Leeuwenfontein, North West – As bikemakers try to outdo each other (and upstage the iconic BMW GelandeScooter) in the lucrative adventure tourer segment, their offerings have inevitably become bigger and heavier, until most now have engines of about 1200cc and weigh anything up to 280kg wet.
Not so Suzuki; its all-new second-generation DL1000 V-Strom, launched in South Africa last week, has grown by only 41cc to 1037cc, thanks to a 2mm increase in bore diameter from 98 to 100mm (stroke is unchanged at 66mm) and shed eight kilograms - mostly by losing one exhaust tailpipe and two litres of fuel-tank capacity - to weigh in at a commendable 228kg ready for the road.
But it gains 2kW up to a quoted 74kW at 8000 revs and 2Nm, from 101Nm at 6400rpm to 103Nm at a far more accessible 4000 revs, while depleting our fossil fuel reserves 16 percent slower than its predecessor at less than five litres of unleaded per 100km – a claim we’ll take under advisement until we’ve run a new V-Strom over our standard test route – thanks to new twin-plug cylinder heads and revised electronic fuel injectors.
It also gets an even more relaxed seating position, mostly thanks to the narrower tank, the simplest, most elegant screen adjustment we’ve seen, ABS and a straightforward traction control system with three easily-selectable modes.
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Mode 1 allows a certain amount of rooster-tailing before it spoils the fun; Mode 2 intervenes almost before the rear wheel breaks traction, radically cutting power and torque, while Off is exactly what it says – blanket permission to get into as much trouble as you want.
Or almost. The ABS can’t be switched off; we were warned that it could result in absurdly long braking distances on loose surfaces, and that we should brake accordingly early when riding on dirt roads.
However, it allowed Suzuki to fit ferocious Tokico radial-mount callipers, which would be lethal in the dirt without ABS, but which endow the new V-Strom with phenomenal braking on tar.
And you can use it, too; the new engine’s huge spread of mid-range torque pulls it out of slow corners with real authority, a lower centre of effort and revised steering geometry make it surprisingly nimble, and superb, fully-adjustable, 43m KYB upside-downies deliver impressive stability and accurate steering.
Actually, it’s just as well the forks are as tuneable as they are; several of the (bigger) motoring scribes at the launch ride noted that, on the factory’s median settings, they could almost bottom out the front suspension just by grabbing a handful of front brake.
“If this was my bike,” commented one, “I’d have to screw the preload in as far as it goes.”
One can only assume that Suzuki’s test pilots are all skinny ex-Grand Prix racers.
Nothing this tall and heavy is ever going to be a sports bike, but you can throw the new V-Strom through a set of corners with far less effort (and more fun!) than most machines of its type.
And the slim, pared-down V-twin architecture lets it slip neatly through the gridlock on the daily commute, with the rider able to see over the cars ahead and the agility to cope with unpredictable South African drivers.
Even with supple suspension and deeply treaded dual-purpose rubber, the V-Strom’s off-tar ability is severely limited, a fact the maker has tacitly acknowledged by fitting cast wheels rather than the more resilient spoked rims favoured by serious dirt-diggers.
Nevertheless it will take you down gravel roads and potholed country lanes to fresh horizons every weekend and to work in between with equal competence - and enough brio to make sure you arrive at either destination with a grin on your face.
The new Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom will be available in South Africa from June 2014 at R134 750, which includes a two-year, unlimited distance factory warranty.
Also available will be custom-designed panniers and top box (29 litres on the left, 26 on the right, 35 on the top), a model-specific tank bag, a main-stand kit and a choice of two bash plates – a purely cosmetic one in black nylon and a serious piece of body armour fabricated in aluminium alloy sheet-metal.
Engine: 1037cc liquid-cooled four-stroke V-twin.
Bore x stroke: 100 x 66mm.
Compression ratio: 11.3:1.
Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 74kW at 8000rpm.
Torque: 103Nm at 4000rpm.
Induction: Digital electronic fuel-injection with two dual-butterfly throttle bodies.
Ignition: Digital electronic.
Clutch: Hydraulically-actuated multiplate wet clutch.
Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.
Front Suspension: 43mm KYB inverted cartridge forks adjustable for preload, compression and rebound damping.
Rear Suspension: Gas-charged monoshock adjustable for preload, compression and rebound damping.
Front brakes: Dual 310mm discs with Tokico four-piston radial-mount monobloc callipers, ABS and traction control.
Rear brake: 260mm disc with single-piston Nissin floating calliper, ABS and traction control.
Front tyre: 100/80 - 19 tubeless.
Rear tyre: 150/70 - 17 tubeless.
Kerb weight: 228kg.
Fuel tank: 20 litres.
Price: R134 750.