly on gravel. Gone is the rear wheel back-slip of yore as well as that tiring lurch forward under down-shift. Lovely.
Underneath the bike is a first for Suzuki on a DL-class bike; KYB quality suspension components. A fully adjustable fork out front and a quality remote-preload rear shock provide spot-on spring rates and excellent damping. Wheels are attractive ten-spoke alloy, with a 19” front and a 17” rear. These should be considerably stronger than its predecessor’s three-spoke items.
Out on the road, on the odd occasion when I managed to reach what should be the upper end of a dual-sport bike’s limits when tackling washaways or rubble, the suspension on the DL1000 just took it all in its stride. Only rarely did I find the bottom limit of the springers, with the bike tracking well, and generally behaving itself even then. Brakes are non-switchable ABS, but with technical advances in this area of late they work well even on gravel. I can’t say the rear brake is always giving you its full attention on the loose stuff, but the front works extremely well no matter what the surface.
Next is the newly introduced, for Suzuki at least, electronic rider aid called Suzuki Traction Control System (TCS). In the past few years we’ve come to expect traction control on bikes, but I must say that each manufacturer has a very different interpretation of this vital element. And some are better than others, to say the least, with one or two manufacturers not even scoring a pass mark. In my view the KTC fitted to the Kawasaki Versys 1000 is the benchmark by which all dual-sport offerings should be measured, and you’ll be very pleased to know that this first attempt from Suzuki comes very close. Very close indeed. There are three settings; off, 1 and 2, and each is accessed easily via the left switch block. Off is obvious, and I saw no reason to use it, other than in conditions where rear wheel spin-up is clearly important for gyroscopic stability. 2 is maximum intervention for, say, a wet road. And right smack in the middle is 1, and what a thing of beauty it is.
On the dirt it allows the back wheel to simply hook up and drive. No hesitation, no fuss, just maximum possible acceleration. I would find it very hard indeed to believe that a human could manage the throttle with sufficient precision to out-perform these electronics. Exiting corners on the DL1000 becomes a thing of joy, allowing full-throttle instruction to the mystery black box down below, which in turn calculates just the right amount of power delivery, by the microsecond, to gather up maximum traction. The bike just launches forward with an occasional lovely manageable power slide depending on the surface, and is completely free of any nasty surprises. In my view TCS eclipses all others on the market today except possibly KTC. No complexities like some of its competitors; just simple accessible performance. Excellent.
Out in the sunshine, navigating the secondary back-roads of my native NSW, the handling of this new V-Strom never ceased to amaze me – on both sealed and unsealed roads. On one weekend I notched up around 900 K’s mainly on dirt, and not once did the DL1000 put a foot wrong. Not once. The white coat brigade at Suzuki have settled on frame geometry that is simply unbelievable. The front end is planted, and when I say planted, I mean PLANTED. Even on the loosest ball-bearing gravel the front end just hooked up. Not the slightest hint of wash-out regardless of entry speed – within reason of course. And when the apex is reached, with commensurate application of the throttle the bike simply lunges out of the corner and attacks the straight. The glorious V-twin, the excellent geometry, the quality suspension, and that first class TCS all combine to make this bike handle like it’s on rails. Seriously, I can’t recall riding a litre-plus dual-sport bike of any description that handles as predictably as this V-Strom. And for my money, predictability is something we could all do with more of, because it may well be the difference between vertical and horizontal outcomes.
Oh, and let’s not forget that it weighs in at just 228 kg’s wet, which makes it, if I’m not mistaken, the lightest bike in the litre-plus category…by far.Ergonomically the big V-Strom also scores well. The seat is a four-hour number, at least for my bony bum, and the relationship between the handlebar, seat and foot pegs is perfect. I was easily able to transition from seated to standing, and importantly, was able to get my weight well over the front wheel when standing. While seated there’s a real sense of command over the machine, and that’s how I like it. If I have a criticism, it’s the little aluminium/rubber road-oriented foot pegs. I really don’t like them and never felt confident when standing. They’d be a nightmare in the wet. Surely, for the same money, Suzuki could replace them with more appropriate serrated steel foot pegs with removable rubber inserts?
It would be accurate to say that for many years now the Europeans have maintained a solid lead in the litre-plus dual-sport category, with excellent offerings from Germany, Austria, Italy and the UK. IMHO with this new DL1000 from Suzuki, the Japanese have finally caught up. Sure, it’s not a bike for the rugged off road which some of the Europeans might be capable of, but as I explained above, the vast majority of us just want to stick to the main arterial dirt roads. And these, being made dirt roads, are the perfect hunting ground for the V-Strom. It offers excellent levels of comfort, extremely spirited power and torque for two-up camping-laden touring, handling second-to-none, legendary Suzuki reliability, and the traction control and ABS make for extraordinarily predictable tracking over the ground. But here’s the real clincher. Are you sitting down? This extremely capable bike retails for just $15,490.00.
That’s right…just fifteen and a half grand. Getting on for half the price of some of its optioned-up competitors, and certainly a price which will save you nearly five grand compared to even its nearest Japanese competitor from brand blue, not to mention over 30 kilos in weight.Did you notice in the opening that the model name is V-Strom GT? Well, as we all know, GT stands for Gran Turismo, or Grand Tourer in English. So, for me it’s very simple. If I was in the market today for a litre-plus dual-sport bike, I would choose the DL1000 for my grand touring without a moment’s hesitation. In my view it offers just the right mix of comfort, power, handling, and of course all at an amazing price. It’s clearly a bike for real-world riders which, if we are honest with ourselves, includes most of us.
For the money I save on the bike I could take my wife to Hawaii for a fortnight! How else would I get permission to buy it?
Words and Photos John Baker
Thanks to Suzuki Australia for supplying the bike featured here.
Note that this bike is fitted with a range of options not offered on the standard model, including Pirelli Scorpion tyres