SUZUKI V-STROM 1050 DE REVIEW | GETTING DEEPER INTO THE DIRT

Facebook
Twitter

IXON is a brand of motorcycling equipment created by and for motorcyclists. The company was founded in 1996 in France by Thierry Maniguet, a big fan of motorcycling. Today it is an international brand distributed in over 70 countries. But it has stayed close to its roots. Thierry Maniguet is still at the head of IXON, and our headquarters are still in France, in Mâcon. At IXON, we combine passion and expertise, so that the items you wear really meet your needs and help to enhance your riding experience.

ADVERTISEMENT

A yellow Suzuki V-Strom 1050 DE at sunset
The sharper styling of the 1050 DE is a great leap from the original 1000 in 2002

Story by Damien Ashenhurst
Pics by Suzuki Australia

The big bore V-Strom platform has been living in Suzuki’s house for 20 years now. It survived the first decade largely devoid of updates, even though, as I’ve pointed out previously, it looked like a bag of dog food with handlebars.

The V-Strom 1000 won riders over with its excellent road manners and supreme comfort and there is still a heap of them getting around having long since established the legendary reliability of the model.

In 2014, Suzuki released a redesigned version with mercifully updated styling and improved performance.

The bike was now powered by a 1037cc, liquid-cooled V-twin engine that produced 99 horsepower and 76 lb-ft of torque. The new model also featured traction control, ABS brakes, and adjustable suspension.

2014 also signalled the return of the beak which led folks to draw parallels to the iconic 1988 DR-BIG 750 – the first bike with a big nose – and ponder the possibility of Suzuki re-entering the more dirt focussed adventure market.

Things definitely started to look a bit better with the 2017



In 2017, Suzuki introduced an updated version of the V-Strom 1000 with a slightly more powerful engine. The updated model also had a new electronics package that included a new LCD dash display. Alas, despite the best styling yet the 2017 was not a DR-BIG throwback in a practical sense.

Surprisingly, Suzuki quickly dropped a big revision to the model in 2020 with the V-Strom 1050 XT looking more adventure-like and sporting more modern refinements than ever before. Aside from a very ordinary LCD screen, the bike was the best-looking V-Strom to date and with its spoked wheels it gave the vibe that it wanted to go offroad more than ever.

But without switchable ABS and burdened with that 19-inch front wheel and limited suspension travel, the V-Strom still couldn’t confidently leap the dirt with any sort of gusto.

But that has changed with the launch of the 2023 V-Strom 1050 DE.

A yellow v-strom 1050 DE on the road
The road is undoubtedly where the V-Strom’s strengths shine through

THE TOURER SQUAD

The V-Strom has over the years evolved from a pure road bike into an adventure tourer.

It’s taken two decades, but it’s firmly categorised as a fine choice for circumnavigating the nation, while not being scared off by basic dirt sections.

You could theoretically ride around Australia on a sports bike, but it would be as comfortable as taking a pineapple up your arse while riding the corrugated dirt roads would be as fun as punching yourself in the face.

The V-Strom has been able to tackle that kind of trip for years. But now, the parts on the map you may have crossed out given the difficulty rating of its dirt sections are back in play thanks largely to that 21-inch front wheel.

That unique 21-inch front wheel is complemented by insanely powerful front brakes


With limitations primarily on how far you should go in more technical dirt sections, the adventure tourer is for the rider firmly based in the road life but enjoys exploring what lies beyond the blacktop.

Yamaha’s Tenere 1200 Super Tenere is a fine adventure tourer, Ducati’s Multistrada V4S is arguably the best on offer today, Harley’s Pan America is probably better than you think while CFMoto’s 800MT offers more than a decent entry point. I believe Kawasaki’s Versys 1000 is nice to ride, but it looks like it’s suffered generations of inbreeding.

This is the world the V-Strom moves in. One that’s made mostly of asphalt and dreams of long days and exploration, but adept at handling dirt roads. Only pulling up short where the offroad-biased adventure bikes take over with their longer legs and more nimble offroad capabilities.

This is the kind of track that the V-Strom handles very well and there are an awful lot of these tracks in Oz

BIG WHEEL, BIG DEAL

The single biggest update that graces the 1050 DE (DE stands for Dual Explorer), is the 21-inch front wheel. Suzuki will still offer the standard V-Strom 1050 with the 19-inch front, but we are primarily interested in the DE and so that’s the bike we started and finished on at the Australian launch.

