2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650 – Review

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Why you don’t want the best motorcycle you’ll ever ride

What makes a motorcycle good? Is it big horsepower numbers and a long list of novel technology? Its ability to triple the highway speed limit? Is it presence in a TV show or its ability to impress your buddies on a motorcycle forum? This new 2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650 has none of that. When it leaked last year, we even called it boring. But, after spending over a month on it, that opinion has changed totally. The V-Strom might not be the sexiest motorcycle out there, but it is the most broadly capable we’ve ridden.

Photos: Sean Smith

Yikes

I didn’t want to ride the V-Strom. Totally content with the Triumph Tiger 800 XC I’d been cruising around on for a while, I didn’t even realize Sean and Grant had added it to our fleet. Then, while we were in Portland, Triumph picked its bike back up and I was left to hop back on whatever was waiting for me in Sean’s garage. It turned out that bike was the V-Strom.

Someone at Suzuki’s design center forgot to sweep up.

Not so much plain as just hideously ugly, the Suzuki suffers from an unfortunate visual combination of Dame Edna headlamps, a hefty use of woefully fake carbon fiber, dumpy proportions, ugly mechanical components and just a general air of cheapness. In all black, at least, it’s so boring that you forget you’re looking at it.

That brings its own benefits. Running from Hollywood over to Inglewood the other day, to service one of Sean’s bell rings, I was too busy busting traffic to realize I’d entered a 25 zone in a neighborhood. On the wrong side of a double yellow, passing a line of stationary traffic, well over the speed limit, I passed a motor cop coming the other direction. He didn’t even blink; I don’t think the V-Strom even registered in his consciousness.

A Two-Wheeled Taxi Cab

And running around is what the V-Strom has been doing. Grant needed to run up to Willow Springs, an hour and a half of highway riding away, to scout a shoot we were doing. Did he take the KTM 990 Adventure, Aprilia Mana GT or that Tiger we had laying around? Nope, his go-to for highway comfort was the humble Suzuki.

Two weeks ago, I had to run to Brea so a 6’ 5” Frenchman could return a bike to the Victory dealer there. 45 minutes there, then an hour back, two up, with 385lbs and 12’ 7” of international bike journalist on board, through heavy LA rush hour traffic. After spending 30 seconds maxing out the rear preload via the handy remote adjuster, the little Suzuki didn’t just perform admirably carrying that load, it turned out to be probably the best passenger bike I’d ever ridden. Enough, that by the time we arrived home, David exclaimed at least six times, “I can’t believe I’m alive! I can’t believe I’m alive!”

The huge seat, low pillion pegs and enormous grab handles help there, obviously, but more important is the ability of the chassis to remain composed even carrying such an extraordinary load. Just a 68bhp 650, I was worried about the engine and brakes being up to the task too. I shouldn’t have been. From the first 1mph ride across the dealer’s parking lot to turn onto the road, it was clear that the V-Strom was going to remain utterly composed even with two big dudes on board. That remained true at 100mph, nearly fully leant over on a nice on-ramp and splitting up a gridlocked 101 at low speed to get home. The V-Strom was absolutely as good two-up as it is solo.

Stop!

The single best thing about this bike? The brakes. They’re not radials, there’s no braided steel lines, even Suzuki’s official spec sheet doesn’t make must mention of them, just listing “Disc brake, twin” in place of the typical marketing hullabaloo. There’s humble twin Tokico sliding calipers up front and an ABS sensor ring. It’s the latter that makes the difference. Squeeze the front lever as hard as you can, stomp on the rear, and the Suzuki just stops. No drama, no vibration, no weird feedback from the ABS unit. These are some of the most reassuring, powerful, easy-to-use motorcycle brakes ever. Reasonable quality damping means the front dives in a controlled manner while delivering excellent feedback through the Bridgestone Trailwings.

The brakes work equally well when you’re not panic braking too. Again, good damping and excellent feel through every component just equals complete confidence. That’s true trailing through high speed mountain corners, between lines of traffic in town or just before that cop with the radar gun sees you on the highway. If you’re not a believer in ABS on motorcycles yet, just try the V-Strom and prepare to be a total convert.

