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Reviewed: Suzuki V-Strom 800DE

Suzuki V-Strom 800DE 5

It’s obvious just how important the all-new V-Strom 800DE is to Suzuki. It’s the first completely new bike the firm’s produced since 2017, something far fresher than just a tweak or update of an existing bike, such as the Suzuki V-Strom 1050DE.

The big question was, had it been worth the long wait? In short, the answer is a very big yes!

I’ll admit right from the off, the V-Strom had a strong chance of winning me over. I’m a big fan of middleweight adventure bikes. Mind you, that’s only the case if they tick the right boxes. As it turned out, the new Suzuki’s metaphorical pen started to leave positive marks in all the right places very soon after the start of the test. It’s quite a thing for a bike to feel right as early as the V-Strom did, and it’s a really endearing characteristic.

There’s an element of fun about it from the off. Thanks to its lovely balance, user-friendly character, and remarkable engine, the 800 had me quietly singing its praises a lot earlier than I expected. Lots of very good bikes can take time to get under your skin, this one does it almost instantly. OK, riding down a rewarding twisting coastal road in bright sunshine and agreeable temperatures is always going to put you in a positive mood. But I often ride bikes at press launches in similar agreeable circumstances, and given what I subsequently learned about the highly capable and likeable V-Strom, I’m going to predict it will still prompt smiles and satisfaction even during rides like a wet commuter run in Wigan! In fact, let’s cut to the chase here and say that if I was in the market for a road bike, I’d consider this one very seriously. I reckon it’s that good and worthy!

Let’s start with one of the very best features, that new engine. Seriously impressive, it goes about sending its drive to the tyre in an almost faultless fashion. With just 80-odd bhp on tap you might think such effusive praise is excessive. But thanks to that power being delivered so keenly and promptly, regardless of gear choice or engine speed, it’s a highly effective and admirable tool.

 

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You can almost guarantee strong, obedient thrust from the 776cc, parallel twin every time you turn the throttle, and the immediacy of the response is helped all the more by the uneven ‘big-bang’ style firing order of its 270° crankshaft arrangement. There might be a tail off in performance when you spin it right up nearer to its 9500rpm redline, but who cares? With such a meaty (yet friendly) mid-range surge to rely on, you really don’t need to thrash the motor that hard to deliver the required acceleration and speed – even if you’re in a hurry.

A few testers on our ride were a little critical of some minor vibes, I personally didn’t notice them enough to warrant comment really, and think its twin balancer shafts work well. With faultless fuelling, a great gearbox, complete with standard fitment bi-directional quick-shifter, the engine is very hard to knock. For the real world, it’s a belter. Roll-ons are impressive, overtaking is often a top gear affair, and at the lowest of revs in town, it runs smoothly and snatch free. I find its manners really appealing and think it’s always relaxing and a pleasure to use. There are three different modes to alter the throttle response. But even off-road, I found the sharpest setting, A, was still very usable.

 

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Also justifiably drawing praise is the Suzuki’s all new chassis, though I have to admit some aspects of the way the bike handles did pleasantly surprise me. There’s a very agreeable and manageable overall feel to the ride. The spec sheet might say the 800 tips the scales at 230kg, fully fuelled and ready to ride, but the ease with which you can boss it around tempts you to dispute that. The commanding riding position undoubtedly helps you steer the bike where you want it to go with less effort, and believe me, on the roads we rode on, that was a crucial virtue. Rapidly making your way along the Armco and cliff-lined routes we enjoyed, needed plenty of respect as well as a sorted, easy to manage motorcycle to negotiate safely.

But though the 800’s general poise didn’t really surprise me, the quality of control offered by the long-travel suspension, and the feel and security of the 21” front wheel very much did. Both features have been included to make the V-Strom more suited to some light off-roading, but also have benefits on the road.

 

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Those not used to the generous amount of movement such a suspension arrangement gives might need a little time to feel happy with the extent of dive and squat under heavy braking and keen power delivery, but once you do, there are numerous advantages.

Ride quality is ace, and in these days of roads being far from billiard table smooth, it’s not only comfort but fine control that the forks and shock offer. Hit bad bumps and holes on more stiffly sprung bikes, and the tyres can be kicked off the ground suddenly enough to head offline and cause worry. On the V-Strom that’s highly unlikely to happen, with the suspension happily absorbing the shocks to allow the wheels to stay mated to the road on your chosen trajectory.

Though the attitude of the bike changes appreciably when each end is loaded by the force of the brakes or power, it also ends up loading the appropriate end to effectively give extra grip from the tyres. The Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour dual-purpose (80/20 road/off-road) tyres aren’t, under the firm’s own admission, a premium tyre. Even so, I found grip good enough to hoon around enthusiastically and still feel content and secure.

I didn’t expect the front end to feel as planted as it did. 21” front wheels normally give a little bit of a vague feel when you push them harder through tighter sections with more steering lock and lean angle. And though I didn’t come across many mini roundabouts on this ride, the multiple hairpins along the mountain roads were negotiated with lots of confidence. I really didn’t anticipate saying that before this test.

