Long Termer: V-Strom 650 – Touring Conclusions

PHASE TWO – TOURING

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Just to recap, what I wanted to do here is make the Strom more comfortable for the long haul (including adaptations to accommodate my 6’ 4” lanky frame, but also to tackle the recurring buffeting issue, adding more lighting, grip warmers (it is Canada after all) and some much-needed luggage.

Note – We already wrote about the work it took to fit most of these parts here – this update is just focusing on how the gear performed.

A) Comfort

Surprisingly for an adventure bike, the riding position gets a little cramped for the lankier rider, with not a whole lot of room between seat and pegs. Thankfully there are two rather easy and obvious fixes: raise the seat and lower the pegs.

The taller seat was supplied courtesy of Suzuki’s accessory catalog. It’s just a regular seat base with additional padding to raise the seat up by 20 mm (3/4 inch), which provides a bit of comfort too. Though there are a mass of aftermarket seats available, I was quite happy with this one as the price was reasonable and it met my demands.

The footpeg lowering kit came from Adventure Tech, which drops the pegs and controls by an inch- giving me a total of 1 3/4 additional inches of extra legroom). Although the lower pegs did touch the ground in corners on occasion, it was not too frequently or sharply. They also gave the added bonus of allowing me to stand without having to raise the bars to match (which is very handy in the dirt).

That's better! The lowered footpegs allow 'Arris to stand up with ease, and provide more legroom when seated.
That’s better! The lowered footpegs allow ‘Arris to stand up with ease, and provide more legroom when seated.

As far as protection from the elements, I was very disappointed by the taller Suzuki screen, as I honestly couldn’t tell much difference between that and the stock one when it came to wind protection and eliminating buffeting – which neither do a good job at.

I cannot stress enough the benefits of Madstat screen kit, though. Its adjustable brackets allow you to fit a choice of different screen sizes and raise and tilt them to whatever position suits you personally. It fixed the buffeting problem handily. What surprised me is that I didn’t need the big touring screen; the smaller adventure screen gave almost as much wind protection but worked better in the trails and looked sweet to boot.

The Madstad mounts are a must-have farkle.
The Madstad mounts are a must-have farkle.

Living in Canada, heated grips are a must in my opinion, and for these we got a set of Oxford Heaterz. Although they’re a little tricky to install (you need to remove the front end and tank to put in the wiring), they do produce almost too much heat to hold on the highest setting. On the downside, the grips are rather fat (though you do get used to them) and the controller has small buttons that are difficult to use wearing gloves (give me a dial controller please).

Oh, and Oxford claims the system senses when the battery voltage gets low and automatically turns off the grips – useful if you forget to do so (something that is easy to do as they are independent of the ignition). I’ve forgotten to switch them off a few times; the bike started twice but required a battery boost one other time, so I’m not a 100% confident with this feature. Wiring them into the ignition somehow would seem to be the definitive fix.

The Oxford heated grips were a must-have addition for our colder climate.
The Oxford heated grips were an important addition for our colder climate.

B) Luggage

There’s a bit of a debate when it comes to luggage. Hard or soft? If hard, is it best to go for plastic or metal? I’ve always gone for the first two as they’re generally the cheapest but SW Motech offer a pretty inexpensive aluminum option in the shape of their Trax bags.

I got a set of quick-detach SW Motech EVO mounts to put them onto the Strom with a 37 litre left and a 45 right; the smaller bag allows for the space taken by the exhaust pipe.

The Trax bags weren't waterproof - a liner took care of that.
The Trax bags aren’t waterproof – but the included liners took care of that.

The boxes are not waterproof but come with a set of heavy duty roll-top liner bags that have the added bonus of making it easy to get your luggage in and out. The quick-detach mounts can be removed in minutes if you want to ride the bike sans luggage (all good).

Although the lids of the bags tended to distort quite easily (they’re not particular heavy gauge), I found them easy to attach, use and doubled up well as seats if camping. I did have a failure with the mounts when one weld gave way (thanks to my neighbour for fixing it) but this was after a day in the trails.

The right-hand bag is smaller, to allow for the exhaust pipe.
The right-hand bag is smaller, to allow for the exhaust pipe.

According to SW Motech importer Twisted Throttle, the carriers are not designed to be used in the harsher off-road environment – the idea being to get to the trails and then remove the EVO carriers and bags. Also, max load per case is stated at 5 Kg, which seems ridiculously low, Twisted saying it’s to protect the bike’s subframe, but I’m assuming it’s a cover-your-arse liability rating too.

C) Accessories

This is a bit of a catch-all for the other bits that add the extra comfort on the long hauls.

The Denali lights make it easier to see roadside animals at night.
The Denali lights are a pretty easy fit and make it easier to see roadside animals at night.

First up is a pair of Denali DM Micro LEDs. I thought the standard lights were pretty good but Twisted Throttle offered up a pair to try out so I thought why not? Though rather small and only consuming 5 Watts of power, the DMs make the standard light seem feeble, dim and yellow, and fill the beam out with a strong white light – and a wider spread to boot to help see the ditches (great for spotting moose!).

The mounts also pivot up and down so you can manually adjust them quickly if you’d like to use them as more of a high beam supplement, should you find yourself stuck in the trails at night.

A welder managed to build the exhaust system that met Rob's specs - a hybrid between the Hindle system and the stock unit.
A welder managed to build the exhaust system that met Rob’s specs – a hybrid between the Hindle system and the stock unit.

One element of the project that I found most enlightening was the Hindle exhaust pipe. Though easy to install, it did not fit well with the other parts such as the accessory centrestand and SW Motech bashplate. Despite my best attempts to adapt it and the bashplate, I finally resorted to hacking up the original Suzuki pipe (it’s a one-piece) to enable the Hindle muffler to be welded (via the bit of pipe that holds the O2 sensor) onto the standard downpipes.