Continue Reading: 2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650 Review >>

  • Your_Mom

    You are basically making the same argument I have made to those who ask why the Kawasaki Versys is the “perfect” bike (which doesn’t exist). I call it the thinking man’s motorcycle; or the motorcycle for the rational man. Great review and thanks.

  • http://www.TroyRank.com Troy R

    You see, Mr. Adverse to all risk…

    Best diatribe in all of motorcycling. I’m going to memorize like that bible shit in Pulp Fiction.

    • BMW11GS

      Strictly it is not true that all who don’t ride are risk adverse, at least at my age (23) My friends(I suspect) hate the inconvenience that putting on motorcycle gear/planning ahead for the conditions etc that come along with it. You put them in a car however and they will get irritated by motorcycles and take large risks to drive the way they see fit. They don’t quite see a reward in motorcycling other than being “cool,” which they know to be ephemeral and just see downsides.

      Or maybe they are just reacting to my faded blue and yellow aerostich? haha

      • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

        That’s kinda funny how they would dislike the inconvenience of gearing up. I dislike the inconvenience using car doors and entering/exiting a car, doing up seat belts etc. when I can just throw a leg over a motorcycle.

        • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

          I generally only talk about the mother of all inconvenience: parking.

          • BMW11GS

            Out in the residential area we live there really is not a problem with parking. I still don’t get it though, I think what it boils down to is that they see it as just one of many lifestyle choices and one that offers them no clear advantage. Cars make life easier and when you don’t really think about costs, less expensive and more convenient. I am not saying it is, but it has been an uphill battle to convince most of my buddies that riding is not just for cruiser dudes or sportbike tools.

    • coredump

      With Wes and Sean both suffering bad crashes and breaking bones this year starting off a diatribe with, “You see, Mr. Adverse to all risk.” rings a bit hollow…

      • DoctorNine

        Actually, I’d say the opposite. Accepting the possibility of a broken bone or two is the only way one can rationally do things like hang-glide, parachute, motorcycle, or ski. If you want to feel alive, you have to take the risk.

        Of course, the more experience one has, the more carefully one can approach that risk. But one can live too safely, and never have a thing to remember when the days finally dwindle to the end.

        When one has health and strength, one should test it against the world.
        This is why you are here.

        • Filipe

          +1

  • Tommy

    I too, use a lot of these same arguments to justify owning a versys. I’d sure like a fun toy eventually, but being a one bike, no car, kind of guy, its perfect.

    Too bad most dudes that own them will never realize how good they’ve got it, and dudes that could realize it, will never ride one.

    • Mr.Paynter

      Yep.
      The R6 guy and peanut gallery (Read: young guys in my office who dont even ride) cant understand why I have an ER-6N and “sit more up looking so awkward and uncomfortable”

      I will never be the kind of guy who only has the less-capable toy in my garage, I believe in picking your weapon wisely!

  • 10/10ths

    Well done.

    As the owner of a 2004 RC51, a 1997 Ducati Monster, and a 2004 V-Strom 650, I have to say that the V-Strom is the greatest motorcycle in the world.

    You did not mention the fantastic headlights that light up country roads at night.

    The payload capacity of the V-Strom is enormous. These bikes just do everything incredibly well with very low operating costs.

    Bravo on a great review.

  • DavidMG

    I’ve got a 2011, was out riding today and I love it. I don’t feel a special need to stare at it after I’m done with it though. However, I get such satisfaction of owning and riding what is a ridiculously cheap, and capable bike that just works.

    I also drive a SAAB, which I realize now is very similar to the wee. Sensible, practical, lots of power where you need it, unassuming, safe choice.

    This is funny though, I’ve heard LOTS of (I’m assuming not sarcastic) compliments of the wee from non-riders. “Wow, beautiful bike” “nice bike.” I always go: “really?”

    • 80-watt Hamster

      I get a surprising number of similar reactions to my Versys. I don’t even think it’s a good looking machine, and it’s my ride.

    • Gregory

      What would be the SAAB of the motorcycle world?

