SUZUKI V-STROM 800 DE REVIEW | REINVENTION OF THE MIGHTY V-STROM

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The Suzuki V-Strom 800 DE in yellow
The beak points more towards the dirt than ever before

STORY BY DAMIEN ASHENHURST
PHOTOS BY STEVE CAUDWELL / GEOFF OSBORNE

AT A GLANCE

  • All new 776cc engine
  • 84hp and 78Nm of torque
  • 220mm travel front and rear
  • Great suspension feel
  • Minimal vibrations from the engine
  • Easy-to-use electronics
  • Terrible weather + no pie shops
  • Let’s go further in Australia

The alarm sounded at 4am.
I f#@king hate 4am alarms.

By 4:30am we were on our way to the airport to be crammed into a plane like a corn kernel in an impacted bowel.

As I ate my inflight meal of unidentifiable slop topped with what looked like two gorilla fingers, my thoughts drifted beyond the rigours of digesting a meal straight from cell block D, to the task ahead.

I was on my way to New Zealand to ride Suzuki’s new V-Strom 800 DE. That’s why I swallowed the 4am start easier than I could the food. This was an exciting release for a number of reasons.

The V-Strom range now comprises of a 250 SX, 650, 800 and 1050. Within that stable, there are variants new and old from the straight road versions to the XT with spoked wheels and now the DE (Dual Explorer), which most importantly features 21-inch front wheels.

You can read our launch report on the 1050 DE here. If you can’t be arsed, here is the shortened version…it’s a great adventure tourer and I liked it.

The DR 800 BIG – can the V-Strom 800 DE become as iconic?



But, it’s the 800 DE that I’ve been most keen to ride. I’ve been curious about how far a conservative company like Suzuki would stretch the V-Strom concept beyond the blacktop with a mid-capacity model.

The 21-inch front wheel certainly suggests Suzuki wants you to get proper dirty, but if it’s attached to a lumbering behemoth then it risks being labelled a pretender. A bike best ridden to the soundtrack of smooth jazz while you wear a Black Sabbath t-shirt.

Praise Satan and pass me the chardonnay.

The F 850 GS is a good adventure tourer but is it worth more than the Suzuki?

That said, 800 DE wasn’t designed to take on an 890 Adventure R. It is an adventure tourer whose greatest likeness is reflected in BMW’s F 850 GS. Honda’s Transalp will almost certainly be in that mix, but we haven’t yet seen any arrive in Australia.

But if it doesn’t have a decent offroad feel, then it’s a lost motorcycle. Forever condemned to haunt showrooms with a big pointless front wheel while its bother with the 19-inch front attracts buyer after buyer.

The DE is a bit of a gamble. The V-Strom range represents about 20% of Suzuki Australia’s sales and no company likes to put that kind of figure in jeopardy. After 20 years of V-Stroms and around 450,000 sold worldwide, now is not the time to release a dud.

So yeah…no pressure.

The three colours of the V-Strom 800 DE rainbow

THE LONG WHITE CLOUD

New Zealand’s landscapes are impossibly beautiful. It appears as a country designed to be admired in a snow globe but they couldn’t fit in all the sheep so it was laid out in the Tasman Sea instead.

While much of everyday life in New Zealand looks and feels just slightly different to an Australian, it is entirely foreign for us to be in a country with blanket pride for its rugby team.

A gaggle of journos gathered in Suzuki New Zealand’s headquarters to see the 800 DE up close and to get the rundown on the nuts and bolts. The 800 DE offers more than just a bigger front wheel and that is an important point here.

The traction control system features a Gravel mode which allows for a sensible amount of slip on the dirt for controlled slides. This is a great move as the standard V-Strom traction control has been a little too intrusive, even in its lowest setting.

The 800 DE’s electronics are substantial but easy to use

Traction control can be switched off entirely though if you need to freewheel. You can also switch ABS off at the rear.

The DE has a longer swingarm at the back and a slightly increased rake at the front.
The fully adjustable Showa suspension offers 220mm of travel both front and rear as well as 220mm of ground clearance.

And the 776cc parallel-twin engine is completely new, utilising a Suzuki Cross Balancer that the company claims is the first on a production bike to help reduce vibration.

A huge point of separation between the 800 and the 1050 DE is that the bigger bike uses an aluminium perimeter frame while the 800 has a steel frame.

