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Motorcycle road test: Suzuki V-Strom DL650A
The motorcycle industry probably owes a great deal of thanks to Charley Boorman and Ewan MacGregor.
Following their exploits travelling around the world on their motorcycles, the last few years have seen a massive boom in the popularity of adventure style bikes.
One of the most popular of those bikes was Suzuki’s V-Strom DL650, which was launched in 2004.
Seven years on and the bike has received a makeover. Having not ridden the original version, I have nothing to compare it with, or to be unduly influenced by, so what you get here are my unfettered thoughts on the 2011 model.
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And straight from the off, what you see is a very good-looking machine, full of classy, elegant lines.
Its trailie style, together with the high windshield, give the bike a very tall look, while its wide seat, tank and handlebars add to a pretty visually imposing spectacle.
But that height was to prove to be one of the bike’s downfalls – for me at least. At only 5ft 10ins and with seemingly overly stumpy legs, with a seat height of around 835mm I found it just a little bit too tall for my liking.
While I was able to touch the ground, I would have preferred to have been able to plant my feet firmly when at a stop without having to lean the bike too much. On a couple of occasions it came close to leaning a little too far over – and holding up almost 220kg is no easy task, even for a man of my beefy frame!
Height aside, the riding position is actually very comfortable. The aforementioned high and wide bars create a bolt upright seated position, with the bar-mounted mirrors offering excellent visibility.
The seat is surprisingly more comfortable than many other bikes, and is easily good for 100 miles or so without giving any gyp. Pillion capacity is also fairly spacious and comfy, with side-mounted grab handles off the luggage rack.
Rider controls and the display are very easy to use and read, the one minor difference to most other machines I have been on being the display control to scroll through odometer etc being at the front of the left handlebar where the pass light switch might usually be found. That switch in turn moves to the rider’s side of the grip, above the horn.
The display includes the usual analogue rev counter, and digital displays for fuel, oil and coolant levels, fuel consumption (average for my duration on the bike was around 56mpg) and two trip counters.
As for the ride itself, the V-Strom uses a revised Gladius engine, powered by a 645cc, six-speed 90-degree V-twin, which makes only 68bhp at the back wheel.
I say only, it is actually a very capable and fun 68bhp. It holds its own easily in most traffic, revs well throughout the range and is a very smooth and responsive V-twin that doesn’t throw up too many surprises. It is surprisingly nimble through towns – given its size and width, the ease with which I was able to carry out tight U-turns particularly surprised me.
Although there is no fairing as such, the bulging nature of the 20-litre fuel tank – which has a fantastic range of between 200 and 250 miles – provides fairly generous protection from the elements, while the windshield also does a relatively good job of deflecting the wind and rain’s attentions away from the upper extremities.
The windshield is also adjustable but how easy this is I couldn’t say as I didn’t try to move it – although I have heard other riders claim it’s not the easiest task in the world.
The model I tested also came fitted with handguards, which also made a massive difference on lengthier motorway jaunts.
For an adventure-style machine, the V-Strom handles surprisingly well – you’re never going to be able to tear around the track on it, but what it does do, it does exceptionally well within its own limitations, ably assisted by the Bridgestone Trailwing tyres, which I found offered great grip in the dry, and which were only marginally less reassuring in damp conditions.
The suspension is fairly soft, but not too soggy, and the brakes are also solid for a bike in the budget range. In fact, ABS comes as standard on the V-Strom.
I wouldn’t recommend a MacGregor/Boorman style jaunt around the world on it, but for everyday use, and particularly for commuting, it is a fun, functional all-round package.
> Model: Suzuki V-Strom DL650A
> Engine size: 645cc
> Engine spec: Six-speed, liquid-cooled, 90-degree V-twin
> Power: 68bhp
> Fuel capacity: 20 litres
> Range: 200+ miles
> Seat height: 835mm
> Weight: 214kg
> Price: From £6,899