Suzuki 1000 V-Strom launch

Words: Costa Mouzouris. Pics: Suzuki
Words: Costa Mouzouris. Pics: Suzuki

HISTORY

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Suzuki introduced the DL1000 V-Strom in 2002, to much praise, selling almost 12,000 units in the first year alone. It featured a 996 cc, 90-degree V-twin lifted from the wild TL1000 (albeit detuned somewhat), wrapped in a competent aluminum frame and perhaps the element that really defined the V-Strom, the polarising styling – you loved it or hated it.

Initial excitement for the machine dropped off quickly however and the following year only 3,800 were sold. A mild model revision in 2004 boosted sales somewhat, but the V-Strom 650 was also introduced that year and it immediately outsold its bigger brother, and has done so — by a large margin — ever since. Of interest, the V-Strom 650 actually outsells all of its 650 to 800 cc competitors, including the rock-solid and dirt cheap KLR650.

The previous model.
The previous model.

The big V-Strom was discontinued in Europe in 2008 because it no longer met emissions standards there, and sales dropped to a low of just 400 units worldwide in 2010. Even a drastic drop in pricing and an accessorised SE model couldn’t save the big DL and the bike was eventually discontinued in Canada last year (though I must confess, I didn’t even know there was no 2013 model available).

The new V-Strom 1000 is a vastly different bike from the older model.
The new V-Strom 1000 is a vastly different bike from the older model.

Not willing to let the 1000 die, Suzuki has just launched the 2014 V-Strom 1000 in Almeria, Spain and aside from the name it has very little to do with the old model, but in a very good way.

WHAT’S NEW

Well, where do I start? The 2014 V-Strom is new from the ground up. So, starting from the ground up, there are new 10-spoke cast wheels replacing the three-spoke design of the previous model, and they’re fastened to the bike with larger-diameter axles (5 mm larger up front and 8 mm in the rear), which increase rigidity. The bike rolls on new Bridgestone BW501/502 tires but in the same, 110/80-19 and 150/70-17 sizes as before.

Brakes are now supersport-spec, with Tokico radial-mount, four-piston front calipers replacing the former twin-piston sliding calipers. Front discs remain 310 mm, as do the 260 mm rear disc and single-piston Nissin caliper. ABS is now a standard feature on the V-Strom 1000, formerly unavailable even as an option.

ABS is standard on the new Litre-Strom, and brakes are supersport-spec.
ABS is standard on the new Litre-Strom, and brakes are supersport-spec.

A 43 mm inverted fork adjustable for preload and compression and rebound damping replaces the preload-adjustable, conventional 43 mm fork. In the rear is a single shock adjustable for rebound damping and preload, the latter via an easily accessible knob.

The 43 mm inverted front forks are adjustable for preload and compression and rebound damping.
The 43 mm inverted front forks are adjustable for preload and compression and rebound damping.

Continuing up the machine from the ground you’ll find a new frame, still constructed of aluminum but 33 percent more rigid and 13 percent lighter than on the previous bike. Steering geometry has been altered, and wheelbase is 20 mm longer at 1,555 mm, though the swingarm is 36 mm longer than before for improved suspension compliance and weight balance. Fork rake is one degree steeper at 25.3 degrees and trail has been reduced by 2 mm to 109 mm.

Now to the meaty part of the bike: the engine. It is almost all new. Although the valve train and most of the transmission is carried over, everything else is new. An increase of 2 mm in bore size bumps engine displacement to 1,037 cc, and the crankcases are new. Although the pistons are larger than before, they have been redesigned and weigh the same. They also have thinner rings to reduce friction.

Motor is still hung from the frame. Note the plastic frame guards to protect from scuffing.
Motor is still hung from the frame. Note the plastic frame guards to protect from scuffing.

The cylinder heads now have two plugs each, and although the compression ratio remains at 11.3:1, combustion efficiency has been improved which allows remapping of the ECU for improved power and fuel efficiency (16 percent better according to Suzuki). It’s also Euro 3 compliant, so our European friends can ride a big V-Strom again. The V-Strom also has traction control, with two modes, selectable by a handlebar-mounted switch. It can also be turned off.

