I finally got around to picking up the leftover 2018 V-strom 650XT (yellow) that I bought. Incredible deal on a new left-over. Actually cheaper than some used units I've seen advertised, which is what I was going to buy.
I've put several hundred miles on the bike and, as I commented in the "break-in" thread, I'm a believer in following factory recommendations on break in. So they were easy backroad twisty miles, not high revving, lots of hills for varied throttle openings, and no dirt yet. Just rough broken pavement.
First observation, and a lesson re-learned. If you buy a leftover bike, ask the dealer to flush the brake system. I was well into the ride before I noticed that the brake fluid for the front is jet black from moisture contamination. I'll flush that out with new stuff soon.
After reading up on the reviews, I was prepared for a few things. Some expectations rang true, and others did not.
I was expecting a soft front spring. Initially I thought it was stiff, but later decided that the spring was soft, but the damping was very firm. Makes for a jackhammer effect on broken pavement. After about 300 miles, I think the front suspension is going to be the first thing that gets work. I don't do too much serious off-road riding, so that may come before a belly pan and crash bars. Even with the easy riding there were a few times when the damping was so harsh the front tire was losing contact with the roadway (riding over broken and patched pavement). I'll probably drop a few PSI from the front tire until I can address the springing/damping.
The rear shock isn't as bad as I was expecting it to be, but I tried minimum preload and maximum preload, and got exactly the same sag measurement! I thought that was very strange, and wondered if anybody else has had that experience. I also rode it maximum and minimum preload and noticed no difference. Very strange. I started the ride with rear rebound damping two clicks in from softest. Seemed fine to me, but I'll experiment and see if it makes any difference there.
I'd been led to believe that the brakes were wooden feeling compared to the brakes on the V-strom 1000. Maybe. They felt fine to me, but I have not done any serious stopping. For the kind of riding I was doing, they worked fine, and gave sufficient feedback. Initial bite is good, and I didn't work them hard enough to see how they function when really hot.
BTW, does anybody know if you can bolt up the DL1000XT front calipers to the 650? Any other parts that might swap? Like perhaps the rear shock? Just curious.
I'd previously owned a 2002 Suzuki SV650, so I was prepared for the motor feel. But the newer V-twin is a seriously improved engine. I haven't run it up to high revs yet, but I can already tell it's much more refined, smoother, I think the fueling from the injection is better than the carbs transitioning from idle to on throttle. Really nice; no complaints whatsoever. I don't know if that "take-off assist" is necessary or not, but I think at least once it intervened to prevent a take-off stall when I was initiating a U-turn. I liked it even though I'd previously thought it was a silly bit of unnecessary techno babying.
The dealer set traction control to "2" meaning maximum intervention. I didn't bother to change it, since I figured it would never enter into the picture during break-in. But apparently it did, as I noticed the light flicker on a couple of times. However, it was completely transparent to me, and all I can figure is it might have been one of those instances where the bike hit a sand or gravel strip that washed over the pavement during rain, and in ordinary circumstances the rear end might step out an inch or so before grabbing again. I'm just guessing there, because like I said it was totally transparent to me, other than the light flickering on.
The gearbox is probably the nicest shifting I've ever ridden, and I've had over 100 bikes. I have a 2007 BMW 800ST, and a 2016 KTM 390 Duke and those transmissions feel like you're moving a metal rod through a box of rocks compared to the V-strom. I've heard of a false neutral, but could not find one. Whereas the BMW has one before and after 5th gear, and you have to be careful not to hit it every single time. What an amazing difference. (Not to knock non-Japanese manufacturing, but that KTM has had a lousy transmission from day one. When the neutral light is on, you have to be very careful releasing the clutch, because about half the time it's still in 1st gear even though the light is on!)
I've ordered a pair of RaceTech gold valve emulators and springs to try to address that front end. I've tried them in the SV650, and Intiminators in my DR650, and I prefer the gold valves. The stock front end was just way too harsh and didn't give sufficient feedback for me. Granted, that fork oil might be just like the front brake fluid, not performing as if fresh because the bike sat around unsold for a long time. I think I'll leave the rear shock alone until I get the chance to ride it fully loaded, and see if that causes any issues.