Don’t let the ugly looks put you off

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

Suzuki ap­pears to have done the im­pos­si­ble with the new sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion V-Strom 1000 ABS by mak­ing an ugly bike even uglier. Cy­clops-like head­light ar­rays should be con­fined to orig­i­nal Du­cati Mul­tistradas, and who­ever de­ter­mined that all ADVs should have beaky, ves­ti­gial dirt bike-like fas­cias should be im­pris­oned for their crim­i­nal ig­no­rance of aes­thetic val­ues.

But stay tuned, for the only crit­i­cisms I can di­rect to­wards the new Strom is that it ini­tially fright­ens me when­ever I sud­denly en­counter one on a dark street and that the horn is bet­ter suited to a kid’s tri­cy­cle than a beefy goany­where tour­ing bike.

A fe­male friend once en­light­ened me with her gen­er­al­i­sa­tion that women tend to have ‘‘brains, beauty, and a pleas­ant per­son­al­ity, but never all three to­gether’’. Her rule about the mul­ti­task­ing gen­der fits the new­est 1000cc Suzuki V-twin per­fectly. Beauty was ob­vi­ously hid­ing be­hind the door when all the brains and per­son­al­ity got dished out.

But then, no cur­rent ADV ri­val to the Suzuki would ever find a place in any Art of the Mo­tor­cy­cle ex­hi­bi­tion com­mis­sioned by the Guggen­heim Mu­seum, and the emo­tive ap­peal that was lack­ing when view­ing the Strom quickly makes its pres­ence felt when you ac­tu­ally climb on board its tall-but­not-too-tall sad­dle and ride the thing.

Thumb­ing the starter but­ton gives ac­cess to the per­for­mance of what is quite pos­si­bly Ja­pan’s finest-ever twin-cylin­der en­gine. That the new Strom can keep sta­teof-the-art Euro ADVs like the KTM 1190 Ad­ven­ture andBMWR1200GS hon­est in feats of ac­cel­er­a­tion and speed isn’t the best at­tribute of Asia’s lat­est twin. It’s the way it de­liv­ers that per­for­mance.

A smidge more cu­bic ca­pac­ity, new twin-spark/twin-coil cylin­der heads, a vari­able back-pres­sure ex­haust, and ride-by-wire fuel in­jec­tion, have worked their magic on an en­gine de­sign that can trace its lin­eage back to the TL1000S sports bike.

Out­right power and torque im­prove­ments are in­cre­men­tal ones, but the im­proved ac­cess to those peaks is a de­ci­sive and thrilling de­vel­op­ment.

The new 1037cc Strom makes a cou­ple more horse­power and a cou­ple more new­tons than the 996cc ver­sion that Suzuki NZ sold here be­tween 2003 and 2008, but the peaks ar­rive far ear­lier in the rev range than when rid­ing the smaller-ca­pac­ity bike. This makes ev­ery over­take on the open road feel so much more ef­fort-free, es­pe­cially as the 228kg Strom is some eight kilo­grams lighter than the pre­vi­ous model.

Equally ap­pre­cia­ble is the way the Suzuki uses the more im­me­di­ate ac­cess to torque to great ef­fect.

The high-geared fi­nal drive and heav­ier fly­wheel add an easy-go­ing per­son­al­ity to the pow­er­train. There’s a ‘‘chug­ga­bil­ity’’ that feels both un­stop­pable and en­dear­ing, like you could eas­ily take off in third gear with lit­tle risk of stalling.

The gear­ing also puts the bike right in the meat of the torque de­liv­ery when rid­ing the Strom in top gear on the open road.

If two-up with lug­gage is your nor­mal tour­ing mode, then the Suzuki has both the ac­com­mo­da­tion and pow­er­train per­fectly tai­lored for you.

Fuel use too is an­other win. Tank ca­pac­ity drops a litre or three to 20 litres, yet the bike’s range is main­tained at about 300km be­tween fill-ups by the way the Strom ex­tracts more en­ergy from 95-oc­tane fuel.

Com­fort and con­ve­nience is al­ready im­pres­sive , while the ac­ces­sory list is a long one and in­cludes taller wind­screens, hard lug­gage, cen­tre stand, hand guards, and bash plate.

As it comes, the Strom wears a screen with nine ad­just­ments and rid­ers of aver­age height can eas­ily find one that keeps tur­bu­lence to a min­i­mum.

So that’s the per­son­al­ity sorted, what about the brains?

You’ll find them in the trac­tion con­trol and ABS sys­tems of the new­est Strom, and al­though the rider can de­feat the for­mer, the lat­ter is per­ma­nently armed.

Which is prob­a­bly just as well be­cause the front pair of ra­di­al­ly­mounted four-pis­ton To­kico monoblock calipers can bite with all the power and in­ten­sity of salt­wa­ter croc­o­diles, and the 110/80 tyre fit­ted to the 19’’ front wheel of the Strom has a nar­rower con­tact patch than most bikes blessed with such cut­ting-edge stop­pers.

Ugly is, as hand­some does: Luck­ily if you’re sit­ting on it, you can’t see it.

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