The new motor (all the new bits are in yellow).
The new motor (all the new bits are in yellow).

Power is up only marginally, now at 99 hp with peak torque at 75 lb-ft (an increase of 2.5 hp and 1 lb-ft), but what’s really important here is the power delivery below 4,000 rpm. Torque climbs considerably just off idle, now peaking at just 4,000 rpm, which is 2,400 rpm sooner than on the previous bike.

The alternator flywheel is 15 percent heavier for smoother bottom-end response, and the regulator/rectifier is now an open type, so it disconnects the alternator instead of shorting it to ground when the current draw is low. This reduced mechanical losses and it will also run cooler (this is an important feature; there’s and SV650 in our household and I installed a computer fan on the regulator to keep it cool).

A new radiator is about the same size as before but it has more cooling veins, which has increased its cooling capacity enough that the V-Strom no longer needs an oil cooler. This reduces cost and weight, and there’s no risk of oil leaks caused by rock damage.

The exhaust has been changed to a single underslung unit.
The exhaust has been changed to a single underslung unit.

There’s a new exhaust pipe, now with a single, low-mounted outlet. The new system lowers the centre of gravity and saves 4.7 kg. Other weight savings have chopped about 8 kg from the V-Strom and it now tips the scales at 228 kg wet (502 lb).

There's two plugs per cylinder now.
There’s two plugs per cylinder now.

The transmission is the same as before, which is a good thing because it is a very smooth-shifting unit. The only difference is that sixth gear is now a bit shorter, which actually reduces vibration at highway speeds. The V-Strom now uses a slipper clutch that is also mechanically assisted, which reduces lever effort by 13 percent.

Moving up, styling is much more contemporary, something truly emphasised when looking at the previous-gen and new V-Strom side by side. I like it, especially in red, but there’s a khaki version that also looks good but I didn’t get to see that one in the metal.

Stacked headlights and a fender beak are now class standards, so the V-Strom has both. In my notes I wrote ‘strada-ish nose’ referring to the Ducati Multistrada, but the folks at Suzuki reminded us during the technical presentation that the distinguishable adventure-touring pecker was actually a Suzuki innovation, first appearing on the DR-Z Dakar racer in 1988 and then on the DR Big, so credit where credit is due.

Now, there’s lots of plastic on the bike, and usually that’s not a good thing on a machine that can potentially be ridden off pavement, but look closely and you’ll notice that Suzuki has cleverly covered the steel fuel tank with plastic panels that will protect it in a tip over. There are also plastic covers over the frame, by the footpegs, to prevent scuffing. At the rear are plastic panels that conceal the mounting points for the saddlebag supports (more on the accessories later). This makes for a clean-looking rear end whether you get the bags or not.

The frame-mounted windshield is adjustable for height and angle.
The frame-mounted windshield is adjustable for height and angle.

The frame-mounted fairing includes a height- and angle-adjustable windscreen. There are four screws that must be removed to place the screen in one of three positions to adjust height, but you can change its angle of attack just by pushing on it. It has a ratchet mechanism that locks it in one of three positions; just push a bit to raise it to the middle position, push it further to raise it to the highest position, or push it all the way out to reset the ratchet mechanism and bring it back to the lowest position – neat.

Geometry has been changed over the previous 1000.
Geometry has been changed over the previous 1000.

The riding position has been altered, with the handlebar moving 34 mm rearward and the footpegs also moving rearward by 15 mm. The seat-to-fuel tank junction has been narrowed to enable stand-up riding, and the seat widens considerably where you plant your butt.

Suzuki had a previous generation V-Strom just for display purposes, so we couldn’t make a back-to-back riding comparison, but a static seating revealed that you sit deeper into the new V-Strom, as opposed to atop it. The riding position is very relaxed and upright. Seat height is 850 mm (33.5 in), which suited me just fine, but there are two optional seats, one that is 30 mm lower and one that is 35 mm higher.

Instrumentation is new, with a large analogue tachometer flanked by two smaller LCD displays. Useful info includes ambient temperature, time, a large gear position indicator, trip computer info and traction control status among a few other items. One very smart feature is the accessory outlet, conveniently located beneath the tachometer.

