It’s detrimental to the V-Strom that in a world of polarised opinions and single truths, it can be difficult to find a thought that represents more than one idea at a time.
We are completely resolute on all topics from politics to saxophone solos, and even bikes are being distilled down to one aspect of interest upon which hoist our flag right in the centre. We then shout from on high that if you don’t ride what I ride, then you’re doing it wrong.
The ‘must-have’ motorcycle of the moment is the one that can churn through kilometres on the dirt with the comfort of long travel suspension and high ground clearance, offering earth-shaking power and unbelievable lightness so you can take on the most monstrous of obstacles the bush might muster.
You must have the most capable offroad machine to dare ever refer to it as an adventure bike. Anything else is a fraud.
It is, of course, all bullshit.
Versatility can be a curse. A bike that can be many things to many riders doesn’t garner the attention of a narrow focus weapon. The hype factor just isn’t there because you’ll always have someone saying, ‘sure, but this bike over here does that one thing way better.’
But there are some genuinely good motorcycles on the market that will happily take you far from home while offering the versatility of a commuter, true ergonomic comfort and at a price far less than the eye-watering coin being asked for many.
SWISS ARMY KNIFE
The very epitome of multipurpose, the V-Strom 650 XT is at the same time derided and adored. It polarises riders in a strange way, perhaps even more so than beetroot on a burger (don’t do it. It doesn’t know its place and it will infiltrate all areas of the burger with its purple ooze while the other ingredients mind their own business).
But putting beetroot aside for a moment, the V-Strom 650 XT is an undeniably good value, honest and capable motorcycle.
In Australia, you can ride-away with a V-Strom 650 XT for around $14,490 and head for damn near whatever far away speck on the map you choose, in reason. Thanks to proven reliability your worries of mechanical woes will be few and a decent range of OEM and aftermarket parts offer the ability to augment and shape your machine into something unique to you.
The low seat height of 830mm means the V-Strom does not necessitate the hiring of a cherry picker to climb onto. And once you’re on that seat you’ll be hard-pressed to remember a time your arse was more comfortable.
Taller riders will find the knee bend a bit cramped, but the bar position is good and the windscreen, while it certainly could offer more coverage is nevertheless decent.
There are no deep electronics demanding your attention throughout the day and the displays are a mix of analogue and digital that I’ve always really liked. In fact, I like them more than the LCD unit on the new V-Strom 1050 XT.
That said, an ABS bypass switch is needed for offroad riding and don’t bother entertaining engaging traction control in the dirt, it’s a road only aid that only hampers the ride when you hit the trails.
The V-Strom 650’s engine is brilliant. It’s a workhorse that presents smooth, usable power right through the rev range and it’s coupled with a light and easy handling package that isn’t at all energy-sapping and never intimidating.
On the dirt, the whole package is very easy to control and for less experienced riders to feel comfortable on. With confidence, you can take it into some semi-technical trails but for those not looking to go so deep, it absolutely aces milder trails and open dirt roads.It has quite the tourer feel to it so standing doesn’t feel as natural as sitting, which is no great surprise and sits squarely within the design brief.
To be honest, I’m super lazy and sit down most of the time anyway and those narrow stock footpegs are not ideal for anyone. I recommend swapping them out for the adjustable footpegs Suzuki offers. It’s worth mentioning that you can improve the standing position and feel through higher bend bars or risers.
It’s not going to be transformed into an offroad weapon but it has no issues with dirt roads whatsoever and benefits from the 19/17-inch spoked wheelset and a narrow feel between the knees that allows you to grip the bike. The 20-litre tank feeds a frugal engine that drinks less than I do, gifting excellent fuel range.
I’ve done a lot of riding on the 650 across a few model changes and with consideration to the limitations in ground clearance and non-adjustable suspension travel (rear preload can be tweaked manually), and softness, it never stopped me from exploring some curious trails outside of the main route. When it got tricky, I slowed down. When it got really tricky, I went around.
It’s an easy to live with motorcycle that will serve the mid-week commute well, play the role of small tourer for long rides and not flinch at entertaining a weekend on the dirt and covering a lot of kilometres. It’s mid-priced, mid-capacity, mid-farkled and mid-capable.
It’s straddling a line that offers no great technological advancements in the unlikely comparison to a Ducati Multistrada V4S, while at the same time a large step forward from the basic premise of a KLR650.
Its multipurpose nature is beyond reproach and aside from being a great value buy brand new, you can find some great used examples for around the $10,000 mark.
I’ve always liked riding the 1050 XT but if it were my money, I’d buy the 650. It’s hard to point at another model that offers more of a return on investment and serves so many roles.
4 MUST HAVE ADD-ONS
Before you wheel your V-Strom 650 XT out of the showroom, visit the parts section and slap on a few selections that will serve to keep the bike safe from harm as best as possible. Suzuki has some great parts including an excellent set of adjustable footpegs that we can recommend as well as solid luggage choices.
The V-Strom range benefits from a long list of aftermarket parts that improve and augment the bike from the tyres on up to handguards.
- Bashplate – numero uno modification
- Footpegs – Suzuki has a great set as does Pivot Pegz
- Engine guards – keeping he bodywork safe from lay downs
- Centre stand – they just make life easier
THE ULTIMATE V-STROM 650 XT BUILD
Oh, sweet corn of Ohio does this Strom look like everything we dream the bike could be or what!
Built by Trail Découverte in conjunction with Suzuki France, the kit is available to purchase and will completely change your V-Strom 650 XT into a more offroad capable machine. We’d give a substantial body part to ride one for a year. Spleens don’t really do anything, do they?