Let’s get one thing out there straight away: there is absolutely no difference between any of the big adventure bikes on the market today. Whether it is a KTM, BMW, Triumph, Suzuki, Harley Davidson, Honda, or whatever, they all do the same job exceptionally well and in completely the same manner. Yes, one bike might have a bit of tech that another doesn’t but that’s irrelevant: they are all the same and the only thing you are buying into is brand preference.
Of course, none of that is taking into account the human element, the bum-on-the-seat measurement. If all adventure bikes are the same, then why do they feel so different? Why does one speak to you while others say nothing and leave you cold? Why, on one, can you tackle anything in your path, while on another, you struggle to get up the kerb?
One adventure bike that has always ‘spoken’ to me is the Suzuki V-Strom. I’ve no idea why: is it the smooth but punchy V-Twin engine? Is it the chassis? Is it the electronics? Is it simply the seating position? I simply do not know but I do know that whenever I’ve ridden a V-Strom, that day has turned into a very good day.
Suzuki isn’t a company to do things for the sake of doing them and they certainly won’t be rushed into doing anything just because the opposition has. The V-Strom, or DL1050 to give it its official name, has remained the least technological of all the big adventure bikes and, to my mind, has been all the better for it. You get the feeling that some adventure bikes need all the electronics they can get to cope with the extreme bulk, weight and performance. The V-Strom always felt so balanced and manageable that an absence of an excess of electronics never made you feel like you were being short-changed.
However, Suzuki clearly felt there was justification for a few tweaks to the DL1050 and that has resulted in the DL1050 DE model, as launched in KZN recently.
The DL1050 received a facelift three years ago and the key difference with the new bike is in improved electronics and rider aids (just to completely contradict what I have just said…!) This could be seen as a means of pandering to the market and maintaining a level playing field with its rivals but Suzuki has done an excellent job without complicating things too much or making them so intrusive, that they have changed the feel of the bike.
The most noticeable change – from a rider’s point of view – is a new TFT dash which is a model of clarity and ease-of-use, enabling the rider to navigate through the settings intuitively and with a minimum of button pressing. The main electronic advance is a three-stage traction control which, on the DE, gets a dedicated ‘Gravel’ mode which dials back power to the rear wheel by retarding the ignition. There are three engine power modes and three stages of ABS with an off-road mode which disables the ABS on the rear wheel.
Bosch has supplied its six-axis IMU to provide lean-sensitive ABS which also has a function that prevents the rear wheel from coming off the ground under hard downhill braking conditions. It also facilitates a Hill Hold Control function that prevents the bike from rolling backwards by keeping the rear brake applied for 30 seconds or until the bike starts moving.
Other changes are a 21-inch front wheel and slightly longer suspension travel with an attendant increase in ground clearance, 40mm wider handlebars, larger foot pegs, a smaller but still very effective screen and a bi-directional quick shifter. The bike comes complete with a sump bash plate, crash bars and hand guards as standard. The petrol tank holds 20 litres, which gives a theoretical range of nearly 400km.
The engine pushes out a modest 107 horsepower which might lag far behind KTM and BMW but you can use every single one of those very friendly horses while never feeling you are straining anything, keeping up with those more powerful rivals. The chassis is so well-balanced that you feel it could well handle more power but what would be the point? Suzuki has concentrated on making the whole package work in a beautifully integrated manner which is in no way intimidating while avoiding ever feeling soft or inadequate.
The chassis bucks the common trend by using a twin-spar aluminium frame, suspended by fully-adjustable KYB forks and pre-load adjustable rear shock. Weight is 252kg, which is on par with the BMW R 1250 GS (249kg) and the KTM 1290 Super Adventure (245kg). If the suspension lacks the absolute performance of either the BMW or KTM, it is more than competent enough for all but the most hardcore of off-road riders.
Braking is handled by Tokico calipers front and back – 310mm front and 260mm rear – and it is a linked system. Suzuki Intelligent Ride System – SIRS – is a system which calculates the weight the bike is carrying and optimises braking performance accordingly.
The engine, as old a design as it is, can still hold its head up high with much more modern designs. While other manufacturers are trying to make their parallel twin engines feel and behave like a V-Twin, the Suzuki V-Twin can concentrate on doing what it does without having to worry about any of that. If it’s not massively powerful, it has perfect real-world performance, helped by the linear power delivery and a mountain of smooth, accessible torque. The gearbox is light and positive and the quick-shifter is as good as any other.
The engine has so much character and is never overbearing: you’ll never get bored and its mild manners mean you are less likely to get to the end of a long day’s riding feeling that you never want to see the thing again. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The DL1050 DE’s looks will be completely subjective so there is no point commenting on them, other than to say Suzuki must be the only motorcycle manufacturer that can get away with bright yellow so successfully. To my mind, the blue/white colour scheme works best, although the all-black version is something a little different.
At R259,000, the Suzuki DL1050 DE is a comparative bargain against the R300,000-plus of rivals from KTM, BMW, Honda, Triumph and Harley Davidson. To match the Suzuki’s price, you have to go down a class to the likes of the Triumph Tiger 900, BMW 850GS Adventure or KTM 890 Adventure.
To return to the opening theme, the Suzuki does nothing better or different to any of its rivals. Crucially and most importantly, it does nothing worse than any of its rivals, either, and will cost you a lot less, into the bargain. If you can get past your brand loyalty and swing your leg over a DL1050 DE, there is absolutely no way you will be disappointed. Keep an open mind and you will be nothing but impressed.
Suzuki V-Strom 1050DE
For more information on the bike that we tested in this article, click on the link below…