Long term update: Can the V-Strom dig the dirt?

Is the 650 XT more than just styling? Let’s find out…

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I’ve been thinking about taking the V-Strom 650 XT off-road since I got the keys earlier this year. Suzuki reckon their V-twin can handle it too, that’s why they’ve attached a set of sturdy crash bars, hand guards, a sump guard, 19in spoked front and the all-important beak. The additions make sense, especially the spokes – as cast alloy wheels can crack and ruin your day. The crash bars and sumpguard are quality items – instead of the for-show gubbins some manufacturers stick to their adventure bikes.

So to see how well the XT holds up I took it for a ride on the rough stuff. As Suzuki don’t offer a dual-purpose tyre choice with the V-Strom I went with the Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tyres I already have fitted. While they’re fantastic, grippy road tyres and excellent in the wet, they’re not so happy on wet leaves. But after my initial nerves about dropping the baby Strom had subsided, it actually became quite entertaining.

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Cover the clutch and grab a handful of throttle, the rear wheel peels away, the bars point forward and the engine growls as you slide sideways through the forest. And just before the rear catches up with the front, the clutch is yanked and it all falls back into place. The Suzuki makes it easy.

There’s only a few negatives, the first is its 215kg weight, though it’s not a huge issue as the smooth motor makes the Strom easy to manage, especially when going slow, the throttle response won’t catch you out, which makes it easy to weight the pegs and balance the bike. But the pegs are the skinny little rubbery type, and it’s a shame Suzuki don’t supply a larger off-road peg with removable rubber as my boots kept slipping off. Finally, the ABS can’t be switched off, which makes it difficult to slow before smacking into a tree.

Niggles aside; the Strom and I had a brilliant day whacking along fire tracks and through forests. The Strom is exceptionally manageable and incredibly easy to ride on the road, and that quality definitely transfers off-road. Nothing will catch you out, the low seat height makes paddling easy if it gets a bit hairy and the additional off-road/adventure bobbins set your crash damage worries at ease.

While it can definitely go off-road, you won’t feel like a Dakar legend – and if the terrain gets technical then forget about it. But it’ll easily handle light trails, messing about in the woods with your mates and riding along fire tracks – and it’ll put a smile on your face while doing it.

 

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Andy Davidson

By Andy Davidson

Former MCN Feature writer