Long term update: The going is about to get tough

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I’m looking forward to spending a year with the V-Strom. It’s a practical bike, with a tried and tested motor, capable of serious mile-munching and hard slogs. It’s the mule of the old west, a cowboy’s preferred steed. While that practicality appealed, it’s the adventure makeover on this XT model that attracted me to the baby Strom in the first place. 

The XT has been treated to a selection of adventure stuff like engine bars, a proper SW Motech sump guard, handguards, a beak and a 19in spoked wheel up front. On first impressions it looks the part. The bars and protection look like quality components and there’s enough metal on hand to protect the machine. The handguards are plastic, but I wasn’t expecting anything different.

Suzuki say they chucked the beak in there as a throw-back to their Dakar days, no big deal to me – but the spoked wheels are more than welcome and the most important addition for me. They come wrapped up in dual-purpose Bridgestone Trail Wings, which have been excellent so far, with more grip than I’d expected. 

The wheels and protection were enough to inspire me to opt for the Strom and dabble in the dirt throughout the year. But on closer inspection, there are a few pieces missing from the adventure picture: namely the footpegs. The thin slices of rubber are nowhere near good enough for standing on, which is the way to ride off-road. They’re too small and the rubber isn’t removable, which is going to make standing up a slippery chore and a nightmare should I go through a puddle (and I do enjoy a good puddle). 

Also, the ABS system isn’t switchable, which is not a good thing for off-roading, even on light gravel. I’ll definitely be looking into how I can switch it off, and I’m hoping there’s a fuse I can pull out somewhere. From a design perspective, I’m not overly happy about the huge gap between the header pipe and motor, which means the sump guard has had to be extended and the crash bars lowered to beef up the front and stop it looking hollow. Still, I’m excited about veering off the main road for a slice of mucky action in the coming months.

But for now I’ll keep to what the Strom was originally built for, pumping out mile after easy-peasy mile. And when I look at the little Suzuki without my off-road goggles, it’s clear it was built for distance and practicality.

It comes with a big screen, a low slung and relatively comfy seat and easy-reach bars and pegs. Suzuki has already fitted heated grips to my Strom (an optional extra for £225) but I’m unimpressed. The grips are huge, the wiring isn’t neat and, even on full whack, I can barely feel any heat coming through.

Ignoring cold hands for a minute, everything else works beautifully. My 100-mile journey from work in Peterborough to home in Berkshire is a doddle on the Strom, as I’m instantly planted inside a relaxed and simple cockpit. The abundance of plastic does a great job of deflecting the wind and the three points of contact are well spaced and comfortable.

The V-twin is so incredibly easy to handle it makes riding a pleasure, and more fun than usual because I’m constantly tempted to squeeze everything out of its 645cc. I find myself skipping the main roads most mornings and heading for the twisty stuff for a play, where the Strom takes it all in its stride, despite the budget suspension and brakes.

Overall the Strom is a decent machine at a very affordable price, it doesn’t have a long list of electronic-bobs and that’s fine with me, as it doesn’t need them. I don’t need fancy pants, WP suspension and £600-worth of gizmos to have a mini adventure and the Strom is going to prove that this year. It’s going to make a great workhorse with a cheeky side for muddy frolics – and I can’t wait. 

Andy Davidson

By Andy Davidson

Former MCN Feature writer