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2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT Review First Ride

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The 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT has updated electronics, a more powerful engine, and styling that brings it into the 21st century (via the 1980s).
The 2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT has updated electronics, a more powerful engine, and styling that brings it into the 21st century (via the 1980s). (Suzuki/)

Consider the ADV motorcycle of 2002. The Ducati Multistrada had an air-cooled engine that produced a claimed 84 hp. The BMW GS was in its oil-head period with the R1150. KTM was still a year away from introducing its first production V-twin adventure bike. And the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 was released as a long-travel sport-tourer with a TL1000S-derived V-twin engine and styling about as exuberant as a first-gen Honda Fit.

The adventure-touring motorcycle world has changed a lot in 18 years. Think of the features the Ducati, KTM, and BMW have between them: electronic semi-active suspension, variable valve-timing, TFT displays with Bluetooth connectivity, auto-blip quickshifters. The 2020 V-Strom 1050 doesn’t employ any of the aforementioned marvels of modern motorcycling.

RELATED: Can’t get enough of the new ’Strom? For another first ride review, click here.

Pricing for the V-Strom starts at $13,399 for the base model (which does without the IMU and associated rider aids). The 1050XT costs $14,699 and gets tubeless spoked wheels (19-inch front, 17-inch rear), brush guards, crashbars, cruise control, a centerstand, hand-adjustable windscreen, pannier mounting points, and other convenience features. The $16,999 XT Adventure gets aluminum panniers and heated grips as standard.
Pricing for the V-Strom starts at $13,399 for the base model (which does without the IMU and associated rider aids). The 1050XT costs $14,699 and gets tubeless spoked wheels (19-inch front, 17-inch rear), brush guards, crashbars, cruise control, a centerstand, hand-adjustable windscreen, pannier mounting points, and other convenience features. The $16,999 XT Adventure gets aluminum panniers and heated grips as standard. (Suzuki/)

Now only in its third generation, the V-Strom soldiered on unchanged from 2002–2012 before getting a major redesign for 2014, which is the basis for the latest iteration.

Save for its retro-futuristic bodywork, you’d be forgiven for thinking the V-Strom is basically the same bike as the 2019 V-Strom 1000.

Not so fast. Suzuki boosted engine performance with revised cam profiles (intake and exhaust), new pistons, and larger electronic throttle bodies to add a few extra ponies and in order to comply with Euro 5 regulations. The XT trim levels have an all-new ride-by-wire system; ECU; and Bosch three-axis, six-direction IMU that manages a suite of must-have rider aids. Considering the hardware is largely unchanged, the fact that the V-Strom continues to be a fantastically enjoyable, easy-to-ride motorcycle solidifies its niche in the market. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s way more affordable than much of the competition.

The V-Strom 1050XT in fetching Pearl Brilliant White/Glass Blaze Orange. The XT is also available in Champion Yellow No. 2. Prospective buyers will have their work cut out for them deciding which is prettier.
The V-Strom 1050XT in fetching Pearl Brilliant White/Glass Blaze Orange. The XT is also available in Champion Yellow No. 2. Prospective buyers will have their work cut out for them deciding which is prettier. (Suzuki/)

While riding from the shores of the Mediterranean into the mountains of southern Spain, it’s immediately evident why the V-Strom has amassed a cult following of riders. The new ride-by-wire system and ECU provide smooth fueling from off idle, addressing complaints about the previous model’s abrupt on/off throttle response. Riders can tailor it to their tastes with three drive modes. My colleagues and I almost universally preferred drive mode B. Drive mode A is a little too snappy, and mode C is a bit soft (think of it as a pseudo rain mode).

Suzuki claims the V-Strom produces 106 hp and 74 pound-feet of torque, enough to make the ’Strom feel lively and willing. On the pipe, there’s a faintly GSX-R-ish induction howl, which helps compensate for the subdued exhaust note. Unlike some twins, its torque delivery doesn’t make it feel like you could plow a furrow with the back tire, but it revs quickly and has a nice top-end lunge. It’s a motor you can use every bit of. Here’s hoping that Suzuki continues the development of its twin-cylinder platform.

