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Wednesday 21st December 2011

PH2 ridden: 2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650

Suzuki's V-twin all-rounder is now less fugly and still very good...



When Suzuki pulled the covers off the original V-Strom 1000 in 2002 there was more than a slight intake of breath. Not only was the bike staggering ugly, it also had a stupid name that most assumed was the result of a mistranslation from English to Japanese. You can imagine the mobile phone conversation between two designers as one drops in and out of signal. "How about a V-Storm?" "A V-SUM?" "No, STORM." "STRUM?" "STORM!" "Ok, STROM" "No, oh sod it, yeah, whatever..."

If you care a Strom is actually, according to Suzuki, the German name for a stream. Anyway, after a few years the 1,000cc V-Strom was joined in the range by a smaller brother, the V-Strom 650, using the commuter friendly SV650's V-twin 645cc engine. It retained all the ugliness of its sibling, but proved one of those guilty pleasures. A bit like a slightly thick but incredibly good looking girlfriend, the 650 was a superb machine, you just were just a bit embarrassed to introduce it to your mates.

Hardly handsome but it IS improved
Hardly handsome but it IS improved
Eye of the beholder
Well for 2012 Suzuki has (eventually) done something about the V-Strom's looks. Having dropped the 1000 in 2009, the baby 650 is the only Strom on the streets and is now a bike you can actually be moderately proud of being seen on.

When I rode home and showed the bike to my actual girlfriend she declared it "quite pretty." To be fair I'm no oil painting so there is a chance her vision/sense of taste is a bit lacking, but all the same that is a vote of confidence in the new look.

Many experienced riders will doubtless (and unfairly) dismiss the 650 as a rookie's bike. While the 650 is certainly an excellent machine for less experienced riders, it is also a superb bike for old hands who just want hassle free commuting. Personally, I'd have a sports bike in the garage for weekends and use the Strom for the daily commute or dull motorway miles.

V-Strom works in and out of town
V-Strom works in and out of town
Which is where it will happily cruise at 70mph-plus. The seating position is supremely comfortable with nice wide bars and a deeply padded seat. The screen, which is two-stage adjustable for height, does a fairly decent job and when you are on the go the Suzuki feels like a big bike.

Easy rider
Thrash the super smooth V-twin engine and it will go over 100mph, but how often do you do this on a daily commute? When it comes to churning out the miles all you need is a comfortable ride, a vibration free motor and decent fuel range, which the V-Strom offers. But it doesn't stop there. Unlike the TMAX big scooter PH2 reviewed recently, the V-Strom can be used for trips away and even a bit of a laugh at weekends.

Introduce a set of corners into the equation and it'll surprise you with its agility. Long travel suspension helps deliver a smooth ride and though it can get a bit wobbly when you push really hard for fast and flowing riding it's pretty accomplished.

Decent motorway protection from fairing
Decent motorway protection from fairing
The V-twin may only have a claimed 68hp but it's sprightly and torquey enough that you're not up and down the gears constantly. Not that it would matter if you were, the V-Strom having one of the slickest gearboxes around.

Two's company
Add a pillion and the 650 does start to feel a little underpowered but my passenger reported the seat was comfortable and the ride not at all unpleasant. Which probably means I wasn't trying hard enough.

With a fine layer of winter grime on the road's surface I had more than enough opportunity to test the V-Strom's ABS system too. I always find pseudo off-road road tyres a bit lacking in grip, especially in the damp, but the Suzuki's ABS seemed to cope with my best attempts to annoy it and ABS on bikes is now so good I'd rather have it and not need it that not have it and end up in a hedge.

ABS handy on winter roads
ABS handy on winter roads
The 2012 V-Strom 650 has retained all of the features that made the older bike such a wonderful machine while removing the hideous look. With a price tag of £6,899 you get ABS included and a pannier set is £817 (£1,083 including top box), making the Suzuki a bargain when compared to some larger capacity big trailies. To add to this value Suzuki has just unveiled three accessory packs for the V-Strom. The 'tourer pack' contains brush guards, a 14-litre tank bag, belly pan, accessories bar and a new chain guard for £499 including fitment, a saving of £121. The 'adventure pack' is the same as the 'tourer' with the tank bag replaced by a top box and a higher screen and centre stand added for £999, saving £291 while the £1,299 'GT pack' contains panniers, a top box, belly pan and centre stand for £360 less than retail.

