HISTORY!! 2002 DL1000 Review in City Bike, San Franxcisco
Bit of History here ... Can't believe its been 10 years since the V-Strom launch!
I wrote this review back in 2002. A month later I picked up my own new Vstrom. I went with the Vstrom after testing the new GS and Caponord shortly before writing this review. Its a bit dated ... and this is the UNEDITED version, although the printed version is close. Enjoy!
Copyright City Bike / Patrick Moriarty
CITY BIKE SAN FRANCISCO
Suzukiís 2002 DL1000 V-Strom
By Patrick Moriarty 4-26-02
The overcrowded Giant Trailie / Adventure Touring category just gained one more player with Suzukiís new entry, the DL1000 V-Strom. Suzuki marketing types came up with the moniker Sport EnduroTourer to describe the new V-Strom, which roughly translates from the German, Strom as ďstream of windĒ "Power Current" or "force". The parameters surrounding the adventure tourer niche seems to be broadening of late, heading more towards road oriented sport touring and less to off road adventure riding. If you look at the CapoNord from Aprilia, (reviewed in City Bike Dec. 2001) this bike illustrates my point well. Even Triumphís venerable 955i Tiger (reviewed City Bike March 2001) is classed as a touring bike by itís makers. BMWís GS, the class sales leader, appears to be the most off-road capable of any bike in this class, but is still a better backroads tourer than dirt bike. At close to 600 lbs. wet with gear, you really have to do a reality check before taking your $16,000 BMW into truly technical off road situations, though some do.
EURO TRASH TRAILIES 101
There are a few Euro-only players in this class not imported to the US. I mention these because they are important in understanding why the V-Strom is what it is. Europe and specifically Germany dominate this market sales wise and pretty much dictate the direction the adventure tourers will take. In fact it was Suzuki Germany who first conceived the V-Strom. They designed it and Japan finished it up. American Suzuki 100% rejected the bike (fears of another TDM 800 bomb) ... but Suzuki Japan straightened them out.
Hondaís Varadero has been around for a couple years in Europe, powered by the 1000cc V-twin lump from the VTR1000 Superhawk, the Varadero is also a touring oriented adventure bike: more ST1100 than rugged enduro bike. We predict if the V-Strom sells well Honda may bring in the Varadero to the US market.
As close as Yamaha has come to this group lately is reflected in the totally re-designed TDM 900. This enduro hybrid is also a Euro-only scooter. After Yamaha suffered mightily with the original TDM 850 imported to these shores in 1992 and 93í it is unlikely we will ever see the new version of the bike here. The TDM has always sold well in Europe and shares a similar road oriented design brief with the V-Strom.
Cagivaís (now MV Agusta/Gilera/Piaggio) Euro only Navigator is a kind of bastard relative to the V-Strom. The Navigator has been around for over a year and uses the same Suzuki sourced motor found in the V-Strom: a revised TL1000 V-twin. Cagiva did import the air cooled Ducati 900 powered Gran Canyon: a stunning Italian design studio project, this sharp handling city scooter may be more effective for back road hooliganism than touring. It is now sadly discontinued, though dealer support is still strong and new Gran Canyonís are still available at select dealers.
Moto Guzzi introduced the Quota to the US market a couple years ago and has achieved only moderate success with their entry into adventure touring. And as long as were talking Italiano I should mention Ducatiís future entry in this class, the very controversial Multistrada. We probably wonít see this gem until next year, but be assured, it is coming.
THE WALTER MITTY SPECIAL- AN ADVENTURE IN YOUR MIND
So where does the V-Strom fit in here and what is it exactly? Itís kind of what ever you imagine it to be. Like most of the competition in this class the V-Strom excels in versatility. This motorcycle is capable of two up touring, weekend sport touring, and even a bit of hooligan sport riding. And this Walter Mitty special will make a hell of a commuter too! Itís the lightest bike in the class at 456 lbs. dry, has a firm, wide seat for all day comfort, an effective fairing and windshield, and an upright riding position with plenty of leg room as well. Itís nimble in the twisties with a super strong V-twin motor that makes it the fastest in the class.