Even though the V-Strom is priced at the lower end of the market, it still could use a TFT dash. While TFT displays look correct to our smartphone-accustomed eyes, and analog gauges are, well, pleasingly analog, LCD screens look like the graphing calculators many of us used in high school calculus. Suzuki’s human-computer interface isn’t super intuitive and there are too few buttons that control too many things.
Even though the V-Strom is priced at the lower end of the market, it still could use a TFT dash. While TFT displays look correct to our smartphone-accustomed eyes, and analog gauges are, well, pleasingly analog, LCD screens look like the graphing calculators many of us used in high school calculus. Suzuki’s human-computer interface isn’t super intuitive and there are too few buttons that control too many things. (Suzuki/)

One of the great attributes of ADV bikes is their relatively tall centers of gravity, which makes it easy to flick them from side to side. True to the breed, the V-Strom is athletic and nimble, its somewhat corpulent 545 curb weight disguised by easy manners and neutral handling. Coupled with its narrow-ish seat, upright ergos, and wide aluminum handlebar, the V-Strom immediately reinforces why these gangly-looking ADV bikes are so lovable. The Spanish teenagers on their GSX-Rs and CBRs may have looked the MotoGP part—what with their one-piece leathers and Euro-femme haircuts—but there’s no way they weren’t just the least bit flustered craning their necks and squinting around blind corners. The only cyclist that appeared to be having a more relaxed go of it on these twisty roads was the requisite Spanish farmer on a scooter. But he and his kind were going very, very slowly, making do with poor jetting and low horsepower, and feeling the lingering lethargy of one too many breakfast Riojas, it’s easy to imagine.

The 1050XT’s crashbar and engine cowl. The oil filler is very exposed so riders considering regular off-pavement fun will want to grab a sump guard from the Suzuki accessory catalog or aftermarket.
The 1050XT’s crashbar and engine cowl. The oil filler is very exposed so riders considering regular off-pavement fun will want to grab a sump guard from the Suzuki accessory catalog or aftermarket. (Suzuki/)

Since I’m learning proficient braking can be just as stimulating as twisting the throttle wide open, I used the Tokico (front), Nissin (rear) setup with much gusto (not to be confused with “mucho gusto,” which is Spanish for “more Rioja, por favor”). For my taste, the front brake has too strong of an initial bite, which causes abrupt weight transfer over the front end. Additionally, increased pressure on the lever doesn’t increase braking power to the same degree, making the brakes seem a little weak after initial pressure. It never caught me out, but after 100 miles, braking never became subconsciously natural.

No doubt there are some owners who pride themselves in thrashing their ’Stroms on gnarly BDR routes, but graded gravel roads are as “off road” as the V-Strom will likely venture in the hands of most people; serious off-road hacks will likely opt for something with a 21-inch front wheel. We barely sampled the V-Strom’s off-road capability, but I did find the suspension a bit harsh when hitting some potholes on a gravel road. I’ll say this: If you plan on running street-oriented rubber, your off-road adventures are probably limited to gravel roads anyway, in which case, the suspension will be just fine.

The V-Strom’s electronic suite includes three-level traction control (plus “off”), cornering ABS with two levels of intervention, Hill Hold Control, and two ABS functions—Slope Dependent Control, which prevents rear wheel lift on downhill slopes; and Load Dependent Control, which senses the weight of rider/passenger/luggage to optimize ABS. I found traction control intervention to be unobtrusive.
The V-Strom’s electronic suite includes three-level traction control (plus “off”), cornering ABS with two levels of intervention, Hill Hold Control, and two ABS functions—Slope Dependent Control, which prevents rear wheel lift on downhill slopes; and Load Dependent Control, which senses the weight of rider/passenger/luggage to optimize ABS. I found traction control intervention to be unobtrusive. (Suzuki/)

No, $14,699 isn’t chump change, but large-displacement adventure bikes occupy a relatively high-priced corner of the market. And it’s not 2002 anymore. The V-Strom 1050XT is about as sensibly priced as we’re gonna get these days. It isn’t the only option at the price point, but if you’re looking for an even more budget-friendly option, you’ll be stepping down in displacement.