      By “SAAB”, I mean a vehicle that is feminine, creative, intelligent, feline, eccentric distinctive and progressive.

      Perhaps the Aprilia Mana? Perhaps the Yamaha Mobius? Any ideas?

      -g

      • DavidMG

        I think the boxer beemers share some of the quirkyness and practicality that define SAAB for me. The /5 /6 bikes for example.

        I have no idea what a Mobius is and google didn’t help.

      • BigRooster

        The SAAB of motorcycles? Easy – Moto Guzzi. No dealers. Perpetually on the verge of banruptcy. Expensive parts. Built like tanks and reliable. Quirky. Practical (for the most part). A little overpriced. Fun,engaging and interesting.

        Loyal owners that love them. *BTW, I have a SAAB and a Goose.

        • DavidMG

          Haha, yup I think you nailed it. What kind of guzzi do you have? I’d love a Grisso 8V.

          • BigRooster

            Griso 4v 1100 and 04 9-5 Linear wagon with shit ton of miles

            • DavidMG

              Nice stable. I’ve got an 09 9-3 XWD 2.0T.

            • Roman

              Oh man, that would totally be my garage if I was a liberal college professor in Vermont.

  • Dan

    You guys are assholes. I’m trying to convince myself that it’s time to move from my SV650 to something with a little more sex appeal and you go and publish something like this…

    • Edward

      I wouldn’t discount sex appeal – it’s a virtue all by itself. Otherwise, we’d all ride v-stroms and drive accords.

    • http://www.cdavisdesigns.com Chris Davis

      They all pretty much look the same when you’re on them. Enjoy the ride through your own eyes.

      • Kevin

        True dat. The new V-Strom actually has a pretty nice dash.

    • http://pinkyracer.com pinkyracer

      I saw a ratted out, quasi-customized naked SV with a great pipe and was all “damn, that’s a sexy bike.’ I was surprised when he told me what it was. It didn’t make it any less sexy, it just made me realize what was missing about the SV- she’s too “girl next door”. Take her downtown, get her some tattoos & piercings, and she’s pretty sexy with that voice. Almost dangerous, even.

  • 10/10ths

    DavidMG,

    Yes, same here. Non-riders are constantly saying, “cool bike.”

    Of course, I have a P-40 warhawk style shark mouth on my enormous first gen V-Strom fairing.

    Chicks dig it.

    • Mike

      Exactly. Pretty much the only way I could rock a Vstrom would in be in full zebra-print layout. Something, anything, to keep it from being the most boring machine this side of a BMW F650.
      (so, uh, any enterprising vinyl-cutters out there?)

    • filly-fuzz

      Same but on my lid!

  • Devin

    I’ll third what DavidDMG and 10/10ths said. Non-riders and, strangely, Harley riders seem to love it. I love the looks of my XMoto, but the V-Strom gets the compliments from the over 30 crowd.

    I jokingly entered my 2007 with full guards, luggage, and pinstriping by Mr. Douglas Fir into the “sportbike” category at a primarily cruiser show, and won against a Ducati 996 and a ZX-6r with custom paint.

    • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

      That’s awesome. Did the 996′s owner ever stopped crying?

      • oldnick

        Winning the competition is the funniest thing I’ve heard in ages. And this comment is the next funniest.

  • Roman

    Gonna be touring northern Cali on a VStrom 1000 in about 3 months, so appreciate the review. Also really glad to hear positive things about passenger accommodations. Man, I can’t freaking wait…

  • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D [EX500]

    It seems like the perfect bike to rent on vacation. Not going to get you into trouble, can carry all your luggage, can handle a lot of exploring, probably cheap/available.

    The most sensible bike ridden on city errands is still more fun than 95% of cars driven anywhere.

    • DavidMG

      “The most sensible bike ridden on city errands is still more fun than 95% of cars driven anywhere.”

      This!

      It’s silly, all I did today on the bike was go to the bank, have breakfast, bought a book, rode around to a park, read for a bit, rode some more, picked up lunch, went home. Stupid stuff, yet I had a blast. Thanks motorcycles.

      • nick2ny

        Thanks motorcycles!

