Six months ago this week I handed over the keys to my 2015 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure, a bike that had been a workhorse for me over the past two years, trading it in for a moto I think will suit my needs a little better (i.e, a bike that is shaft-driven). Before doing this, I took the ‘Strom on one final hurrah: a goodbye ride through the undulating curves of Brecon Beacons National Park to say “so long and thanks for all the good times.”
As best I can see, the bikes people are excited about these days, that people are aspiring to own, are the retros/modern classics, big adventure machines, super nakeds, and – sales would suggest – cruisers.
Suzuki’s place these days seems to be as a manufacturer of really good alternatives to the bike you are dreaming about. Want a Honda Africa Twin but can’t quite meet the asking price? If you’re willing to make a few concessions in terms of off-road ability, the V-Strom 1000 is a really good alternative. Want a BMW S 1000 R without having to pay for the BMW name? With a few reasonable concessions to power and performance, the GSX-S1000 is a really good alternative. Want a Harley-Davidson Road King but can’t afford the princely sum? The C90 Boulevard is a really good alternative if you’re willing to forego resale value.
I recognize there may be some people who will read all this – probably Suzuki owners who bought their bikes outright – and say: “I don’t see what the problem is. I don’t buy a bike because it’s aspirational. It’s a bike, for the love of Pete; it’s supposed to get me from point A to point B. I don’t give a damn that some beard oil salesman hasn’t caused inflated prices by putting a Suzuki in his ad campaign. I don’t want to pay a premium on my bike just because some Starbucks-sponsored adventure warrior thinks it looks good with his $2,000 Klim suit. Suzuki makes good bikes at a good price and if that’s not trendy, I really don’t care.”
I doubt, though, that this is exactly how Suzuki wants to be seen. As a Suzuki owner (and as a former owner) it was never how I wanted the brand to be seen. It’s unfair. Because, my goodness, they can make some good bikes. I rode that ‘Strom everywhere: Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Scotland, and on. I rode it to London dozens of times. I rode it on an Iron Butt ride last year; I hated almost every aspect of my Iron Butt experience but had zero complaints about the ‘Strom’s ability to get me through it. I rode in temperatures ranging from 23F to 107F. I rode in torrential rain, freezing fog, gale-force winds, hailstorms, and everything between. And it never, never let me down. It always started, always performed without question or fault.
My lasting memory of the bike will probably be of a middle-of-the-night moment this past December. I had been at a press event in Spain, and the flight back to London, where I’d parked my bike, had hit delay after delay – to the point that I did not arrive until after midnight. From there, I faced a 150-mile ride home to Cardiff.
The night was cold, foggy, and drizzling; I was tired and hungry. Once I got beyond the orange street lights of London I was speeding through pitch darkness. There was nowhere to stop for a hot meal (apart from microwaved food at a gas station) and my heart ached to be home. At about 2am, in the most middle-of-nowhere sort of place one can find in Southern England, I found myself temporarily overwhelmed with how miserable I was. I got to the verge of throwing a little tantrum in my helmet when suddenly everything faded and I became aware of the V-Strom’s engine – the soft, unburdened drone of the bike’s 1037cc V-twin.
There was something in that drone that seemed perpetual and that brought calm.
“I can carry on all night,” it seemed to murmur. “All day, all week, all month, all year – however long need be. We’ll get home; I’ll always get you home.”
It was a damned good bike, that Suzuki. It’s a shame more people don’t want one.