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2021 Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
On July 1, we hauled 4 bikes to Kalisppel MT from Boone, NC. I prepared twp 2021 V-Strom 650s, there was a 2021 HD Pan America and a Yamaha FZ6 on the trip. We left Kalispel on July 4 and rode up the AlCan and then across to Anchorage and then South on Cassiers back to Kalispel. It was 5,711 miles, we did not do Haul road to Purdue Bay because of time and lack of dirt skills for one rider. The V-Stroms ran prefect and didn't require any repairs. The Yamaha rider flew back from Anchorage and it also ran flawlessly except blew a fork seal. The new HD had problems, the battery went dead a few times as it could not keep up with the heated grips, the lowering system does not work when the battery is low, the chain which the owner was told would last 100,000 miles was stretching an 1" every 100 miles after 15,000 miles. The Harley had to be towed over 500 miles for a new chain and rear tire after 5,000 miles.
It also has poor radiator protection and a thin weak skid plate, it made it, but not ready for the AlCan.

Back to the Suzukis: The 2021 XT has excellent stock suspension and wheels for the forst heaves and massive and large number of wicked pot holes. One bike had stock gearing and achieved 49 mpg and for the other I put a 16 tooth sprocket on the front and it achieved 51.5 mpg. There was 5 times when we had t go over 200 miles between gas stations. We carried a 1 gallon Rotopak tank on each bike and didn't need it. That said we bought gas whenever there was gas available. We were stuck with regular gas 5-6 times. The V-stroms had no prblems with the regular gas.

The Rotpaks fit nicely between the Happy Trail Pannier mounts and Tusk Medium bags. We choose the HT racks so we could mount the bags low to keep the center of gravity of the bikes low. When we reached the muddy construction zones the 150 HP Harley could not keep up. The V-Stroms also had the amazing McCruise electronis control which worked just like a car and maintained speed up and down hills. It also allows upping and lowering the speed in 1 MPH increments. We installed the T-Rex skid plate, crash guards, center stand and radiator guard. The skid plates were important as we hit them a few times. We aslo added heated grips as we needed them as it was 46 f at times. We had Givi windscreens and while the Yamaha and HD rider had their helmet shields covered in bugs we could watch the bugs fly over our helmets. We also added fork caps that allow preload adjustment to match the rear that we cranked up 5 turns. We also added fork braces and fender risers. Both bikes had tank bags and enlarged foot peg pads.

The stock seats were fine for both of us and one bike had a Givi rear top case and the other didn't. One had the stock Bridgestone Adventure tires which competed the trip, but are shot. The other Michelin Anakee Adventures which the rider decided to replace the rear with a 1,000 miles to go with a Heidenua K60 Scout. The AlCan and other roads are extremely abrasive so 1/3 the tire life would be realistic.

Some tips:

Newer bikes are a better option, motorcycle shops are few and thousands of miles a part.
New tires are critical and if you do more than 5,000 miles expect to replace them.
Chains take a beating the HD chain failed and V-Strom chains were fine, but had an oiler on them.
Your suspension will take a beating, so it much be n top shape.
Gas is few and far between, expect 200 miles plus and regular in some places.
You need engine protection, skid plates, crash bars, radiator guards, etc.
If you can't turn a wrench make sure somebody with you can.
You need a tire plug kit, jumper cables, chain lube, and tools.
Hotel reservations 48 hours in advance or you will be camping. We did not want to carry camping gear so didn't.
The Cardo Pack Talk Black which we all had worked brilliantly, once synced never had to do it again helped spot animals, discuss stops and warn of pot holes.
Gas is expensive in Canada $7.00 to $11.00 per gallon USD. This trip is not cheap so if you have a tight budget save and go another year.
Weather, we had 9 days of rain and it was cold except 2 days. use the best gear you can find, I threw my new Cycle Gear "waterproof" Touring boots away and bought Arias cowboy boots which were actually water proof.
The scenery is amazing, lots of wildlife, amazing trip,
 

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2021 Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I enjoyed your article about your recent Alaska adventure. I rode my V-strom 1000 up there in 2012, the round trip out of Denver was 8000 miles. Not a single problem with the DL. It is not an easy ride and anyone planning to do the ride needs to really do a lot of homework. Read many ride reports and watch a lot of youtube videos. Plan & Plan... Get on the bike in the rain, ride 500 miles on the Alcan in the rain, get up and do it again. We turned around at the Yukon River on our way to the Arctic Circle because of heavy rain ahead and the 'Haul Road' was getting too slick. When you are 3450 miles away from home, one direction, you have to make some smart decisions. I was finding Haul Road mud on that bike two years after that trip. It is truly an epic journey. But when you are riding on a clear morning, having just past a couple of Moose standing in a pond by the road, a bear just crossed in front of you, and Eagles are flying overhead, you just pinch yourself and say "this is real, this is real". And you are smiling inside that helmet :D
Thanks, you did an even longer ride. I agree, you can't do enough planning for this ride and weather and road closures means you must be flexible. People were amazed at the photos, but there is so much great to photograph it is hard to believe it is real. This was even better than the Western Continental Divide.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Cassier Highway is actually in better condition and more beautiful than the AlCan. I also agree the roads in BC were better than in the USA. We were told very little road work was done during the pandemic and that is why we ran into so much construction. As far as tire wear we saw wear rates 2X what we see here in VA and NC. The Harley on the exact same OEM tire which lasted 11,000 miles in NC, the rear needed to be replaced in less than 5,000 miles. One of the V-Stroms with new Michelin Anakee Adventures needed a rear at 5,500 miles. My OEM Bridgestones made the 5,700 miles, but are thin. The Heidenaua K60 Scout should last longer, but I doubt they would last 15,000 on these roads. the problem is the roads are paved gravel with very little tar or asphalt on top. The surface has the local rock crushed into gravel so sharp and highly abrasive. We ran into riders also needing tires in 4-5,000 miles. One Ducati was showing cord in less than 4,000 miles.
The pot holes can be avoided in most cases, but the frost heaves are tough, having a lighter load helps. I saw many overloaded bikes and I would not do that.

The motorcycle shop in Smithers, BC another Harley was getting it's frame welded because it cracked. Another bike was hauled in for a failed water pump, the too bills were over $2,000.00.

I am sure some riders head North with no plan and make it so maybe no detailed plan is needed, but would I would do more planning after doing this ride. We saw riders that could not find rooms and were forced to ride on or camp. We met riders with broken down bikes. I would also research the best tow coverage I could find even though our two Suzuki V-Strom bikes had zero problems. Would I choose the V-Strom 650 again, absolutely.
 
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