The dash is all-new.
The dash is all-new.

THE RIDE

It was unusually cold in southern Spain during the launch, and we headed straight into the mountains north of Almeria in the morning; but of course, the higher we rode, the lower the temperatures got.

Wind protection is good from the shoulders down, but Costa found the windscreen buffeted at speed.
Wind protection is good from the shoulders down, but Costa found the windscreen buffeted at speed.

Wind protection is quite good from the shoulders down, and there’s no buffeting with the screen at its lowest height and shallowest angle. Putting the screen at is steepest angle cut the windblast a bit at the helmet, but then buffeting made an appearance above 120 km/h.

I later tried the screen in its highest position, which offered a little more protection but then also made buffeting more prominent, regardless of angle position. It remained tolerable at speeds below 120 km/h, but at higher speeds it shook my head about enough to blur vision.

This seems to be an issue that has plagued V-Stroms during their lifetime and although it is much reduced, unfortunately it is a trait that seems destined to continue (cue aftermarket screen options).

Costa says the claims of more bottom-end power were no exaggerations.
Costa says the claims of more bottom-end power were no exaggerations.

On the positive side, claims of improved bottom-end power were not exaggerated, and the new V-Strom feels really strong from almost off idle to about 6,000 revs, where power flattens out but remains strong all the way to redline. There’s no need to rev the engine unnecessarily and the V-Strom feels best when being short-shifted. Clutch effort is light, and the gearbox still has a nice, light, yet positive feel.

The motor was vibe-free, even at high speed.
The motor was vibe-free, even at high speed.

The engine is remarkably free of vibration, even at high speeds (a flat-out run in a strong headwind got 193 km/h on an accessory GPS mounted on the bike – 202 on the speedometer).

Surprisingly, there are no ride modes (something that seems de rigueur these days), which I would have liked because if there is one criticism I have with the bike it’s a slightly over-sensitive throttle at low speeds. It’s not overly abrupt, but when in town at low speeds, hitting bumps made the bike lurch forward if I wasn’t paying attention. This might hamper off-pavement riding, but since we didn’t venture off road during this launch, I can’t say for sure.

In fact, Suzuki didn’t oversell the new V-Strom with spectacular images of the bike riding on cliff-edge trails or fording through streams. And I’m fine with that, as are probably most adventure-bike owners, especially as it comes with cast wheels only (though there have been hints of wire wheeled variants to come).

Costa wanted to test the bike out in gravel, but wasn't able to.
Costa wanted to test the bike out in gravel, but wasn’t able to.

Still, it would have been nice to take even a short ride on a gravel road to test suspension compliance, ABS performance (it is non-adjustable and can’t be turned off) and traction control effectiveness. Oh, and that low speed throttle sensitivity issue.

Here's a closer look at those dual discs.
Here’s a closer look at those dual discs.

We rode on a variety of roads ranging from divided highways to ultra-twisty, switchback-laden mountain roads. To put it simply: I couldn’t find fault with the V-Strom’s handling. It manages high-speed sweepers like it’s on rails, steering is light and neutral, there’s lots of cornering clearance (footpeg feelers touch when you’re banked way over, but it’s unlikely you’d need more cornering clearance unless you’re on a closed course), and the brakes, as mentioned earlier, are supersport-strong.

Very cold morning conditions caused frost to form on some of the roads, but our lead rider slowed us to almost a walking pace in those areas so I didn’t get a chance to test the TC, which was set at its highest level (2). I did whack the throttle open exiting some second- and third-gear corners, but the TC light doesn’t flash when the system intervenes, and since it retards timing and controls the secondary throttles (it doesn’t cut ignition or fuel), I couldn’t feel anything but smooth, progressive, if somewhat subdued acceleration.

Optional top box can take a full-face helmet.
Optional top box can take a full-face helmet.

Adjusting the traction control is easily done while riding, though you have to make your selections with the throttle closed. Other bikes allow you to make changes while still on the gas, so you don’t lose speed as you do on the Suzuki; it’s a minor inconvenience.

Handling is excellent, says Costa.
Handling is excellent, says Costa.

