ON THE RIDE: SUZUKI V-STROM 1050XT

STORY AND PICS BY TUMELO MAKETEKETE

Introduction

Anyone who grew up in Tladi and Moletsane townships in the late 1980s, will easily remember ntate Pooe. He lived in the street parallel to what we called Merafe road (official name being Matlomo Street). This was a time in our lives when bicycles were the preferred and only mode of transport as boys growing up on the dusty streets. Ntate Pooe worked at a bicycle shop in town and he was also our sole spares supplier and bicycle mechanic. Without him and his skills and services we were doomed. And every cent saved from an allowance we were afforded, went towards bicycle maintenance and repairs. Life back then was really that simple.

I remember sampling the previous model V-Strom in the last quarter of 2018, and even then, I was just satisfied by its simplicity and willingness to perform reliably day in and day out. While many other brands in adventure bike circles opt for more electronics and fancy bits and gadgets, Suzuki has opted to remain just practical and unbothered by the lot.

Appearance

There are few changes to the V-Strom in terms of looks. Those feature(s) noticeable almost immediately is the vertically stacked LED headlight with a unique rectangular shape. While on the previous model front and rear indicators were optional in LED, on this current model these come standard. The taillight cluster is also LED. The cylinder head, magneto cover, water pump case and clutch covers are finished with a bronze colour, and this sets a beautiful contrast with the black powerplant. Also standard are crash protection bars. The Suzuki V-Strom 1050 XT is available in three colour schemes, namely: Champion Yellow, Pearl Brilliant White/Glass Blaze Orange and Glass Sparkle Black. It is the Blaze Orange that stood out for me.     

A 1.555-metre wheelbase has remained unchanged and so too is the seat height of 850mm. For a reasonably short guy, I had no issues whatsoever mounting and commanding the V-Strom either on tarmac or gravel. I want to believe that a 20 litre fuel tank is adequate and manageable even when filled to the brim.

A 110/80R 19-inch tyre with twin disc brakes is in the front and the rear 150/70R 17-inch wheel remains chain driven via a 6-speed constant mesh, wet sump lubrication system.

I recall clearly being intrigued by the ECU-controlled exhaust flap that would open on full throttle on the predecessor. This has been done away with and replaced with a bigger exhaust (I suspect with a catalytic convertor) to meet with the higher Euro-5 emission standards. 

What might also be a topic for discussion around a lot of braais around the country, is the exposed and front mounted engine oil filter.

Performance

It only took a few tweaks and remapping of the ECU on the latest Suzuki V-Strom 1050 XT to make it feel punchier that its predecessor, otherwise the engine remains the same old reliable 1037cc we have come to know and rely on.

The V-Strom is happier on gravel than it is on tarmac, but surprisingly very athletic than one would want to expect on tarmac too. It handles unlike an adventure bike on the road. There are very few riding aids, and this ensures a ride as authentic as possible. 

Final thoughts

I love the simplicity of the current Suzuki V-Strom 1050 XT. While some people might want to complain about the exposed oil filter, I personally think you would have to really go out of your way to damage it. Besides it is something that even Ntate Pooe would have been capable of replacing, had he lived long enough or considered a career change other than fixing bicycles in our youthful days.

It is the lack of a concoction of electronics that draw me to the V-Strom as this will ensure that very little can go wrong, especially deep in rough Africa. As the saying goes, “bling will not bring you back home!”

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