650 V Strom....a ride report
After my trip out west this summer, and seeing that lots of neat roads were missed due to the fact that they were dirt and I was on a K1200RS, I got the jones for an Adventure Bike. The obvious choise was a BMW. The R1200GS went to the top of the list, but then reality set in and I just didn't want to spend $15 large on another bike. Internet forums led me to a couple other choices but the V Strom bikes kept getting the best reviews and as hard as I looked, I could find no negative issues with them. Very impressive. the Suzuki V Strom comes in two flavors, 1000cc and 650cc. The liter bike has been available for a few years and the 650 was just released this year. The 650 uses the same frame and running gear as the 1000 with a slightly lowered seat and a single muffler. There are also slight changes to the front forks, but basically the same bike with a smaller engine. The engine on the V Strom 650 is the same great motor that has been available in the SV 650 sport bike for years. The torque curve has been modified for touring/adventure riding by the addition of different cams, but in general the same great V Twin motor thousands of SV 650 rides have come to love.
Retail price, delivered on the 1000 runs around $9000 and the 650 runs around $6800. I'm not sure why there is such a huge difference in price, but that's the story.
So to cut to the chase, a Suzuki 650 V Strom was the bike I'd get...But, try to find one. I called at least a dozen dealers in the North East and no one had one. They all said they sold everything they could get. A very successful motorcycle.
Cycletrader.com led me to a used one down in Memphis Tn. I called the PO and he told me he had dropped the bike, but the damage was simply a few scratches on the front of the fairing and the GIVI bag on that side was scratched. The Bike had 4000 miles and includes Givi bags and racks, optional center stand, TourTech tank bag and a bunch of maintenance accessories. All for $4900! I told him my son and I would be coming through Memphis in a couple of days and if the bike was as described, I'd take it off his hands. Once we got to Memphis, I called him, the bike was as described so I purchased it and rode it to my friends farm in southern Missouri, four hours away. On this four hour ride through Arkansas and Missouri I realized I had made a good choice. But four hours isn't long enought to really get the feel of a long range touring motorcycle.
Once I returned home after depositing my youngest son into the hands of Los Angeles (small tear rolls down cheek....) I booked a flight to Missouri and returned to ride the V Strom home. So now the report.....
My first concern about this whole deal, was that I was buying a 650cc motorcycle. My last experience with anything 650 in the way of a road bike was a 1985 R65. This bike was sold because it had no "snot". It just couldn't get out of its own way on super slabs. Maybe it was the example I had and YMMV, but I needed more power. I've been touring the last few years on a K1200RS, and not many bikes on the road have this kind of power. I was concerned the the 650 V Strom would be a real let down. Let me report right here and now, NO ISSUE, The 650 V Strom rocks! I rode hours on end from Allentown PA to Dartmouth at 75-80+ mph with never a hickup! I'm simply amazed at how strong this little 650 is. Not sure is this would be the case with two up and or a pilot that weighs more than 180 pounds. But with me and all my camping and touring gear it was plenty of bike. BTW, top speed is a few clicks over 115 mph as indicated by GPS. I just had to know....:-)
The engine is amazingly smooth. Absolutly no vibrations at any speed. No tingly feet or hands after long times in the saddle. I rode 14 hours one day and 12 hours the next followed by a highspeed superslab run from Allentown to Dartmouth in under 5 hours. I would think if any bad issues with vibration were to show up, this ride would have uncovered them. The engine pulls like the Kennedys in Massachusetts. Even when I was in the wrong gear (I miss my gear indicator), it would simply pull like a John Deere.
Handling...If you have ever ridden Rt 219 in the eastern mountains of West Virginia then you know of the absolutly fantastic road of which I speak! This few hundred miles of twisties rivals most roads out west! Talk about banked s curves! And a perfect, racetrack quality surface. Amazing! The V Strom turns into corners like Nick Nolte into bars! It changes direction like Kerry. The great upright riding position has alot to do with this, but the bikes geometry just lends itself to be a conyon carver.
Comfort.....The riding position is just like a GS...sit up and beg....but the seat really sucks! But the good news is Suzuki offers three replacement touring seats. Two conventional padded seats, one 20mm higher and one 20mm lower and a wider "gel" touring seat. Here's the amazing news. I ordered the gel seat for $138!!! The other seats sell for $150...... The bars are great, just the right position for a 6'1" rider. The wind screen is fully adjustable (only on the 2004 versions, seems older versions had lots of issues with buffeting). Adjustment required removal and replacement of a few screws. Not something you can do while riding. But once adjusted, there is absolutly no buffeting and wind noise is at a minimum. One of the quietest bikes I've ever riden. During one afternoon of rain, I was very please how well the screen and fairing kept me relatively dry.
Brakes.........The brakes are great, but I really wish it had ABS. I understand that the 2005 SV 650 will offer ABS, so I'm sure in a few years we'll see ABS offered on the Stroms. But for conventional brakes they work great. Very little dive, hard to lock up, but will stop you in short order when needed.
Luggage capacity....The GIVI 41L bags are great. These bags have small doors on the lids with combination locks that allow access to the interior without opening the whole bag. What a freaking great idea! You can't believe how handy this is on the road. BTW, during that rain storm I mentioned, there wasn't a drop of water in the bags... The tail rack is huge. With my sleeping mat, large Ortlib bad and tent tied down, I still had tons of room left for a pillion or more gear. A far cry from my K bike.
Other.....I rode 1700 miles in two and a half days. Didn't use a drop of oil, and received 45-52 mpg during the trip. One can travel 200+ miles before the little "gas" icon flashes and then another 50 miles before the entire digital gas guage flashes. At this point you have about 30 miles before you are walking. If you run out of gas with this bike, you are a moron! It gives you more warnings than Allen Greenspan.
Other, Other.........Yea, yea, yea....It has a chain. Big deal. I'll replace it every 15-20K for very little $$ and keep a can of chain lube in the bags on a long trip. The blue colorhas got to go! Terrible. It will be silver before Wacky Hat if I have the time. Could use more lights, but the stock lights are fine. I'm just a light nut (See Mallory). I've installed GPS, 12 Volt outlets and an auxillary fuse box (Jeff, when you coming down). The big addition will be an Audiovox Cruise Control that lots of folks are retrofitting to various motorcycles. The big K has cruise and now I'm spoiled! And of course, I gotta install my air horns.......
So that's it. If you have the need for an Adventure bike and don't want to spend a big part of the kids inheritence, a V Strom is my recommendation....
Pictures and some of the modifications I've performed already are here