A close look at the V-Strom reveals a rather basic looking motorcycle, plain even. Nothing fancy here yet it has what it takes to perform well. Solid colors only, no graphics and you can choose either gray or blue, just like Mr. Mittyís wardrobe. The modern dual reflector headlight layout gives the bike a hip sportbike look up front and the high mounted twin exhausts help sell the adventure part of the package. The instrument cluster is simple and looks kind of budget, as does the switchgear. Wonít compare with a GS or Tiger for high zoot Euro design points here and no seductive iridescent blue, back lit gauges like the CapoNord either.
Our bland gray test bike fit perfectly the Walter Mitty persona. You would hardly notice the bike. But look closer and you see a massive twin spar aluminum chassis that looks like it came off a GSXR-1000 conjoined with a very serious aluminum box section swingarm. The V-twin lump is clearly visible and looks almost tame in this package. The non-adjustable 43mm Showa cartridge forks also seem well suited for the job. The V-Strom sits lower than others in this class, which limits ground clearance off road yet the seat height is still a lofty 33.2 inches which allows for lots of leg room even for very tall riders. This combined with the three spoke cast aluminum wheels also separates it from the spoked wheel world of the competition. Although in Triumphís case that trade off equals no tubeless tires on their Tiger. The V-Strom goes with the conventional wheel and tire sizes common in the class: 120/19Ē front, 150/17Ē rear. The Bridgestone Trailwings are adequate, with a profile that may not be optimal for the V-Strom.
The jewel in the crown here is the TL1000 derived motor. Essentially the same engine but with a few notable changes. The liquid cooled, 90 degree 996cc V-Twin features dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder with a short 66mm stroke. In the case of the V-Strom however, the old ďtuned for torqueĒ song is trotted out and the Strom gives up about 20 HP to earlier TL models, coming in at a claimed 98 bhp with a claimed 75 ft. lbs. of torque.
The real difference is that the torque is now spread over a wider rev range than with the TL motor and due to reduced cam lobe sizes, hence less lift and duration, the V-Strom has a broad torque curve that is very user friendly. Intake valves shrink 4mm to 36mm to aid in the drivability goal. Pistons are now forged instead of cast, which means stronger yet lighter. Rods are shot-peened for strength and are 25 grams lighter. Compression ratio does not change at 11.3:1, yet I perceived no pinging on 87 octane gas. The already reliable motor should now be even more so. All these changes can only enhance the bikes touring-sport touring assignment and make for a very capable and bullet proof high mileage mule.
Suzuki have changed the old TL digital fuel injection and ECU. The DL gets the same system found on the GSXR sportbikes. Each 45mm Keihin throttle body contains two throttle butterfly valves: the primary, which is linked to the twistgrip, and the secondary which is ECU controlled via a torque motor. The dual throttle valve design improves low rpm performance, throttle response and fuel economy.
Although our test bikeís fuel injection was pretty much glitch free, I have had the opportunity to ride a couple other DL1000ís and some low rpm glitches have arisen. From personal experience and from reports from an internet owners board comprised of over 1300 new V-Strom owners, it seems some V-Stromís are coughing and hesitating, surging at low rpmís at constant throttle or sometimes stalling out. Suzuki verifies that the throttle bodies and TPS (throttle position sensor), are very sensitive to adjustment, may not have been set up properly on a few bikes and some dealers did not have information as how to correct the problem. We have contacted Suzukiís service coordinator and they assure us only a minor adjustment is required to correct the problem and are disseminating the correct service procedure to dealers nationwide. Given the hurried release of the bike in the US many dealers have not received the workshop manuals for the V-Strom yet, but Suzuki have now distributed all relevant service instructions regards the fuel injection. Lets hope this solves this minor annoyance to an otherwise very healthy motor. Suzuki are not the only company to have had FI problems, Triumph had similar problems with their latest 955i offering (corrected with the latest Tune) and Hondaís VFR still displays minor on/off throttle abruptness. BMWís have surged since the early 90ís. Aprilia too, had a few lurking FI gremlins on our CapoNord test bike. Guess fuel injection ainít all itís cracked up to be.
