Test Ride Review: 2018 Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT ABS
Motorcycling seems to be getting more and more adventurous day by day in the country. We’ve got a wide spectrum of motorcycles catering to the adventure segment with the likes of the Royal Enfield Himalayan and BMW G 310 GS operating at the lower cubic capacity segment while the biggies like the Triumph Tiger, the Ducati Multistrada and obviously the big BMW R 1200 GS are on the other end of the spectrum. However, if you wanted an upgrade from a 400cc but didn’t want the 800s or larger, there was just a single choice available to the Indian masses in the form of the Kawasaki Versys 650. Now, there is a new option though. A more hardcore off-road biased option. The Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT.
“The styling is unmistakably adventure yet this V-Strom has elements that showcase the effect louder than the rest of the segment. Take the beak for instance. It looks just smashing”
Suzuki did dabble with an adventure motorcycle for India with the V-Strom 1000 but perhaps didn’t receive as positive a response as the current ADV bikes in the market, perhaps being a bit ahead of its time. It is still on sale but has not been able to quite capture the Indian audience as much as its foes. The same hopefully should not be the case with the V-Strom 650 as Suzuki India has gone the whole hog and brought in the XT variant to the country, which comes with all the right bells and whistles to make your off-road experience as enjoyable as your on road one.
Now in its third generation, the V-Strom 650 XT looks very much like its elder sibling. The styling is unmistakably adventure yet this V-Strom has elements that showcase the effect louder than the rest of the segment. Take the beak for instance. It looks just smashing. It strikes the perfect balance in proportion. And that is evident thanks to Suzuki’s rich heritage in making big off road motorcycles in the past such as the DR-BIG and the DR-Z. Even the yellow colour scheme is oh-so-Suzuki which completes the look with gold colour anodised spoke rims. The vertically stacked headlight just adds to the whole Angry Birds vibe that you get from the front end. I admit that the rear section is not the most appealing to look at but it is not ghastly as well.
For better wind protection, you get a height adjustable windshield with three pre-determined slots. However, the adjustment requires a basic set of Allen keys. This being the XT model, there are a few bits and bobs that aren’t found on the base model available in the foreign markets. Things such as the knuckle protectors and plastic protective panels around the engine come as standard. I like the design of the info panel which bears an analogue tacho complemented with an LCD digital dash for the rest of the data. It provides sufficient data as one could hardly feel anything lacking in this department. There is a 12V DC outlet next to the console as well to handle charging needs for your portable electronics.
“The slim profile allows you to have better control of the motorcycle in general”
Underneath the skin
The V-Strom 650 is built on a solid aluminium twin-spar frame. Suzuki has managed to reduce weight while still offering great balance between rigidity and flexibility. It is slimmer in comparison to the older generation V-Strom but as we didn’t quite have the old model available to us we cannot point out the obvious changes. That said, the slim profile allows you to have better control of the motorcycle in general. The large 20-litre fuel tank has got a nice taper towards the rider with the tank ingress allowing your thighs to grip the motorcycle comfortably, even when you are standing on the pegs.
You get a commanding view once you straddle yourself on to the plush saddle of the V-Strom 650. At 835mm, the seat height does force me to balance the motorcycle with the balls of my feet, and I am a couple of inches shy of 6 feet. So shorter riders may find it a bit worrisome. The bars though adequately wide are not flat and have got a bit of height to them. The footpegs are extremely neutral which makes for a very relaxed posture when cruising down the highway. I would have liked to get bearclaw type footpegs but that is not the case. Check accessories box for more info. You do get a span adjustable brake lever but sadly the clutch one isn’t.
In terms of the rest of the cycle parts, Suzuki has equipped the V-Strom 650 XT with a set of conventional forks that have a stroke length of 150mm and a rear preload and rebound adjustable link-type monoshock unit that can be tuned to your liking. There is a remote preload adjuster knob right below the seat on the right side that allows you to bump up or down the tuning without making use of specialised tools like most suspension units need. Dual 310mm rotors with twin piston Toxico callipers are entrusted with carrying out braking duties on the front wheel while the rear unit is a 260mm disc with a single piston calliper. The Bosch ABS unit is standard for India but sadly isn’t of the switchable type that one would hope for from an off-road worthy motorcycle such that it is. Gladly, the wheel assembly is off road friendly. Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A40 rubber sits on a front-rear 19-17inch set of spoke rims. These tyres have been specially developed for the motorcycle and have a 50-50 on/off road bias.
