First ride: Suzuki V-Strom 250


 

Just over a year ago there wasn’t really such a thing as a small adventure bike segment in any meaningful way. Then, at the international bike shows towards the end of 2016 bike manufacturers, one after another, pulled the covers of their new small-capacity adventurers, and all of a sudden a whole new breed of bikes was born. We now have the off-road focused Honda CFR250 Rally, and the more road-biased Kawasaki Versys-X 300, with the BMW G310GS aimed somewhere in the middle. And now we also have the Suzuki V-Strom 250 – a bike that Suzuki wants to position as a road-focused option for touring and daily riding.

 

WORDS: Mikko Nieminen, Motorcycle Sport & Leisure editor
PHOTOGRAPHY: Suzuki

 

The idea behind the bike is that it will suit both experienced riders who may wish to downsize from bigger adventure bikes, and younger or new riders who want a bike that’s manageable and easy to ride. With the V-Strom heritage that Suzuki has, the hope is that the new bike will slot into the family as the baby-Strom, the friendly and accessible face of adventure touring.

Looking big

At first glance the bike bears a striking resemblance to the bigger V-Strom 1000 and 650. It has the same round headlight design and an adventure ‘beak’ at the front, and although the bike also comes in red or black, it is the yellow colour scheme that most links it with the family traits. Since it’s ‘only’ a 250cc bike it is naturally smaller, but it looks substantial and purposeful in its own right. However, making the bike big was not what Suzuki wanted to do – the whole point of the V-Strom 250 is that it’s a smaller adventure touring option for people who want not just a smaller engine, but also a more manageable size of bike. With that in mind, the seat height has been set at 800mm (a fair bit lower than 850mm of the V-Strom 1000), and the bars have been raised and pulled back to make it easy to reach them.

A small detail, but a pleasant one if you – like me – don’t enjoy cleaning the nooks and crannies of the bike is a long front fender that means you don’t need to buy a mudguard extender just to keep the engine from being covered in grime after a few miles on greasy roads.

Suzuki engineers were clear about this being a road-biased bike. Not aiming for too much off-road use has allowed them to keep the exhaust end can low, which in turn means that panniers can be fitted on both sides without the pipe getting in the way.

Jumping on the bike, it feels just like intended: small, manageable and still adventurous. The dash has a ‘negative’ display with white digits on black background, clearly indicating your speed, revs, gear as well as giving you a choice of odometer, two trips and fuel consumption.

On (and a bit off) road

The first riding impressions were very positive, with the small size and weight (at 188kg it’s 44kg lighter than the V-Strom 1000) of the bike combined with the soft and gentle suspension making it feel like the bike simply floated over the imperfections on the road surface. The rear shock is easily preload-adjustable by removing the seat and using the tools provided, but I was happy with the factory settings, enjoying the armchair-like comfort that still kept the bike in shape even through quick turns.

A short stretch on a dual-carriageway proved that the bike can keep up with motorway speeds, but I also found that the small windscreen created a fair bit of buffeting around my helmet at speeds above 60mph. Talking to others on the ride, opinion on the level of buffeting varied greatly, meaning that your height and the type of lid you wear will make a big difference. If this was my bike I would remove or change the screen, but then again, I’m always a bit picky when it comes to screens, often finding them more bother than use.

Another modification that I would make is the bars. They’re not bad, but for an adventure bike this, I would want them a bit wider to give a bit of extra leverage to make the most of the generous steering angle.

Talking about modifications, the stock bike doesn’t come with luggage, but you can add a top case for £350, panniers for £625 and a tank bag for £95 – all of which would make sense if you plan on taking the bike touring.

One of the give-away signs that the V-Strom 250 is a road rather than off-road oriented bike is the wheels: rather than a large front wheel for dirt, the bike features 17in wheels both front and back. On Tarmac the setup offered nice quick steering, and even on the short trail section that we rode the bike felt well composed. The riding position is quite pleasant when you’re standing on the pegs, with the tall bars helping to stay in control, but if you really want to take this bike off the tarmac, proper knobbly tyres would be needed, and a larger front wheel might be worth considering.

Overall, the riding experience on the V-Strom 250 is a very pleasant one, with everything from the suspension and brakes to engine performance and handling working well, without any particular element standing out.

Inazuma heritage

The engine is a 248cc, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, parallel twin inherited from the Suzuki Inazuma 250, and the Suzuki engineers are quick to remind us that the V in V-Strom stands for versatility, it’s not a reference to the engine configuration. Although the engine is not new, it has been updated to increase low- to mid-range torque, fuel economy and ease of riding. And naturally it needed to pass the new Euro 4 emissions tests too.

Suzuki engineers have also designed the cam profile to maximise acceleration performance at speeds between 12.4mph and 55.9mph, as they found that this is the range that is used most often. And sure enough, on the road the engine feels eager to rev and accelerate, with the short gearing increasing the feeling of rapid progress.

Top speed is limited to around 85mph, which means that the bike will be fine for cruising on any roads, including dual carriageways, but you’re unlikely to hit the sort of speeds that cost you your licence.

With the 17.3-litre tank and the improved fuel efficiency Suzuki reckon you can get 300 miles from a tankful.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

So, what’s the verdict on the V-Strom 250? The real test will be the sales figures, and at the moment nobody really knows how well this new category of bikes will be received. However, as a standalone bike, the mini-Strom feels like a capable and practical option if you’re looking for a small to medium size adventure bike. It’s likely to be more tempting to new riders rather than those coming back down the cc-ladder as there are some tempting 500cc and 650cc options that offer more performance and still a step down from the litre-plus category (Honda CB500X, Benelli TRK502, the bigger V-Strom and Kawasaki Versys 650 come to mind). But for those who are moving up from 125s this is a tempting option that ups the performance to a level that makes riding that little bit less like hard work.

There has also been a bit of a trend to travel long distances on small-capacity trail bikes, which might help with the sales of bikes like the V-Strom. Whatever the case, the V-Strom 250 offers a good level of service in this category, hopefully helping to introducing a whole new generation to biking.

Specification

Suzuki V-Strom 250 (2018)

Price:                           £4599

Engine:                        248cc, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, parallel twin

Power:                         24.7bhp (18.4kW) @ 8000rpm

Torque:                       17.26lb-ft (23.4Nm) @ 6500rpm

Transmission:             6-speed constant mesh, chain final drive

Seat height:                  800mm

Kerb weight:               188kg

Fuel tank:                    17.3 litres

Contact:                      bikes.suzuki.co.uk

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