Staff bikes: Suzuki V-Strom 650 - Brussels: Further than you think!

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I thought Brussels was an easy day’s ride from MCN’s Peterborough HQ, so was first to agree to join senior reporter Steve Farrell on his rabble-rousing EU protest ride last month.

In my brain, I foresaw a quick blat to Dover, a tootle down the E40 from Calais, chips and mayonnaise for lunch followed by some shouting at MEPs then a dash back to Blighty. What could be finer?

My over-confidence was partly the V-Strom’s fault. Such is its superb long distance ability that the distance and weather held no fears. A supremely comfy saddle, 250-mile tank range and decent weather protection meant the idea of not enjoying the ride didn’t cross my mind.

Unfortunately – and not for the first time – my brain had omitted a few facts. 

Firstly, Brussels and back is 600 fricking miles, not the 375 I had in my head. I’m sure the likes of Nick Sanders rattle off 600 before breakfast, but I don’t. I prefer to do zero miles before breakfast. Secondly, by necessity, there would be lots of faffing – other people’s fuel stops, getting lost, the protest ride, getting lost again, missing chunnel trains, etc. This meant the day would be very, very long.

And so it transpired. I rode for 11 solid hours out of 14, and though delirious with tiredness on the final slog up the M11, was coherent enough to remember several things about the V-Strom:

1) On the middle setting, the screen creates an airflow that blows water droplets down and off my visor. In fog and rain, this means you don’t have to wipe your visor above 30mph. If a Suzuki aerodynamicist did this on purpose, I would like to nominate them for a Nobel Prize.

2) There are few faster ways of getting from Calais to Brussels and back to Calais than a V-Strom. Plenty of bikes will cruise at higher speeds, but not many can manage the distance of 250 miles without stopping for fuel. And when they do, the V-Strom will thrum past at 95mph, averaging 54mpg. This ability enabled me to catch an earlier chunnel train home than deputy editor Ped Baker after I lost him in Brussels…

3) After an hour at 80mph, slight tingles in the right bar give my thumb vibration-related ‘white finger’, meaning it gets cold despite bar muffs. However, because I attached the bar muffs to the bar-end weights, I suspect the muffs might have caused the tingle in the first place. Fascinating muff-based experiments are in progress to determine the solution.

4) The V-Strom saddle gives me 90 minutes of uninterrupted riding before I start shuffling. Sliding back to the rear of the seat gives another 30 minutes. It’s one of the comfiest saddles I’ve ever used.

5) Watching the mpg display is addictive, and can alert you to all manner of mechanical problems. For example, I immediately knew something was wrong when my 80mph cruising mpg dropped from the usual 59 to 54. After careful examination I eventually deduced the bar muffs were blowing onto the brake lever at motorway speeds…

2011 Suzuki V-Strom 650, £7028
Value now: £6200
Mileage: 2244
Fuel economy: 57.8mpg
Power (claimed): 68bhp
Torque (claimed): 44ftlb
Kerb weight: 214kg


John Westlake

By John Westlake