The 800 DE also enjoys a bi-directional quickshifter, wide handlebars with good quality grips, a shorter windscreen more suited to offroad riding and a rudimentary bashplate and radiator guard as standard.
You’ll find a USB outlet just near the 5-inch TFT display and a separate 12-volt outlet under the seat.

The road manners haven’t been significantly diminished by the 21-inch front

SO WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

Judging a bike from its spec sheet is like calling a prostitute for a cuddle. You’re just doing it wrong.
Nothing beats riding a bike regardless of what your initial thoughts are and the time had now arrived for us to ride the V-Strom 800 DE.

I made two changes to the 800 DE as soon as I jumped on. I moved the bars forward as they were way too far back to be comfortable when standing, and I lifted the gear lever to accommodate offroad boots.

And that’s how we rolled out of HQ on that fairly wet day in Wanganui.

The day’s ride took in an amount of road at the start and the finish, but a lot of dirt in between. The weather was a bit of a challenge and the V-Stroms were fitted with the stock Dunlop Trailmax tyres which held any heavy throttle action at bay.

As we rode, I noticed not one pie shop and not a single Chinese restaurant. What’s with that New Zealand?

Sitting or standing, the ergos are excellent

I also observed that the engine was impressively free of vibration. More so than any bike I’ve ever ridden, and it feels…a little odd at first. There’s just the barest of sensation back through the bars as the engine climbs through the revs until you reach highway speeds, which is when an amount of vibration does present itself.

That’s the work, in part, of the Suzuki Cross Balancer and it will be particularly appreciated on a long day or multiple days when fatigue sets in.

The seat and overall ergos are excellent, roomy and much more dirtbike-like than the 1050 and V-Strom 650xt adventure. Those are bikes you sit in, but the 800 is a bike you sit on.

The comfort level persists when standing on the 800 DE, although there isn’t a natural spot to grab the bike with your knees which, for me anyway, hovered right at the seat/tank juncture. Rather like on the Africa Twin, some added grip would be of benefit and there’s a panel in the perfect spot to take a stick-on pad which are pretty easy things to find these days.

The clutch has a reasonably heavy lever motion to it but a nice final feel all the same. I do like cable clutches because some hydraulic clutches feel a bit ‘dead’ to me.

As we hit the dirt, something was stirring inside me that took me by surprise. I’d not had this feeling on a V-Strom before and while I openly express my love for the model with no shame, I’ve never thought to praise this particular element.

New colours are fun but new suspension maketh the bike. The Showa kit is good


I was coming to realise that the Showa suspension was very well-balanced and had a great feel. I stopped and wound on some pre-load at the rear because, to a Japanese engineer, I am of a size for which he would have no reference other than a monster that crawled out of the sea and destroyed Tokyo.

I should have beefed up the front as well, but it was raining, it was cold and I am lazy and I was also happy and wanted to keep riding.

The 800 DE behaved like a bike with a confident suspension package. This is complemented by the steel frame allowing more flex than the aluminium frame on the 1050. The overall ride felt compliant and comfortable while able to respond to aggression with a predictable feel.

There has never been a V-Strom that felt like this before. We all know Suzuki can build a great and ridiculously reliable engine. But the company has never strayed far from a very road-based suspension set-up.

We weren’t able to see the complete picture because the stock tyres are as adept offroad as I am an opera singer and the conditions were moist, but I got enough of an impression to know that I can’t wait to fit knobbys on this bike.

The power delivery, as I’ve already mentioned, is incredibly smooth in how it feels both to the rider and how it hits the ground. It’s a gorgeous and versatile engine that, while it isn’t a V-twin, seems to fit in the V-Strom stable perfectly.

Love that the luggage rack that comes standard

The same engine has found its way into the GSX-8S. If your salesman has a lisp you’ll want to stand back or wear wet weather gear while he gives you the rundown on that one.

The electronics allow you to ride in three different modes simply labelled A, B and C. ‘A’ is a sport mode and it’s got a decent amount of spunk to it; more than I needed offroad where I spent my time in mode B. Mode C is for wet conditions and while it rained throughout most of the launch, I was happy to keep it in mode B.

I appreciated the impressive quickshifter, which felt more precise than it did on the 1050 DE and makes offroad riding on a big bike just a little easier.

