Posted On 27 Apr 2024
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This entry is part 12 of 29 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#28


“I spoke to the river And the river spoke back to me…” Joe Cocker (Percy Mayfield)

No, no river has ever spoken to me except for those bubbly kinds of comments you get when you drop your bike in the middle of one, and which sound rather like flatulence in the bath.

Perhaps the problem here is that unlike Joe I have never spoken to any rivers in the first place. Bikes, on the other hand, have spoken to me many times, not only to say “what the hell do you think you’re doing?” but also “let’s go, what are you waiting for?”

This really started when I bought my first Suzuki, a near-new GS750 I found in The Mighty Crozza’s shop in London.

The bike was a complete revelation to me – apart from looking soo cool, it was almost frighteningly fast, handled beautifully and even stopped properly.

And on many occasions when Mrs Bear and I returned from weekend trips into the English countryside, it said to me, “why stop now? Let’s keep going…”

The latest Suzuki I’ve ridden walks the same walk and talks the same talk. Admittedly, the V-Strom 650XT is hardly frighteningly fast, but it does handle well (thank you, wire wheels) and stops just fine. More to the point,though, it has that same “let’s go” attitude built into it.

Suzuki has a major success on its hands with the V-Strom 650 (and, I suspect, with the new V-Strom 1000) so it is hardly surprising that the company would extend the range. Apart from the standard 650 and the litre bike, there are now three others: the XT, a wire wheeled 650 with an adventure touring bent, and LAMS versions of both of the smaller models.

The V-Strom 650XT ABS has distinctly more Paris/Dakar styling complete with the obligatory front beak (which you would have to paint yellow if you owned one of these bikes) and aluminium, spoked wheels which, Suzuki says, afford better shock absorption and a comfortable ride. For us, the Australian spec model has Genuine Suzuki accessory hand-guards, engine under cowling and engine protection bars. Not bad at $11,490 plus on road charges.

If you’re a regular reader of MOTORCYCLIST, you will know that we have effectively created an XT of our own (which is for sale now, hint) – although we haven’t gone so far as to change the wheels. The luggage we have fitted is a combination of the Suzuki supplied Givi top box and Andy Strapz’ roll-top soft touring bags with their ingenious racks; you might like to consider the same arrangement if you buy an XT because the standard panniers and top box are not available in Australia. Believe it or not, the assembly is too wide for our standards.

What I’m trying to say here is that the XT is pretty close to what we would do to any V-Strom in our hands, and its wide and useful range of factory accessories.

I collected the one in the photos from Suzuki in Melbourne and rode it up to Sydney by as many back roads – sealed and gravel – as I could find. By the way, did you know that the use of “sealed” to indicate a tarred road is an Australianism? Us Aussies, eh? Always coming up with something useful… Where was I? Ah, yes, the roads between Melbourne and Sydney.

Some of the sealed ones are worse than many of the gravel stretches, so I feel justified in saying that the suspension on the XT is damn good. The forks have five-stage preload adjustment while the rear has a preload adjustment dial and an adjuster for rebound damping.

I had the bike loaded with myself and a half-full Suzuki accessory roll-top bag, and left the suspension settings alone.

They were fine. Slipping from sealed roads to gravel was no big deal, and I even tackled a bit of mud down near the Murray. That was ugly, but only in a visual sense… Handling, as I mentioned above, is fi ne thanks mainly to the lighter wire wheels.

That 645cc vee twin has always been one of the main attractions of the Wee Strom. It now has even more bottom end to midrange performance, which makes the bike a pleasure to ride on country trips – no need to change down for towns. Overtaking is a snack as well. Fuel consumption is pleasantly low as well; despite pushing on quite enthusiastically I saw 5.3 litres per 100km, which gives a reasonable range of 377km from the 20 litre tank.

The XT’s engine (and the rest of the bike) demonstrated its versatility first in suburban riding in Melbourne, then on the Hume freeway, on the tar and dirt back roads alongside the Olympic Highway, over the Blue Mountains and finally in Sydney’s choked traffic. It might be “only” a 650 but I can honestly say that I never missed extra capacity or power.

The one aspect of the bike that could have been better from my point of view was the seat. In comparison with other bikes, including the previous model V-Strom, it actually isn’t too bad; just about any bike seat will have your backside complaining by the second day of a country trip. But the one non-Suzuki accessory I would recommend after Andy Strapz’ bags is an AirHawk seat cushion. The location of the footpegs makes it easy enough to stand up to take the pressure off your backside – although I believe this may be illegal. Oh, gawd.

If I had a Suzuki V-Strom 650XT I would paint it black, paint the beak yellow, stick a pair of Moon Eyes on the headlights, name it “Daffy” and ride it everywhere this little black duck wanted to go. I wouldn’t really. But I’d be very tempted to have one of these.

About the Author
Australian Motorcyclist Magazine is Australia's leading motorcycle travel magazine.
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