        • Kevin

          We just love you motorcycles… you’re the best

  • Campisi

    Reminded me of this.

    My problem with the V-Strom is that I am a deeply impractical man; the disadvantages and inabilities of a thing are partly responsible for its character. A bike that does just about everything reasonably well can make things so uninterestingly easy.

  • BMW11GS

    I had a 2005 V-strom 650 before I bought my ’95 R1100GS and I still think about how much I liked so many aspects of it whenever I ride my 1100. I would have definitely kept it if it had ABS (got in my first motorcycle “accident” on it because I locked the front).

    However over time I couldn’t quite sort out the niggles I had with upgrading the suspension and that sort of aggravated me. Also I am a perpetual tinkerer and the Vstrom can really be neglected and still work well. Though on the flip side, it can be expensive/difficult to fix some of its inadequacies.

    My 1100GS has all sorts of oilhead beemer character and idiosyncrasies that I appreciate, but my Vstrom was like a golden retriever or a Marine, semper fidelis.

  • Korayama

    Had an 07 DL1000, put about 30K miles on it and it was such a great bike. Ran like a sewing machine and would do 100 all day long. Perfect bike.

  • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

    As fast as you’re willing to go… unless you hit the rev limiter each ride because you’re used to riding a GSX-R600. Haha.

    Well that was an older SV650, but I’m guessing the engines are pretty much the same – which would be a very good thing.

    Nice article!

  • Paul

    My wife and I rented a DL650 in New Zealand a few years back. Two up, fully loaded, through the mountains, it never let me down. When I got back to Canada I bought one as soon as I could. I’ll never sell it.

  • Michael

    Suzukis 650 twins are awesome. Yeah both the SV650/s and the wee-strom are budget bikes, but they are “good enough” and very fun to ride.

    • Scott-jay

      ’04 SV650S, best bike I ever sold.
      Also, worst seat.
      Milestone motorcycle series.
      Chinese cloned it (high praise these days).

  • Toby

    I had a 2008 V-Strom (no ABS, bought brand new) and loved it, but… the brakes were total shit. On par with my CBR250 for feel and stopping power. I would switch sometimes with my buddy on his ’06 FJR1300 and the brakes on that thing were night and day better. Going back to the V-Strom was like trying to stop a Flintstone car.

    The new ones don’t look any different, either – twin Tokico floating calipers on the ’08 too.

  • http://www.twowheelsplus.com/ Anders

    The motorcycle eqvivalent of a Subaru

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

      Perf.

  • http://www.amarokconsultants.com michael uhlarik

    Let me see…

    Affordable? Check.
    Easy to use? Check.
    Multipurpose? Check.
    Cheap insurance, parts and maintenance? Check.

    It may not be One Of The Great icons in motorcycling, complete with movie tie-in and celebrity endorsement, but it sure as shit is a great motorcycle.

    Now if only Suzuki would actually get somebody with good taste to design the fucking thing we’d be in business.

    M

  • smoke4ndmears

    I have been looking at these and just today, driving into work I wondered to myself, “self, I wonder if HFL will ever report on the new DL650″.

    Synchronicity.

  • Devin

    I was torn between a V-Strom and a Bonneville. Looks were a big deciding factor for me. How I wish this bike was less ugly.

    Not disapointed in my Bonnie though, the only complaint I have is that the Strom has way better lights at night.

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

      Add a set of Clearwaters to your Bonn.

  • zipp4

    Nice review, Wes. One would almost think you are maturing :)

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Never.

  • BigRooster

    It’s funny that those that like the Vstrom see this as a flattering review while Suzuki marketing probably isnt going to trip over themselves to quote HFL in VStrom advertising.

    The 2012 Suzuki VStrom 650
    Hell for Leather magazine says…
    “…boring”
    “…Not so much plain as just hideously ugly”
    “…it’s so boring that you forget you’re looking at it”

    To me, those are deal breakers. If I’m spending $8-10k on something I want to swoon over it. I think a compromise in the middle of practical and sexy is key. There is no need to martyr one’s self on the alter of practicality, especially when it comes to a motorcycle. The motorcycle equivalent of a Camry seems like a poor choice when there are many interesting bikes out there with similar virtues without the dullness. Asthetics are important.

