The Yanks have a saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, which is perhaps really appropriate when talking about the big V-Strom. It was over 20 years ago when the first ‘Strom broke cover. What has transpired subsequently is an evolution rather than a revolution of the big V. The 2023 model certainly breaks new ground in the ongoing Saga of the ‘Strom, but in essence, it is the same solid and sensible bike that we have come to know and love over the years. So, what is new you will no doubt ask?
At the heart of the beast remains the 107,4bhp 90-degree V-Twin producing 100Nm of torque at 6000rpm, fed by two 49mm throttle bodies. Styling is unmistakably Suzuki, with a beaky and bulky look that harks back to the Dakar DR-Z800 ridden in the 1989 Dakar by Gaston Rahier.
The big news for 2023 is that the DE version which we get in SA is endowed, for the first time ever on a V-Strom, with a 21” front wheel. Suzuki seems to have been at sixes and sevens in the past as to which way to go with their big ‘Strom. This year they offer a road-biased version with a 19” wheel, and the one we get, with the 21” front hoop. A 90/90×21 does duty up front with a 150/70×17 in the rear. Both wheels are dirt-friendly spokes.
The DE has a 50mm longer swingarm and bars that are 40mm wider, substantial off-road pegs, and a non-adjustable, lower screen than its street focussed sibling. This is thus the first ‘Strom that is unashamedly dirt biased. Is that a collective “Hooray” that I hear from the adventure boys?
A 5” inch TFT display keeps you informed of engine and peripheral functions in a clear and concise way that is in stark contrast to the instrumentation of the last generation bike, which was cluttered and fussy. Good job! Electronics offer 3 stages of traction control, with a ‘Gravel’ setting which retards ignition timing to prevent wheel spin. Similarly, three fuel maps, and Road and Off-road ABS allow you to tailor the bike to your riding environment. A six-speed gearbox works seamlessly, in typical Suzuki fashion, to lay the power down. It is aided by a damn good bi-directional quick shifter.
The chassis is a customary alloy unit that has characterised the V-Strom since its inception. Bolted to the frame is KYB suspension with fully adjustable USD forks up front and a preload adjustable shock in the back. Travel is in the region of 200mm at each end. The suspension works well and seems to be well-sprung and damped to cover a wide variety of riders and riding styles. Having said that, at a wet weight of 259kg, the big DE will have the most appeal to those that want a totally dependable go-anywhere tourer, rather than the racing snakes who serve at the Altar of Speed.
The DE is endowed with an 880mm high seat which is comfy for both rider and passenger. Interestingly, the rider triangle places your feet a tad further forward and about 2cm higher than on bikes like Ducati’s DesertX or Triumph’s Tiger 900 Rally Pro. 2x 310mm front discs and a single 260mm rear are chomped on by Tokico callipers which haul the big Suzie up quite decently. They are controlled by a Suzuki Intelligent Ride System which senses the load on the bike and adjusts the braking power accordingly. OK then…Lean-sensitive ABS and Hill Hold Control as well as ‘slope dependent control’ which maintains rear wheel traction under braking, are all benefits of a 6-Axis Bosch IMU.
The DE comes standard with a bash plate, main stand and crash bars. The handlebars have the typical wind-deflecting guards which serve no purpose other than deflecting wind from your hands. Sooner or later a manufacturer will fit protection for the levers as well as our hands…we live in hope.
Kudos to Suzuki for the other items, which should be standard fitment on all adventure bikes. Bear that in mind when comparing new bike prices. The DE sports a 21-litre fuel tank which should be good for 350+ k’s if ridden with some restraint. Speaking of riding, the DE does not disappoint. The motor produces perfectly linear smooth and strong go right off idle. There are no peaks or troughs in the power and torque curves. Allied to perfect fuelling this makes for good progress across any surface.
The bike is reassuringly stable and predictable across all surfaces, a huge asset on an adventure platform. I would not want to attack overly technical terrain on the ‘Strom, given its size and heft. Having said that, I have always advocated choosing the right weapon for a particular fight. If you want to smash technical trails, buy a lightweight dual sport or full plastic. When you want to cross continents with your missus and gear, consider the big ‘Strom or something similar.
The Suzuki 1050 V-Strom DE is at last ticking the off-road box properly. It does not come at the cost of poor road manners. The DE is a bike that you can use day to day in general riding, and which can then take you on your weekend or holiday adventures. It will do that in its well-mannered no-fuss way. It remains the labrador of the adventure bike world. At R259,000, it is worthy of serious consideration.
Suzuki V-Strom 1050 DE
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