The suspension is firm enough to handle an elevated sporting pace without harshness. The rear was a bit soft on the rebound initially and the bike moved about a bit exiting turns, but about three-quarters of a turn on the rebound adjuster cured that. I also added two turns on the rebound knob to add some ride height in the tighter stuff, and the bike easily dove into turns while moderately trail braking.

Our ride was relatively long by press launch standards at 300 km, and I’m happy to say my backside didn’t complain even after being softened up by hours of sitting on an airplane.

CONCLUSION

Aside from the GW250, Suzuki hadn’t launched a completely new motorcycle in Canada since the Gladius in 2009, and many people, even those at Suzuki, acknowledged that the lack of fresh material was hurting sales. The new V-Strom 1000 is not a wasted effort. It’s a great bike, with very little to fault.

Except for the GW250, this is Suzuki's first all-new bike in Canada since the Gladius arrived in 2009.
Except for the GW250, this is Suzuki’s first all-new bike in Canada since the Gladius arrived in 2009.

And the best news its price. At $11,999 it’s just $500 more it was in 2012, and the list of standard features is outstanding at that price point. Some bike makers cut corners to attain a certain price point, but Suzuki didn’t skimp, from the adjustable suspension, to the adjustable levers, to the ABS and traction control – that’s a lot of stuff for that price.

The bag mounts are very cleanly put together.
The bag mounts are very cleanly put together.

I actually tip my hat to the folks at Suzuki Canada because the base model is considerably cheaper than it is in the U.S., where it retails for $12,699, which at the exchange rate on the day of this writing, converted to $13,500. When’s the last time you saw that?

By comparison the Kawasaki Versys 1000 costs $13,999 and the Yamaha Super Ténéré costs $16,499. The new V-Strom can easily go head-to-head with those bikes on the road, while easily outmatching them in the showroom.

Although it doesn’t have the outright power output of its litre-plus competitors, its performance is good enough that it can now be considered an alternative choice for someone looking for a BMW GS but is on a tight budget.

At $11,999, the new Strom is only $500 more than the previous 1000. Of course, all those tasty options are extra; you can save a bit of cash on accessories if you buy the SE model.
At $11,999, the new Strom is only $500 more than the previous 1000. Of course, all those tasty options are extra; you can save a bit of cash on accessories if you buy the SE model.

There’s also an SE model, dressed with hand guards, hard saddlebags (55-litre total capacity) and a centre stand for $1,000 more, and it sounds like a pretty good deal because although accessory prices haven’t yet been announced, I’ve been told they’ll be pricey.

New seat is more of a 'sit-in' experience than the previous model.
New seat is more of a ‘sit-in’ experience than the previous model.

But you can get the aforementioned items, as well as a 35-litre top case, tank bag, taller windscreen, heated grips, GPS mount, HID lights, and various protectors and trim pieces from Suzuki’s accessory catalogue. Some riders were complaining that the V-Strom should have come with standard heated grips, but I think that considering its low price, it’s not a big loss. After all, aftermarket grips can be had for about $90.

The latest V-Strom is a strong performer and a serious addition to the category – and it’s backed by an outstanding price. My guess is if you’re considering buying one next year (it arrives in March), you should probably place your orders now.


SPECIFICATIONS

Bike  2014 V-Strom 1000
MSRP  $11,999
Displacement  1037 cc
Engine type  4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 90 ̊ V-twin
Power (crank)*  99 hp
Torque*  75 ft-lb @ 4,000 rpm
Tank Capacity  20.0 Litres
Carburetion  Fuel Injection
Final drive  Chain (six speed)
Tires, front  110/80R19M/C 59V
Tires, rear  150/70R17M/C 69V
Brakes, front  310 mm Tokico radial-mount, four-piston
Brakes, rear  260 mm single-piston Nissin caliper
Seat height  850 mm
Wheelbase  1,555 mm
Wet weight*  228 Kg
Colours  Red, White, Black, Khaki
Warranty  
* claimed  

GALLERY

Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.

21 thoughts on “Suzuki 1000 V-Strom launch”

  1. How do you think the new Vstrom 1000 will compare to the not so new Triumph 800 roadie bike which makes 95hp weights 40lbs. less and in the USA costs $1650 less!

