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?
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.
SUZUKI V-STROM 1000 £9599 DUCATI MULTISTRADA 1260 PIKES PEAK £20,795