What do you think of when you think, “Suzuki?” Ten years ago, a GSX-R probably popped into your head. It was the sharpest, fastest sportbike out there. Nowadays? Well, if recent successes from the brand are any indication, what you should be thinking is “value.” Read why in this 2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS Review.
It’s tempting to write the new V-Strom off as simply an update of the old model, released way back in 2002. And, despite Suzuki’s insistence that it’s, “all new,” it technically is an update. However, it is a very, very thorough one.
Starting with the 1st generation’s TL-based V-twin, Suzuki has redesigned the cylinders, cylinder heads, pistons, piston rings, piston pins, connecting rods, crankshaft, crankcase, magneto, fly wheel, clutch, transmission and spark plugs. See what we mean by thorough?
Those changes have taken the motor from 996 to 1,037cc, added a slipper clutch (with assist function to reduce lever effort) and new, twin-sparkplug heads. That doesn’t add up to a lot more power — now 99.2 instead of 95.5 — but rather it moves the torque curve down the rev range and makes it fatter. Maximum torque of 76 lb.-ft. now arrives at 4,000 rpm. The old model made 74.5 lb.-ft., but at 6,400 rpm.
So too, is the new frame visually similar to the old one, even if it is a totally new item with enhanced rigidity, lower weight and new geometry. Now, the swingarm pivot has been moved closer (957 vs 963mm to the front axel) and further from the rear. The swingarm is now 20mm longer. Those changes should make steering faster, while accomplishing the seemingly divergent goal of adding both stability and traction. Rake and trail are a little more aggressive and the steering angle increases considerably from 36 to 40 degrees. All that further speeds steering.
Additionally, curb weight is down 17.5 lbs to just 503 lbs.
For the first time on a Suzuki, the V-Strom 1000 is equipped with traction control. It’s switchable between two levels of intervention and off. The standard ABS is not switchable, but can be disabled by pulling its fuse.
We spent two days and 500 miles on the bike in and around the Southern California desert, riding the bike on congested freeways, city surface streets, fun mountain roads, the open highway and even a few miles on a dirt road.
Out of the parking lot on the first morning, the first impression was in how easily controllable the 1000 feels. You can’t detect any additional weight, size or challenge over its uber-popular 650cc little brother. The 1000 is actually slimmer between your legs than the 650 — and feels it. But, also immediately apparent over that bike is a superior quality suspension set up considerably stiffer and sportier. Spring rates are stiffer, but the damping controls it well, leading to a responsive, controlled, capable ride.
Stand up on the bike and try and navigate the parking lot at a walking pace and the new, dual-throttle valve (one’s electronic, one’s manual) arrangement still throws some herks and jerks in your way below 3,000rpm. That disappears totally in higher gears and at higher revs.
Suzuki makes much of its new, easily-adjustable windscreen. There’s three height settings (10mm apart) you need an (included) Allen wrench to alter and then — this is the neat part — you push on the screen to move it through three ratcheting locations. Starting in the lowest, you push it up one notch for medium and up another for high. Push it further and it returns to the start. This is the kind of simple, elegant, successful solution that embodies the spirit with which the rest of the bike was designed. Why go through the expense and complication of electric adjustment when a manual system like this works equally well?
That screen is remarkably effective given its size, but ultimately isn’t able to keep the wind fully off your shoulders or helmet, if you’re tall like me.
We weren’t able to try the “Adventure” model which packages a taller “touring screen” and several other accessories like the much-needed lever guards into one cost-efficient upgrade. All 1000s shipped come with a lock-set under the seat, keyed to be the same as the bike’s ignition. Should you later buy hard luggage, you’ll be able to key it easily.
Suzuki is eager to push the V-Strom’s new accessory range and has gone so far to include specially designed bags which fit narrower than the handlebars and even looked to the aftermarket — SW Motech in this case — for important protection parts like the available sump guard. That part will be in high demand, the front cylinder’s header and the oil filter are both incredibly exposed.
Even without total wind protection, the 1000 cruises at highway speeds remarkably comfortably. 70 mph in 6th equates to that 4,000rpm torque peak, a point at which the motor is completely smooth and totally capable of urgently passing other vehicles. If it weren’t for the too-hard seat, you could sit there all day as well as you would on any big touring bike.
One of the areas Suzuki targeted for improvement was stability. With Southern California’s Santa Ana winds in full effect, that’s something we tested over each and every one of the 500 miles. And it is; completely and totally stable no matter how strong the cross wind or how significant another vehicle buffets you.
The 33.5-inch seat height is tall, but both higher and lower options are available and the area where the tank meets the seat is so slim that even the short of leg will be able to flat foot the 1000. Yay, V-twins.
Standing up in order to ride off-road is also refreshingly comfortable. The bars are high, the pegs low and the seat/tank slim enough that you have good control, comfort and plenty of room to move around.
The dirt road we attempted was sandier than first thought, proving an actual challenge for the road-tire-equipped bikes we were on. Three other journalists wiped out in the deep sand. We were actually surprised at what a willing dirt partner this supposedly road-focused bike turned out to be. Its ABS isn’t remarkably effective in the soft stuff, as you’d expect, but is at least capable of keeping the front from washing if you stand on the front brake. The traction control works better, keeping the rear from spinning out of control while (in the lower level 1) allowing you to apply enough power to make progress. Level 2 gets in the way more, but at least there’s no chance you’ll get into trouble with it enabled.
Suspension, which feels stiff and responsive on the road, actually tackles gentle dirt roading better than you’d expect. It’s not dirt bike soft, but it at least gives you good feel to inform your riding and won’t pitch you out of the seat. With Continental TKC80s fitted, the 1000 will actually be a fairly capable dirt road tool.
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