When Suzuki introduced the V-Strom in 2004, its name was derived from a combination of its V-twin engine and the German word “strom,” which translates to stream or power. The V-Strom is still with us, having proven itself a formidable machine in the street/adventure realm.
In fact, the bike’s name has become so synonymous with versatile performance that when the company’s new 800 rolled out with a parallel-twin powerplant, the V-Strom moniker remained. The all-new V-Strom 800 DE fits neatly into the middleweight adventure category.
It offers more power than its 650 sibling, yet is less intimidating than the larger V-Strom. Add in plenty of technology and the V-Strom 800 DE emerges as a clever and highly functional package.
Predictable Power, Smooth Shifts
There was a time when a parallel-twin configuration indicated a somewhat docile demeanor, with mild power delivery and a slow throttle response. All that has changed with the new 800 DE.
The compact 776cc parallel-twin has a 270-degree firing order, which mimics that of its V-twin brothers and renders a nice sound, with a surprising snap when you crank the throttle. At the same time, the engine is compliant at low revs, which gives the bike a highly versatile and compliant nature to serve multiple riding situations.
Suzuki’s exclusive cross balancer system keeps vibration to a minimum, which greatly smooths out the engine’s operation. Rich in torque right off the bottom of the power band, the 800 revs up quickly, yet with a power pulse that lets the power come on evenly and with absolute predictability. The same power pulses that serve the DE on the pavement give it an equally predictable nature off-road.
The throttle response is precise and crisp, thanks to the dual linked 42mm electronic bodies. A large airbox enhanced air intake and maximizes peak power with more than adequate breathing.
The engine has a large-capacity radiator that maintains the bike’s narrow profile, as well as a small liquid-cooled oil cooler to keep oil temperatures low for added reliability.
The six-speed transmission is borderline perfect, responding to shifts with the slightest movement of the toes to find the next gear. With the standard quickshifter, the rider can hammer the V-Strom into gear without the clutch or cutting the throttle.
Although the system eliminates the need for the clutch for either up or downshifts, I still use the clutch when downshifting out of habit. Still, it’s nice to know that, if need be, I can click the gearbox down without the clutch.
The ratios are tightly spaced and you can find the sixth gear rather quickly when getting on the freeway. However, thanks to a generous power spread, the ratios serve the 800 DE just fine and certainly within the realm of legal, posted speeds.
Throwing a leg over the new V-Strom is easier said than done. With a seat height of 33.7 inches, the motorcycle stands tall and proud.
For those who may find the height imposing, Suzuki has an optional low seat that cuts the height by 0.78 inches. While on the topic of seats, the V-Strom has a comfortable unit suitable for all-day riding while still offering plenty of support.
The seating position is comfortable with a well-placed handlebar. The width between the grips is perfect for maneuverability in canyons, at slow speeds, and off-road.
The critical rider triangle conforms naturally to the body in the seated position. If you’re tall (I’m 5 feet, 11 inches), the handlebar feels rather low when standing, though.
From the moment you let out the clutch on the V-Strom 800 DE, you’ll be pleased with the succinctness of its engineering. Everything works in concert—throttle, clutch, brakes, and transmission are all fluidly balanced against each other.
The bike’s response to throttle input and how the gears unfold provides an immediate and pleasant surprise.
Once the tires are warm, you’ll be in for another pleasant surprise with the bike’s cornering ability. Despite the 21-inch front wheel (which can result in an unusual feeling on turn-in), the DE has beautifully predictable manners and gets to lean angle with confidence.
Then, whether you choose to round out corners or point and shoot, the bike goes exactly where you point it and rolls into fantastic execution in corners as it gains throttle. Due to its geometry and relatively light feel, the DE is capable of some serious canyon running.
Also, the generous ground clearance means that the pegs are safe from touching down even at extreme lean angles.
To keep the DE’s power pulses tamed, there is a decent array of settings for engine mapping and traction control, allowing you to tailor them to suit your preferences and the situation. For off-roading, the traction control and ABS are cancelable, while G setting keeps some ABS active on gravel.
On paper, the 507-pound wet weight may seem high for a middleweight bike. But once you’re underway, any heft evaporates and the bike floats effortlessly between situations, whether they’re on pavement or in the dirt.
A Well-designed Chassis
A rugged steel pipe frame with a twin backbone design gives the DE rigidity, which results in stability. The rear subframe is completely removable, which makes the shock easy to self-service.
Twin down tubes add some reinforcement, but are primarily there to hold the sizable skid plate that protects the parallel twin from rocks and debris. The beefy aluminum swingarm provides exceptional torsional strength, which reduces flex and aids handling.
Traditional inverted coil spring telescopic forks are coupled with a single rear shock in a link-style mount. The factory settings provide a solid base with surprising carry-over performance from street to dirt.
The front and rear wheel travel, as well as the ground clearance, all come in at 8.7 inches, the most clearance of any V-Strom to date.
The 21-inch front wheel is paired with a 17-inch rear wheel. Both have a spoke design and are shod with Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour 25% adventure, 100% touring tires.
The tires feature a relatively aggressive semi-block tread pattern that provides decent off-road grip without being noisy on the road. On pavement, the grip is solid whether the surface is wet or dry.
For stopping, the DE employs dual 310mm floating rotors grabbed by lightweight Nissin two-piston calipers at the front. They work together with a 260mm disc in the rear, mated to a single piston Nissin caliper.
The brakes deliver a powerful response that doesn’t upset the chassis even when bringing the DE down from speed. There’s absolutely no oscillation between the front and rear under heavy braking and substantial ABS intervention—exactly what ABS is supposed to do.
It’s the Little Details
The tastefully shaped fuel tank can hold 5.3 gallons of fuel without adding bulk at the seat/tank juncture, ensuring a narrow width for critical leg reach. The generous fuel capacity means that with the average 46 mpg consumption I experienced over a wide range of riding scenarios, you could expect close to a 200-mile range when topped off.
The dash holds a five-inch TFT LCD screen rendering vital information in a smart layout, with individual items clearly distinguishable at a quick glance. Both night and day screens provide exceptional visibility even in the harshness of the California sun at noon.
A Versatile and Fun Mount
Unquestionably, the theme of the DE 800 is versatility. Whether you choose it as a daily commuter, an adventure touring mount, or a canyon runner, what it ultimately delivers is unmitigated fun.
The bike excels in many ways, with an adaptability that makes it a well-rounded machine that will not disappoint, regardless of your riding preferences.
The V-Strom 800 DE is a practical alternative to its 650 and 1050 brethren, fitting perfectly between them. It’s a great-looking machine, especially in the matte gray colorway with yellow accents. Add to this Suzuki’s legendary dependability and you’ve got a middleweight package that is very hard to beat.
The single complaint I have is the lack of any significant protection from wind blast at freeway speeds. The bikini screen breaks things up at lower speeds, but beyond 70 mph, you’re going to feel it. The screen is adjustable (with a wrench), offering about an inch of range from high to low—not enough to really affect things.
Given the pluses, though, that’s getting into nitpicking territory. Go and enjoy.
+ impressive, performance-oriented parallel -twin platform
– freeway speeds result in battering turbulence
Distributor: Suzuki Cycles
Engine: Parallel-twin, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-stroke
Power: 83hp @8,500rpm; 57.5lb-ft @6,800rpm
Transmission: 6-speed, quickshifter
Weight (Wet): 507lbs
Seat Height: 33.7in
Fuel Capacity: 5.3gal
Fuel Consumption: 46mpg (as tested)
Fuel Grade: premium
Color: Glass Matte Mechanical Gray (w/ yellow accents), Champion Yellow No. 2 (w/ blue accents)