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ROAD TEST: Suzuki DL650 V-Strom

2012-03-12 09:14

LOOKIN' GOOD: The current Strom is much more attractive than it’s predecessor. Images: DRIES VAN DER WALT

DRIES VAN DER WALT

One of the greatest joys in life is finding a hidden gem – if it happens to be in the form of bike that turns out to be much more than you bargained for, the pleasure is even greater. The 2012 Suzuki DL650 V-Strom is one such.

I had mixed feelings when I learned that my review period on the Strom would coincide with a trip to the erstwhile Eastern Transvaal because I wasn’t convinced it would be the right bike for the magnificent twisties of that part of Mpumalanga. When a Suzuki staff member assured me that I wouldn’t regret it, I brushed it off as so much marketing talk and resolved to judge for myself.

In its current iteration, the V-Strom looks much more attractive than its predecessor. The bulky, sharp-edged plastics that dominated its frontal aspect are replaced by slimmer, much more rounded trimmings. The visual impression of the new bike, from headlights to tail piece, is of a much more integrated design than the older model.

RELAXED POSITION

The instrument panel is the familiar mix of an analogue tachometer and brightness-adjustable LCD speedometer. The LCD readouts also include an odometer, two trip-distance meters, gear position indicator, coolant and ambient temperature, average fuel consumption, fuel gauge and clock.

A switch on the left handlebar toggles between the readouts.

Considering that the first part of my trip would be the mind-numbingly dull and straight N4 from Pretoria to Middelburg, the ergonomics were of greater importance to me. Like its forebear, the current Strom offers a relaxed sitting position on a comfortable, well-shaped seat.

The three-position adjustable screen did a good job of keeping the slipstream away, although at speeds around the national speed limit I experienced an irritating buffeting of my helmet. If it were my own bike, I would have fitted a wind deflector to the screen.

MID-RANBGE PUNCH

The big surprise came when I subjected the Strom to some spirited riding in the twisties. Handling is, quite simply, beyond reproach. The Bridgestone Trail Wing tyres never ran out of grip and the bike proved to be tremendously stable through the curves, even when the road surface was less than ideal.

No matter how hard I pushed it, the V-Strom simply maintained its composure.

Suzuki says the bike's engine, in this case from the Gladius rather than the SV650, was tuned for more mid-range punch and it does indeed feel more responsive out of the corners. The review bike seemed to run out of enthusiasm above an indicated 170km/h but I still managed to take it over 200km/h on the clock.

At 120km/h indicated, the rev counter needle hovered at a whisker under the 5500 mark; riding solo, the bike comfortably holds this speed on inclines without the need to drop a gear.

Even with two people’s weekend luggage strapped to the Strom’s sturdy carrier, the bike retained its eager and lively character. The 20-litre fuel tank yielded an open-road range of around 430km which, combined with the comfortable seat, the effortless feel of the engine and the bike’s soft-road capability, makes it a viable and economical adventure tour for a solo rider.

I wouldn’t become too adventurous, though – the 90° V-twin’s front cylinder and protruding oil filter look dangerously exposed to big rocks.

BIG IMPROVEMENT

This may not be an issue, because my suspicion is that a fair number of local Stroms will never get as much as a whiff of anything other than Mr Macadam’s patented road surface. And that’s fine, too, because the new V-Strom slips into the commuting role as easily as if to the manner born, being light and nimble enough to slice through rush hour traffic with contemptuous ease.

In the final analysis, the new V-Strom is a big improvement over its competent but somewhat bland forebear. It's an enjoyable bike that is as much at home on the open road as it in town, with ample grunt and great handling to bring a smile to your face come playtime.

If you’re in the market for a mid-size multi-purpose bike, the 2012 V-Strom deserves serious consideration.

SUZUKI DL650 V-STROM SPECS
Manufacturer: Suzuki
Model: 2012 DL650 V-Strom
Engine: Liquid cooled, DOHC, four-stroke, quad-valve, 90° V-twin.
Power: n/a
Torque: n/a
Transmission: Six-speed, chain final drive
Fuel capacity: 20 litres
Kerb weight: 214kg
Front suspension: Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped
Rear suspension: Link type, coil spring, oil damped
Price: R89 950

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