I’m all kinds of idiot for the V-Strom. I cannot help myself. There’s something about it, and the way it rides, and the way it feels, and the fact you can still buy bulk hookers and blow even after you purchase one and hang the entire aftermarket catalogue off it…and then there’s the unassailable truth that it is one of the finest and most satisfying bikes you will ever ride.
Sure, it’s not on anyone’s fantasy bike list. It’s not exotic enough, or expensive enough, is it?
It’s just bloody good.
Suzuki has a knack for building bikes which quickly acquire a cult following. It’s like now and again, the factory hits riders right in the feels, souls are signed over, no other bikes will ever be considered, world without end, Amen.
I know this because I too sold my soul to Hamamatsu’s samurais when they created the Katana, and while I got most of my soul back eventually, some of it has remained at Suzuki.
Think about what the factory has gifted us with over the years. The RG500, the RGV250, the Katana, the GSX750…hell, the entire insanely brilliant GSXR1000 cabal, and of course, the incredibly able SV650, and the V-Strom range.
Why is this so?
It’s quite simple. Suzuki is able to build brilliant bikes, that are very affordable, usually better than their competition, rock-reliable, and perfectly suited for the niche they’re aimed at.
That explains the on-going success of the V-Strom.
Owners smile to themselves all the time. It’s like they know things denied to owners of the European brands.
For 2023, Suzuki has offered two iterations of the 1050 V-Strom. The more dirt-oriented one is called the DE.
The differences between the two are simple, yet crucial for their stated purposes.
The DE has wire wheels (with that all-important 21-incher up front) and dirtier tyres, a bash plate, longer-travel suspension, 25mm more ground clearance (165mm versus 190mm), wider handlebars, rubber-covered steel footpegs, a solid-mounted seat (the road V-Strom’s is adjustable by 20mm), and a Gravel engine mode. Its screen is also shorter than the taller adjustable touring screen on the 1050.
I have done many, many miles on various V-Stroms. It is one of the best-handling and honest (in terms of engineering integrity) bikes on the market.
It has no bad manners. None. It is always predictable, and quite frankly, stupidly surprising in its ability to bang hard.
I let my mate Batesy ride the DR to the photoshoot recently. This is a bloke who is able to wring an R1’s neck like it was a holiday chicken. He’s big, he rides very hard, and had never ridden a V-Strom before.
“Bloody good thing that,” he said to me when we stopped. “You were on that when we went up to Gundy, weren’t you?”
I nodded. “Yeah, I thought the knobs were gonna fly off the tyres at the speeds I was chasing you.”
“Nah. Bloody good thing.”
Ridden with red mist obscuring one’s vison, the V-Strom will out-handle many an indifferently-ridden sportsbike. It seems perfectly suited for our roads, and for doing those long miles – one or two-up.
My wife loves the V-Strom from a pillion’s perspective. Her only complaint on last year’s model was the top-box was not refrigerated and her Dior lipstick melted on a 40-degree day. I was aghast. Suzuki has no idea what that Dior shit costs, while my wife has every idea how amusing it is when she shit-stirs me.
I actually rode the two 2023 V-Stroms back to back – which is a great way to get a feel for both. In fact, I rode the 1050 up the Putty Road to Grey Gums, then swapped it for the 1050DE and rode back the way I came.
They feel different, obviously.
As I stated above, the DE is taller, has dirt tyres, wider ’bars, longer-travel suspension, and a bigger front-wheel. But they both deliver the goods in the very same way. The big V-Twin seems ideally suited for V-Strom duties, both on and off road. It makes 106 horses, and offers 100Nm of torque. It’s not slow-revving, nor is it a buzz-box. And it’s as strong as a bison and reliable as the sunrise. The whole show is 240-odd kg wet, so it’s not one of them snake-hipped boy-bikes. It’s a big bike. But it’s so damn sweet about the weight it’s hauling.
Both versions are utterly comfortable. Neutral ergos, lots of room for yoga, stretching, and standing up if you need to.
Both also love corners – and as weird as it seems, I liked the way the DE danced on the bitumen with its dirt tyres. They hang on pretty well, you’ll find. And they both come with quick-shifters, which is a lovely thing to have on any bike. You tend to get used to them very quickly, and then dumbly assume every bike you ride has one…sorrr, Fat Bob. It was only a little graunch.
The term Universal Japanese Motorcycle (UJM) gets tossed around a lot – and used to be tossed around even more in the 90s, when litre-sports bikes were a thing. That time has passed. People are buying Adventure bikes nowadays.
So I am thinking the V-Strom is the new UJM. It does everything really well, and some things, important things, brilliantly.
There are Adventure bikes which have more electronics and more power. None of them have better integrity than the V-Strom. And I’m entirely unsure how many of us need 180hp Adventure bikes.
Conversely, there are a shit-load of naked and sportsbikes which, in theory and on paper, should demolish the V-Strom on the performance battlefield. This does not happen all that much on the road. The real world, the Highway Patrol, and rather mediocre riding skills mean all the cats are black in the dark.
Look at it like this…
There are many, many Adventure bikes out there. They are all, more or less, really good at what they’re meant to do. And many of them are so loaded with electronics, they emit radiation into space. The V-Strom has three engine modes. The DE has an added Gravel mode which lets you hang it out a bit without it suplexing you into the rocks if you get too sassy.
They are simple. You could ride one off a cliff, crash into a swamp, spend a week healing, eating dirt and drinking your own urine, then start it up, and ride back on out of there. Let’s see you do that with a Multistrada.
The V-Strom is an awful lot of bike for not a whole lot of money. The 1050 is $22,990 ride-away, the DE a mere $24,690.
Of course, money should never dictate what bike you should buy. Your heart must win the war over your head every time. We are motorcyclists, after all. We are not rational.
But no matter how you try to tell yourself you might prefer one of them fancy Euro beasts, if for no other reason than so other people will think you’re a quality human being, the riders grinning dismissively at you will be riding V-Stroms.
Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.