The 2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 has taken on significant importance in Suzuki’s lineup. Suzuki sees the liter class adventure bike segment as an expanding market. The V-Strom 650 received major revisions in 2012, giving one of their strongest selling models (outselling the 1000 at a 2:1 ratio when both were last offered in this market) a needed, and timely refresh.
Introduced in 2002, the 1000 remained pretty much the same over the years, save for color changes and minor tuning updates, it had become rather long in the tooth. With the adventure tourer market hotting up and becoming more crowded, the 1000 was being pushed aside by the newer, up-to-date offerings from the other manufacturers. Suzuki knew they had to rethink, and redesign their 1000 to bring it up to modern standards. To do so, Suzuki began by circulating a survey worldwide of current V-Strom 1000 riders, and riders of other brands as well, to get feedback on what they liked, and what they wanted changed with the old model.
The usual wish list items, including more power and less weight , appeared in the survey results. Additionally, high speed stability with bags in place, updated styling and a greater range of Suzuki-designed accessories made the list. The 1000’s strengths in ergonomics, comfort, wind protection & agility were on the ‘don’t change’ list. Armed with rider feedback, and a studied eye on the competition, Suzuki set to creating a new V-Strom 1000. We gave you all the technical details on the new 2014 model here.
After our European test of the new V-Strom 1000 (with a European test rider), Suzuki invited MD out to participate in a two-day, several hundred mile ride for US-based journos featuring some of southern California’s finest twisty roads. We couldn’t say no, particularly since production units won’t be in US dealerships for several more months.
Our in-the-flesh introduction started at a hotel in Anaheim, with a little over a dozen of the 1000s parked out front. Initial reaction is that this bike represents more than a simple revision like its little brother received. This is a whole new bike. The bulkiness of the previous generation 1000 is reduced considerably. It’s not 650 small, but it has definitely been on a diet. The upside down forks, radially mounted brake calipers, single-sided exhaust, and ten-spoke cast aluminum wheels all speak “whole new bike”. During my first walk around, my eyes kept veering towards ‘the beak’. This is not a case of Suzuki jumping aboard a styling bandwagon, but rather an homage being paid to the 80s era Suzuki DR750/800 Paris to Dakar racers, which sported a similar, perhaps more functional “beak”.
Our ride began the next morning, and it was apparent that the invited motorcycling press was anxious to see what the new V-Strom was like, as nearly all of us were standing around the bikes about 20 minutes before we were scheduled to roll out. While warming the engine – it’s hybrid gear driven valve train emanating the wonderful sounding gear whine – the instrument cluster presents the operator with a large amount of legible information. The twin analog speedometer / tachometer has been forsaken for an analog tach and digital everything else. Some of the information contained here is what V-Strom owners have been adding themselves – gear position, air temp, voltmeter, etc. Additionally, traction control settings, a trip computer, and clock round out the information provided by the V-Strom.
Rolling out onto the freeway, it’s immediately apparent that the engine is a torque monster. Suzuki claims 76 pounds-feet at a mere 4000 rpm. Horsepower peaks at 100 by the time 8000 rpm arrives. With all that torque available at such low engine speeds, revving it out kind of misses the point. Vibration is present in only small amounts, nothing buzzes, or causes the rider to avoid a certain rpm range. Anywhere from idle, to 6000 rpm, you have generous amounts of acceleration available to you with a twist of the wrist.
The new engine also has acquired a more agreeable character. With the exception of a gear or two, everything contained within the engine covers has been massaged to lose weight, with the exception of one part. The old 1000 mill had what I called the “big twin chug” if you got much below 4000 rpm. I partially attribute the new engine’s smoothness to the weight reduction of its internals, but I think much of the credit must go to the 15% heavier flywheel. New cylinder heads, with the ECU controlling each spark plug individually (there are 2 per cylinder), must also go some way toward this transformation.
The transmission also got a little love from the engineers, based on rider feedback. The overdrive 6th gear has been replaced by a 1:1 6th gear. So no more downshifting required for passing. Fueling from Suzuki’s carry-over SDTV (Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve) does its job perfectly, seamlessly. Normally, a low redline on an engine spells ‘boring’ to me, but in this case the engine is a jewel. Eminently flexible, delivering exactly what the rider asks for from this category of motorcycle.
