MCN Fleet: After six months with the Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT I can see the light
Forgive me reader, for I have sinned. I realised the other day that I’ve been coming at the V-Strom all wrong. In my quest to help you know the right way to spend your money, I think I’ve focused too much on the finnicky details and all the tech nonsense. This realisation came to me a little over a week ago, while chatting to another MCN staffer about how much technology people want on their bikes.
- Related: Full Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT review
We both noted that, between us, we have almost no tech on our personal motorcycles. Sure there’s some fuel injection and the odd digital tacho but our favourite bikes possess no cruise control, no traction control, no electronic suspension, no Bluetooth, no heated seats – not even any anti-lock brakes cornering or otherwise.
Stirred by the discovery I’d been a fool, I decided to throw my leg over the Strom and go for a ride on some fine biking roads, without paying any attention to the tech whatsoever. Except I did need a satnav to find said biking roads as I’ve just moved and I don’t know the local area at all – but we can gloss over that bit.
Not wishing to overstate things but it was something of a revelation. Focusing instead on just riding the damn thing, and not thinking about if the cruise control activation system might be better on the GS, I had one of the most enjoyable rides in a long time. It reminded me of how well the engine pulls and, when keeping to sensible speeds, the Strom just wafts along in third
gear without a care in the word. It reminded me of the suspension, which can feel a little soft in places but does a decent job of keeping the tyres glued to the road and my bum glued to the seat. It reminded me of the riding position, which is all-day comfortable and of the screen, which is one of the finest fitted to a modern adventure bike. It reminded me, as it sat there steaming in the sun, of just how great the Suzuki looks. It reminded me that, on paper at least, it ticks all the boxes. It also reminded me, oddly enough, of the motorcyclist patience testing trifecta: a twisty road, a HGV and a solid white line. Why did this fate have to befall me on the last day before lockdown two struck? Typical.
But for all the remembering, I also ultimately had to do some forgetting. I had to forget for a minute that there are plenty of other rival machines that do just as good a job of all these things as the V-Strom but a much better job of the other things too. Taken in isolation, the V-Strom is a very fine machine and I’ll be delighted to break it out again once the latest restrictions have lifted come December.
But would I pay to keep it in my tech-free garage? I doubt it. I didn’t choose my personal stable for their lack of electronic cleverness. That’s just a happy accident. I chose them because they lit a fire in me that can’t be extinguished and for all the V-Strom’s ability to tick every requirement of a motorcycle, it just doesn’t light my fire.
Update 3: Read for the off...
Previous update 21 September 2020
Spending a few days moving PPE in an enormous rucksack reminded me that if I have any hopes of getting away in the future, I’d need to make some changes.
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So I ordered the 'Explore' pack, which includes a full set of alloy luggage (plus all the fixings), engine bars, LED fog lamps, a bash plate and heated grips, all for the princely sum of £2499. With dealerships still closed, I set aside some time in my workshop to fit the lot but er, never quite made it.
I began by making the foolish mistake of fitting the top box parts first, which nearly all had to come off to fit the pannier racks. With time dwindling away I aimed at fitting something I thought I’d get the most use of: the heated grips. What a palava.
By the time all the plastics were off one side, and I was unbolting the radiator to pass the wires behind, I had all but had enough. The rest of the bits are currently still sat in the box, as the thought of fitting the fog lights fills me with dread. Still something to look forward to in time for the second spike…
Is any of it any good? Bit of a mixed bag. The heated grips are excellent – even on cool days I’ve not strayed past the lowest setting, which is toasty enough. The panniers and top box both leave a bit to be desired, though.
The maximum weight is only 3kg per box, which is barely enough to fill it with clothes. The panniers themselves are also very high, to clear the exhaust, which annoys my pillion no end and even makes swinging a leg over that bit harder for the rider. If I’m honest, I wish I’d waited for some Givi items, which aren’t far away.
The biggest success though was the Scotoiler E-system. The latests version is a doddle to fit, easy to set up and has been taking excellent care of my chain whatever the weather. Consider me a convert.
Update two: First impressions of the Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT
Just two years after we got a new V-Strom – we’ve got another. Under the classy retro makeover it’s a revised version of the same bike. But is that enough to keep up? Let’s spend the next 12 months finding out.
So let’s start with the engine. It can trace its way back to the 90s and the TL1000S and it’s been gradually fiddled with since. The latest motor is the same 1037cc as the last one (despite the name change) – in fact the only real changes are altered cam timing/lift for Euro 5. It feels broadly the same although the ample torque curve means you can pretty much charge around from low down in any gear, which is helpful as the gearbox isn’t Suzuki’s finest hour.
There’s a whole new electronics suite including ride-by-wire throttle, lean-sensitive traction control, cornering ABS with load-dependant control, hill hold control, cruise control – basically lots of things called control. For the most part they do a decent job although nearly every single one has an annoying flaw. The ride by wire for instance is lovely for the most part but needlessly snatchy from closed. The cruise control is easy to set and adjust but it only works in fourth gear and above plus won’t resume from lower speeds. The hill hold is very smooth when you set off (the best of any I’ve tested in fact) but it will only set on very steep slopes, times out after 30 seconds then won’t allow you to engage it a second time.
Where Suzuki do excel is your typical bike stuff and the suspension is no exception. In the standard set up it’s perfectly acceptable although it struggles with sudden jolts. On the 1050, however, the suspension is adjustable – a quick twist of some preload here and the softening of some damping and all ills seem to be cured. With any luck I’ll be able to get out there and give the changes a proper test soon.
1: Beefy Big Twin
A run on the dyno showed 99bhp at the back wheel, which is a very good showing against a 106bhp claim. It also revealed a lovely flat torque curve – perfect for third gear antics on twisty roads.
2: Not quite the full package
Modern adventure bikes are often the pinnacle of technology but the Suzuki is miles off here. All the bits are there, they just need a lot more refinement from the clever bods in Japan.
3: Suspension tweaking
While it doesn’t say Öhlins on the side, the suspension on the V-Strom does a good job of handling 247kg of bounce. Decent adjustment means you can get it just how you like it too.
Update one: Introducing the Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT
The £11,299 (2020 launch price) Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT looks temptingly affordable, especially with its new electronics.
But do the cheaper middleweights, like the Triumph Tiger 900 or Ducati Multistrada 950, outclass it? I’d also like to see if it can handle the rough stuff, while a two-up trip to France should test its touring mettle.
The rider Jordan Gibbons, News Editor, 29, 5ft 7in. Riding for 13 years, both on-and-off-road. Jordan.email@example.com
Bike specs 1037cc | 107bhp | 236kg | 855mm seat height
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