Battle of the Middleweights: 4). Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT

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A lot of people love the V-Strom 650. First launched in 2004, the venerable ‘wee-strom’ has had plenty of time to garner the affections of adventure-loving bikers who value accessibility, affordability and reliability over sharp styling, loads of power and the latest gadgets.

Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it

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Powered by the same tried and tested motor as the SV650 and largely unchanged for several years (mechanically, at least), you could argue the V-Strom 650’s getting a little bit long in the tooth. You could maybe even argue that it’s a bit of a dinosaur in an increasingly overcrowded market in which other manufacturers continue to push the envelope with each new model and each passing year.

But when you consider its enduring popularity among back-to-basics bikers who aren’t interested in ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ in the battle for more power and more technology, it’s hard to fault this dinosaur for not worrying about going extinct.

Until relatively recently, the V-Strom 650 was actually your only real choice if you wanted a brand-new, truly middleweight adventure bike. There’s been a recent resurgence in the category, and nowadays the Suzuki’s got more competition than ever before – but they’re not really playing the same game. Sure, it’s an adventure bike, but it’s softer, more easy-going and more accessible than its competitors. That’s got to count for something, right?

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Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT

Substance over style?

When stood side-by-side with the Ténéré, Tuareg and X-Cape, it’s quite difficult to describe the Suzuki as a looker. It has made progress over the years, with enough nipping, tucking and modernising to keep it fresh, but in truth it doesn’t have the same, sharp, modern Dakar styling as its counterparts. That’s partly because it’s not all that modern; while it does get fuel injection, traction control and ABS brakes, its non-adjustable front forks, rear link-type set up (which can be adjusted for preload only) and old-school analogue instrument panel hark back to a simpler time. Thankfully, the 650 XT (as tested here) does feature hand guards, spoked wheels, an engine guard and a rear guard – which help to give the impression that it’s a rugged and ready-for-anything adventure bike.

There’s also no getting away from its diminutive stance. When compared with the others, the seat’s lower, the pegs are higher and the bars aren’t as wide or as tall

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While that might make it perfect for shorter or less experienced riders who want to get their feet on terra firma with ease, my 6ft 1in frame meant that things felt a little cramped when compared directly to the competition. That said, when you get the V-Strom 650 moving, you’ll soon forget about all that – because at its core it really is an excellent road bike.

Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT

Road manners

That’s right. Road bike. I don’t want to get into the whole ‘what makes an adventure bike’ argument, but for me, the V-Strom 650’s relative lack of off-road prowess and more road-focused ride (particularly when put up against the other three) means it’s a bit of a stretch to call this a true adventurer. It’ll pootle down lanes, and it’ll be alright on gravel tracks, but the standing position isn’t quite right, with the low bars and higher pegs meaning I had to hunch up to get into any kind of workable stance.

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Thankfully, it more than makes up for it on the black top. Its unstressed V-twin motor is genuinely brilliant, delivering plenty of low-end grunt, while a throttle-happy right hand will have you fizzing along very nicely past the speed limit, all the way to its 10,000rpm limit and 120mph top speed.

The six-speed gearbox is smooth and precise, and there’s very little buzzing or vibration even as you press on. It really is a lovely set up – and while it might not offer earth-shattering levels of performance, there’s plenty in the tank to easily make overtakes and sit at motorway speeds in comfort.

The handling’s very good, too. The chassis is superbly balanced and it’s light and agile and easy to flick around town, but super-stable in corners when the pace hots up, too. It just gets on with things with no grumbling – and although the suspension and brakes might be relatively basic, they perform perfectly well, too. It really is a lovely bike to ride; easy, assured and confidence-inspiring.

Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT

For me or not for me?

Despite its obvious limitations and some very tough competition, the Suzuki V-Strom 650 more than proved itself during our three-day, several-hundred-mile trip to the Yorkshire Dales. It flourished on the road, coming to life on the fast-flowing and tight, twisty Tarmac we explored, arguably offering the best road manners of the bunch – and I have no doubt it’d happily keep up with bigger and ‘faster’ bikes on twisty roads.

With its tried and tested utilitarian design, excellent chassis and engine combination, and value-for-money price tag, it’s very easy to see why it’s so popular. I was actually very, very impressed. If you’ve never ridden one, you should. It might be just what you’re after.

Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT

Tech spec

Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT

Price: From £8699

Engine: 645cc four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 90° V-twin

Power: 71bhp (52.0 kW) @ 8800rpm

Torque: 45.7lb-ft (62.0 Nm) @ 6300rpm

Transmission: Six-speed constant mesh

Frame: Aluminium twin spar

Suspension: (F) Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped (R) Link type, coil spring, oil damped

Brakes: (F) Twin 310mm discs, two-piston callipers and ABS (R) single 260mm disc, one-piston calliper and ABS

Test tyres: Bridgestone AT41 / (F) 110/80R19M/C 59V (R) 150/70R17M/C 69V

Wheelbase: 1560mm

Seat height: 835mm

Fuel capacity: 20 litres (4.4 gallons)

Weight: 216kg

Warranty: Two years (with the option to extend to three)

Service intervals: 7000 miles

Contact: www.bikes.suzuki.co.uk

PROS & CONS

+ Its road manners are impeccable

+ Tried and tested design; any kinks were ironed out long ago

+ Simple, straightforward with no unnecessary extras

– Cramped riding position compared to the others

– Lacking some of the technology of its competitors

– Not the best looking of the bunch… (though it’s all down to taste)

#suzuki #vstrom650 #morebikesyoulike #motorcycles #readersrides #motorcycle #ukbikers #bikelife #bikers #motorcyclists #morebikes #morenews #motorcyclenews #motorcyclegear


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