I recently took a long trip with my Wee-Strom and along the way got to do a whole bunch of off-road riding along with my dad and his fleet of DR's. I've been riding those old backwoods roads since I was 10 and I thought it would be a great kick to do it with my fancy 'adventure tourer'
Waaay back in the day, my family rode around a bunch of beater Hondas on those old woods roads. If you can believe it, my dad rode a 1970's era 175 Honda twin streetbike with about 2" of ground clearance, which he bought from someone who had crashed it for $45. He must have bottomed that thing out 50,000 times over the years but it just kept going. If you ran it over with an M1 Abrams and then drove it off a cliff, I have complete confidence it would just start up and zoom away. 'They don't build em like they used to'. I myself rode an 80cc XL for many years.
Then about 10 years ago, I graduated from college and my dad started spending. He upgraded to the Suzuki DR bikes. First a 200, then a 350 and more recently a 650. Needless to say, this was like moving from a Model-T to a Mercedes. Power! Handling galore! We were now spoiled
Anyways, I was anxious to bring my new prize V-Strom out there and run with the offroad bikes. I hadn't ridden my dad's DR650 yet so I wanted to see how they compared. I came up with some very surprising results.
First up - it's almost like the drive trains on these two bikes is reversed. The DR650 is geared VERY tall. Puttering along at backroads speeds you can practically count the cylinder strokes in your head. And despite having something like 50% the horsepower of the DL650, it launches like a total rocketship when you gun it. I mean, it just LEAPS forward in just about any gear. In comparison, the Strom started to feel like it was geared for climbing steep slopes or something. I'm sure in a drag race you'd win with the Strom, but man oh man would you have to be shifting like a madman to beat the DR off the line. With all the extra torque of the Strom, I would much prefer a peppy gearing like the DR when on the street.
Second - it really drove home to me how flawed the Strom's 'binary' throttle response is. Everyone here is familiar with this. Severe engine braking, whipsaw shifting 'jerk'. In that annoying 10-15 mph stop and go traffic, the Strom just looks like it's broken
it's so herky jerky. In contrast, the DR650 is pure butter. Wonderful, ultra smooth up and down shifting at all RPM's. Total utter bliss to someone who has been pretty unhappy with the Strom in this respect. This is one motorcyclist who simply refuses to accept that a fuel injected bike like the Strom cannot be made to be as smooth or smoother than a 10 year old carbeurated thumper. It's computer controlled fer chrissakes! If I had my druthers, I'd serious suggest that the Strom's abyssmal throttle response at anything under highway speeds is recall-worthy.
Third - I had this image in my mind of the 650 as being a 'wow, that's really huge' kind of bike. The biggest offroad bike I'd ever ridden before was 350 cc's and the 650 sounded like a monster. However, at almost 100 pounds less than the Strom it felt like I could just pick it up and throw it over my shoulder if I got stuck
The Strom is a fairly slim bike, too. But on those cramped old logging roads, you really appreciate what it means to ride a bike that truly designed for riding offroad
. The sprightly Strom felt like a pig
One thing that really pleased my was how much I could tune the Strom's suspension for those gnarly gravel potholes. When I first showed up, it felt like I was in a remote controlled car for all the uncontrollable bouncing it was doing. But, I cranked the preload WAAAY up and lo-and-behold, she started gobbling those potholes like there was no tomorrow.
Overall - except for the most super extreme offroad stuff, the DL650 can hang with it's offroad cousins. It doesn't handle things quite as effortlessly, but you can go where they can go. My dad looked real nervous when I insisted on driving around my fancy new ride on all our standard paths, but I showed 'em