V-Strom 650

Text: Christian Neuhauser • Photography: Kinney Jones

That simple sentence once summed up the philosophy of the English economist, Sir Carl Popper. Today, it's an ethos that certainly appeals to the motorcycle makers at Suzuki. And even in the US - a country where it often seems everything has to be big - it's a sweet little concept made real that's more than ready for the road.

First Impressions
Suzuki launched their first dual sport bike, the V-Strom DL1000 in 2002, and challenged BMW and Triumph. Aprilia chose to bare their teeth at the time with the Caponord. Now, in 2004, Suzuki has shaken things up again with the launch of a smaller V-Strom version, the 650.

Location: Indian Wells, California. Time: 7:30 a.m. I turn the key and the two-cylinder engine immediately comes to life with a quiet hum. I leave the parking lot of the Miramonte Resort knowing that I'm not in any danger of waking guests at this nice hotel.

After passing a few traffic lights, I turn onto I-10 heading east. The gearbox works smoothly even in the cold conditions. Once on the interstate, I open the throttle and admire the even acceleration of the 90-degree V-Twin.

The windscreen provides good protection and there's no nasty turbulence slapping my helmet. Made wide enough at the shoulders with a lip on the edge, the V-Strom 650's windscreen was carefully designed to reduce wind reaching the rider, and it effectively directs the windblast over the rider's helmet. Another advantage, the screen can be adjusted manually in three steps. You can raise it in the range of 50mm, which sets the angle of the windscreen in a more upright position.

Twenty miles down the road, I turn off at the Joshua Tree National Park exit. Later, at the Cottonwood Visitor Center, it's time for a little inspection to see what else I might divine about this new lightweight and what it has to offer.

Design & Finish
Sitting on the edge of the sidewalk, sipping on a coke, I'm checking out the bike in the bright desert sunshine. Rating a design is always difficult because tastes vary. But I like the lines on this bike very much. The fuel tank looks small even though it holds 22 liters (5.8gal.) My gaze moves smoothly from the tank to the lower seat (82mm/32.3in.), and the line ends with a nicely designed luggage rack. Surprisingly, no luggage hooks are mounted. That's disappointing in a bike whose prime purpose is traveling. The dashboard and paint are very well done, but then my eyes glide lower to discover another item I don't like: the rims. Painted black, they look like plastic - and very unattractive plastic at that. Suzuki ought to ask for a few bucks more on the sales price and provide alloy rims or spokes. It's too bad; but those two things - no luggage hooks and ratty rims - are keeping this great little companion out of the running for five-piston ratings.

The Twisties
The 67 horses respond powerfully when I open the throttle, and the bike handles easily through tight corners. In the long sweepers, the chassis remains stable. This relaxed riding invites me to enjoy the bizarre landscape of the Joshua Tree National Park, but it's back to business when the next curve shows up incredibly fast. Adrenaline takes over and I grab the brake lever. The two 310mm front discs work very precisely and I circle without problems through the next corner. The road is bumpy and at times potholes pock the ideal line. Unwaveringly, the V-Strom follows my intentions and the Showa forks perform excellently.

Bridgestone developed a special DL-series tire for the 650 as well as the 1000. I'm not persuaded by the choice, however. When the surface is rough, I sometimes feel my front wheel breaking away a bit. The traction isn't what I expected; but on a little detour over hedge and ditch I experience the opposite. The Bridgestone tread really digs into the mixture of dirt and gravel and restores some confidence.

Back on the road the engine performs with so much enthusiasm I get lost in the moments and almost forget about stopping to eat and take on water to stave off desert dehydration. I need a refill. Not so my companion. This bike turns out to be a very modest tippler, needing only 2 gallons for 105 miles.

After a short, refreshing break, I jump back on the bike and return to the Park. From there, the impressions gained in some 85 miles of back roads and dirt trails complete my portrait of this bike. Taking a break at the Jumbo Rocks, I watch the pale-orange evening light play against the beautiful Suzuki blue.

