V-strom 650 XT v F800 GS

Bar­gain globetrotters fight to be the best-value ad­ven­ture bike

Motorcycle News (UK) - - News - By Adam Child MCN SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER @MCNNEWS mo­tor­cy­cle­news

On pa­per, there seems to be lot go­ing for mid­dleweight ad­ven­ture bikes like these. Lighter and more-nim­ble than their big- ca­pac­ity broth­ers, the the­ory is that they of­fer the off-road abil­ity and tour­ing prow­ess of a big ad­ven­ture bike, without the painful pur­chase price, run­ning costs, or phys­i­cal scale.

And when you look at the facts, that makes sense. At £7899, the V-strom 650 XT is £2200 less than its 1000cc coun­ter­part, while the F800GS is over £3000 less than an R1200GS. If you used those sav­ings to head some­where, that sort of money would buy you a lot of ad­ven­ture, and with lower seat heights and bet­ter fuel econ­omy, they’re eas­ier to live with too. But which is the best bet for dis­tance rid­ing and econ­omy? To find out we clocked as many miles as we could on the pair and hit some of the gnarli­est, dusti­est trails we could find.

TEST 1 Go­ing the dis­tance

Stick the V-strom on the mo­tor­way and life’s a breeze. Ac­cord­ing to the dig­i­tal clocks I’ve got 200 miles re­main­ing in the 20-litre fuel tank. At 80mph I’m com­fort­able; the ad­justable (us­ing tools from un­der the seat) screen is just about high enough on its low­est set­ting. I’m sat in the bike rather than perched on top of it, and the wide seat is plush. My only com­plaint is the long stretch to the wide bars. The Micky Mouse ears, sorry I mean mir­rors, are en­abling a per­fect view be­hind, the smooth 650 V-twin is hum­ming along nicely and I’m av­er­ag­ing over 55mpg.

The Suzi has a huge tank range, claim­ing some 250 miles from a tank­ful. If rid­den legally, you could be in the sad­dle for many happy hours. I don’t re­ally need any more power, or com­fort – it’s en­gag­ing and ca­pa­cious enough that you could ride it around Europe for a month and you’d never have any real cause for com­plaint. Heated grips would be a nice-to-have stan­dard fea­ture, but oth­er­wise you re­ally don’t need to spend any more money to have

on three-level trac­tion con­trol.

The 19in front wheel on the V-strom (as op­posed to the 21in front wheel on the BMW) en­ables the Suzuki to turn more eas­ily on the road, and you will feel more con­fi­dent on the Suzuki at pace on the road. It’s more planted and less likely to un­der­steer. The han­dling is very nat­u­ral, you sim­ply jump on the V-strom and ride, it al­ways feels com­posed and sta­ble, if a lit­tle dull. If you crave ease of use and want a bike that never gets out of shape (if rid­den nor­mally) the V-strom is per­fect – but more ex­pe­ri­enced rid­ers might find it a lit­tle dull.

The BMW is a lit­tle more ex­cit­ing and re­ward­ing to ride – the 798cc par­al­lel twin pro­duces 15bhp more than the Suzuki’s 650 V-twin and con­sid­er­ably more torque. They both weigh around the same, which means the Beemer’s ex­tra grunt is eas­ily felt. But both will hap­pily cruise at 90mph, so they’re not slow bikes, but the GS just has a lit­tle more kick, which makes over­takes quicker, safer and less stress­ful.

TEST 3 In town

The dif­fer­ence in power is hardly no­tice­able in town, and again the Suzuki’s ease of use and light steer­ing re­ally shine through. At times it’s like rid­ing an ad­ven­ture-styled scooter with gears. How­ever, and un­usu­ally for a Suzuki, the gear­box feels a lit­tle heavy, like it’s been sub­merged in trea­cle. It isn’t overly an­noy­ing, but it is no­tice­ably less smooth than the BMW box.

The GS’S qual­ity sus­pen­sion and big­ger front wheel cope with pot­holes and speed humps with more com­po­sure than the Suzuki, but the wide bars are ac­tu­ally a frac­tion too wide when try­ing to fil­ter through sta­tion­ary traf­fic. Its switch­able sus­pen­sion and rider modes are also a tick in the ‘plus’ box, while the soft Rain mode was my de­fault choice in town, backed up by ABS and trac­tion con­trol.

Both are in­cred­i­bly easy to ride in the ur­ban jun­gle, but the BMW is just a tad more ver­sa­tile.

TEST 4 Kerb ap­peal

Suzuki’s 2017 up­date has fi­nally given the V-strom a bit of kerb-ap­peal. Once the ugly duck­ling of the range, it now looks ev­ery bit the ac­ces­si­ble ad­ven­ture bike. And this XT model gets the gold wheels and bash plate as stan­dard to heighten its cre­den­tials. The gold spoked rims are very rem­i­nis­cent of Yamaha’s old two-stroke TDM250, or XT500, and look great. They’ve also kept the must-have beak, which can be traced back to the orig­i­nal DR Big DR750/800 from the late 80s, and worked hard to try and erad­i­cate the old bike’s pre­vail­ing sense of be­ing just a lit­tle bit too bud­get.

But while the Su­zook looks good, the BMW looks more dra­matic. The new colours and slight tweak to the styling are eas­ier on the eye, but it also man­ages to look more ag­gres­sive and pur­pose­ful. There are more but­tons to play with on the BMW, with elec­tron­i­cally ad­justable sus­pen­sion and dif­fer­ent rider modes, which can all be se­lected on the move. Both the rev counter and speedo are analogue, with every­thing else dis­played dig­i­tally to the right. For some rea­son BMW thought the dig­i­tal fuel gauge should only read to half full and only starts de­plet­ing once you’ve passed the half way mark.

The off-road bi­ased (op­tional) Con­ti­nen­tal TKC 80 rub­ber and larger 21in front wheel give it a beefy off-road stance that many will find ap­peal­ing.

‘Both bikes are in­cred­i­bly easy to ride in the ur­ban jun­gle’

SUZUKI V-STROM 650XT £7899 • 70BHP • 216KG For a £500 pre­mium over the stocker, the off-road bi­ased XT gets gold rim, spoked wheels, a bash plate. There’s also 3-stage trac­tion con­trol, which can be switched off, and ABS comes as stan­dard.

On B-road Bri­tain, Suzuki’s V-strom feels ef­fort­lessly com­posed

Road-fo­cused tyres would help the F800GS per­form bet­ter on tar­mac

PCP deal £101.92 PER MONTH X36 Suzuki V-strom 650 XT £1500 de­posit, £3625 op­tional fi­nal pay­ment, 5000 an­nual mileage, 4.9%APR PCP deal £99 X36 PER MONTH (stan­dard) BMW F800GS £4361.63 £1832.94 de­posit, pay­ment, op­tional fi­nal mileage, 5000 an­nual 5.9%APR

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