    • DavidMG

      Meh, I’m getting older, (nearly 30 :P ) practicality is much more rewarding to me. I’d feel guilty buying something that was born from my heart than my brain. That’s just the way I am I guess. I always regret decisions I make with my “heart.”

      The way I see it (no pun intended), I’m not looking at the damn thing when I’m riding it, so who cares what it looks like?

    • Zirq

      Haha! Hilarious BigRooster

    • Kevin

      Are any of the bikes in this class actually “sexy?” Mine says “Ducati” on the side, that’s as sexy as it gets compared to, say, an 848, an F3 or a Daytona 675R. And it only goes downhill when you sit on it and look like a gentleman going for a leisurely cruise. These bikes are not about sex appeal *as a class.*

  • http://www.muthalovin.com the_doctor

    I think it all depends on what you are satisfied with. I would be satisfied with all the attributes to the V-Strom, except the looks. Clearly, I am a superficial asshole, but I just need that “look at me” bike.

  • http://www.damiengaudet.blogspot.com damien

    Great write up, but that last paragraph says it all. Awesome bike in so many ways, but would you buy one? Not me (unless I had a couple other bikes as well).

    For the majority of people who own one motorcycle, not only does it have to perform…it has to look half-way decent.

    I mean, most bikes (if not all) are way better than their rider, so aesthetics are not as hollow a requirement as they once were.

    • http://pinkyracer.com pinkyracer

      yeah, I was thinking that too. I’m gonna get a Zero for around town (when I don’t feel like pedaling). I am CRAVING an Aprilia Dorsoduro, a bike that begs to be ridden long and hard, but lacks the wind protection and top speed one needs for such riding. As does this Suzuki. I ride sportbikes everywhere all the time and it doesn’t hurt. Which is why I keep insisting crotch rockets are for girls.

  • Kirill

    The Toyota Camry of motorcycles.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      It’s way better than that. The V-Strom likes going fast and is incredibly good in the corners. Which means the more you ride, the more engaged you are with the bike and the ride. She’s no KTM when it comes to the dirt, but I’d bet it’ll easiliy hold its own on the fireroads with the BMW crowd.

      The Camry comes standard with a snooze button. That’s more like the F800R.

      • Kirill

        Oh I know all about its capabilities. As a tool, the V-Strom is great. Its just that there’s nothing exciting about being seen on one or telling someone you have one.

        And it’ll easily hold its own with the BMW GS crew. Its probably the most-popular non-GS on adv behind the KLR, and that’s only because its more expensive than that tractor.

        • Gregory

          Did you just call my KLR a “tractor”?

          -g

          • Kirill

            As a former KLR owner myself, I believe I have the right to do so :)

  • Aienan

    Personally I’ve been considering selling my F800GS since I rode one of these last summer. I love my 800, and the power on the road is nice… but the VStrom just had a certain je ne sais quoi that made it a joy to drive. And the seat… oh the seat. After 6 hours on the 800 it was glorious.

  • markbvt

    Great write-up, Wes. I happily put 40,000 miles on my Wee-Strom in three years of ownership before selling it to my dad when I bought… a Tiger 800 XC. :)

    The Wee had no soul/personality, but it was utterly reliable (never even needed a valve adjustment), it was fun to ride, it was comfortable, and it was versatile, equally capable scraping pegs in the twisties or carrying me over 700 miles of gravel through Labrador. I continue to enthusiastically recommend the Wee-Strom to budget-minded motorcyclists who want a versatile, comfortable bike.

    One of the things I love about the Tiger 800 XC is that it takes all of the Wee’s good qualities and adds excitement and personality. The one drawback that I’m noticing this winter, though, is that I’m a lot more hesitant to take the Tiger out on salty roads (even dry ones) than I was the Wee. I just didn’t care that much if a spot of rust might develop on the Wee. I kind of want my old one back for winter riding!

  • Gene

    I had an ’06 and it was a chunk of shit.

