OFF THE ROAD: SUZUKI DL1000 V-STROM XT ABS

Introduction

The other day I came across a Facebook post that read, “older siblings think they are assistant parents”. The gap between my sister and myself is a solid thirteen years, and I could not agree with the post more. She is not tall, and standing, she fits snugly under my armpit, bear in mind that I am also a midget. But to cut a long story short, she has the attitude of a Fox Terrier, and can face even a lion, literally. Ask the girls (and boys) who grew up together with her.

The new DL1000 V-Strom, much like my sis, is simple, practical and reliable. No frills and fancy electronic bits seen in many of its competitors. Not even heated grips (optional extra) – the Japanese chose not roll like that. On first impressions I liked the Champion Yellow that came with golden-anodized spoked rims – in my view brighter bikes increase the chances of being seen by other motorists. The looks of the V-Strom are unapologetically off-road biased, and so are its capabilities.

The ride of my test bike coincided with our monthly multi-day hike held at Mount Komati, Mpumalanga. How appropriate a tool for such an outdoor lifestyle?

Appearance

The DL1000 is the bigger brother of the DL650, which we reviewed a few weeks back, and is no different in appearance to the latter. A typical “Sports Adventure Tourer”, it is happier on gravel roads than on the tarmac. It is purpose-built for the keen adventurer who is uncomfortable indoors and always has the itch for the outdoor life. Thanks to the slim V-Twin engine and fuel tank design that even shorter riders can find it comfortable to ride, though a low seat is available, for an even lower ride feel.

The front has the distinct vertically mounted headlight and the beak below it, synonymous with the V-Strom range. LED indicators are available as options, otherwise you will have to settle for the usual halogen. Also, at an additional extra, is the touring screen. The screen itself (49mm higher than the previous model) is manually adjustable for height and angle, very ideal when standing while riding.

Behind the screen is a very neatly laid-out multi-function instrument panel that is not only visible under most light and weather conditions, but also very easy to navigate through. The panel is capable of displaying gear position, ambient temperature (a freeze indicator will stay illuminated at anything below three degrees Celsius), status of the traction control, fuel economy, to name but a few.

Supplying power to navigational equipment is made easier through a 12V DC outlet. On either side of the handle bars are knuckle covers with easy-to-use controls, except for the emergency light switch, located on the right-hand side. It took some time perfecting the art of using this, switching it off requires careful attention, lest you find yourself propelling forward by mistake, quicker than a baby mama to the ATM on month end.

As mentioned, my test unit had golden-anodized spoked rims, perfectly matched to the Champion Yellow colour scheme, including even a yellow seat, which I quite liked. It is difficult to look at the right-hand side view of the bike and not appreciate its overall appearance, let alone be intrigued by two cables ending at the exhaust pipe just before the rear silencer – controlled by the ECU these cables open/close a butterfly valve, thereby subsequently optimizing exhaust pressure and increasing controllability and torque characteristics. The exhaust itself is positioned such that it allows for fitment side cases (each with a load capacity of 5kg). A top case complements these two and has a capacity of 55 litres which can easily fit two full-face helmets.

Suzuki has managed to create a high ride stability, thanks to a 1.555-metre wheelbase, a rear 17-inch wheel mated to a 19-inch front wheel. The rear tyre width is kept at 150mm to ensure light and sporty handling. Both front shocks come in 43mm diameter and not only are they fully adjustable, but also inherited from the outgoing model. Not surprising the rear shock can also be adjusted for compression/rebound without the use of any tools.

Performance

Similar to the younger brother DL650, the four-stroke, liquid cooled, DOHC 1037cc engine is a V-twin powerplant at 90-degrees. A maximum torque of 101Nm is achieved at 4 000rpm, with a maximum power output of 74kW (at 8 000rpm). These figures are more than ample to launch both rider and pillion through steep mountain passes without feeling like the engine is taking any strain at all. Thanks to a 20-litre fuel tank, those journeys extend a little further at decent riding speeds. The new V-Strom has aligned itself with an emission level of Euro 4, a single digit higher than its predecessor. New to the range is the Low RPM assist, which alleviates those unexpected and possibly embarrassing moments when the engine would stall unexpectedly at the lower rev-range. At the heart of it all is a 32-bit engine control unit (ECU) that provides state-of-the-art engine management, and meets Euro 4 regulations while realising high fuel efficiency and a linear throttle response.

And very much like my sister the performance of the DL1000 V-Strom is solid, reliable, somewhat punchy, with the attitude that one can conquer the mighty Africa.

Final Thoughts

Go to any township and you will never fail to see a “spaza” shop. At any small town in some corner of the CBD, there is always a taxi rank. Despite the rantings and ravings of the staunchest dieticians, there will always be a gogo on the side of the road selling grilled mielies, and a corner shop that sells fat cakes by the millions. It is our tradition and makes us who we are.

When Suzuki says that their product offering is a “Way of Life”, it is exactly that. In the adventure bike circles the Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom is still going to be with us, for many more generations to come. Simply put this bike is reliable, means business and an absolute pleasure to ride, not only to far off inaccessible places, but as a daily commuter. A little shy of the R170 000 mark, it is a reachable price tag for many miles of smiles.

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