WALTER MITTY GOES FUNKY NASSAU
During my testing of the V-Strom I managed to log about 2800 miles. I did a lot of back road stuff for the first week or two then took off for a 5 day, 1800 mile tour to Death Valley, Las Vegas and back via the snow bound Sierra.
The V-Strom is an easy bike to just get on and go. The riding position is near ideal: you are comfortable and in control immediately, seated high above surrounding traffic allows good vision and yet the agile V-Strom dodges through urban hysteria easily and is narrow enough to carefully split lanes. You really do feel the lighter weight as soon as you dive into that first hairpin. The Tokico calipers acting on 310mm rotors offer near sport bike level braking up front, with good feel from the not overly sensitive rear brake. Adjustable levers for both brake and hydraulic clutch allow a perfect fit. All this makes technical riding fun and stress free. The firm yet supremely balanced Kayaba suspension keeps things well under control at about any pace on most any road with minimal fork dive under even panic braking. The sport bike stiff chassis sends out good signals to the rider despite the wide rubber damped bars. With only six inches of suspension travel the V-Strom is not as plush as the Tiger, CapoNord or BMW GS yet feels solid and in control. The V-Strom doesnít flex, weave or wallow in tough transitions or when ridden hard through rough high speed corners. Although it does not turn as quickly as the other bikes in the class due to itís lower CG and long 60.4 inch wheelbase, the Strom always maintains a solid, stable feel, maintaining relative calm in faster conditions.
As the road tightens up and lean angles increase, you can grind away the hero blobs pretty easily. A few turns on the remote pre-load knob help the situation for the most part. The non-adjustable Showa 43mm cartridge forks work very well, out back the KYB shock offers remote pre-load and rebound damping adjustment. The firm suspension gives the bike a more sport bike like feel, but with the stiff chassis, upright riding position and wide bars the thing becomes kind of like a big KTM Duke. Now that canít be bad. Once you get the feel of the bike itís clear it can be leaned over with confidence, picking up the throttle early on the exit, the massive torque devouring the next straight section of road. The lighter weight allows a more aggressive style upon corner entry with the ability to maintain good corner speed. Not sport bike or KTM Duke level corner speed, but quite respectable for a bike this size.
The limiting factor here are the OEM Bridgestone Trailwing tires. Looking at scuff marks reveal that Iím riding off the edges, something I normally canít do. Signals point to the tires rather than the bike. I had a set of Trailwings on my 99í Tiger and experienced a similar phenomena. Granted, for most riders this will not become an issue, and you can go plenty quick on the V-Strom with the stock tires. But I do believe there may be better tire choices out there for this motorcycle. Either Metzelerís Tourance or Avonís Distanzia should suit the V-Strom better. Pirelli and Dunlop also make suitable tires for this motorcycle.
WALTER MITTY THE ROCK STAR
Riding the twisties also points up the real star of the show here, that 98 bhp (claimed) big V-twin that loves to pull like a tractor out of every corner. Second gear power wheelies are optional, especially on up hills. Like many modern bikes the DL is deceptively fast, the muted exhaust and vibe free nature of the bike define the Walter Mitty character of the machine, but the massive75 ft. lb (claimed) of torque is ever present and makes riding the V-Strom an effortless experience. A funky
intake honk can sometimes imitate a Briggs & Stratton, a set of aftermarket pipes should add some much needed character here. Remus, the Austrian company, already have pipes in stock for the V-Strom, in carbon fiber, aluminum or
Titanium. (See Knut Wagner at MaxMoto at)
The six speed gear box is not the slickest shifting box Suzuki have ever made but perfectly fine and worlds better than some expensive Teutonic experiments out there. Our test bike got notchy at 5,000 miles but once we changed oil everything was fine again. Out on the highway the over drive sixth gear is a pleasure. Cruising at an indicated 93 mph (89 mph actual) the tach is reading a mere 5,000 rpm! Even at this speed the Strom returned over 40 mpg, with a best of 48 mpg in Death Valley. Frisky sport riding drops these figures down to about 37 mpg. Still, a huge improvement over the very thirsty TL1000 motor and good for a 200 mile plus tank range in touring mode. The rubber mounted bars allow little vibration to reach the riderís hands or the mirrors until rpmís are near redline, same goes for the footpegs. One nitpick concerns the side stand. The stand can be easily disengaged due to lack of forward angle in the down position and like many bikes, the bike leans too far over when on the stand. The retaining spring is too weak to hold the stand in the engaged position.
