It was the kind of email that cuts to the chase. Having been relatively effusive so far in my praise of the KTM 1050 Adventure, a reader got in touch with a simple question: ‘Is it worth two grand more than a V-Strom 1000?’
I should think it’s a question many potential owners of KTM’s entry-level adventure bike have asked themselves since the bike was launched back in spring, and it deserves exploration. At just a fiver short of 11 grand, the 1050’s pricetag is high in terms of entry-level bikes. Of Suzuki’s four V-Strom variants, none exactly matches the KTM’s core spec, but add a pair of handguards (£50) and sump guard (£150) to a base V-Strom (£8999) and you’re pretty close, for a total outlay that’s £1800 lower.
To look at the comparison as thoroughly as possible, I spent two weeks with a V-Strom 1000 and also loaned my KTM to our Web Producer, Liam Marsden. Liam spent 2014 covering 17,000 miles on a Strom and was in a good position to help me draw comparisons between the two bikes.
It takes very little time in the saddle to find the differences between the two bikes. The throttle action on the Suzuki is considerably heavier than the KTM's, which is actually a good thing as the power delivery is far more instant. The KTM takes a little while to get going, with its post-5000rpm powerband making more demands of the rider’s gear-changing foot. The Suzuki comes to life much more immediately, an easy and flexible power delivery making it possible to leave the bike in a taller gear as you know the engine is capable of pulling it.
On paper there’s little between the 95bhp KTM and 100bhp Suzuki, but that 5% makes a difference. The KTM is held back to 95bhp so riders on A2 licences can have one restricted to 47bhp, but there’s no such concession on the V-Strom and the extra power does mean a more flexible engine.
On the move the V-Strom immediately feels more cumbersome than its orange rival, even though the claimed weight is 2kg less than the KTM. There’s a more substantial feel to the Suzuki, which is a good thing when rolling along in a straight line, but not such a boon when it needs deflecting into a corner. The KTM has the Suzuki licked for handling, with less effort needed to turn in and an easier feeling through and exiting corners.
There’s little between the two in terms of comfort and I’ve covered 150-mile stints on both bikes with no troubles at all. The KTM needs to be more comfortable than its counterpart as it carries an extra three litres of unleaded, giving another 30 miles of range (with a similar rider, fuel economy returns were similar at 47mpg). But you’ll need to be brave to get those extra 30 miles from the 1050 as its fuel range countdown is a bit batty and hits zero when there’s still around three litres in the tank. The countdown on the Suzuki is far more accurate and believable than the erratic KTM system.
In terms of electronic rider aids, the KTM has three rider modes that alter the power and throttle response. Rain mode makes the KTM so gutless it could only be meant for people so clumsy that they’d trip over the doorstep before ever getting near a bike, while Sport mode is a bit too snappy when combined with the light throttle action. In the middle sits Street, which is responsive enough for overtakes and soft enough to be perfectly manageable on wet roads. The Strom has no rider modes, but its traction control settings can be altered to make the system cut in earlier or later to suit road conditions.
Overall, the KTM is playing a different game to the Suzuki – which makes it hard to answer the question of whether it’s worth an extra two grand. For less demanding riding over long distances the V-Strom is a better bike. For those who want something with a bit more vigour and capable of injecting more life into the ride, the 1050 is best.
Both Liam and I personally preferred the KTM for being more lively and invigorating than the slightly stodgy Suzuki. As for value, I think it’s the V-Strom that delivers. KTM has run a £1000 cashback offer and dealer incentives that throw in panniers with a 1050 this summer, which suggests they know it’s overpriced. The KTM is a corking bike, but it doesn’t deliver enough to demand 11 grand.