The V-Strom in all its pre-facelift horror
The V-Strom in all its pre-facelift horror
More than just an ugly face
While the old V-Strom 650 was a guilty pleasure, I have to confess I would be more than happy to own a 2012 bike as my daily hack. Some may think it's a little under-endowed at just 650cc but for motorway miles it's more than fast enough and it's light and nippy around town, not to mention comfortable and fuel efficient.

The only question mark hangs over the build quality. The old 650 wasn't great, with disc carriers quickly turning rusty and the finish on the engine flaking off. Looking around the new model it seems as though Suzuki has made more effort with this version, though I would still keep on top of the cleaning, especially in winter.

And finally I know you are wondering, so here is a picture of the original bike. A face, like my own, that only a mother can love...


SUZUKI V-STROM 650
Engine:
645cc V-twin
Power: 68hp
Torque: 44lb ft
Top speed: 120mph (est)
Weight: 214kg
MPG: 50 (est)
Price: £6,899


 

Jon Urry
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Author Discussion

Motorrad

Original Poster:

5,086 posts

72 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd December 2011 quote quote all
Nearly 7 grand eh? New bikes cost a fecking fortune these days, wasn't that long ago you could pick up a new V-Strom for 5 with accessories.
Wonder if the new 1000 will prove to be as good a machine as the new 650? While neither of them float my boat I could imagine owning one a year or two down the line when they've depreciated a little.

LuS1fer

31,717 posts

130 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd December 2011 quote quote all
Looks greyer than a strom-cloud. Very dull.

Motorrad

Original Poster:

5,086 posts

72 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd December 2011 quote quote all
LuS1fer said:
Looks greyer than a strom-cloud. Very dull.
Less dull when riding them- old Stroms at least. I had use of an 650 with a ohlins spring/shock upgrade and it cornered like a sports bike (an old sports bike biggrin)


ellisd82

657 posts

93 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd December 2011 quote quote all
Glad to see you mentioned Vibration free riding. My Uncle has a 2010 650 V-Strom and said it is too videy, especially on longer riders.
Have you by chance ridden the last one? My Uncle could have got one from a bad batch as I never heard of complaints from SV650 owners, although chassis design could be the difference.
Not a bad bike though for the cash. Wonder if my Uncle will upgrade to this model.

Jon Urry

26 posts

35 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd December 2011 quote quote all
I've ridden the old one and I can't say I remember any vibrations. The SV engine is usually super-smooth. But the 2012 V-Strom uses the Gladius motor (Gladys) and that is slightly altered over the old SV engine which the older V-Strom ran, so it may well be smoother.
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Mark-C

1,868 posts

90 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd December 2011 quote quote all
Boring question time ... what's the fuel range on one of these? I have a 140 mile round-trip daily commute and want something as an alternative to the Octavia Diesel to use once or twice a week. Anything near to 200 miles and this might be the tool for the job.

3doorPete

8,252 posts

119 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd December 2011 quote quote all
I wonder whether a T-Max or this would make a better city commuter? whistle

sprinter1050

11,293 posts

112 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd December 2011 quote quote all
If the gas tank holds anywhere near 20L it "should" manage near 200m on a tank ? (according to the figure above anyway)

Crucially, how does it compare to the highly-rated 650 Versys but more importantly the more expensive but supreme Tiger 800 ?