    It had no power, the fairing was poorly engineered, the windshield was useless, the radiator would get trashed if it fell over, it handled like a pogo stick, and the stock seat couldn’t get from Orlando to Daytona without at least one stop. I spent another $3K at Twisted Throttle buying things like a center stand, crash bars, a seat, braided lines, springs, and Gold Valves and it was still a piece of shit.

    It’s the only bike I’ve ever traded in, and boy that was a happy day.

    • Dana Seero

      How did you trash the radiator? I got hit from the side by a Honda Accord at 40mph and rode home. A center stand, crash bars, seat, springs, braided lines and Gold valves is around $1,000, not $3,000.

      Quite a few DL650′s are around now with over 100,000 miles and nothing but routine maintenance. I’ve ridden mine on everything from 4×4 trails to track days. It’s become a bit of a “conquest” bike ridden by people sick of messing with exotic but finicky bikes.

  • wwalkersd

    I have a love/mildly dislike relationship with my ’02 DL-1000. It has pretty much all the attributes you ascribe to the Wee, but with the added plus of a whole lot more power. For me, it’s a sit-up-straight sport bike (but I’ll admit that the closest thing I’ve ridden to a liter sport bike is a K1200S, although I’ve ridden 600s in track schools) with some touring capability. It’s ugly as sin, and the 1-2 shift annoys me every single time, but it’s otherwise a lot of fun.

  • contender

    Thanks Wes. I wasn’t feeling bad enough for buying a gremlin-laden Ulysses.

    • smoke4ndmears

      gremlins aside, what do you think?

      • contender

        It’s the best bike I’ve ever ridden when it’s working. Great power and handling and decent gas mileage with heated grips and a topcase. Chasing down electrical problems is quickly eroding the enthusiasm, though.

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Erik himself rides a Ulysses.

          • contender

            Once I get it working I’ll forget the ill feelings I’m sure. And then I’ll get a back brake that works.

            • smoke4ndmears

              Most of the issues stem from the VR don’t they? And regarding the back brake, I mounted a brembo p32f to my 1125…

              • contender

                Yeah, so I read. But I can’t find my multimeter to verify, and I don’t want to order the part until I am certain. Maybe I’ll go grab one tonight.

  • Jeremy

    Anyone have thoughts on whether the 650 would work for 2-up riding with a lot of weight? I’m 260 lbs, and I would like to occasionally take my partner on rides. She’s about 150. I don’t need a rocket ship, but I can’t decide if I’d need the 1000cc. The vstrom forums say mixed things. I ride an 883 Sportster right now, and it’s fine for me but not enough motor for two people.

    • Kirill

      The Wee has way more motor and far less weight than an 883. Also, Wes mentioned riding 2up with almost 400 lbs of human on it with no problems. You should be fine without going up to the 1000.

    • lowslydr

      I ride 2up on my DL 650 all the time, no problem. I can still pass cars at 70mph etc.

  • contender

    What was the observed fuel economy? For most bikes this is largely irrelevent, but I think that when talking practicality it is germane to the conversation.

    • BigRooster

      Why stop there. If we are talking practical we should also factor TCO and and resale.

  • 2ndderivative

    C’mon Suzuki, right-size (and de-uglify) this package and bring back your street 650.

  • T Diver

    So does this mean you can do wheelies with your groceries?

  • 10/10ths

    My ’04 returns 50 mpg and I’ve gone 220 miles on a tank.

    • markbvt

      My ’08 frequently returned 55mpg and I’ve gone 260 miles on a tank, and still had some gas left. The Wee is a very economical bike.

  • http://bloodfalcons.blogspot.com motoguru

    Y’know if you scrape off that rubber coating on the front brake lines, you’ll fine steel braids.

  • Myles

    Do people in The West characterize Japanese (or Korean, or Chinese) vehicles as “having no soul” because they feel that way about people in The East? Asian manufactures deal with this criticism very frequently, and it kind of correlates with the way Western Media portrays The East (remember how people reacted to the synchronized performances during the Beijing Olympics? “They’re TOO in-sync, they’re all mindless robots under a communist regimeee!!!!!!!!”).

