WORDS: Mikko Nieminen – Motorcycle Sport and Leisure magazine / PHOTOGRAPHY: Suzuki
We can all agree that Suzuki’s flagship adventure bike has been in need of a bit of an update for a while now. What’s unlikely to be agreed quite so universally is whether the new V-Strom 1050XT now has all the bells and whistles it needs to take on the stiff competition of the beaky category. I think it does, but if that makes you want to scream about how it’s still lugging that same old engine and chassis around, let me explain why I say that…
First of all, the new bike looks better than before. Actually, there are two variants: the standard V-Strom 1050 and the all-singing, all-dancing V-Strom 1050XT. With both bikes, Suzuki has taken inspiration from the DR-Z Paris-Dakar race bike and the DR Big production machine from the 1980s.
For me, the looks work a treat, especially in the DR Big-inspired white/orange and the Suzuki offroad racing yellow colour schemes, which (unfortunately) are limited to the XT model.
The Suzuki is still powered by the same old 1037cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 90˚ V-twin. But it has been updated. Peak power has gone up by 7% to 106bhp at 8500rpm, while torque is marginally down from 101Nm to 100Nm and now peaks at 6000rpm (2000rpm higher than before). However, the overall torque curve is now more linear, giving the bike more oomph in the midrange.
Kerb weight has gone up from 233kg to 247kg, which sounds like a big jump, but it’s worth remembering that the adventure bike to beat, the BMW R1250GS Adventure, is 268kg fully fuelled.
The level of technical updates depends on which model you choose. The V-Strom 1050 is the budget option with fewer tech updates, while the V-Strom 1050XT gets all the new toys.
Both feature a three-mode traction control system, and thanks to the new ride-by-wire throttle, three selectable engine power modes. In addition to that the XT boasts a six-axis IMU, which enables the Suzuki Intelligent Ride System. This incorporates cruise control, linked brakes, hill hold, slope and load control and switchable lean-sensitive ABS modes.
Some of the detail differs too, such as the standard bike’s LED taillights being finished with red lenses instead of the clear finish of the XT, and the LED indicators being swapped for more traditional ones. The mirrors of the stock bike are the same units from the previous model while the XT gets new ones (this last one is a bit baffling, maybe they just had too many left over and needed to get rid of them somehow…).
The XT replaces the standard bike’s cast aluminium wheels with a spoked version.
In terms of colour, the 1050 is available in either white and black or grey and black colour schemes, but not in the white and orange or yellow colours that look so good on the XT. On top of all that the XT features engine bars, a centre stand, handguards, and lower cowling as standard-fit items. All of these are available as accessories for the 1050 too.
We rode the V-Strom 1050XT at the press launch event, so it’s academic to suggest what you might miss if you went for the cheaper option, but I suspect that cruise control might be high on the list.
The biggest improvement from the previous model is the way the new bike handles. I had not been entirely happy with the suspension, tyres and throttle response of the old V-Strom. Together they made the bike feel a bit wooden, especially when cornering on rough surfaces, and even more so if there was a change of speed at the same time. Now all these issues have been addressed. The new tyres have enabled the suspension settings to be changed to reduce the initial bite of compression but still maintaining composure, and the ride-by-wire throttle works a treat. Together the changes make the new V-Strom feel more settled and easy to ride.
In terms of practicality, the V-Strom lands in the middle ground. It has an adjustable screen, but it can only be adjusted from the front of the screen, so any changes will require a stop. It also has an adjustable seat (850mm or 870mm), but changing the height requires tools. The rear rack is sturdy and has cleverly serrated edges to help keep straps in place. There’s a USB socket at the side of the dash and a 12V DC socket under the seat. Heated grips are available too, but only as an optional accessory.
So, has Suzuki done enough to put the V-Strom back in the battle for adventure bike buyers’ cash? The real answer to that will come in a few months’ time when we get the official sales figures, but I would imagine that when the bikes land in UK dealerships in March there will be plenty of people wanting to take them out for a test ride. The V-Strom is not threatening to outdo the GS, Multistrada or Africa Twin in terms of tech on board, but for those who are not that bothered about electric suspension and suchlike it offers a very capable bike with a lower price tag than the competition. That’s a recipe that has worked well for Suzuki in the past, and there is no reason why it couldn’t happen again.
Suzuki V-Strom 1050 (XT)
Price: £9999 (£11,299)
Engine: 1037cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 90˚ V-Twin
Power: 106bhp (79kW) @ 8500rpm
Torque: 74ft-lb (100Nm) @ 6000rpm
Frame: Twin-spar aluminium frame, aluminium swingarm
Brakes: Twin 310mm floating discs and radially mounted Tokico monobloc front brake calipers. The rear brake has a 38mm single piston pin-slide caliper and 260mm disc.
Transmission: 6-speed constant mesh, chain final drive.
Suspension: 43mm fully-adjustable KYB inverted forks, preload- and rebound damping adjustable link type mono-shock
Wheels/tyres: Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A41 radial tyres. Front 110/80R19M/C 59V, rear 150/70R17M/C 69V
Seat height: 850–870mm
Fuel capacity: 20 litres
MPG: 57.65 claimed
Kerb weight: 247kg
Warranty: 3 years
For the full launch report on Suzuki’s new V-Strom 1050XT for 2020, pick up the April issue of Motorcycle Sport and Leisure magazine – for more information on how to get your hands on a copy, click HERE.