The V-Strom will look even better - in any light - when fully equipped with the GIVI accessories: top case and a complement of hard bags on the sides. A gel seat, a touring seat, and a tank cover are also available.

The 650 is an all around inspired piece of get up and go. Except for the rims and absence of hooks, there is nothing to complain about. Comfortable, with enough midrange power, the V-Strom 650 is worthy of becoming a long-term pal for motoring into an adventurous and exciting future. The sporty-looking taillight and the hexagonal turn signals look as good on the move as they do at a stop in front of the ice cream parlor. And the hot price is guaranteed to melt a triple-scooped cone - only $ 6,599.

Strom is German for "big river" and, metaphorically, that name defines the DL 1000. That doesn't mean its little brother isn't as good. On the contrary, big rivers - like the Mississippi - seem to meander their courses somewhat sluggishly, whereas, the smaller flows seem to dash and carve their ways. That's the 650, with its great handling and a dry weight of only 417 lbs.

The strong headlight guided me safely to my nest at the Miramonte that night, and when rolling off, test completed, I slapped the tank of my ride in appreciation. Beautiful. Small. Whatever. It's another great bike from the Suzuki stable.

TECHNICAL SPECS:

Suzuki DL 650 V-Strom

Retail Price $ 6,599
Warranty 1 year / unlimited miles
Maintenance Schedule 600mls/4000mls and then every 3500mls
Importer/Distributor American Suzuki Motor Corporation 3251 E. Imperial Highway Brea, CA 92821-6795 Phone (800) 828-RIDE
www.suzukicycles.com

Engine
Type90° V-Twin, 4-stroke
Cooling liquid-cooled
Valve Arrangement 4 valves per cylinder dohc, direct actuation, chain cam drive
Bore & Stroke 81.0mm x 62.6mm
Displacement 645cc
Compression Ratio 11.5:1
Carburetion fuel injection
Exhaust Emission Control PAIR-system, catalyzer, O2 feedback system

Transmission
Gearbox 6-speed
Clutch wet multi-plate, coil spring
Final Drive chain drive

Chassis
Frame twin-spar aluminum - alloy frame
Wheelbase 1540mm (60.6in)
Rake (horizontal/vertical)64°/26°
Trail 110mm
Front Suspension telescopic fork
Stanchion Diameter 43mm
Adjustments fully adjustable, spring preload
Travel 150mm
Rear Suspension link type
Adjustments spring preload, fully adjustable, hydraulic remote control
Travel 150mm

Wheels & Tires
Type three-spoke cast alloy wheels
Front 2.50 x 19
Rear 4.00 x 17
Front Tire 110/80R19 M/C 59H
Rear Tire 150/70R17 M/C 69H

Brakes
Front Brake 2-discs, Tokico hydraulic pin- slide 2-pistons, 6-way adjustable lever
Diameter 310mm
Rear Brake 1 disc, Nissin hydraulic pin-slide 1-piston
Diameter 260mm
Combining no

Dimensions & Capacities
Seat Height 82 mm (32.3in)
Dry-Weight 189kg (417lbs)
Fuel Capacity 22litre (6.1gal.)

Performance
(European measurements)
Claimed Horsepower (measured at crank)67hp at 8800/min
Torque 6.1mkp (60Nm, 45,s ft-lb.) at 6400 rpm
Top Speed 180km/h (110mph)
Acceleration na
Fuel Consumption 4.5l/100km (52mpg)
Fuel Range 488km (299mls.)
Equipment Gel seat, touring seat you can lower or raise 20mm, hard luggage side and top, tank cover, motorcycle cover.

RoadRUNNER Test Diagram

Engine 4/5

Chassis 4/5

Brakes 4/5

Comfort 5/5

Luggage w/accessories 4/5

Equipment 5/5

Design 4/5

Bike for the buck 5/5