These days, Suzuki doesn’t have a reputation for innovation. It’s still developing new bikes and engines, but those come rarely. When a new Suzuki does appear on the market, it’s invariably closely based on a previous design. The GSX-S1000GT sport tourer is the perfect example, with an engine that goes back to the mid-2000s.
So when Suzuki announced the new V-Strom 800DE in 2022, there was considerable interest. Along with the GSX-8S street bike, these machines were based off completely new designs. Suzuki had teased these parallel twins for roughly a decade, first showing off the engines at motorcycle shows in Japan. At the start, it had a turbo, and the concept bike was called the Recursion.
Now, there’s no turbo and the engine has grown from a 600-class twin to 776cc. Suzuki not only has an adventure bike and a naked bike based on this engine, there is evidence we will soon see an 800 sportbike as well.
I had a chance to spend a few days on the V-Strom 800DE this summer—here’s a look at what the machine is all about.
The mechanical bits
The V-Strom 800DE engine is smooth and torquey, perhaps one of the best back-road blaster powerplants I’ve ever ridden.
I’m fortunate enough to have one of New Brunswick’s best coastal roads directly out my garage door, and as the days with the Strom went by, I was impressed with how well it ate up the corners, with grunt that almost felt like a big single—but with no vibration.
When Suzuki announced this engine, they made much ballyhoo about a new counterbalancer design, and it certainly seems to work. Like a lot of riders used to thrashing big singles, I learned to shift via haptic feedback years ago. With this machine, the feedback was so light that I actually had to start watching the dash carefully, to make sure I wasn’t pushing rpm into the danger zone.
If that was the case, it was a simple matter to boot the gearbox up a cog, as this bike comes equipped with a quickshifter as standard (and shifts quite nicely without it, too). With 83 hp on-tap at 8,500 rpm, and 57 lb-ft of torque at 6,800 rpm, this bike will never be a rocketship along the lines of the 1000cc+ flagship ADV. But it hustles along with the greatest of ease, and a ride-by-wire throttle makes for consistent fueling, decent mpg, and three different Drive Modes that allow you to adjust the engine’s power to match available traction.
Front suspension is Showa-built. The fork has full adjustability, but you need a screwdriver to adjust the settings on top of the tubes. The shock is also from Showa, fully-adjustable, with a remote knob for tuning the hydraulically-controlled preload. This is very handy if you’re the type of rider who’s constantly adding or subtracting weight (a pillion, or luggage). The bike comes with 220mm of ground clearance.
The pegs are your standard two-part ADV setup, with rubber insert for highway comfort. Take the insert out, and you get more traction when you’re standing.
Up front, there’s a 21-inch wheel, which is what you want for serious off-roading. In rear, there’s an 18-inch wheel. Both wheels are tube-type, which is definitely a turn-off for many riders of more expensive ADVs, as they’ve become accustomed to tubeless wheels on on modern ADVs.
The fuel tank holds 20 litres of petrol, resulting in a curb weight of 230 kg.
The electrical bits
Just as with the GSX-S1000GT, Suzuki chose not to include an IMU on the new 800. This means no leaning-sensitive traction control or ABS—however, Suzuki does include those systems on the bike in their standard formats, and both can be turned off if you’re headed for the dirt. Or rather, you can turn off TC, but only the rear wheel ABS system is able to turn off, which is fine, because everybody I know is happy to keep their front wheel spinning freely.
All these systems (including the Drive modes) are switchable easily via buttons on the left handlebar that control the TFT interface. I will say that Suzuki could have used easier naming conventions for some of the options on-screen. I figured everything out, though, and so I can’t really complain. At least not too loudly.
Away from the TFT dash, you get LED lighting in every corner. The headlight is odd-looking, but it blasts a lot of candlepower down the road at night. You might be able to suntan from its output—but the beam has some weird holes in the pattern, and I found myself wishing for better coverage in areas like highway on-ramps where you can corner safely at speed even at night. This is something that some riders may get used to; others will likely end up adding a set of aftermarket fog lamps to illuminate the road directly in front of the bike, especially on the sides of the beam pattern.
Other odds and ends
I fond the V-Strom 800DE seat to form a nice semi-cocoon, stopping me from sliding too far forward while providing plenty of support at the back of the saddle, and allowing lots of room to stand on the pegs as needed. Nice!
I was also happy the bike came with skid plate and handguards as stock parts. The handguards were plastic, and did not look like they’d be a whole lot of use in a rough get-off. However, I opted not to steer the bike into the ditch in order to test this theory, so it’s possible they’re actually quite tough.
The skid plate looks like it’s made of sterner stuff, but it is still plastic as well, and many riders will want to put an aluminum bash guard on the bike instead. One good point with the Suzuki design is that the oil filter is somewhat protected by the exhaust headers, so you’re less likely to break the filter and leave yourself stranded on the trail.
Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour tires come standard on the 800 for 2023. I found they hooked up well on the street and on gravel, but when the trail got slick, they were a bit treacherous. That’s when I really noticed the bike’s weight.
Road and Off-Road manners
When the front end or rear started to slide around on slick mud, I had a few moments of, uh, “intense focus,” where I pondered how much this bike weighs and how that would feel if I was underneath. But if you had chunkier rubber on the machine, I think most users would truly enjoy this bike in the dirt. I know that I did—I was starting to seek out increasingly more difficult ATV trails as the test went on, and was disappointed when it was time to give the machine back to Suzuki.
Conversely, if you put slightly more road-oriented tires on the bike, I think the long-travel suspension would make this one of the best backroad burners a Canadian could own. As such, it is no surprise that Suzuki is actually developing a more street-oriented version of the Strom 800, with cast wheels and slightly toned-down fork and shock. The engine is enough to put a smile on even the most curmudgeonly rider’s face, and once you get out to the highway, it still tops out at roughly the ton, so you aren’t tempted to get to licence-endangering hyperspeed. High speed itself is fun, but getting to that top speed is even more fun, and that’s where the Strom engine excels.
The chassis backs that muscle up perfectly, keeping you planted and giving you the confidence to push your limits bit by bit. Dragging pegs on an adventure bike? I think a lot of owners are going to be tempted well beyond their usual comfort zone on this machine…
The two biggest improvements this bike could use are tubeless spoked rims and a better gas tank. By that, I mean a gas tank with lobes down deep along the engine’s side, like KTM uses with its 790 and 890 Adventure models. I would think this would improve the handling by better centralizing the weight. I will, however, concede that I am not an engineer, and perhaps smarter people than myself examined this option and rejected it for good reason.
Base price in Canada is $13,299, plus whatever fees your dealer adds (variable) and taxes (as sure as death). I think that’s about where the price needs to be, although Honda’s Transalp is about $700 less, but it doesn’t come with quite so many features as standard, and no more horsepower. BMW’s F900 GS comes in at $14,595, which is quite a chunk more. But ultimately, the consumer will be the final judge in this segment…