1. I'm 55 and can barely swing a leg over without brushing the tail. How would you get on one of these with a tail bag in place?
2. Daily commute is 32 miles freeway each way with speeds into the 80s in the mornings and lane splitting (Calif you know) for the last 15 miles home at night.
3. I'd want to take short (~ 3 day) trips on this by myself with perhaps 25lbs of luggage. How well do the tail bag and hard bags work on this?
4. What are the common mods people do to this after purchase . . . or what is weak from the factory?
Bought the cruiser (Honda Shadow 750 Spirit) as an inexpensive learner as I didn't want to spend my commute in the sport bike crouch or a twitchy throttle. While a cruiser is nice, I want something a bit more nimble for splitting lanes yet capable of weekend rides as well. So far the V-Strom sounds like the way to go.
1. I also often use the left peg mounting technique - I'll add that I always make sure I'm grabbing the front brake to ensure no forward motion when I'm getting on. I also bend my right leg quite a bit at the knee, which seems to help. I started this technique when carrying a duffle bag on the pillion when camping, and it let me get on without having to use the kung-fu technique described by sock puppet. Now I just do it out of habit.
2. You shouldn't have any probs with speeds in the 80s unless mid-high revs bug you - then you may want to consider a different sprocket (relatively cheap mod) as many others here have done.
3. The luggage systems are great. I've got the GIVI E52 top case, which holds a lot of stuff, has an auxiliary brake/tail light option (admorelighting.com), and is very easy to put on/take off. I was using Cortech Sport saddlebags, which worked pretty well, 'though I had to add a couple of tie-down spots to secure them to the bike. I've since upgraded to Pelican 1550 cases attached to SW-Motech quick-release side racks. Holds more, offers some crash protection, and the cases come off quickly. Look around in the forum, you'll see lots of case options, both hard and soft. While mileage suffered when loaded up (both trips also had lots of wind), I noticed very little difference in handling - but I don't push it.
4. Probably the biggest single 'must-do' mod is wind management - with either an alteration to the stock setup, addition of a Madstad adjustable bracket, or an aftermarket windshield (or both of the latter). Handguards are popular for wind/particle protection, and everything else is pretty much as desired - heated grips, different pegs, crash guards, skid plate, etc.
I came from a Honda VT500C Shadow, and the 'Strom is much more nimble, more comfortable for me, and much more enjoyable to ride.
Good luck with your decision - hope to see you as a fellow 'trooper soon!