With its styling hints from a late 1980s monster, Suzuki has christened its big 2020 V-Strom 1050 the “Master of Adventure.” Too zealous? Maybe.
Okay let’s get real. The 2020 Suzuki V-Strom isn’t really a 1050 since it displaces the same 1037cc it did last year when it was a 1000. Hmm, wait a minute. Being over 1026cc, it’s actually kind of fair game to call it a 1050. So is it that Suzuki’s being cute with its marketing in 2020 or that the Hamamatsu brand has been too humble since it launched the second-gen V-Strom 1000 in 2014? Or both?
Moving on to something I’m sure about, then: sure as day follows night, the 2020 V-Strom 1050 is not the “Master of Adventure,” as claimed by Suzuki. There. Facts checked, manufacturer caught red handed, justice rendered, pat on the back.
Thing is, though, alternative facts aside, I can’t lie, I love this new V-Strom. Oh, I know perfectly well how limited it is off-road and I’m still puzzled that the new seat is so less comfortable than the old one and I’m not sure I like the price jump and then don’t get me started on the plane Jane colours of the affordable base model versus the sexy DR-BIG inspired XA.
Still, I adore the thing because it just works so well. It sure doesn’t hurt that it also looks so cool, at least in those throwback red/white and yellow/gold rims XA liveries. A good-looking V-Strom, who’d have thunk it?
To be honest, my acquaintance with this latest generation of the big V-Strom began with a fair amount of skepticism. I didn’t even bother asking the Japanese project leader, engineers et al about the fake-ish 1050 thing. It is what it is. But as there’s a trend throughout the adventure class to go bigger, I thought why not inquire as to why Suzuki didn’t really bump the displacement?
The answer was that with more displacement comes more weight and that the manufacturer believes that one litre offers a good balance between mass and power. My skeptic self thought it’s also easier and cheaper not to change a thing…
I began to turn around a mere few moments after leaving our Marbella, Spain hotel on the Mediterranean coast. In front of the global media and the entire Suzuki team, I engaged first gear and carefully let the clutch slip to make a sharp left with only about five feet to spare, then proceeded to zig-zag through cones and curbs and finally left the hotel grounds to immediately find myself in a busy roundabout that led to the onramp of the highway that would lead us outside the city.
It all took less than a minute, but it was enough to feel how mechanically refined, instantly familiar and wonderfully balanced the Suzuki V-Strom is. The feeling would never leave me all day, no matter how much I abused the 1050. And abuse it I did, on pavement at least.
Our itinerary was going to get us to Ronda for lunch and back. Not a particularly long ride, but oh the roads! Corner after corner, all day, up and down mountain ranges, almost no cars or cops. Damn the Spanish for having roads—and scenery— like this.
My group adopted a brisk pace, but the V-Strom was so well behaved it could be ridden with one hand, which I did while I snapped countless shots of vistas with the GoPro with the other. Once in a while, okay maybe more, I’d slow down to let the group disappear well ahead. I would then put both hands on the non-heated grips (they should be as standard) and get serious.
It’s hard to convey the pace the V-Strom is capable of on mountain roads. It’s an adventure bike in terms of ergonomics and looks, but mechanically, the thing rides like a sportbike. Actually, I have to take that back, because even with the 1050’s modest 106 horses, there’s no way a dedicated sportbike could have hung with me, at least not safely on this imperfect pavement. No way.
It would have been on the edge, constantly scanning for bumps and cracks while I would have been effortlessly tossing the Strom around, looking far ahead with a big grin on my mug and not a trace of stress in my pea brain. That’s how well the big Suzuki V-Strom works on these roads and how easy it makes life for its rider, even the abusive type. And I love it for it.
You have to have ridden what else the adventure class offers to get this, but one litre really is a sweet spot, both on and off road. A bit less displacement feels somewhat overstressed while those more powerful 1200-1300s are just way too heavy. In my dreams, Suzuki would maintain the displacement and decent weight of the V-Strom 1050, but pump another 20 horses in that ex SV and TL 1000 motor, which it could easily produce. Then you’d have exciting rather than adequate performance, which it delivers now.
So, sure, Suzuki’s guilty of some slightly zealous marketing here, but, to be fair, what manufacturer isn’t? I ride the bikes and I hear the pitches: believe me, the answer is none. I just thought I’d have a bit of fun with it this time. The important thing to remember is what this new V-Strom does and for whom it will or won’t.
“Whom” it won’t work for is easy: the power hungry off-road maniacs. The 1050’s performance is just fine and its V-Twin is a marvel of refinement and smooth operation, but it’s no rocket. As for the off-road stuff, keep a moderate pace and stay on moderately bumpy dirt or gravel trails, and it’ll allow you to get closer to things you see from the road, no problem. Just don’t expect anything more in the dirt.
Whom it will work for actually encompasses a very wide variety of riders. Other than for that new two-piece seat, the big V-Strom is a remarkable long-distance companion, especially when equipped with the various luggage offered as accessories. Because it’s relatively light, not impossibly tall, narrow and wonderfully balanced both dynamically and ergonomically, it’s an excellent daily ride. And we’ve already been through what the chassis is capable of. That’s a lot.
The thing is, current Suzuki V-Strom owners will tell you nothing here is news to them and that the model has always been an excellent and well-rounded machine. However, none of them can say their litre Strom looks as good as this DR-BIG inspired gen, particularly the sexy and more equipped, albeit more expensive XA. My guess is those good looks will go a long way in letting a whole new group of riders in on the semi well-kept secret that is this machine.
by Bertrand Gahel Canadian Biker Issue #247
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