Last week I had the chance to ride the new 2012 Suzuki V-Strom ABS 650. This wasn't just a jaunt around the block but rather a 400-mile only-stop-for-fuel-and-ice-cream ride across the flat desert highways and mountain twisties of California and Arizona. After picking up the bike from Suzuki and a short spin around the parking lot for familiarization I was off and running.
Suzuki classifies the V-Strom ABS 650 as a road-biased adventure bike. It was designed to address the fastest growing segment of the motorcycle market, dual sport adventure riding. A bike that you can load up with a few supplies and go explore without feeling limited on where you choose to go.
Consider the V-Strom to be 80% street and 20% dirt. The first thing I noticed was that the fender clearance to the 19" front wheel was never intended to allow for even the most benign knobby tire. An aggressive set of all-terrain tires is likely the most you can get away with and for this bike that's perfect. This bike is comfortable on the flat-out highway, the tight mountain curves and can handle itself on forest roads and two-track trails short of rock fields and ledges.
A note on width, the measurement, in the chart below, for the 650 ABS Adventure includes the panniers for a total width of 45 inches (1143 mm). At the engine guards the bike is 24 inches (609 mm) wide and 32 inches (835 mm) wide at the handlebars.
Seating and Ergonomics:
The seat on the V-Strom has proven to be one of my favorite features. It addresses the dual sport nature of the bike very nicely as the back of the seat is wide enough to endure long stretches of highway and the front of the seat is narrow allowing the rider to stand on the pegs in the dirt and hug the bike with their legs or shift weight forward for a more aggressive position in the turns.
The seating position is almost like sitting at a table with an upright back and hands forward to high and angled bars that extend comfortably back to the rider. After a few hours on the road, move back a bit and get some added support from the 2-3 inch rise built into the wider part of the seat. It's surprising how much it supports your lower back.
Out of the box the bike is comfortable, nothing struck me as odd or illogical in design. The V-Strom has both a higher and lower seat available to help dial in your riding position and if you plan on a lot of standing while riding on the dirt I would recommend a good set of bar risers and some wider pegs.
Controls and Braking:
The throttle is tight and responsive as is expected and all of the primary controls are standard. The dashboard has an analog tachometer and a nice clear digital display that was easily readable even in direct sunlight. Part of the digital display shows Distance To Empty and average MPG. The trick however is that the button to control this part of the display is on the backside of the left hand control cluster, opposite the horn and operated with your left index finger, I did not find it until the end of the day! Also notable are the side view mirrors that actually allow you to see past your shoulders.
Suspension & Handling:
The front suspension is well balanced and resists exaggerated diving during stops. The rear suspension is adjustable with a convenient control on the right hand side of the bike. The V-Strom ABS 650 has a fairly low center of gravity to help manage its almost 500 pounds. Steering input is controlled and responsive. On the street the fairly stiff suspension prevents the front end from becoming light during acceleration. We need more testing on the dirt!
Wind protection for the rider is provided by a large front windscreen and a three-position adjustable extension at the top so the rider can customize the air bubble to their height.
Stock, the bike has a few areas of vulnerability. The exhaust pipe stretches out and down with no protection and the oil filter is located low down front and center, the first place rocks and ledges usually look to cause you trouble. However Suzuki does offer an accessory to help protect both these soft spots, it's referred to as the Under Cowling and it wraps around the leading bottom half of the engine. Touratech also makes a more heavy-duty option that would be a good choice for more aggressive riding or unpredictable terrain. Other necessary ad-ons include hand guards, a chain guard and an engine / fairing guard that they call an Accessory Bar. All of these are available from Suzuki and can be added to the bike from the dealer at purchase.
Economy and Range:
The Suzuki V-Strom ABS 650 is an easy 250-mile bike. I would bet that a well practiced hyper-miler could push 300 miles on the road! The tank capacity is 5.3 US Gallons and our initial test ride averaged 52.5 miles per gallon over flat highways, paved mountain switchbacks and the occasional acceleration, umm... "test"!
Engine and Drive:
The 645cc liquid cooled V-Twin moves the bike quite nicely. The first five gears allow for a responsive throttle and the taller 6th gear behaves like an over drive on the highway, allowing the bike to settle in and conserve fuel. One thing that was noticeable was the lack of engine noise. It's a 4-stroke with the cylinders at 90 degrees to one another. The low vibration and noise levels really make a difference on long rides and they let you enjoy your surroundings just a little more.
The bike itself is quite intuitive. It is not especially aggressive nor is it underpowered. It is well balanced, comfortable and forgiving with plenty of power to move when you need it to. Add some camping gear and go find some adventure!
The mount for an optional top case.
Pannier detail - a place to secure additional luggage ontop.
Tokico calipers stop the dual front floating rotors.
Specifications: (From Suzuki Motorcycles Web site)
- Overall Length 2290 mm (90.2 in)
- Overall Width 1143 mm (45 in)
- Overall Height 1405 mm (55.3 in)
- Wheelbase 1560 mm (61.4 in)
- Ground Clearance 175 mm (6.9 in)
- Seat Height 835 mm (32.9 in)
- Curb Weight 235 kg (519 lbs)
- Transmission 6-speed constant mesh
- Final Drive Chain, DID525V8, 118 links
- Suspension Front Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped
- Suspension Rear Link type, coil spring, oil damped
- Brakes Front Disc brake, twin
- Brakes Rear Disc brake
- Tires Front 110/80R19 M/C 59H, tubeless
- Tires Rear 150/70R17 M/C 69H, tubeless
- Fuel Tank Capacity 20.0 L (5.3 US gallons)
- Displacement 645cc, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 90-degree V-twin
- Fuel System Suzuki fuel injection
- Starter Electric
- Ignition Electronic ignition (transistorized)