Originally launched in 2004, the Suzuki DL650 V-Strom is now into its third generation of design and you wouldn’t be too surprised if this turned into a fourth generation in time, such is its popularity. The V-Strom isn’t the only model in this packed middleweight sector of the market, but it is one of the best. It’s mix of sporty potential and touring credentials mean it’s a very versatile bike that appeals to a variety of riders, with big bike looks combined with the running costs and insurance ratings of a middleweight.
While Suzuki introduced an updated model for 2017, we’re concentrating on those early bikes, the first generation of this brilliant package, which was introduced in 2004 and ran through with only minimal changes to 2012.
The first V-Stroms were the 1000cc models of 2002. These were well received upon launch and sold well due to the combination of the sporty TL1000 engine, street bike manners and tall adventure bike styling. With a very competitive screen price, the V-Strom 1000 was a good seller for Suzuki, however its little brother was to gain a real cult following and would move even more quickly out of the showrooms.
Nicknamed the ‘Weestrom’ by its legions of fans, the heart of the bike is a reworked SV650 engine. The biggest difference over the sportier SV650s engine is the use of a nikasil bore. The SV650 uses a cast iron liner and with time these can become troublesome and even crack. Suzuki didn’t stop there with development of the V Strom engine. Sure, they both share the same 645cc but the V-Strom gets softer lift cams. These help the engine produce 60bhp, but more importantly they give the Strom a cracking mid range, which is exactly what you want out on the road. Fuel injection feeds those waiting inlet tracks. The V-Strom will shine at whatever you throw at it, commuting, touring and even a Sunday afternoon blast. The majority of these first generation bikes don’t have anti-lock brakes, although it was offered as an option from 2007. Although rarer, ABS equipped bikes are generally more desirable on the second hand market.
What’s it like to ride?
The styling might be a bit on the dull side, but once you’ve ridden the V-Strom you soon forgive its conservative looks. The engine’s ability is perfectly matched with the chassis characteristics and it is a very well constructed motorcycle. There’s an abundance of progressive poke from 4,000rpm which doesn’t tail off until you’re hitting 9,000rpm, when you can pull another gear from the six speed gearbox. A bike with a 19 inch front wheel shouldn’t handle this good, but don’t get too carried away, the brakes need a good tug to slow things to a stop. It’s a V-twin, meaning that there’s a healthy amount of engine braking available – so learn to master that and you can explore the bike even further.
Comfort is supreme, the 830mm seat is very comfy and the touring nature of the design means bars and pegs are perfectly placed. Equipment is pretty basic but it all works well. The adjustable screen is a simple but efficient way to keep the wind off you in long stretches of motorway beckon.
What to look for?
We spoke to Vinny Styles, sales manager at Wheels Motorcycles, an official Suzuki franchise in Peterborough. He gave us some words of wisdom. “We love the V-Strom. Being a Suzuki main dealer means we see plenty come through our hands. These first generation bikes are ageing nicely. Many customers kit these bikes out with touring equipment. They are a worthwhile extra and don’t do any harm when reselling. High mileage bikes will suffer cosmetically. Fork lowers and wheels are obvious areas where the paint shows its age. Any original shocks are going to be past their best, especially if they’ve done lots of touring. Sticking with the paint, the tanks and panels are always worth a good look for any repairs. Service history tends to tail off with older bikes and it’s hard to find a bike that’s getting on and that comes with a full service history. Find an ABS model from 2007 onwards if you can, it’s a welcome upgrade.”
What goes wrong?
We spoke to Chris Tombleson at Grumpy 1260, who added: “The older they get the less we see them as the people who own them tend to keep them. During a service it’s worth remembering that there’s two plugs per cylinder. Not too many original exhausts survive and headers are hard to find used these days. A tired bike can quickly become a money pit.
“A common mod we’ve seen over the years is converting the front wheel from a 19 inch item to a 17 inch one. A Suzuki SV650 wheel is what you need. It widens tyre choice no end. We’ve also seen that Mini Twin racers buy the V-Strom engines for their SV650s as the nikasil barrels are much less troublesome than the SV’s cast bores. “