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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 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.
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.
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 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).
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Bike||2014 V-Strom 1000|
|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|
|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|
|Wet weight*||228 Kg|
|Colours||Red, White, Black, Khaki|
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