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HomeZA BikersBike ReviewsA sneak peak at Suzuki’s dashing duo – the V-Strom 800 DE...

A sneak peak at Suzuki’s dashing duo – the V-Strom 800 DE and GSX-800 S

Photo credit: Dave Cilliers / ZA Bikers

I heard through the grapevine that Suzuki would have their two new 800s at their Red Star track day held on the 22nd of July. For me, these bikes are big news. They have not been officially released or launched in SA by Suzuki yet as they are still waiting for their bulk stock. These bikes come in the wake of the launch of Honda’s Transalp and Hornet. Looking at the spec sheets we see that the Honda’s are lighter, and make more power, but the Suzuki’s boast a higher spec and more torque. I have realised that bikes do not compete on spec, they match up in the real world where the specs all translate into a riding experience. Having ridden the Hondas, I was very keen to eyeball the Suzuki in the flesh and maybe, just maybe, get to swing a leg over them.

Saturday was chilly, but thankfully when I got to Red Star Raceway just after lunch the sun was out, and it was less frigid. Let’s talk about the V-Strom first. The bike that Suzuki had at Red Star was the grey and yellow version. It is almost an industrial grey with yellow highlights and looks great, once again emphasising that photos do not always do the looks of a bike justice. Suzuki’s Stuart Baker allowed me to take the DE for a quick spin down a dirt road to get a feel for the bike. Wow, what a pleasant surprise!

Photo credit: Dave Cilliers / ZA Bikers

The DE sports KYB suspension with fully adjustable USD front forks and 220mm of travel. Brakes are by NISSIN with radial callipers biting on 310mm discs. A TFT dash is logically laid out and clear with a circular tachometer on the left of the screen and a digital speed readout and other info on the right. Simple and effective.

Photo credit: Dave Cilliers / ZA Bikers

The motor is a spanking new 270-degree crank parallel twin with two balance shafts which make it almost eerily smooth. A quick-shifter comes standard, as does Suzuki’s now familiar ‘easy start’ and ‘low RPM assist’.

Photo credit: Dave Cilliers / ZA Bikers

New for 2023, and a game changer and shot across the bows of the opposition, is a 21” front wheel. Suzuki, for the first time, has signalled clear offroad intent with the medium-sized ‘Strom. The 650 was capable of good gravel road travel but was never truly dirt worthy in a Pukka adventure bike sense. This ‘Strom is a whole different story. Suspension geometry, ground clearance, suspension spec and travel all scream “Bring it on”!

Photo credit: Dave Cilliers / ZA Bikers

Riding the bike immediately dispels the ‘spec’ myth that it is heavy. Granted, it is 230kg which is at the top end of the middleweight class, but you would never ever say so. The bike feels manageable and composed on the dirt. Interestingly, the additional weight seems to give the bike a more settled feel over bad corrugations and on loose surfaces and sand.

Photo credit: Dave Cilliers / ZA Bikers

The motor is rheostat smooth and, aided by the superb quick-shifter, allows you to punt the bike along with vigour. I did not have time to play with modes, but Stuart ran me through the options available, and essentially you can set it up the way you want it. Comfort feels top-notch in typical ‘Strom fashion. This bike may just find that sweet spot between the dirt-biased Yamaha T7 and the more road-biased Honda.

Now for the real kicker. In the UK and other European markets, Honda undercuts the Suzuki by almost 1000 pounds. That, suffering Saffers, is an approx R22,000 premium over the Honda. But not here! Stu Baker assures me that without any fancy financial engineering, and applying their standard retail markup, Suzuki brings the 800 DE V-Strom to market at R195,000! Almost R20,000 less than the said T7 and undercutting the Transalp by R15,000. Given the significantly higher spec than the T7 and Transalp, and off-road ability now getting into T7 territory, Suzuki have a winner on their hands. Welcome to the thinking man’s adventure bike option.

Photo credit: Dave Cilliers / ZA Bikers

I literally parked the DE and hopped onto the GSX-800 S for a couple of laps around Red Star. On the Honda Hornet Red Star experience, we lapped clockwise. On the Suzuki, we rode the more conventional anti-clockwise track. The 800 S is a looker! The blue bike with matching blue wheels and stacked headlight flanked with slit daytime running lights combine to look thoroughly modern and sweet.

Photo credit: Dave Cilliers / ZA Bikers

This is a bike that again hits a sweet spot amongst its naked peers. Having ridden the GSXR 1000 S for quite a few k’s recently made me realise how beautifully balanced the GSX 800 S package is. The new parallel twin is powerful and engaging but in a more easygoing way than the 1000. Similarly, the 202kg 800 is flickable yet planted and composed.

Photo credit: Dave Cilliers / ZA Bikers

It will obviously go head-to-head with the Hornet, which I enjoyed immensely around Red Star. The Suzuki does not feel dissimilar. The Honda motor is more of a firecracker, whilst the Suzuki drives out of corners with a smidge more authority, aided by a standard fitment quick-shifter. The Suzuki feels like a more spacious and less frenetic Hornet. Maybe a tad more ‘mature’.

Photo credit: Dave Cilliers / ZA Bikers

Again, Suzuki have nailed it price-wise, bringing the GSX 800 S to market at an astoundingly good R165,950, undercutting its Honda rival by almost R15,000. We will have to see how the market reacts to these new bikes once they are freely available. At this point, Suzuki have more comprehensively specced bikes at significantly better pricing.

Photo credit: Dave Cilliers / ZA Bikers

Brand loyalty can only go so far in a market that is under a financial cosh. If you are in the market for a middleweight road or adventure bike, then it has never been a better time to go shopping. May the games begin!

Suzuki V-Strom 800 DE and GSX-800 S

For more information on the bike featured in this article, click on the link below…

2023

Suzuki V-Strom 800 DE

Pricing From R197,500 (RRP)


Brand: Suzuki
2023

Suzuki GSX-8S

Pricing From R168,950 (RRP)


Brand: Suzuki
Dave Cilliers
Dave Cilliers
My name is Dave Cilliers, from as far back as I can remember I have loved travel. Africa provides salve for the gypsy in my soul. My best trips are done travelling to unlikely places with unlikely vehicles, keeping it as simple and basic as possible.
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