Harry H

742 posts

41 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd December 2011 quote quote all
3doorPete said:
I wonder whether a T-Max or this would make a better city commuter? whistle
It's a lot cheaperbiggrin

obscene

3,975 posts

70 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd December 2011 quote quote all
sprinter1050 said:
If the gas tank holds anywhere near 20L it "should" manage near 200m on a tank ? (according to the figure above anyway)

Crucially, how does it compare to the highly-rated 650 Versys but more importantly the more expensive but supreme Tiger 800 ?
A what tank now? Your location doesn't state USA redface



I managed 193 miles on my Hornet riding like an old man and it was very, very dull before I got chicken. I could have managed 200 miles. I'd imagine with the low hp on the 650 it should do 200 miles to a tank easily.

redtwin

7,235 posts

67 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd December 2011 quote quote all
Harry H said:
3doorPete said:
I wonder whether a T-Max or this would make a better city commuter? whistle
It's a lot cheaperbiggrin
And it has ABS. angel

spareparts

4,984 posts

112 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd December 2011 quote quote all
3doorPete said:
I wonder whether a T-Max or this would make a better city commuter? whistle
biggrin

Have they fixed the bendy/flexy front forks on the Dstrom? Wasnt this a problem on previous dstroms?

sprinter1050

11,293 posts

112 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd December 2011 quote quote all
obscene said:
A what tank now? Your location doesn't state USA redface
tongue out I'm an international traveller me.

And a lazy keyboard warrior as Gas only has 4 letters compared to petrol with 6. Bugger, there I've typed more now.

jkhamler

18 posts

47 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd December 2011 quote quote all
Mark-C said:
Boring question time ... what's the fuel range on one of these? I have a 140 mile round-trip daily commute and want something as an alternative to the Octavia Diesel to use once or twice a week. Anything near to 200 miles and this might be the tool for the job.
I've used a 650 V-Strom as my daily transport for the past 4 years and it's been totally reliable, has cost a pittance to run and manages on average around 220 miles per tankful (I got 250 miles once but this was all steady motorway miles... probably with a wind behind me wink )

Jon Urry

26 posts

35 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd December 2011 quote quote all
I can answer a couple of question here. I've tested the V-Strom against the Tiger 800 and the 800 is a better overall machine. It's close as the Strom is really good, but the triple engine is brilliant and gives the Tiger a bit more of a 'big bike' feel. The only irritation on the Tiger is an odd metalic popping sound on the over-run, which is something to do with an exhaust valve I believe. I'm assured that with careful riding you can top 70mpg on the V-Strom, I generally hit nearer 55-60 but I'm not very careful! I always go low with estimated mpg so as a better mpg is a pleasant surprise.

Motorrad

Original Poster:

5,086 posts

72 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd December 2011 quote quote all
spareparts said:
biggrin

Have they fixed the bendy/flexy front forks on the Dstrom? Wasnt this a problem on previous dstroms?
Fork brace and the suspension upgrade made the DL650 I was using a nice neutral handler.

3.5 grand newish V strom with the upgrades to suspension and forks makes a nice machine for just over 5 grand.

Yazza54

13,071 posts

66 months

[news] 
Friday 23rd December 2011 quote quote all
One parks near me at work. Seriously ugly bike but he seems to like it. Never understood the name, I thought they were called a v storm which to me would have made sense then realised I was wrong. What the buggery is a 'strom'

tonker

46,853 posts

133 months

[news] 
Friday 23rd December 2011 quote quote all
Yazza54 said:
One parks near me at work. Seriously ugly bike but he seems to like it. Never understood the name, I thought they were called a v storm which to me would have made sense then realised I was wrong. What the buggery is a 'strom'
it is also German for 'current' as in electric current.... which would make sense as a 'bike name'.... colloquially used in the same way as we would say "power" or "mains", e.g. is this hooked up to the mains, so it conveys a sense of power, consistency, blah, blah, blah....

ZesPak

13,934 posts

81 months

[news] 
Friday 23rd December 2011 quote quote all
Seems to me that that's a very close rival to the CBF600, no? Although the CBF does have a bit more power, it does look equally bland and an equally perfect commuter bike.

CV35Ian

14 posts

50 months

[news] 
Friday 23rd December 2011 quote quote all
I looked at a new V Strom 650 last year with all the goodies, with discount was going to be £7K. redface

I then looked at used ones and thought of the D word (Depreciation!!).That cost that most motorists ignore for some reason.;)

So I went back to my original plan of a 3 year old R1200GS, ended up buying a 5 year old one for £2K less, spent very little on it since, nothing has fallen or flaked off and I reckon its still worth almost what I paid for it.smile

Used vehicles rule - unless you have money to burn!
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