Has it been raining where you are? Snow? Ice? Are road conditions a little dodgy? Maybe you’re going to do a little off road exploration? Then Suzuki’s traction control – a first for any of their production motorcycles – may come in handy. It’s not the most comprehensive system, giving the rider a choice of three settings – off, TC-1, which allows for some wheel spin, and TC-2, which allows zero wheel spin. It is adjustable on the fly, with a closed throttle. In the limited time we had to explore the TC in an off-road setting, it seemed to work well, but more time utilizing this feature in more varied conditions will give a clearer picture of its capabilities. Hardcore off-roaders will tell you that TC has its place, but there will be times when it has to be shut off to get you where you want to go. There are more sophisticated systems out there, but they’re also generally attached to motorcycles much more expensive.
With TC handling the ‘go’ side of things, The ABS is involved in the ‘whoa’. There is no adjustability for this and it can’t be turned off. I didn’t really work the brakes too hard in the mixed company of our group, so that will have to wait until later. The new radially-mounted front calipers are lifted from an earlier GSX-R 1000R, and I easily recognized a greatly appreciated step up in power and feel from the old brakes.
With the varied terrain the V-Strom is anticipated to traverse, I’ve always been confused by the lack of adjustability of the suspension on the older model. Bumpy off-road, and smooth asphalt do not share the same settings. Suzuki must have realized this, as well, because the new 1000 comes with a fully adjustable fork – preload, compression & rebound damping. The shock comes with adjustability for preload and rebound. The standard settings weren’t far off. At the first gas stop of our ride, I dug out the screwdriver from the under-seat tool kit and initially added 3 clicks of rebound and compression damping to the forks, and 3 clicks of rebound damping to the shock, while leaving the preload alone. The new settings gave a more controlled movement at both ends, which worked well on the asphalt. Once we switched to the brief dirt portion of our ride, I veered back toward the standard settings, and although I’m not a hardcore off-road type, I could appreciate the difference in suspension action, and having the option to make the adjustments.
Overall handling is confidence inspiring and playful. The 30-pound penalty the 1000 carries over the 650 isn’t readily apparent, unless ridden back to back. Rake and trail numbers were juggled to give more responsive steering, while the longer swingarm aids with stability … along with the shorter distance from the swingarm pivot to the front axle. On twisty back roads, the Strom handles in a decidedly sporty manner. The 19” front wheel doesn’t exactly allow you to snap the bike into a corner, as you could on any of the current supersports, but it’s well ahead of the previous 1000 in that regard. As I got more comfortable, and got happier with lean angles, the peg feelers would announce that the party had gone far enough. Removing said feelers would give more lean angle, but the muffler on the right side will definitely put an end to the party if its space is not respected. Perhaps a little stiffer spring, if you’re not so off road inclined? Bridgestone Battlewing tires were more than up to the task of back-road scratching.
Ergonomics has played a major role in the attraction to the V-Strom. With the new 1000, I feel like I’m ‘sitting in’ it, rather than ‘on’ it, like my ’06 650. The seat is quite comfortable, and is narrowed near the gas tank to aid in ‘feet down’ maneuvering. The sides of the seat also have a grippy material to help in stand-up maneuvers. Also available is a lower seat, and a taller seat, to accommodate riders of various inseams. The adjustable windscreen is quite effective, with the three angle positions making a noticeable difference in the air pocket. There is also height adjustability, but that requires an allen key wrench to access. Taller riders than I (5’9”) will likely take advantage of that.
Finally, one of the other issues that put me on the V-Strom 650, and not the 1000 was fuel mileage. The weight loss program, the massaging of engine internals, new cylinder heads, and the 32 bit ECU results in, according to Suzuki, a 16% increase in fuel efficiency. Doing old-fashioned calculations involving distance covered vs. fuel burned, I came up with 41, 45, and 47 mpg results from 3 fill-ups, and we weren’t taking it easy. Like the current 650, the 1000’s fuel tank shrunk by .53 gallons. The increased fuel efficiency is said to offset the slight decrease in fuel capacity, but I wish they had left a larger tank for even more range.
Throughout the two-day trip I kept thinking about how the character and performance of the new 1000 is much more like the 650 than before, particularly in the engine department, but with buckets more torque. I also considered how these V-Stroms might actually end up being used. Would they be seeing miles of desert sand dunes, or a daily diet of potholes & speed bumps, or something in between? The answer to that is as varied as the riders who will buy the new 1000. Suzuki’s accessory line has grown, per owner requests, and there is a huge aftermarket standing ready to help configure this new Strom almost any way you like. Like the 650, there is an Adventure model that will save a potential owner some $$$ over purchasing the same accessories from Suzuki separately.
We’re definitely looking forward to a longer time with a test unit.
These units we rode will be making the rounds at dealerships across the country. Check’em out to see if they got all the dirt out of them….