    It’s very easy to say, “A motorcycle is an emotional thing. There’s just something about Motorcycle A that makes me want it more than Motorcycle B, even though Motorcycle B logically makes more sense” and go on your day – but this is a very dangerous personal precedent. That thing you “can’t quite put your finger on” is usually societal conditioning. A combination of advertising, what your neighbor thinks, and what generations before you thought (among a multitude of other things).

    Sometimes this can be harmless, like “My dad had a Triumph when he was a young man, he still has a picture of her hanging in his office. It would be pretty sweet to tool around town on a Bonnie.”, but can also be, “My dad always said to never buy anything built by those Japs.”

    This kind of thing effects every living human every day, and it’s important to be cognizant of this fact. If you can’t figure out why you want something (or why one machine “has more soul” than another), you should probably hold on your purchase.

    • cramer

      Well said.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Our criticism has nothing to do with country of origin.

      The Triumph Bonneville, for instance, has all the character of a sewing machine.

      • Sean Smith

        A very polite and gentlemanly sewing machine.

      • markbvt

        A stock Bonnie is overly polite, true. But with a set of Predator pipes and an airbox delete, that bike really comes to life and exhibits tons of character.

        • TheBoatDude

          Also, don’t forget to add in suspension and brake upgrades…

    • Campisi

      The “soul” of a machine in my experience is the summation of all of the engineering flaws that I don’t find particularly bothersome. I’m sure the Japanese engineers spent thousands of hours tracking down all of those little Italianate issues that would otherwise constitute character (and possible reliability issues down the road), and the market as a whole clearly respects that.

      Personally, I’d rather have an anthropomorphizing attachment to a machine that occasionally annoys me than see my flawless unliving transportation tool as nothing more than such.

  • DoctorNine

    Because, motorcycle.
    That is all. Thank you.

  • brady butterfield

    My first bike is a 1981 Yamaha XJ 650 MaximI. I bought it because it’s cheap enough that as a Noob I can get my feet wet actually riding and wrenching on a bike that I paid cash for. I bought this paticular bike because it’s unique as a mix of different eras and themes. It has a black painted tank matching a cafe surround, a non-70′s seat much like a new Bonnie’s, and a new set of white wall Avons. I have the bike running safe and sweet. Rebuilding and tuning was a lot of fun, cleaning and syncing those four carbs was a blast. I have been driving it every day lately and people love it. The cruiser guys think it’s weird untill I tell them that she has 70 horsepower and can run 12′s while still being able to turn and stop. The little four is nice and smooth and the roar from those four carbs spitting out of their K&N pods sounds awesome.

    I guess my point is that you can still make a boring bike unique with the small things. I would love a Wee Strom but it would definetly be purchased used and there would be some small changes.

  • PlanetZoltar

    A nice bike

  • DucMan

    I love my ’04 “Wee-Strom” and if I could only own one bike, she would be the one. Thankfully I don’t have to only own one bike and a Ducati Monster and Honda RC51 give me the “soul” for those times when I need to feed mine. GREAT article!

  • Alberto Morgado

    you guys dont have the Teneré 660 in US??? Or XT660???

  • Dante Dias

    Say what you please about it . I have one , it’s 3000 km now and the bike is good at everything , but … It is absolutely NO FUN AT ALL . If you use it as transportation only , it’s perfect ! But if you have a bike for a little bit of fun on the weekends , please , don’t do that to yourself . The bike lacks character in a way that I just can’t explain , it’s just not right … You wake up in the morning , the sun is up , beautiful blue sky , perfect day for riding , but when you look at your garage and see it , it’s just awfull ! It’s not because it’s japanese ! Lots of japanese machines have a lot of soul and character . My last bike was a Kawasaki and I absolutely adored it ! That suzuki can’t make you feel special and can’t make you want to ride it all the time . It’s just as boring as it gets ! I’ll sell mine ASAP and buy anything else that can put a smile back at my face

  • Krish Mohan

    One of the best I had. My only complaint was this should have been a little more off-road friendly and should have come with a skid plate or the oil filter should have been repositioned. The best part is I got 300 miles between fuel stops.