OUR BIKES ‘14,000 miles and still going Strom’
Suzuki’s super-capable 650 proves to be so much more than a budget commuter after a year of all-weather riding
Fourteen thousand miles and one year later, it’s time to reflect on our time together. A hundred miles of primarily straight, boring roads allows my mind to wander and ponder the pros and cons of the V-strom 650. The M1 offers the perfect opportunity to weight up the highs and lows of living with the Suzuki.
At the beginning of the year, I contemplated which bike would be best for long commutes while offering all-round capability for the occasional adventure. The V-strom XT is more of a hybrid trail and road bike with added off-road components – neither out-and-out commuter nor a pure adventure bike – and it’s proved equally capable at both tasks.
As the Strom and I pulled off the M1 and ploughed into the mist, I hunkered down behind its screen and relished the touring comfort. For a trailie I’ve always been impressed with the level of wind protection. The bulbous face, handguards and wide tank provide enough shelter from the elements. The screen was changed early on to fix a buffeting issue. While the standard screen is adjustable, it takes too long to tweak and is way too fiddly. But the seat is thick and wide and the reach to the bars and pegs make for an easygoing and comfortable riding position.
The same goes for passenger comfort. Riding down to the New Forest with a pillion, panniers and topbox for a weekend of camping was easy peasy. There’s more than enough space in the Suzuki boxes for luggage for two. And with a quick adjustment of the preload the rear suspension stiffens up nicely, making for a smooth ride. And it was on that trip where two friends who had never touched a motorcycle before learnt to ride on the Strom around our campsite. It’s so simple to ride it makes the perfect learner machine.
But it’s not all just touring comfort and camping. What sets the XT apart from the standard 650 is its adventure proofing. For an extra £600 over the standard bike the XT comes with crash bars, bashplate, handguards, beak and a 19in front wheel and wire spokes – a worthwhile investment for anyone interested in the rough stuff.
Riding the V-strom off-road is easy. Its low seat height and affable motor work well on gravel trails. The throttle is responsive, predictable and gradual. Simply click into third and let the twin chug along. Anything technical or particularly fast and the Strom won’t like it. But it’s brilliant for messing about with mates or exploring trails.
It’s a hybrid rather than a full-on adventure bike and it’s not a full-on road bike, but it still does both jobs well. And the very affordable price makes it extremely competitive for such a versatile machine.
After thousands of miles through all conditions and a particularly salty winter, I’ve never had a problem with the Strom – which still has the original brake pads, chain and sprockets. The continuous salt and road grime has taken its toll on bolt heads, turning a few of them furry. And the caliper banjos have been stained white – a common problem amongst bikes that see winter use. The spokes turned out to be frustrating to keep clean too.
The only real wear is the black finish where the side of my boot rests on the frame. It has rubbed, revealing the bare metal. I’ve checked out a few Stroms and they all suffer. All it needs is a bit of rubber to guard against rubbing boots. Other than the minor finish issues, the only let down is a front brake that lacks power and bite. Uprated pads and braided hoses would be a worthwhile investment.
The Strom has proved itself as a tough all-weather machine. I’ll definitely miss it.