About 20% of Suzuki Australia’s overall sales come from the V-Strom range. The 650 outsells the 1000, but the 650’s engine is not Euro 5 compliant and the introduction of the V-Strom 800 suggests its time is limited.

The 1050’s EU6-compliant engine output remains largely the same and the electronics benefit from a 6-axis IMU which makes calculations about things like cornering ABS, traction control and stability control when in motion and at any angle.

So Suzuki has ensured the biggest V-Strom has a solid future.

The new TFT screen is a massive improvement over the LCD. There’s also a USB charger to the left and a 12-volt under the seat

The disappointing LCD screen of the 2020 has been replaced by an easy-to-read 5-inch TFT unit. The ABS is now switchable at the rear while traction control receives a dedicated Gravel mode. A bi-directional quickshifter has also been fitted as standard which is always a benefit in the dirt.

The DE gets fully adjustable 43mm KYB forks tuned to be better in the dirt and offering a little more travel at both the front and rear.

These updates and many more were covered when Suzuki first announced the bike in 2022 and you can find a more comprehensive rundown here. The 1050 DE is priced at around $2600 more than the 1050 XT was but there is value in the changes.

HITTIN’ THE HORIZON

The Aussie launch for the 1050 DE was held in Victoria which is where Suzuki Australia’s headquarters are located. We left HQ and battled Melbourne traffic for a while before we got some clean air. Seriously Melbourne…how do you face that shit fight every day?

As soul-sucking as it was, it was also a good reminder of just how good the V-Strom feels in city conditions. And as we hit the more flowing roads it was satisfying to find that the larger front wheel didn’t drastically degrade the feel too. Sure, it’s not as precise as the 17, but most riders would have to jump from one to the other to find where any disadvantages are.

Our route was to start and end on the road, but we did hit primarily dirt roads throughout the day and a half of the launch.

Interestingly, Suzuki says most of the pre-orders have been for the 17-inch version. I suspect the DE message is yet to permeate the market but that said, there is merit in both versions and I can see why riders who spend the vast majority of their time on the road would stick with the tried and true.

The engine is unchanged from the previous model which is perfectly OK with me. The V-Strom 1050 delivers an amount of power that’s spot-on for the wide range of tasks it’s expected to take on. Enjoying three ride modes, the bike can be spirited when the route allows with impressive bursts of speed, or it can be quite measured when the conditions dictate.

I stayed away from the sportier throttle response once we hit the dirt and found a happy place first in the more moderate Mode B. Once we entered a rock-strewn and very dry section which felt super skatey, I also tried the sedate Mode C and appreciated the ease of delivery on a surface that offered little grip.

Aside from its performance with the throttle twisted, one of my favourite traits of the engine is its ability to pick through trails at a slow speed with no hint of stalling which is a huge benefit when controlling a big bike.

Speaking of big bikes, the new V-Strom has copped some criticism for its weight, tipping the scales at a claimed 252kgs fully fuelled. In comparison however the Pan America Special is about the same, as is the R 1250 GS and the 1290 Super Adventure, while the Multistrada V4S is about 12 kilos less and the Triumph Tiger 1200 GT only a claimed 7 kilos under the 1050 DE.

Yes, it’s a heavy bike, but the 1000cc adventure tourer category is full of heavy bikes and the V-Strom doesn’t really stand out when you make a direct comparison. What does stand out is the price difference to each one of those competing models…more on that soon. But for now, let’s push some buttons.

An adventure tourer needs to be more versatile than most motorcycles are ever asked to be

THE GOODS AND THE BADS

With the traction control set in the new Gravel mode, the bike will step out a little and the feel is a great deal better than the standard TC modes on offer which were always a bit over-the-top past the lowest setting.

I did switch both traction control and ABS off (at the rear) for a good portion of the ride, but while I’d continue with ABS off, I was happiest with the traction control in Gravel mode given just how slippery some sections were in the dry conditions. I reckon these settings while in ride Mode B is where I’d do most of my riding on the 1050 DE.

Everything is incredibly easy to adjust and control from the left-hand switch block and monitor on the new TFT screen. Kudos to Suzuki for making that as painless as possible while not really skipping any useable features except perhaps heated hand grips (optional extra).