  2. The dealer had a beautiful orange KTM 1190 Adventure in the showroom today. Nice fit and finish, likely more off-road capable and 50 more ponies than the V-Strom.

    But compared to the bare Zuke, that’s $6000 (50%) more and you have a limited dealer network to contend with. Well, I voted with my wallet and put a deposit on a black SE. Counting the days now and saving for a few accessories when it arrives.

  3. The clutch is said to be “mechanically assisted”. Since it operates through a hydraulic/mechanical mechanism, what is the “assist”? And why not just change the master/slave ratios to achieve the same effect?

  4. Well written and thorough, Costa. Best review I’ve read on the bike, so thank you. Given the funds, I’m hoping to upgrade to the 1000 from my in-all-ways reliable, but underpowered, ’08 dl650 in the Spring. Your review has reinforced my initial appreciation of Suzuki’s major step forward with the 1000, as well as whetted my appetite.
    Btw, as someone else noted, what about alternator output? I’m hoping to not have to be concerned about heated gear, more lights, ect.

    1. A DL650 underpowered? But according to the owners on the V-Strom forum, the 650 has all the power that anyone could ever reasonably need.

      Well, that’s what they say. Personally, I’d like my DL1000 even better if it had another 50 HP, like the Ducati Multistrada. Still, the current version is adequate, certainly, with as much midrange as anything in its displacement category.

      I had seriously considered the Kawi Versys 1000, but two major things held me back: a price that I thought was a little too high, and the stupefying ugliness of it.

      Still think the move away from the dual side-by-side H4 headlight system of the old Strom to the stacked headlight on the new version is stupid. The old ones work so well – among the best headlights in motorcycling.

      1. Good points, all, V-Strom Ry. The Versys 1000 was top contender for next bike, but all my emails to Kaw headquarters must’ve got lost in the ethernet, because they never heeded several requests to sell them in the USA. And, yeah, they’re ugly. Last generation V-strom ugly, only uglier. But oh, that motor . . . or so I’ve been told, many times.

        However, I expect the ’14 Strom 1000 will more than make up for my 650’s lack of power, most noticeable on my weekly 200 mile round trips on the Long Island Expressway surrounded by caffeinated hyper-commuters. A more than 30% increase will hopefully get me out of more tight spots than put me into. I’d go for the Ninja 1000, but these 64 year old bones like the more civilized ergonomics of “adventure” bikes, without the weight of tourers, especially in in-town snarly traffic.

        Now that you mention it, I’d like to see a side-by-side comparison of ’14’s headlamps to the preceding generation’s excellent lights. Changing form doesn’t necessarily lead to improved function, but I’d like to believe Suzuki improved both.

        1. Some say there’s an 18% increase in high beam brightness. Will still opt for the aux lighting to broaden the visual footprint.

    1. I believe you are right on that, it’s hard to argue with price point value of the do anything KLR. I love mine. A lot. While i’ve never ridden a DL650, I have ridden my son’s Versys, and for loaded up, high mileage, highway jaunts, it is hard to argue with the extra 30hp, the 6spd tranny and better wind protection. Both of us have aftermarket suspension on our bikes, so ride quality is about the same, but on the street, where I do 90% of my riding, (and most other people iI suspect) his is the better bike. It’s the other 10% when I am on a dirt road my KLR excels.

      Now if Kawi ever shoehorned a Versys mill into a KLR, that would be a fun ride.

      Strictly my opinions

  5. Typical Cycle Canada story in other words good. I’ve always liked Costas writing and sometimes re read old issues and find the tests accurate as can be , good job and thanks as a Vstrom 1000 owner this review is making me think a little harder about selling to upgrade.

  6. Thank you Costa for a thorough review. I bought one last week based on the design, engineering and development changes announced by Suzuki. You have just confirmed my choice. I have learned to trust your comments over the years.

  7. I wonder if you need different riding modes on this bike. Most of the bikes with this feature have horsepower ratings in the 150 hp range which retard horsepower to about 100 hp for, say, a rain setting. The V Strom maxes out at 99 hp so why the need to offer options?

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