Suzuki has extended the touring potential of its big V-Strom adventure bike with several accessories packages.
Not only has the versatile all-road bike been updated this year with traction control and styling that has turned it from an ugly duckling into the swan of the adventure pack, but they have supplemented the bike with a wide range of accessories.
They include hand guards, grip warmers, spotlights, luggage, higher/lower seats, centre stand, protection bars, windscreen options and more. You can pick and choose and buy them separately, or you can choose from one of four accessories packs that are cheaper than buying all the items individually.
It starts with a touring pack for $699 that includes a tank protector, handguards, lower cowling, accessory bar and decals. The adventure pack ($1799) adds panniers and the voyager pack ($2599) adds a centre stand, large touring screen and dry roll bag. Top of the line is the grand touring pack ($3399) which also throws in a hard top box and LED indicators.
If you add this to the basic bike which costs $15,490 (+ORC), you get a pretty handy bike for touring the whole of Australia, without having to spend anywhere near the money asked for some of the other exotic big adventure tourers on the market.
And on a recent two-day adventure ride through some rugged country in northern NSW, accompanied by riders on far more expensive machinery, the big Suzi held its head high and kept its nose out in the front of the pack.
At the heart of the V-Strom is the 1037cc 90-degree V-twin engine that gives little away to some of the 1200s on the market. It doesn’t have the low-end grunt of a GS, but it does come to life in the midrange like the Triumph Explorer triple.
That makes it a little tricky in the scrub where you want low-end torque and where the midrange spike can cause it to suddenly break traction and snap out at the tail. Thankfully the fuelling is good and the throttle is smooth and controllable.
To keep things under control, it has a two-stage traction control which you can quickly change on the fly by pulling in the clutch and selecting the control via a mode switch on the left handlebar. It cuts engine power by controlling the ignition timing and air delivery.
The first stage is probably a little too intrusive, which makes motivation uphill on a loose surface quite difficult. So I found myself switching it on and off over rough and hilly terrain. In the end I left it off and just regulated the smooth throttle a little more judiciously.
I also tried the second stage, which is highly excitable as soon as you lose any traction at all. It would only be of use on wet and greasy roads.
Power delivery is well matched to the slick six-speed gearbox. You can quickly and easily run up and down the first few gears to take full effect of that midrange power band.
In the top gears, you can be a little lazier. In fact, in sixth, it is revving a shade under 4000rpm at 100km/h which is just short of the power spike at 4500 revs, so rapid overtaking is a simple matter of rolling on the throttle.
My only concern here is that the gear shift lever was too low and clumsy to adjust, so I had difficulty getting my lumpy adventure boot underneath to change gears. I just used the lip on the side of my boots for upshifts, but you could get the tools out and set it properly. Over on the other side, the rear brake lever is also difficult to adjust. It was set right for sitting, but was too low when standing.
The new Tokico four-piston monoblock front brake calipers and 310mm floating-mount dual discs are simply awesome with plenty of feel and enormous stopping power. The rear Nissin single-piston caliper and 260mm disc is also good, but doesn’t have as much feel. Together, they work brilliantly in all conditions.
They come with ABS which is not switchable, but I found it worked really well even on the dirt. On the brakes into corners with a loose surface, the bike “swims” around a bit, but you can control it and back the rear end into corners just like a pro.
It also helps that the V-Strom comes with Suzuki Clutch Assist System (SCAS) which is a slipper clutch for downshifts. It means you can quickly drop gears without locking up the back wheel.
The test bike came with brand-new Michelin Anakee III rubber which is a compromise adventure/road tyre. On decomposed granite roads they are no worse than a knobby tyre, but on the looser stuff, gravel and loam the front searches for grip while the rear slides around under peaky power and braking.
If it all goes pear-shaped, the engine protection bars look tough enough to save the bike from disaster, but the hand guards and the lower cowling are made of a hard plastic and may not take much punishment.
The riding position is high and neutral with a generous reach to the bars and pegs for a comfortable long-haul ride. The seat is well padded and shaped and I didn’t get sore even after sitting down for more than two hours riding the highway home. The seat has been lowered a little, but you can also get higher and lower seats so the bike will suit a wider range of riders.
The tank is now slimmer at the back which makes it more comfortable when standing, but it flares out a bit so when you are sitting your legs are still splayed out.
Steering feels light and easy, but it’s slightly vague into a corner because of the 19-inch front tyre. It feels stable at high speed and holds its line through a bend really well with hardly any effort required to readjust. On the bitumen, the tyres feel secure even at high lean angles and lend the bike a very dependable feel that instils confidence.
The new 43mm KYB inverted front forks have a sporty and light feel. They dive a little under brakes but provide a plush ride over rough terrain. One one occasion, I hit a big rock and it bounced the front wheel off line, but it didn’t send the bike into a tank slapper.
On high-frequency irregularities such as inside-corner corrugations, the suspension gets very busy and fussy, but the light rear swingarm helps keep the wheel down for good traction.
The V-Strom weighs 228kg wet but it doesn’t feel heavy, possibly because of the light front forks, lightweight Enkei spoked wheels and commanding rider position over the bars. It certainly doesn’t require much muscling around and feels light to push off the centre or side stands.
My test bike had the “GT” decals, but it didn’t come with the large touring screen or centre stand of the GT pack. I think the larger screen would be handy as at 187cm tall, I copped a bit of buffeting on the top of my helmet even when the easily adjustable screen was titled all the way forward and raised.
I didn’t take the panniers with me because it was only a short trip, but all the luggage works off the ignition key, and they are easy to attach and remove.When you arrive at your destination, just unlock, grab the handle and take your cases inside.
The rounded cases look great, but they are on the small side and don’t feel extremely robust. However, over some trough terrain, the rear top box stayed in place and didn’t fall off as I have experienced with a similar hard-plastic case.
I’m not a big fan of side-opening panniers as the contents can spill out when you open the door. These have retaining straps which are a little clumsy, but help keep contents in place.
Long-range touring is easy thanks to the comfortable riding position and fuel economy around 5L/100km which means almost 400km range from the 20-litre tank.
Instruments on the new bike are much more comprehensive and easy to read. There isn’t much missing from the info and the 12V outlet is conveniently located right up front so you can run a short lead to a phone charger, CB or GPS.
It’s a great adventure touring package at a very reasonable price and now it’s the smartest looking weapon in the crowded adventure pack.