Long Termer: V-Strom 650 – Part 4 (final tweaks)

A fine day, good friends and a fast pace. What could possibly go wrong?
A fine day, good friends and a fast pace. What could possibly go wrong?

It was all so sudden. I’d had a great day zipping along gravel trails around the Bay of Fundy, the project Strom not missing a beat. The day was done and we were blasting back to camp for food and beer when I caught sight of the hole directly ahead of me.

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There was only just enough time for me to register its existence before I hit it. It was the perfect size to swallow the Strom’s 19-inch wheel; no sooner had my fingers reached the front brake than I found myself face-to-face with the trail that should be beneath me. Then I heard the bike’s engine pitch go into a scream, and that’s when I realized the rear wheel was off the ground and I was nose down at about 80 km/h.

The sight and sound signals were flooding my brain, but I was not able to digest them quick enough, other than to know that this moment would surely be followed with a lung-deflating crash as I spun arse over tit and body-slammed onto the road. Worse still, it would be followed by the bone-crushing frontal slam of a  214-kg V-Strom landing on top of me.

It sounds scary but it wasn’t. I didn’t have time to be scared because I didn’t have time to process the information, but I did know it was going to be bad.

But then it all stopped. The double slam didn’t happened. I was still in the middle of a stoppie, looking straight down at the gravel road, but it was now rolling beneath me. I hadn’t gone over … but I hadn’t gone back either.

There was always the danger that the Strom could end up a wreck.
There was always the danger that the Strom could end up a wreck.

Time snapped back from its elastic slow-mo moment of impending doom and then so did the Strom, with a thump.

I was looking forward again and still motoring as if nothing had actually happened.

Despite this incident the Strom Adventure bike performed well in its new habitat.
Despite this incident the Strom Adventure bike performed well in its new habitat.

I’d hit the hole dead on, bottomed out the fork and lofted the back (by three or four feet according to Denis who was following me). But then, instead of carrying through to the messy conclusion, the momentum popped the wheel up out of the hole, allowing the back wheel to drop back down like nothing untoward had actually happened.

Luck like this is against the laws of physics, the laws of chance and most of all, the CMG curse, but yet it had just happened.

I peered over the bars to make sure the front wheel was still round, the forks weren’t bent (check and check) and carried on riding.

Wow.

The Final Tweaks

Remember the CMG 650 V-Strom Adventure project? Of course you do. Well, after the project was pretty much completed by the end of 2012 (though the wire wheels didn’t make it on until the season was done, just in time for Suzuki to take it around the Canadian show circuit), 2013 was to be the year of testing the beast.

The idea was to make it more dirt-friendly. I wasn’t planning on building a singletrack terror, but I wanted to make it totally able to handle gravel and fire roads, and maybe a little more if duty called.

As you just read, there was a moment or two where things almost went tits up, but a summer of exploring the local southern New Brunswick trails for a planned dual sport rally in the fall of 2014 proved the point of all that work – and the limitations as well.

Rob spent the summer on the V-Strom without any serious incidents, and was able to evaluate the farkles and add-ons while scouting for a dual sport rally.
Rob spent the summer on the V-Strom without any serious incidents, and was able to evaluate the farkles and add-ons while scouting for a dual sport rally.

The Strom has come a long way from stock, and the dirt-friendly accessory add-ons have (for the most of it) all really added to the bike’s capabilities as I had hoped. However, I also added a few more bits that I found necessary to finish off the project, so let’s take a quick look at those before we go over how everything performed in the wrap-up piece to come.


Enduro Guardian radiator guard

The Enduro Guardian radiator protector was easy to bolt on.
The Enduro Guardian radiator protector was easy to bolt on.

Why – Every time I heard a chunk of gravel spin up in the front tire and either bounce off the bike or scrape its way under the front fender, I realized the Strom was in desperate need of a radiator guard.

A quick web search uncovered an outfit that seemed to be very keen to make a line of V-Strom specific accessories for the more dirt-minded rider – Enduro Guardian. I’d never heard of them before, but one of their products was a very capable-looking radiator guard, which we requested and they duly shipped to us.

Fitting – Fitting was about as simple as can be (remove one bolt, align guard, fit new longer bolt), et voila, your radiator is now impenetrable to bouncing rocks. Nice.

