Not that it was just a case of ‘new bike envy’ (of Sonja’s Honda) but my venerable BMW 1150 GSA – AKA the Moose – has travelled a long way since 2004 and the thought of a major break down in South America is not good. Plus riding the DL650 off road has given me a new found respect for light bikes in the dirt. So after a bit of deliberation (well not that much really…) I bit the bullet and bought a brand new bike for the trip. Boo yah!
Not much looking around was needed at I’d been mightily impressed by the Suzuki DL650 V Strom we’d looked at for Sonja (but was way too big for her) before we went with the Honda. The V Strom (or ‘Pee Wee’ as it is universally nicknamed) has been around since 2004 and has a cult following as most bikes seem to. Suzuki tends to stick with models of bikes for fair while – the DR650 first launched in the mid-90’s – and improves them over time. There are a zillion forums on DL’s so no need to talk about the bike’s pedigree.
I chose not to go with the DL1000 as this machine seems way too powerful for use off-road and weighs a fair bit more. From my limited experience on the DR and conservative riding style the 650 version seems more than adequate.
The standard DL is a capable touring bike, however I was keen on the XT Adventure version which has only been around for about 18 months. The main difference between this and other species of Stroms is the spoked tubeless wheels and the so called Suzuki ‘Adventure Pack’ (more on this later). Main reasons for me choosing the XT is:
- Light weight (a whopping 120kg lighter than the Beema!)
- Comfortable riding position for taller riders but I’ll have to modify this no doubt
- Reasonably simple tho it does have ABS as standard which I am a little dubious about
- Good reliability and track record
- Reasonable off road handling (tho it’s not a dirt bike by any means)
- Longer wheel base for good long distance tracking
- Plenty of aftermarket bits and pieces especially tyres
- I can work on it when on the road
- Great international service network – an important consideration for this trip and others we plan!
After picking the bike up I was a little thrown by the instrument panel for two reasons. Firstly having a digital speedo and analogue tacho is a novelty for me as I’m a dial kind of guy and initially didn’t know what to look at (plus all the other info on the screen). Secondly, the bike shop had left the speedo in the stock MPH setting so I was going what I thought was ‘50kmh’ (which seemed bloody fast) in the middle of Sydney was actually 80kmh – try explaining that to the cops!
So far I’m highly impressed with the bike. It handles nicely in the city now the tyres and brakes are settling in and it has plenty of go but not too much to get you into trouble. This is especially the case in the dirt where too much power can resulting in grief. The power is smooth and gearing more than adequate for what is need. The ABS brakes are great and stop the bike with no great drama. I’ll be interested to see how it rides when loaded and in the dirt.
Windscreen is ok but needs work
The stock tyres are ok and feel better the more they wear in. We will probably replace them with a more dual sport version before we ship them in September. My brief sojourn into the dirt was positive and I’m looking forward to working the bike out loaded.
Riding position is ok but being 6’3” stoops me over a little. The ride position standing is bloody awful but I am used to the DR which I have modified with new bars and a foot peg lowering kit. I’ll need to mod this a bit especially the narrow pegs.
Some of the stock bits look a bit cheap (foot pegs and handlebars in particular) so aftermarket goodies needed here. For an adventure bike you’d think they’d have a 12V power point for charging GPSs etc but no – fit them yourself.
The windscreen is ok and keeps a lot of wind off but I think it I’ll have to mod it as I wear an open face helmet and really feel the wind and rain. There are quite a few aftermarket options available.
The Suzuki Adventure Pack is a bit of a joke (plus at eye watering prices!) if you are going to give the bike a real work out in the dirt. I’m sure they are perfectly adequate for tooling around on a gravel road from time to time and give the bike the gnarly look to impress your non-riding friends. Reality is they are really light stone guards to deflect the occasional pebble and would not be up to a real drop. The oil filter is hyper-vulnerable at the front of the engine (why oh why do manufacturers put them there!) so investing in a no bull-shit bash plate is essential.
The engine guards are ok but I would like to see more protection lower down on the engine casings like the Hepco and Becker engine guards we fitted on Sonja’s Honda. I’m particularly conscious of breaking the engine casings on a rock but there are no viable aftermarket alternatives available.
Also the radiator is totally vulnerable too and for some reason manufacturers do not fit rugged guards factory standard. Probably so they can sell them as aftermarket kit but Suzi doesn’t even do this – go figure.
So plenty of scope for modding the bike for me and the trip. Plenty more to come on this.