Bud­get-friendly Suzuki V-strom takes on Ducati’s top-spec Pikes Peak on the UK’S tougest test

Can Ducati’s flag­ship Mul­tistrada re­ally be worth twice as much as a Suzuki V-strom?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Contents - By Phil West MCN CON­TRIB­U­TOR

The big ad­ven­ture bike class is now so pop­u­lar there has never been a broader choice of ma­chines avail­able with prices rang­ing from un­der ten grand to well over 20.

Suzuki’s lat­est, base V-strom 1000 is a mod­ern V-twin with fully-ad­justable sus­pen­sion, ra­dial brakes and more for well un­der £10K. By con­trast, Ducati’s lat­est, range-top­ping Mul­tistrada Pikes Peak is also a mod­ern V-twin with fully-ad­justable sus­pen­sion, ra­dial brakes and

more. And it costs more than dou­ble.

So, an ob­vi­ous ques­tion raises its head: what do you get for your money and what dif­fer­ence does it re­ally make?

Don’t get us wrong; we’re not daft enough to sug­gest a V-strom could be bet­ter than the Pikes Peak. The gulf be­tween the two in terms of spec­i­fi­ca­tion alone is ob­vi­ous.

Where the straight­for­ward Suzuki is sim­ple, al­most ba­sic (although its 2017 up­date did see it gain cor­ner­ing ABS, three-way trac­tion con­trol, hill start and an ad­justable screen) the Pikes Peak has the best of ev­ery­thing.

Based on the re­cently en­larged Mul­tistrada S (which it­self costs from £17,195), the Pikes Peak is the most per­for­mance­ori­en­tated of the Multi fam­ily.

This lat­est ver­sion shares the S’s 1262cc, 160bhp Tes­tas­tretta en­gine and tubu­lar steel chas­sis, but raises the bar by es­chew­ing the S’s semi-ac­tive sus­pen­sion in favour of race-qual­ity fullyad­justable Öh­lins; light­weight March­esini forged wheels, a Ter­mignoni race-style can, a car­bon fi­bre screen, front mud­guard and air in­take cover plus one-off race liv­ery.

Nor are we sug­gest­ing the Ducati doesn’t jus­tify its price. With the March­esi­nis alone re­tail­ing for over two grand, you could ar­gue it was some­thing of a bar­gain.

But as we headed off on the A605 at the start of the MCN250, with me aboard the hum­ble V-strom and Justin fol­low­ing on the Multi, none of that mat­tered. Not yet, any­way.

I’ve rid­den the big Suzuki on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions since its 2014 re­vival and while never at­tempt­ing to be the most or even best ad­ven­ture bike in any way, it’s al­ways im­pressed with its value and, sim­ply, for get­ting on with it.

The same is very much true to­day. This is the cheap­est ver­sion of the V-strom (the XT gets wire wheels and tapered bars for £400 more while GT ver­sions come with triple boxes for a fur­ther grand) but as a street bike it wants for lit­tle, is easy to get on with and is prac­ti­cal while de­liv­er­ing a healthy dol­lop of fun.

Within half a mile I was com­pletely at home. Within five, although slightly un­der­whelmed by the Suzuki’s fairly ba­sic spec and old school clocks, I’d also been re­minded of its bet­ter-thanex­pected sus­pen­sion (com­plete with

‘ The Pikes Peak re­ally is like go­ing from a Ford Fo­cus to a Fer­rari’ ‘The V-strom was pro­vid­ing ev­ery­thing I needed’

use­ful re­mote preload knob) and lovely power de­liv­ery. The V-strom was pro­vid­ing pretty much ev­ery­thing I needed.

And that, as we switched bikes af­ter an hour, be­came the theme of the day – needs ver­sus de­sires. Justin, for ex­am­ple, fresh off the Ducati, was ef­fer­ves­cent about the Mul­tistrada.

“It’s just sub­lime,” he gushed. “It just does ev­ery­thing. The sus­pen­sion’s per­fect and that’s with­out fid­dling with it. The rid­ing po­si­tion is good, the lit­tle screen does more than you’d think. In fact the only thing that’s a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ing is the Termi can – you can’t hear it.”

And, af­ter we’d swapped and turned west onto the more nadgery B-roads to­wards Sil­ver­stone, I could see his point. In terms of sheer spec, go­ing from the V-strom to the Pikes Peak re­ally is like go­ing from a Ford Fo­cus to a Fer­rari. And in terms of per­for­mance, the 160bhp Duke has the po­ten­tial to sim­ply blow away the 100-horse Suzuki.

But al­ready, on this very real world MCN250 route – as op­posed, per­haps, to a race track – it wasn’t quite work­ing out like that.

Yes, for brief, fleet­ing mo­ments I’d whack open the Peak’s throt­tle, blast away from the Suzuki in a flurry of noise and ag­gres­sion. But I was never brave enough to pro­long on the road what the Ducati is best at. While, at a more re­al­is­tic pace the Suzuki is ca­pa­ble, eas­ily able to keep up and more re­lax­ing as well.

The drag of the M40 brought a sim­i­lar dilemma. Yes, the posh Pikes Peak, cruise con­trol and all, can hap­pily do it. But with its harder, slightly in­clined seat

and min­i­mal screen it doesn’t do it as com­fort­ably as the Suzuki or, for that mat­ter, the less ex­treme, bet­ter-pro­tected Mul­tistrada S.

As the day stretched out, the op­por­tu­ni­ties the Ducati had to shine were out­num­bered by those where it in­creas­ingly an­noyed.

Why an­noyed? The fu­elling for one. Whether in Tour­ing or Sport mode and de­spite mod­i­fy­ing the throt­tle re­sponse, quite of­ten the Multi, on a closed or hes­i­tant throt­tle, hics and coughs.

The less com­fort­able seat and smaller screen for an­other. Yes, the PP is the per­for­mance Multi and ar­guably more than com­pen­sates for any flaws with its speed and spec, but on the MCN250 it mat­ters.

And even those Öh­lins sus­penders for a third. Yes, on the all-too-brief B660, the ‘Peak’ was blind­ingly quick with a ride so so­phis­ti­cated I could feel ev­ery rip­ple, but the price of that is the loss of the Mul­tistrada S’s bril­liant semi-ac­tive set-up.

So although the last blast was bril­liant it also showed up how ex­treme and sin­gle-minded the Pikes Peak is. Early in our ride I briefly thought it the per­fect MCN250 bike. By the end I knew it wasn’t. Sure, the Ducati can do other stuff, but nowhere near as well as its ‘lesser’ sib­lings. You’d never go of­froad on it, for ex­am­ple, even though we briefly tried. Just think about those ex­pen­sive March­esi­nis.

As for the lowly Suzuki, apart from be­ing briefly blown away, it sim­ply nailed it. Again.


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