My first head scratch moment came from the turning circle…or more precisely, the lack thereof. A wide turning circle can make it difficult to turn back on a trail or wrangle in a garage and the 1050 DE hits the steering lock very early which can make for a tricky wrestle on a big bike.

Traction control in Gravel mode served well on this slippery, rocky type of trail

The second came from the slight surge you feel when throttling down from time to time. My guess is it’s the slipper assist clutch at play, but it was something I grew to become aware of, particularly entering corners where you could do without even the minute uninvited acceleration.

It’s disappointing the windscreen isn’t adjustable by hand as it is on the standard model. Stopping to use tools for such a simple task isn’t something any of us would be stoked to do more than once on a ride.

The rear tyre on the DE is tubeless, but the front is not. So, on a solid ride, you’ll want to carry a spare tube as well as a plug kit. That’s a curious choice by Suzuki for which I see no clear rationale.

It would be nice to see that ground clearance figure of 190mm shift to around 210mm, but then the seat height would be way up there and difficult for most to straddle so we’ll call that one a comprimise.

Crash bars as standard equipment on the DE are a nice touch

But, Suzuki has got many of the little details right. The handgrips are excellent and more comfortable than most solid blocks on offer these days. The footpegs are also good. I took off the rubber toppers and found plenty of grip for offroad riding. I’ve tried the optional offroad pegs and can attest that they are excellent units too.

The V-Strom has always been comfortable which is why riders sometimes refer to it as a couch on wheels. It has typically achieved this through good ergos, an excellent seat and soft suspension in addition to the absence of almost any vibration from the engine.

All of these positive characteristics remain on the DE, although there is slightly less plushness through the updated suspension and new wheelset.

But to sit and eat up the miles, the V-Strom 1050 DE retains the model’s long-touted relaxed feel and this is so important as it’s a huge part of the initial appeal.

The seat height may have increased from 855mm to 880mm over the standard model which is around the same as a Tenere and a bit of a climb, but once you’re up and running the DE feels like a V-Strom should albeit with a little more edge to it that is ultimately justified when the dirt starts.

V IS FOR VALUE

Suzuki does not have an adventure bike to rival anything from KTM. Some mention of the Africa Twin was thrown around at the launch, but the Honda is better offroad by a reasonable margin. The V-Strom 1050 DE is not an adventure bike by the definition we’ve come to judge such a thing in 2023. It isn’t designed for dirt to that extent.

The V-Strom 1050 DE is a well-built, fully featured adventure tourer with a brilliant engine, comfort and proven reliability – and here’s the kicker – a 21-inch front wheel.


That front wheel is wholly unique in the 1000cc-plus adventure tourer space (the 1290 Super Adventure is too good offroad to be called an adventure tourer), and it means the V-Strom presents a more stable ride on dirt sections that others might feel nervous on – particularly on softer surfaces that can play havoc with 17-inch fronts.

At $24,690 it’s tens of thousands of dollars less than a Multistrada V4S or a Pan America Special. In fact, for the cost of one of either the Ducati or the Harley, you could leave your Suzuki dealership with a V-Strom 1050 DE as well as a V-Strom 250 SX for your wife and a DR-Z125 for the kid.

A complete package that offers great value for money. That’s the V-Strom formula

The Ducati and Harley offer an amount of tech and refinement that the Suzuki does not, but the DE is not short on practical smarts and is eminently simpler to use. It’s also backed up by known durability and a solid dealer network.

The V-Strom 1050 currently captures around 13% of the over 1000cc adventure tourer market and Suzuki has its eyes on growing that to 20% with the new arrival. On a basic value-for-money level, it shouldn’t be a hard sell.

While the V-Strom 1050 DE will literally take the model line further, it will also have a degree of competition from inside the house with the V-Strom 800 DE. But the 800 is quite a different proposition and most likely not the complete tourer package the 1050 is.

For the money, the V-Strom 1050 DE is a wonderfully complete motorcycle, ready to take on huge days and far from home on a mix of road and dirt in comfort.

I have long been a fan of the Suzuki and nothing has changed. I’m keen to take the 1050 DE on a much longer ride to get a more comprehensive feel for it – whaddya reckon Suzuki?