Another surprise, but one I wasn’t too keen to learn, was the fitment of tubes in both front and rear tyres. The Japanese engineers said the arrangement was better suited to off-roading, citing less likelihood of pressure loss if the rims get damaged riding over harder, sharper rocks. They added that a greater ability to cope with an intended reduction in pressures to get a bigger footprint, and a higher degree of ride quality and comfort thanks to greater tyre flex were also bonuses to using tubes. I found those explanations a little odd, and would argue the much more useful benefit of a tubeless arrangement lending itself to a quicker and much more convenient puncture repair, via a tyre plug, would be of far greater benefit.

 

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When we did go off-road, and there was a fair proportion of that over the two days and 200-miles of riding to underline the Suzuki’s potential in this area, it felt fairly comfortable. Though as usual there are some caveats to leaving the road on a relatively big and heavy adventure bike like this. Compared to a life on a more focused enduro bike, riding the 800 on the dirt needs plenty of care and observation, as well as lower expectations and ambition. We were definitely helped by the reduced challenge offered by the easy to manage gravel routes Suzuki had wisely chosen for us to navigate. Even so, it was helpful that the suspension was so compliant, and the 800’s electronics aided matters whenever the grip levels got even lower.

Up front, just as they’d been on the road, the brakes were more impressive than their two-piston specification might suggest they’d be. Great feel and feedback, as well as the welcome compliance of the forks helped with front end control when cutting speed over the rough stuff. With more time on the bike, I would undoubtedly have learned where the limits were more readily, with the excellent ABS providing a nice safety net during that education process. At the rear end, with the ‘G’, Gravel mode selected from the four traction control options available, I could apply a bit more gung-ho with the throttle knowing more wheelspin was permitted but also usefully limited to stop the bike going completely sideways. With the rear ABS switched off entirely, you can deliberately kick the rear end out on corner entry to aid the steering. Like most other actions on a bike as big and heavy as this one, some caution and attention is always needed to stay upright. Choosing a less responsive throttle setting from the three available gives a welcome option to anyone who finds the power of the engine a little too keenly delivered for their liking.

If the bike was mine, I’d fit a more aggressive, more off-road focused front tyre so I could take on some trail riding in the UK with greater faith. Mind you, I’d still be very careful about where I headed, so I wouldn’t get in a pickle along some of the tougher terrain the UK is famous for. I certainly wouldn’t like to pick up the weighty V-Strom after a fall more than once!

 

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I’d probably consider fitting a lower seat. You can’t adjust the 855mm height of the really cosy standard one, and a 30mm lower option would let my boots get a better purchase on the ground whenever I needed to paddle the 800 though any trickier stuff. If I just used it on the road, I wouldn’t bother. I’d probably plump for a taller screen from the accessories catalogue though. It’s full of the usual stuff like luggage, crash bars, fog lights etc, and with a bit more wind protection I’m sure you could take on big-mileage tours a little more happily. Mind you, even with just a backpack I’m confident the V-Strom’s massive comfort and versatility would help it cover big distances with ease, something very much aided by the 200-250 mile range provided by the 20-litre tank. There’s no doubting the new Suzuki has lots of touring potential to match its capability in other roles. It really is a bit of a jack of all trades.

 

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As a sign of how much I enjoyed the two days on the highly likeable Suzuki, I was disappointed when the experience finally came to an end. I’d had a fine time enhanced by being aboard a fine machine. If I’m very lucky, I’ll get the chance to ride the bike back in the UK, and if I do I’m sure I’ll be able to spend a lot more time on it and cover far more ground than I did in Sardinia. I’m certain I’ll enjoy its comfort and civility over many thousands of miles, and end up quietly raving about it even more than I did during this test. Can’t wait!

 

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2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE specification

 

Price:                                  £10,665

Engine:                               776cc, parallel-twin

Power:                                84bhp/62kW @ 8500rpm

Torque:                               78Nm/58lb.ft @ 6800rpm

Transmission:                     Six-speed, chain final drive

Frame:                                Steel-tubed frame

Suspension:                        Fully adjustable 43mm KYB inverted telescopic fork. KYB link-type, mono-shock

Brakes:                               Axially-mounted, twin-piston front brake callipers and 310mm floating discs. Single-piston, pin-slide rear calliper and a 260mm disc.

Wheels:                              21” front, 17” rear, spoked alloy rims

Tyres:                                 Front 90/90-21 tubed. Rear 150/70-17 tubed

Wheelbase:                        1,570mm

Ground clearance:             220mm 

Seat height:                        855mm

Kerb weight:                       230kg

Fuel capacity:                     20 litres

Contact:                              bikes.suzuki.co.uk

 

Suzuki V-Strom 800DE video review

  - - -

Words: Chris Moss

Photos: Suzuki

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