First Ride: The 2018 Suzuki V-Strom 250

We’ve seen lately the creation of a new motorcycle category: the smallish, dual-purpose bike. After Kawasaki and the Versys-X 300, after Honda CRF 250 Rally and while waiting for the BMW G310 GS, here is the new Suzuki V-Strom 250!

On one side is the V-Strom family: for the last fifteen years (the 1000 V-Strom has been launched in 2002 and the 650 V-Strom in 2004), they have never been the prettiest, the fastest or even the most sophisticated of the dual purpose bikes. However, they built their success by being a dependable and affordable proposition for the free-spirited and pragmatic biker looking for a go-everywhere-do-everything-hassle-free, set of wheels.

On the other side is the Suzuki 250 Inazuma: a cheap commuter that is supposed to last forever, easy to run, light on fuel and very cheap to maintain.

Mix the two and you have the new Suzuki V-Strom 250 (the ‘V’ is there for marketing reasons, as the new bike features the Inazuma’s parallel twin). The proportions of the bike have a certain sense of harmony and the bike features Suzuki’s off-road DNA, with the peaky front nose inherited from the DR 750 Big era and the yellow colours from the RM family. The big and very round headlight looks curious at first sight, but once you’ve stepped back, it looks the part. The windscreen is fairly tall (the bike height sits at 1295 mm).

The engine has been slightly revamped with a bit of work in the combustion chamber area, as the port section on the intake valves have been redesigned to optimise thermal efficiency – the target was to improve the torque and reduce emissions. The engine is Euro 4 compliant, delivers 18,4 kW at 8000 rpm and 23,4 Nm at 6500 rpm. The new Suzuki should be good for beginners. The Kawasaki Versys-X 300 offers better performance with 29,3 kW and so does the BMW G310GS with 25 kW. The Honda delivers the same output as the Suzuki, with a single cylinder engine. However, 18,4 kW from the V-Strom is enough to get speeding fines: flat out, the little Suzuki shows a steady 140 kph plus on the digital speedo.

Incidentally, the display is easy to read and quite comprehensive, with the gear position, fuel gauge, fuel consumption, shift-light, clock plus oil change reminder. Being in an upright position, the windscreen offers more than decent protection and is good enough to deviate the wind from the shoulders of a tall rider.

Heavy but light

With a kerb weight of 188 kg, the Suzuki V-Strom is rather on the heavy side! It’s heavier than a mid-size dual sport bike such as the Yamaha XTZ 660 Ténéré, and also heavier than its competitors (169 kg for the BMW, 175 kg for the Kawasaki and 157 kg for the little Honda). However, the exhaust, being in the low position, helps to maintain a low centre of gravity and combined with the category’s lowest seat height (800 mm), the Suzuki is just so easy to ride. The handlebars might feel a bit narrow to dual sport standards but the Suzuki accommodates any kind of body shape with the same ease.

Speed is obviously not, but it can gently cruise on B-roads at 90 kph at 7000 rpm in 6th) and despite its modest capacity (248 cm3), the engine has a long stroke character (53,5 x 55,2 mm) and does not feel underpowered as the rider is always working within the torque band.

The narrow tyres (110/80 x 17 front, 140/70 x 17 rear) ensure great agility and while cornering, the V-Strom 250 does not feel so heavy. The suspensions work quite well; not too firm and not too floppy. The brakes, (290 mm disc at the front with 2 piston callipers; 187 mm disc at the back with a single piston calliper), while not being particularly sharp, are good enough regarding the overall performance. The ABS made by Bosch is good and is not too sensitive on bumpy surfaces. And the last good news comes from the tyres: the IRC Road Runner has good grip on dry tar, although the brand does not have a great reputation on wet roads. For us, we couldn’t tell as we enjoyed what the locals called “Spanish weather” during our trials, which happened to be located near to Silverstone in the UK.

A great DS commuter

While IRC also manufactures more orientated off-road tyres, the 17 inches front wheel is obviously a limitation to proper off-road riding. Ground clearance is only 160 mm and the protection plate under the frame is just made of regular mild steel: nothing that a good stone would not harm. Sticking to easy gravel roads might be a better option. Optional crash bars are not proposed by Suzuki, while heated grips, knuckle guards, centre stand, tank bag and a comprehensive set of luggage (23 litres top case plus a pair of 20 litre side cases) is offered at extra cost. A 12V DC socket is standard, located on the LHS of the instrument panel, which is ideal, for example, to power a GPS.

While remaining reasonably narrow, the fuel tank capacity is an impressive 17,3 litres. Suzuki claims an official 3,2 l/100 fuel consumption but during our test, which was usually at full throttle, we recorded 4 l/100. However, with a touring mindset, the fuel range should at least reach 500 kilometres – Namibia is just one fuel stop away from Johannesburg! A full week of commuting without one stop at the petrol station, is also appealing.

In my opinion, I believe the little V-Strom will prove to be a great (although low speed) trans-African traveller.

Specifications

DIMENSIONS & WEIGHTS
Overall length 2150 mm (84.65in)
Overall width 790 mm (31.10in)
Overall height 1295 mm (50.98in)
Wheelbase 1425 mm (56.10in)
Ground clearance 160 mm (6.30in)
Seat height 800 mm (31.50in)
Kerb mass 188 kg (414.47lbs)
Fuel capacity 17.3 litres (3.8UK gallons)
ENGINE SPECIFICATIONS
Engine capacity 248cc
Engine 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, parallel twin
Bore 53.5 mm x 55.2 mm (2.11in x 2.17in)
Compression ratio 11.5 : 1
Lubrication Wet-sump
Ignition Electronic ignition
Fuel system Fuel injection
Transmission 6-speed constant mesh
Drive Chain
Starter Electric
MPG* 88.28
CO2 72 g/km
Power 18.4kW @ 8000rpm (25PS)
Torque 23.40Nm @ 6500rpm (17.26lb.ft)
CHASSIS SPECIFICATION
Front suspension Telescopic, coil spring oil damped
Rear suspension Swingarm type, coil spring, oil damped
Front brakes Disc brake
Rear brakes Disc brake
Front tyres 110/80-17M/C 57H
Rear tyres 140/70-17M/C 66H

 

Frenchman Philippe Guillaume (locally known as “fearless Flippie” – a nickname given to him by oom Simon Fourie himself) has spent 8 years of his life living in Joburg. Phil is certainly the fastest geographer on earth: he holds a PhD in urban geography and a FIM Speed World record (5 135 km covered in 24 hours, at the Nardo oval track in Italy, on a Suzuki Hayabusa with the same set of Pirelli Angel ST tires).