Wind protection on the DL is pretty good but not great. My legs and torso caught a bit of wind and while the shield was fairly quiet up to 65 to70 mph, going faster things got pretty noisy, depending on conditions of course. Both the Tiger and CapoNord offer a bit better protection, while the GS is about equal to the V-Strom here. Suzuki will offer a taller shield and Iím quite sure the aftermarket will jump in here too. I always wear earplugs no matter what bike Iím on so for me this is a minor shortfall. Solving wind buffeting issues has become a cottage industry in the touring class. Dozens of companies offer replacement shields and assorted wind management items. This is an individual preference thing involving dozens of factors and every rider will have to fine tune his bike to make it work for him.
The seat took some breaking in, but after about 500 miles I grew accustom to it and easily did several 400 mile days. Pillion comfort is also good, with heat shields over the high exhausts keeping both soft bags and passengers legs from ever getting hot. Nice. My low profile Held magnetic tank bag worked very well on the V-Strom, never moving around even at speeds over 140 mph indicated. Speaking of high speed. In Death Valley we did a few sections at a steady 120 mph. The V-Strom was calm with no hint of weave so common in this class. This was with a full array of soft luggage on board and the very robust rear rack easily holding my Wolfman tail bag. I could have gone faster but the three BMW GSís I was riding with couldnít keep up. The DL is good
in high wind but does not like sudden gusts from the side.
Where the GSís ruled was when we decided to go off road to see the Charcoal Kilns in Death Valley. Built by Chinese laborers years ago, the interiors of the Kilns are a true sonic delight. About ten of these huge bee hive like rock edifices are lined up like an earthworks art piece. Once inside one of these giant rock teepees the echoes one can create are fascinating. The problem was getting there. Here I seem to have found the Achilles heal of the DL. On the severely clapped out washboard road worthy of Baja, the Stromís ultra stiff sport bike chassis and firm suspension conspired to hammer bike and rider for the short fourteen mile round trip. The mild steel bars where literally wagging in the breeze on this road and I was afraid one of the cast wheels might crack or something would fall off the bike. Nothing broke or fell off but itís clear that very rough dirt sections will have to be taken carefully when undertaking off road adventures. Smoother fire roads or even easy two track trails present few problems. Rough pavement is handled pretty well also, while it does not suck up huge pot holes like the GSís telelever or the CapoNordís fabulous 50mm Paoiliís, the Strom does the job quite well, but in a different way. And once things smooth out some the V-Strom is King Dick.
On another 1100 mile, 3 day trip through the Trinity Alps the V-Strom performed beautifully, allowing a string of 350 mile days of mostly twisty roads with remarkably little fatigue. Heading home with CapoNord mounted rider friend, we braved the dual sport road from hell: The Leesville Grade rd. that runs about 30 miles between Ladoga and highway 20. This is some of the the most beat up pavement you may encounter and makes Marshall-Petaluma rd. look like an Interstate. The V-Stromís firm suspension did a great job of keeping things lined up and in control on this very technical section of road. Not as plush as I would have liked, but not bad at all. Using low revs and the massive torque available I could still power out of corners without breaking the rear tire loose on the marginal surfaces. The very quick and plush riding CapoNord was kept easily in sight under these extreme rough road conditions. The Strom is a player.
At $8899 list Suzukiís V-Strom represents very good value. A truly versatile bike that is capable of fast paced long distance riding in comfort and safety. As a daily driver, the practical V-Strom is also a winner,with 15,000 mile valve adjustment intervals for the proven strong and reliable motor. The bike feels smaller and lighter than any of itís competition and reminds me more of a 600cc single dual sport bike than a behemoth Bavarian Paris-Dakar wanna be. It also has the best power to weight ratio in the class. Suzuki will offer a center stand, taller wind screen, heated grips and hard bags for the V-Strom. These items should be available by July.
@ May 2002 CITY BIKE SAN FRANCISCO