Usage – Pretty much as you’d expect. Rock gets kicked up, rock meets radiator, rock is repelled from radiator by guard


Madstad small Adventure screen

The smaller screen worked well on- and off-road, so it's staying on the bike.
The smaller screen worked well on- and off-road, so it’s staying on the bike.

Why – What? You already covered that! Yes, but after trying out the ‘barn door’ touring screen, I asked Mark at Madstad if it would be possible to try their smaller, 18” Adventure screen.

I was impressed with their touring screen (it is excellent and no wind gets to the rider) but it’s just too big for off road/trails. If it gets dirty, it’s hard to see your way through rockier sections and, due to its size, it really stresses out the adjustable mounts as it gets bashed around.

Fitting – Remove the four bolts that hold the screen to the mounts, replace with smaller screen and tighten the bolts.

Usage – My initial impression of the smaller screen was that it looked a lot sexier, but it wouldn’t work very well at speed. And sure enough, at highway speeds it didn’t work as well as the touring screen, so I just dropped it to its lowest position, and hit the trails.

Thankfully, it’s much better in the trails, being low enough not to restrict vision and small enough not to bounce and vibrate around. Score!

Then, on my way home on the highway with it still set to the lowest position, I found I was not getting wind-blasted at all. Despite being all the way down, it was somehow positioned just right to push the blast up and over me. Although it didn’t quite offer the stillness of the touring screen, it was good enough, so I’m keeping it on and in the same position be it for trail or highway. Very impressive! That’s the benefit of good engineering.


Sonic Springs

After suspension upgrades transformed his KLR, Rob thought he'd better try some new springs in the V-Strom.
After suspension upgrades transformed his KLR, Rob thought he’d better try some new springs in the V-Strom.

Why – Because I fitted better suspension on my KLR and it transformed the bike off-pavement. Also, Sonic offers different spring rates so you can tailor them more to the rider weight than the fits-all approach of stock.

Fitting – The new springs are a little shorter than stock and don’t have progressively wound coils either. They come with a plastic pipe that can be cut to make a spacer for the preload. The instructions suggest to cut to 4.25” though you can do a more precise calculation or set to what you think is best (I cut to 4.25”).

Sonic Springs also suggests a whole load of different options for fork oil grades, depending on what you’re planning to do with the bike. They don’t list a specific volume of oil to add; instead, they tell you what depth to fill the fork to, when it’s compressed. It’s an accurate way to measure the oil, but a bit fiddly.

Usage – Although I found no fault with the new springs, I was expecting more, not really finding much noticeable difference between these and the stock units.


Suzuki Centrestand

It took a bit of work to get the centrestand mounted, but tire repairs and chain lubing are much easier now.
It took a bit of work to get the centrestand mounted, but tire repairs and chain lubing are much easier now.

Why – Because it’s handy to have if you want to do something as simple as lubing your chain, or something more involved, like changing a tire. Since the whole point of this project is to make the Strom more dirt-friendly (and that’s where you tend to get more punctures), it’s the latter that appealed to me most

Fitting – You may remember that we originally could not fit the centrestand due to interference from the Hindle exhaust system. Well (as you can read about in the next item), I ended up making a hybrid of the standard systems piping (I cut off the muffler).

This enabled me to fit the Suzuki accessory stand, which involves some additional mounts and the ability to pull on two  large springs in a rather awkward space. All I can say is, thank god for the Hindle spring tool that came with the pipe and an aging body that is still obviously in the pre-hernia stage of decay. Oh, and I also had to cut a corner of the bashplate to make way fro the spring (see pic in gallery below)

Usage – It’s a centrestand. You push down on it and pull on the back of the bike and up it goes. It is a little sticky, though, and sometimes needs a little encouragement to get it to return fully. 


Hybrid pipe

A little welding was needed, but Rob got the exhaust he wanted.
Rob’s neighbour Ross did the honours taking the pipe bits together.

Why – The Hindle system did not follow the same routing as the original, and so did not allow for the accessory bashplate and centrestand to fit.

Fitting – I didn’t so much fit it, as make it. I hacked off the muffler from the Suzuki system and then welded on a spare piece of pipe that Hindle had sent me so I could add the Hindle slip-on to the end.

Usage – It still has the throaty Hindle sound, but now the SW Motech bashplate fits as it was designed to and the Suzuki centrestand does too. If only Suzuki made the pipe with a slip-on muffler …


NEXT WEEK – a blow-by-blow account of all the mods we did and whether we think they’re money well spent to Adventurize your Wee Strom.


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.

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