For many in the motorcycling community there tends to be an arbitrary leaning toward more when given a choice of displacement. That would pertain to me before I rode Suzuki’s new V-Strom 800 DE. So impressed with the performance of the parallel twin, I was curious as how its bigger brother, the 1050 DE would compare with its V-twin power plant. What it ended up being was a revealing exercise in false assumptions.
To be honest, when I was first asked to test the V-Strom 800 DE I wasn’t too excited, what with it being a parallel twin. My past experience with that engine configuration hadn’t produced a necessarily enthralling rise of my pulse. All of that changed when I rode the 800. The response of their mid-size adventure machine was thoroughly intoxicating, providing a great deal more excitement than I’d expected, proving itself a highly versatile machine.
Curious as to how the V-Stroms compared, Suzuki gave me the opportunity to ride the bikes back to back. In the process I was able to make a direct comparison between the two machine’s contrasting characters. What I discovered was somewhat of a surprise.
Slipping off the 800 and onto the 1050 (which has 0.9-inches of additional seat height) will have a 5’11” rider like myself tippy-toeing. The 1050 has a taller, bigger feel overall. Both machines have comparable cockpits in terms of ergonomics and virtually the same information and layout—all presented in brilliant color night or day—on their TFT screens, with basic windscreens, both models requiring removal of bolts to adjust.
Once underway, the snappy response of the 800’s parallel twin was now replaced by the torquey, thumping nature of the big V-twin. The 800 (776cc) has Suzuki’s Cross Balancer system, which smoothes out the mechanicals considerably, as opposed to some vibration with the 1050 (1037cc). Both machines have a nice sound, the 800’s 270-degree firing order mimicking the character of a V-twin, with its quick revving personality contrasting the 1050, which exhibits a more demure response and torquey pull off the bottom. The 1050 offers a deceptively calm climb to peak power, while the 800 likes to be revved—yet still manages respectable pull off of idle.
Getting the power to the ground presents another contrast. The 800’s 6-speed tranny delivers extremely succinct shifts with tight lever throw, augmented substantially by the addictive quick shifter (standard). The slightest nudge of toe and you’ll have your next gear. The 1050 required a little more patience. Succinct shifts? Yes, but with a slightly clunky feel by comparison. However, these differences may be somewhat evened out by the fact you’ll be shifting less with the 1050, letting the power roll you through sections without the need to change gears.
There’s a 47-pound weight difference between the two machines, the lighter presence of the 800 making it very appealing in terms of maneuverability, especially dealing with off-road situations—both in terms of riding, as well as the effort needed to right the bike in the event of a fall. Off-road situations present a challenge in that you often find yourself in off-camber, uneven terrain, where the already tippy-toe reach of the 1050 will be even more pronounced. Another aspect of the seat height of the 1050 is that occasionally when you extend your leg to plant your foot, your calf hits the footpeg, resulting in a momentary paranoia of not being able to reach the ground.
Surprisingly, given that they are touted as adventure mounts, both the 800 and 1050 excel at spirited canyon running, with predictable manners and intuitive turn-in. Planted in corners, they exhibit exceptional handling, each possessing true sporting nature on the pavement. A competent rider on either machine will be able to keep their sportbike-mounted friends honest. And despite the relaxed placement of the footpegs, there’s plenty of lean angle available before they actually touchdown.
Off-road, both bikes track well, the front wheel going where it’s pointed, with good feedback as to what the tires are doing in the loose stuff. Both machines have traction control settings, and the influence of those interventions can be canceled, as well as utilizing the new gravel setting (G), which removes the ABS from the rear wheel and takes down the influence on the front substantially. One trait both bikes share is that in the standing position their handlebars feel low, requiring you to ride more in a traditional motocross attack position, then as that of a more upright adventure technique. As a result, if you’re standing on the pegs for long periods you’re going to fatigue faster. Both DE machines sport a 21-inch front wheel, which helps the front end roll through potholes, ruts and small ditches.
Ground clearance of the 1050 is 7.5-inches, while the 800 has a very generous 8.7-inches.
The 800 and 1050 share the same configuration of brake components, with dual 310mm rotors on the front and a single 260mm disc at the rear. The 800 utilizes 2-piston calipers on the front, as opposed to the 1050’s 4-piston units. Both machines have ABS. The resulting stopping performance is impressive, whether finessing on corner entry or grabbing a handful, both machines remain stable and compliant without any jitters.
The single complaint I have applies to both models; lack of any significant protection from wind blast at freeway speeds. The small screens break things up at lower speeds, but over 70mph you’re going to feel it. The screens are adjustable (with a wrench) offering a little bit of height range but not really enough to affect things greatly. For everything these two motorcycles offer, that’s getting awfully picky.
If you are a true adventurer, with long days and long miles undertaken on a regular basis, or if you are an adventure rider who likes to seriously pack-in for back hills adventures, the 1050 will probably be better-suited to you. The extra power will make for a more stable platform and a better pack mule for the added weight of gear. But if you are more likely to be keeping it local, with just the occasional long distance outing, then the 800 warrants serious consideration.
The most surprising aspect of this comparison was that the bottom line may actually not reside solely in the MSRP. Yes, there’s a significant price difference of $4,650, which usually justifies the compromise in displacement. However, choosing the 800 DE over its big brother, the 1050, does not necessarily constitute a compromise at all.
This is really where the comparison found its genesis. I had been so impressed with the 800 I wanted to properly put it up against the 1050. And instead of finding compromise with the smaller unit, I found a thoroughly competent motorcycle that sacrifices nothing. In fact, it could be argued that the smaller DE may actually accommodate your needs better than than its big brother. That says a great deal about both of the machines. They are fully their own motorcycles, independent of one another, as opposed to one being a lesser alternative. This leaves the decision between the two bikes not up to the pocketbook, but purely personal preference.
Another realm of individualism found in the two DEs are the available color schemes. On offer are dynamic, bold colors. In the case of the 1050, these are set off by very formidable, gold, inverted forks.
2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800 DE & V-Strom 1050 DE
MSRP: $11,349, $15,999
Engine: 800 DE: Liquid-cooled DOHC Parallel-Twin, 4-stroke, 1050 DE: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 90° V-twin, 4-stroke
Displacement: 776cc, 1037cc
Power: 83 hp (claimed) at 8,500 rpm, 106 hp (not substantiated) at 8,500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed w/QuickShift, 6-speed constant mesh
Rake/Trail: 28˚/4.5-inches, 27.3˚/4.96-inches
Weight: 507 lbs. wet, 554 lbs. wet
Seat Height: 33.7-inches, 34.6-inches
Fuel Capacity: 5.3 gallons, 5.3 gallons
Fuel Consumption: 46.0 mpg (average), 48.0 mpg (average)
Colors: 800: Glass Matte Mechanical Gray (w/yellow accents) or Champion Yellow (w/Blue accents), 1050: Pearl Vigor Blue/Pearl Brilliant White