Suzuki DL650 V-Strom a capable all-rounder
Cape Town - Suzuki's original DL650 V-Strom was never intended as an adventure bike.
It was built as a comfortable light tourer featuring the company's superlative 645cc L-twin engine, which first saw the light of day in 1999 in the sadly underrated SV650 sports-bike.
The DL650 had 17 inch cast wheels at both ends and, despite its fashionable insectoid styling, was overtly tar-orientated, as was a comprehensively revised model released in 2012.
But nobody at Suzuki could afford to ignore the rising tide of lighter, nimbler adventure tourers that were taking a new generation of riders down roads they would never have tackled on a quarter-ton of litre-plus beetle-crusher.
Suzuki DL650XT V-Strom: get serious
Hence the DL650XT; the differences between this and the 'street' version are surprisingly understated, confined to little more than a Dakar Rally-style 'beak' on the fairing and spoked rims sporting 19 inch front and 17 inch rear Bridgestone Trail Wing rubber.
Each anodised-aluminium DID rim has two pronounced centre flanges, allowing for reversed spokes and tubeless tyres, thus combining the best of both worlds.
The effect, however, is salutary. The larger diameter front hoop increases ground clearance to a respectable 175mm, while the slightly narrower front tyre lends reassuring accuracy to the steering on loose surfaces.
The 'bars are high, wide and handsome, which improves control on dirt roads and makes the steering light and quick in traffic. Actually, the steering is probably a little too light; at walking pace the DL650 felt a little wavery, almost as it was trying to fall off its front tyre.
At higher speeds on our ride and handling section, the bike became much more stable and we were able to throw it into fast corners with confidence. The brakes, which felt rather soft at traffic speed, also seemed to gain extra bite, inducing extravagant amounts of nose-dive when used hard.
Part of the low-speed uncertainty, I'm sure, was also due to rider input, since it improved noticeably during the test period and once I was ensconced behind the little screen the bike was rock steady right up to terminal velocity on our Six-Kay Straight.
The screen is actually height-adjustable through three positions over a range of about 40mm but you need an Allen key to move it so, other than confirming that the screen was on its lowest setting when I got the V-Strom, I left well enough alone.
V-Max, as displayed on the splendidly legible digital speedometer, was 184km/h, with 8400rpm showing on the equally rider friendly white-faced analogue rev counter, but true speed turned out to be a rather disappointing 171, indicating a speedometer error of 7.6 percent. Sorry, Suzuki, not good enough.
The engine, as we've noted before, is superb. Detuned slightly in this application to 46kW at 8800 revs and 60Nm at 6400rpm, it runs smoothly and fuss-free up to 6000 and then picks up a distinctive Ducati-esque vibration and a slightly edgy intake roar, just let you know there's a real bike down there.
There's no real power band, but the engine does its best work between 6000 and 9500rpm, then fades gently away to the redline at 10 000 and the rev-limiter shortly thereafter. It's fed by a pair of cable-operated 39mm dual-butterfly throttle bodies, which are unexpectedly twitchy in response - almost as bad as the latest-generation fly-by-wire set ups - although that also became easier to modulate as we got used to the bike's quirks.
Fuel consumption over the test period worked out to 5.15 litres per 100km, although factoring out performance testing brought that down to just under five.
The clutch was initially very grabby, but on inspection it appeared that it hadn't been set up at the pre-delivery inspection; correct adjustment turned it into a honey, smooth-acting and predictable. Shift action was a little notchy, especially on downshifts, but very positive.
Seat height is a tallish 835mm but the front seat is deeply padded and quite narrow in front, so reaching the ground with both feet is no problem if you're 1.75m or taller. It's also very comfortable, and the bike is unexpectedly roomy for a midweight, so staying in the saddle for most of the bike's close-to-400km tank range should be no hardship.
She Who Always Has the Last Word had one final point to make: despite the adventure-touring add-ons with which the dealership had festooned the test bike, it carries its major masses quite low down, making it easy to move around in the garage or in a car park, when necessary.
The test bike was fitted with a top box, hand guards, crash bars and a bash plate; they're listed, with their prices, in the specification panel below.
The DL650XT V-Strom has matured into a superb all-rounder with as much soft-road capability as anything in its class except the way more expensive Triumph 800 Tiger and BMW F800 GS. As a weekday commuter with a taste for weekend exploring, it's hard to fault.
Suzuki DL650XT V-Strom
Engine: 645cc liquid-cooled 90-degree L-twin.
Bore x stroke: 81 x 62.6mm.
Compression ratio: 11.2:1.
Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 46kW at 8800rpm.
Torque: 60Nm at 6400rpm.
Induction: Digital electronic fuel-injection with two 39mm SVDT dual-valve throttle bodies.
Ignition: Digital electronic.
Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.
Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.
Front Suspension: 43mm conventional cartridge forks with five-way adjustment for preload and ABS.
Rear Suspension: Monoshock with remotely adjustable preload.
Front brakes: Dual 310mm discs with Tokico two-piston floating callipers and ABS.
Rear brake: 260mm disc with single-piston Nissin floating calliper and ABS.
Front tyre: 110/80 - 19 tubeless.
Rear tyre: 150/70 - 17 tubeless.
Seat height: 835mm.
Kerb weight: 214kg.
Fuel tank: 20 litres.
Top speed (measured): 171km/h.
Fuel consumption (measured): 5.15 litres per 100km.
Price: R102 500.
Suzuki handguards: R102 500.
SW Motech crash bars: R2250.
SW Motech bash plate: R2650.
Trax 38 litre top box: R5500.
Bike from: Suzuki South, Cape Town.
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