69.7bhp and 62Nm from the 645cc 90-degree V-Twin engine
Thumb the starter and the 645cc 90-degree V-twin liquid-cooled DOHC motor fires up instantly thanks to Suzuki’s Easy Start System, a tech item available on all of their big bikes. It makes 69.7bhp and 62Nm which is delivered in a friendly manner. No ride-by-wire tech here but you still get a two-stage traction control system that can be switched off completely. The six-speed transmission is optimised to bring out the best mid-range proficiency of the mill. The exhaust is slimmer than the new age Suzukis and that must have something to do with the lesser number of cylinders than their other big bikes. There is none of the V-twin shudder that one expects from an engine of its configuration but sadly there is none of the aural delight that one associates with a V-twin or from Suzuki for that matter.
How is the Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT to ride?
Suzuki wanted us to have more time on board the V-Strom 650 and test out all its capabilities in a testing environment. So they flew us down to swelteringly hot Jaipur and told us we would ride out to Ranthambore the following morning. The route would have a good mix of pristine highways, broken village sections and ultimately muddy areas to explore the motorcycle’s limits.
“You shouldn’t worry about any bumps as the suspension irons out what the highway throws in your face”
Just as we rode out of the dealership and got on to the highway, I popped a (completely unintentional) wheelie and that bode good times for the day ahead. Out on the highway, the traffic was scarce. A good time to give it the beans then. And the V-Strom obliged. She was gaining speed with incredible gusto, reaching 160kmph within no time. There is a bit of hesitancy from the motor once you start getting close to the limiter, obviously. Hrishi tells me he was cracking on until he saw unmentionable speeds on the speedo. But after all he’s Mad Mandke, I shouldn’t expect anything less. There was an intermittent weave from the front end at high speeds, which does even itself out.
The engine is happy to hum along at 120kmph with the revs hovering around the 5,500rpm in sixth gear. Roll on the throttle and she will surge forward. It feels quite planted at 120kmph. You shouldn’t worry about any bumps as the suspension irons out what the highway throws in your face. Around 60km into the ride and we turn off to take on the state highway and the local roads leading to Ranthambore. The roads got worse. The idiots on the roads increased. Cattle roamed around aimlessly. Nothing could deter the V-Strom. It was happy to go from gung-ho to cautious in seconds. The front-end bite from the Toxicos is fantastic. The conventional forks are set on the softer side and there is evident diving while braking but there is no loss of composure. Thankfully, I had set the rear monoshock for a slightly stiffer ride to take the load of my large frame.
“Switch the traction control off and whack open the throttle and the torque is ready for you to commit your acts of tomfoolery”
As we were nearing our lunch spot, Hrishi and I spotted locations to try out the V-Strom’s off roading potential and also areas where Rohit could get some shots. We found a large open flatland right near the entrance to Ranthambore National Forest and sought to whirl up a dust storm. And the V-Strom loves that. Switch the traction control off and whack open the throttle and the torque is ready for you to commit your acts of tomfoolery. It feels extremely balanced even when the rear is spinning up. The Battlax Adventure A40s need to be commended here. They offered great confidence on tarmac and even on dirt they are one of the better dual-purpose options available in the market.
I could not pull off powerslides with such ease as Mad Mandke and I let him loose on the V-Strom so that Rohit could collect some vital imagery to grace these spreads. Beneath him, the V-Strom was receiving the ride of its life. We threw jumps, rubbles and everything barring rocks at her and she breezed past them. She felt right at home. Sadly, there were no twisty bits during our ride and so I cannot comment on its cornering prowess. I did feel it to be a bit lazy when it came to changing lanes. The steering geometry backs that as the twin-spar frame bears a 26-degree steering head angle and a wheelbase of 1560mm.
Suzuki has brought yet another brilliant product into the country. One could say she is the perfect size for our country and best adept to take on our varied conditions. It retails for Rs 7.46 lakh, ex-showroom India. That’s close to 75 grand more than the Versys 650. So how do you justify the pricing? Well for starters, the V-Strom 650 XT does not need to be wrung as much as the Versys and gets better components as well as tech to allow it to go off road. Just a few days since the ride happened and Motoroyale has launched the SWM 650 SuperDual T, which belongs in the same segment as the V-Strom. Until we get our hands on the SWM, I truly believe the V-Strom is the bike for the adventurous Indian. And you get the most bang for your buck!