Bikes we love

What I want: Suzuki V-Strom 1000

2014 Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom
Is this the first Suzuki I’ve put on the What I Want list? Golly, I’m pretty sure it is. I wonder what that says about Suzuki?
Nope. Wait, no. There was that minute or two back before I started riding when I was subscribing to the Start With A 250 school of thought and found myself considering a Suzuki Inazuma. But even then, the reason more Suzukis have failed to show up on my list was evident: Suzuki doesn’t make very attractive machines. There’s just something about them I don’t really like. They look a little too buggy, I think — even the cruisers. Or, in the case of the Hayabusa, cartoonish (a).
And years ago I test drove a Suzuki Vitara that fell apart as I drove it, which put a permanent bad taste in my mouth for all Suzuki products. Yes, I know that was 13 years ago and the car division is removed from the motorcycle division to such a great extent that the former doesn’t even exist in the United States anymore, but still. Suzukis just aren’t my thing.
But, that said, the Japanese manufacturer has a good number of faithful fans. And, in fact, they are the ones who have caused me to give Suzuki a second look.
So far I’ve clocked about 1,500 miles on Aliona, and though I’m not quite ready to give her up I do find my eye is frequent to wander. I think a lot about what sort of bike I’d want next, and to a large extent I feel I might be happy with something almost exactly the same. This is why the Honda NC700X remains so high on my personal list. Indeed, since my only real complaint is that I’d like a tiny bit more power to support a passenger and luggage, I sometimes think the bike I’d next like to have is simply a 1000cc version of Aliona. Indeed, my positive Honda experiences thus far make me inclined to be brand-loyal when it comes to my next bike.
But I keep hearing all these incredibly good things about the V-Strom. My favourite motorcycle site, RideApart, for instance, named the V-Strom 650 as one of the best on which to carry a passenger. Additionally, the V-Strom was included in their list of most comfortable bikes. On MotorcycleNews.com they gave the bike five stars. Meanwhile, regular people on both sides of the Atlantic rave and rave about the “bullet-proof” nature of the bike. In the face of that, I can’t help thinking: “Hmm, maybe…”
Because here are some of the things I’ve learned from my 1,500 miles with Aliona: 
  1. I like reliable, gas-and-go machines. Messing about with stuff makes me angry. As much as I romanticise the idea of lovingly tinkering away on something, I actually can’t stand it. I’m not afraid to tackle mechanical issues, I just don’t want to.
  2. I’m not that interested in tearing through corners. I have zero desire to touch my knee to the ground, for instance. I want to go places. And I find that most of the places I want to go require a combination of high-speed motorways and poorly maintained British roads.
  3. I’m not really selfish enough to go places by myself. Any bike for me has to also be a bike for my wife.
  4. I like anti-lock brakes. They saved my life once, so I’m pretty much insistent the feature be on any bike I seriously consider.
If the cheering of so many others is to be believed, the V-Strom 650 pretty much addresses all of these issues. Additionally, a recent video by Motorcycle USA identified two other aspects about the bike that appeal to me: 
Firstly, it is described as a tall bike, which I like considering I’m 6 foot 1. Growing up in Minnesota, land of the Scandinavians, I never really thought of myself as tall, but according to the ergonomics of many motorcycles I am a gigantic freak. So, a “tall” bike appeals to me. 
Secondly, the testers point out that the V-Strom is relatively narrow, which is the sort of thing that is a bonus if you live in Europe, where filtering is allowed. The other day, for example, Jenn and I rode to Bath and probably shaved a good 45 minutes off our journey time thanks to the ability to move between cars.
Admittedly, all of the glowing praise that has turned my eye toward the V-Strom is for the 650 version. But I am assuming the new V-Strom 1000 will be more of the same thing with, you know, a bit more power for the sake of hauling around passengers.
The V-Strom 650 manages 68bhp, compared to Aliona’s 76bhp. Aliona is quite capable in 92 percent of the situations I put her in, but there are certain times — always with Jenn and luggage — that I’ll think just a little more power would be ideal. So, I’d be wary of stepping down 8bhp to get the V-Strom 650. The new V-Strom 1000 is estimated to have at least 100bhp, possibly more. I’m sure that’s plenty for me.
I have been invited to a V-Strom 1000 launch event at Thunder Road in October. I’m keen to go and check out the bike, because the more I look at it, the more it appeals to me in certain ways. I like the tall windscreen, for instance. Aliona’s windscreen helps keeps away some of the wind that made riding a Harley at speed such a terrifying experience, but not quite as much as I’d like. Additionally, I like the look of the bike’s cockpit; it seems like the sort of dash one would find on a Star Wars speeder bike.

As I say, though, overall I’m not that fond of the look of the bike — especially that silly duckbill thing. Tis a good thing I’m married because I’d never be able to pick up a girl while astride sucha machine. And I’m not overjoyed at the fact the V-Strom is chain-driven. I don’t hate chain maintenance too much, but I’d prefer not to have to deal with it.

I look forward to seeing the bike in person in October — getting a chance to sit on it and so on, as well as learning what the price is supposed to be. That’s an issue that could easily push me back onto the side of disinterest.

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(a) I’ve heard the ‘Busa is a love-it-or-hate-it bike. Place me firmly in the hate-it camp.