Ridden: Suzuki V-Strom 650XT

Ridden: Suzuki V-Strom 650XT

 WILL BRODIE

Author Bio

Tony Hoare

Former RiDE product tester and journalist with MCN and Bike, with 18 years experience writing about bikes and kit. He owns a Yamaha FZ-1 Fazer and seems to be stuck with a shabby old Yamaha XJ600 Diversion as well. He's been editor of SBS Mag since 2017.

What do you ride a bike for?

If the answer is ‘a bit of everything’ then a Suzuki’s V-Strom 650’s headlights are looking up at you like the eager eyes of a puppy that wants walkies.

For some reason the very thought of a ‘do-it-all’ bike is roughly 15 years out of fashion, but the adventure bike powered by Suzuki’s venerable 645cc vee has a wide range of duties covered brilliantly.

Take out extremes like clearing 60-foot jumps and setting 50-second laps around Brands Indy and the middle sibling in the three-Strom family will make a decent fist of the rest of it.

It doesn’t take a particularly elastic imagination to see it as a touring bike, and its prowess as a daily commuter has lured a legion of riders looking for dutiful service since the original was launched back in 2004.

The latest incarnation looks more off-road focused than the original, especially in this spoke-wheeled XT format. But it remains the kind of bike beloved by those looking for daily dependability.

Having spent a long old week with one, I fell in respect with its charms.

It carted me and what felt like a ship-load of stuff on a crisscross of journeys through the English midlands before and after a quickfire jaunt to Cologne for the Intermot show, and back via northern France.

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The Strom quickly settles into its thum-thum-whirl stride and comfortably sits at a speed that chews up miles and kilometres with minimal fuss for either bike or rider.

A combination of sizeable 20-litre tank and frugal 60+mpg performance on a longer run means there’s comfortably 200 miles between fill-ups. The 650 has that distance nailed. The 2017 update saw an extra 2mm of foam put in the seat, which also gained a grippier cover.

Whether that 2mm has made the difference is impossible to tell, but after spending three hours solid sat in one place the Suzuki leaves me more comfortable than I have any right to be.

In theory, the Strom will still do another hour or more before using up its final drops of 95RON, which is about an hour too far for most pairs of legs to stay bent in one go. But who’s gonna complain about spending less of their time in a fuel station?

If you set most commuters’ daily distance at 60 miles max then a Strom can go four days without stopping for a drink. How refreshing.

Plenty will want the torque of the 1000cc Strom, but they’ll lose a lot of the 650’s charms

Add on Suzuki’s three-piece luggage set and there’s room for a week’s worth of stuff (keep it light, though – at 9kg the combined maximum load capacity is less even than mean-spirited Ryanair’s carry-on allowance).

It might not deliver the thrills of a sportsbike, and the 19in front wheel demands some mental adjustment after controlling a more responsive 17-incher, but it doesn’t take long to adapt.

The engine will deliver all the poke you need, with the twin hitting peak torque of 45lb-ft at 6500rpm and strolling on to a power crest of 68bhp at 8800rpm. Plenty will want the waves of torque that come with the Strom’s stronger and bigger brother, but they’ll lose a lot of the 650’s charms – not to mention another two grand in hard cash.

The 650 weighs in at £7399 in base mode and stretches up to a shade under nine-grand for the full-luggage, spoke-wheeled XT model. The 1000, by way of comparison, ranges from £9599 to £10,999.

After 1300 miles it was dead easy to see why the Strom is so popular with folks who need a bike

The 650 is a rarity in revelling in its role as a relatively cheap all-rounder. Everything on it is effective and makes life easier. It’s got three-stage traction control, a decent dash, an adjustable screen that tips wind and kamikaze bugs over this 5ft 10-incher’s visor, a starter button that only needs pressing once and a system that makes pullaways easier than ever.

After a week and around 1300 miles in the Strom’s saddle, it was dead easy to see why it’s so popular with folks who need a bike.

It’s equally easy to see why those who only want a bike would overlook the 650’s simplicity and efficiency in favour of something with a sprinkle more sparkle. In the list of bikes to make the heart beat faster just by looking at it, you’ll flick through at least a couple of pages before landing on a V-Strom.

But for those who rely on a bike to keep their life on the road, the V-Strom 650 is a superstar in its own right.

Specification

SUZUKI V-STROM 650XT
£7899 (price correct November 2017)

Engine 645cc 90° V-twin four-stroke, liquid-cooled DOHC
Bore x stroke 81.0mm x 62.6mm
Compression ratio 11.2:1
Power (claimed) 68bhp @ 8800rpm
Torque 45 lb-ft at 6500rpm
Fuel system Fuel injection
Wheelbase 1560mm
Front suspension Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped
Rear suspension Link type, coil spring, oil damped
Rake/trail 26°/110mm
Tyres 110/80-R19 (front), 150/70-R17 (rear)
Seat height 830mm
Kerb weight 216kg
Fuel capacity 20 litres
Fuel economy 63mpg (tested)
Further info https://bikes.suzuki.co.uk/bikes/