I tried riding with the traction control off and then in the new Gravel mode. I liked the feel of the Gravel mode and ended up staying with it for most of the day. I had ABS off at the rear the whole time and even though it was slippery I didn’t feel much intervention at the front.

The weather was not kind to us

The electronics recall your last settings even when you turn the key off, with the exception of ABS which resets as most new bikes do.

The electronics are very easy to use with no multi-page displays to plough through like you’re bringing the Space Shuttle in for a landing. The single page on the TFT display shows you everything at once and in an easy-to-read layout.

The switchblock is equally as easy to use and for any riders that aren’t big on mega electronics, but appreciate the ability to tune your ride to a degree, the 800 DE hits that sweet spot. Honestly, you could put it in Mode B, turn traction control to G and never alter another thing except for toggling ABS off.

The weight of the V-Strom 800 DE has been the subject of some consternation. Dudes with names like ballsack50568 and gravypumpa001 are upset that the bike weighs in at a claimed 230 kilos fully fuelled.

It’s about the same as the F 850 GS (233kg) but the Suzuki offers 5 litres more fuel. The Transalp 750 is a claimed 208kg but with three litres less fuel capacity than the 20 litres offered by the V-Strom.

The 20-litre tank should offer good mileage and that’s something we’re yet to explore



It’s not a light bike. It’s a reasonably heavy bike in fact, but not startlingly more than comparable models and has a more generous fuel-carrying capacity to justify some of that weight.

It’s also coming from a stable that builds durable, reliable motorcycles. Legendarily so. The amount of old V-Stroms getting around is mind-blowing. I have no reason to think the 800 DE won’t have the same kind of lifespan ahead of it.

The bike comes fitted with a good-sized luggage rack and rear grab handles which make packing easy. The windscreen is very small with the thinking being it stays out of helmet strike reach offroad and actually does a decent job.

I think I’d keep it on for most of the year but fit a bigger screen for winter because I embrace the cold like a leper loves a ceiling fan.

The 800 DE does not come with heated hand grips nor cruise control and I think the absence of cruise control is a bit of a miss by Suzuki on a bike that’s sold as an adventure tourer. The touring part sucks without cruise.

The Hume Highway without cruise control is a unique torture to your right wrist that Saddam Hussein would have thought too cruel to consider.

Heated grips are OK, but they aren’t as good as heated gloves. Just give me cruise.

Looks good in the backcountry, yeah?

LET’S GO FURTHER

The launch was one day in a foreign country with no pie shops and terrible weather.

We rode a good distance, and we rode tracks that suit the bike well, but I can’t wait to get hold of the 800 DE with a set of decent offroad tyres onboard. There’s a lot more to unpack with the new V-Strom and I think this could be a pretty damn fine adventure tourer that may surprise many on the dirt.

I’ve seen writers compare the 800 DE to a Tenere, an 890 Adventure R and even a Tuareg. Stop reading the moment you see that because they suffer a fundamental misunderstanding of each one of those bikes.

This is an adventure tourer. It’s not a dedicated dirt weapon fed on an early diet of testosterone to produce the Mike Tyson of motorcycles, eager to chew the ear off the next trail.


It’s a versatile all-day ride designed not to tight tolerances, but for ultimate reliability. It’s more subtle, more comfortable and more manageable.

We’ll be taking the 800 DE out for extended test rides in the near future

And, Suzuki has infused the 800 DE with the kind of fun factor that we haven’t seen on a V-Strom before. Where an amount of caution in the dirt was necessary, there is now more freedom to explore.

It’s a more playful bike. It’s not going to be the pin-up bike on gravypumpa001’s shed wall, but it has the potential to be a very good multipurpose model for many years to come.

The 2023 Suzuki V-Strom line-up is looking stronger than ever but after just this short-ish ride, I think the 800 DE will be the star moving forward.

At $18,590 ride away it’s nowhere near as cheap as the much-loved V-Strom 650 XT. But it’s a better bike with more to offer. And it’s a V-Strom, so you can probably keep it running till 2043.

Suzuki Australia is also offering a free 38-litre aluminium top box on all pre-orders for a limited time which is great news for those looking to get on an 800 DE.

Watch this space for more on the 800 DE. I have plans to see just how far we can go with the newby and Suzuki is keen to make it happen. My route will without doubt include a pie shop and a Chinese restaurant. Seriously, New Zealand…what gives?