Rob liked the Hindle's sound. Photo: Gary Davidson
Rob liked the Hindle’s sound. Photo: Gary Davidson

Although this needed the service of a professional welder and a bit of luck, the end result was a lighter and throatier pipe and the ability to bolt on all the standard bits and accessories around it. This begs two questions:

  1. Why didn’t Suzuki change the muffler to a slip-on variety at the last redesign?
  2. Would Hindle sell just the muffler and O2 pipe so you can do your own hybrid?

This adaptation enabled me to fit the Suzuki accessory centrestand, which is handy for doing chain maintenance but in use is a little stiff and needs a kick to get it to fully retract.

CONCLUSIONS

The stock Strom ergos fit 6' tall Zac just fine.
The stock Strom ergos fit 6′ tall Zac just fine.

It’s worth noting that 6′ tall Zac found the stock Strom fit him perfectly, so the seat and peg mods are only really needed for the really tall riders out there. They have proven to be an easy and ideal solution for my frame, though – they’re well recommended. Also, I’ll say it one more time, if you want to fix the buffeting 100% then the Madstad screen is the way to go. Even the small sporty screen fixes the issue and it looks pretty good too.

I had mixed thoughts about the Oxford Heaterz but they’re cheap, do the job and heated grips in my book are a must for the serious Canadian rider (they give you a longer riding season!).

The taller seat gave Rob more leg clearance.
The taller seat gave Rob more leg clearance.

The SW Motech luggage do the job at a reasonable price but don’t expect the same level of toughness as the more expensive metal options out there. Still, for what I used the Strom for they beat out plastic options (too fragile) and apart from the issue with the carriers, worked fine.

Obviously you don’t need a different pipe but if you are looking to lose the ugly standard unit and save a few pounds, then I can recommend the hybrid we did. However, in standard form, the full Hindle system would only really be an option if you kept your Strom for more on-road duties as it (and presumably any other aftermarket options) are not designed with other accessories in mind, and it costs almost a grand, too.

The centrestand made it easier to lube the chain and change tires, but added weight.
The centrestand made it easier to lube the chain and change tires, but added weight.

This allows for the Suzuki centrestand – a handy addition, but tricky to fit, stiff to use, heavy and not exactly cheap either, so questionable.

And finally, I’d seriously consider the Denali LEDs too, especially if you do a lot of night riding and would like added warning against animals in ditches. They were surprisingly good!

Overall, even in standard trim, the Strom is a very capable touring machine, but does have some niggly issues that can be fixed, and relatively cheaply too. I don’t expect everyone to do the same as we did for a project Strom, but if any of these issues relate, I hope our suggestions help you tweak your Strom into touring perfection.

Twisted Throttle's co-operation made the project much easier.
Twisted Throttle’s co-operation made the project much easier.

THANKS TO

As you know, magazines don’t have a lot of spare dosh floating around, so in order to do projects like these we need suppliers to see the value of what we do and hopefully not get too pissy with us if we find fault.

For this project a big thank you goes to the folk at Twisted Throttle who supplied us with the majority of what we needed to make it happen. Also to Suzuki Canada for providing the (very) long-termer Strom and offering us anything from their accessory catalogue that we wanted to try. And let’s not forget Hindle – a Canadian exhaust maker that not only supplied the pipe but helped us to adapt and tweak it in their workshop. Good people.

Smaller outfits like Ventura, who made these headlight guards, or Madstad were also an integral part of the project's success.
Smaller outfits like Ventura, who made these headlight guards, or Madstad were also an integral part of the project’s success.

And of course, to the smaller outfits out there who take a good idea and actually run with it, namely Madstad for the selection of screens to try out and Adventure Tech for the great peg lowering kit. Good job guys, I bow, walk backwards slowly and roll my hands in an Elizabethan display of respect.

THE COST OF TOURING

Note: These were the prices at the start of this project. Cost and availability of these parts will change over time.

Comfort

Sub total – $532.37

Luggage

Sub total – $1,105.96

Accessories

Sub total – $1,357.84

TOTAL – $2,996.17

9 thoughts on “Long Termer: V-Strom 650 – Touring Conclusions”

  1. Just a plug for Eastern Beaver wiring adapters. From Japan, but there is an east-coast Canadian connection (believe it or not). Helped me a lot farkling my Wee. ABS switch, lighting and 12V plug-in wiring, etc.

    No connection beyond a satisfied customer

    http://www.easternbeaver.com/

    1. +1 on Eastern Beaver..wire the heated grips into a switched output of a PC-8 fusebox from Eastern Beaver, that way you never have to worry about draining the battery

  2. Fair point on the luggage and being dry, but I do like any luggage (even the dry kind) to come with insets – it makes it much easy to pack and unpack.

  3. Personally I wouldn’t consider hard luggage that isn’t waterproof – that’s one of the big advantages of hard luggage, IMO. You could have a set of Givis for less money, they’re waterproof, and they’re also a lot tougher than you’d expect. The Givi bags and racks kept my V-Strom up off the ground when I lowsided it, and the bags only got a little scuffed, while the rack needed a little tweaking back to its original shape.

    Overall a good conclusion to this series of articles. You should see if you can get hold of one of the new DL1000s.

    1. We have an F800GS Adv for the long term, which is already pretty well decked out. Personally after all the work on the 650 Strom I’m happy to have something that I can just ride and not make into a project this year.

  4. You have the Oxford version 7 controller which I researched and found that the new version 8 control unit has that problem sorted. I have the touring model on my Versys and it performs brilliantly. I prefer the slightly over size grips. 😉

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