The V-Strom is happy on mild gravel roads, but adventure riders who want to attack more difficult terrain know to look elsewhere. The ’Strom is a road-biased adventure bike. Keep it in its element and it will reward the rider with confidence-inspiring poise.
The V-Strom is happy on mild gravel roads, but adventure riders who want to attack more difficult terrain know to look elsewhere. The ’Strom is a road-biased adventure bike. Keep it in its element and it will reward the rider with confidence-inspiring poise. (Suzuki/)

The good news is, the V-Strom is a flattering, reliable motorcycle. Allan Girdler writes of the original V-Strom in the May 2002 issue of Cycle World: “What Suzuki has done, after all the marketing research and searching for a way to keep a good engine in production, is deliver a marvelous all-around motorcycle that will go anywhere a rider wants, effortlessly.” Suzuki’s clever updates mean Girdler’s assessment applies to the 2020 V-Strom 1050 as much as it does to the original ’Strom of 2002. It makes considering the adventure bike of 2020 an enticing exercise indeed.

Gear Bag

ADV-touring gear provided by Aether, Arai, Alpinestars, and Racer Gloves.
ADV-touring gear provided by Aether, Arai, Alpinestars, and Racer Gloves. (Suzuki/)

Helmet: Arai XD-4

Jacket: Aether Divide

Pants: Aether Divide

Gloves: Racer Pitlane

Boots: Alpinestars Toucan Gore-Tex

The billet aluminum latch locks and unlocks the screen for toolless off-the-bike adjustment. It can be raised by 50mm. The base model requires tools to adjust. Note: classy aluminum support around the cockpit.
The billet aluminum latch locks and unlocks the screen for toolless off-the-bike adjustment. It can be raised by 50mm. The base model requires tools to adjust. Note: classy aluminum support around the cockpit. (Suzuki/)Suzuki’s wind tunnel testing was effective. I experienced very little buffeting even at highway speeds.
Suzuki’s wind tunnel testing was effective. I experienced very little buffeting even at highway speeds. (Suzuki/)The 1050 was penned by Ichiro Miyata and inspired by the DR Big, a single-cylinder dual sport of his design that was never imported to the US.
The 1050 was penned by Ichiro Miyata and inspired by the DR Big, a single-cylinder dual sport of his design that was never imported to the US. (Suzuki/)USB socket. Fully adjustable KYB suspension.
USB socket. Fully adjustable KYB suspension. (Suzuki/)The V-Strom has always been a proper touring bike. It finally has cruise control as standard on the XT and XT Adventure models. Heated grips are standard only on the Adventure model, but are available on the other bikes through the accessory catalog.
The V-Strom has always been a proper touring bike. It finally has cruise control as standard on the XT and XT Adventure models. Heated grips are standard only on the Adventure model, but are available on the other bikes through the accessory catalog. (Suzuki/)The V-Strom’s OE tires are Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A41s.
The V-Strom’s OE tires are Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A41s. (Suzuki/)

2020 Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT Price And Specifications

PRICE $14,799
ENGINE 1,037cc, DOHC, liquid-cooled V-twin
BORE X STROKE 100.0 x 66.0mm
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 106.0 hp @ 8,500 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 73.75 lb.-ft. @ 6,000 rpm
FRAME Aluminum
FRONT SUSPENSION 43mm KYB, fully adjustable; 6.3-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION KYB monoshock adjustable for preload and rebound; 6.3-in. travel
FRONT BRAKES Radially mounted Tokico 4-piston calipers, 310mm twin discs w/ linked ABS
REAR BRAKE Nissin 2-piston caliper, 260mm disc w/ linked ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 25.3°/4.3 in.
WHEELBASE 61.2 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 33.5 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 5.3 gal.
CLAIMED CURB WEIGHT 545 lb.
AVAILABLE March
CONTACT suzukicycles.com

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