2006 Suzuki V-Strom DL 1000: Dubious Styling, Valiant Spirit

2006 Suzuki V-Strom DL 1000Last time we saw a visage such as this it was likely being chased by villagers brandishing pitchforks and torches.  Yes, the V-Strom 1000 is an ugly Frankenstein’s creation of components, but it’s powerful, surprisingly agile, and underneath its dubious styling is a valiant spirit capable of carrying you to the some of the more interesting places the world has to offer.

For starters, while Suzuki is proclaiming the V-Strom DL-1000 as a road bike, anyone with a bit of imagination knows better. Its rugged, nay craggy and slab-sided, exterior delivers a different message; this is an adventure bike, small “a” intended, good for those with a softer sort exploration in mind.  The big DL will do hard-packed gravel and dirt roads, but if tighter, rougher territory is your thing you’re better off looking at KTM’s 950 Adventure or the V-Strom 650.  While the big DL 1000 will do the duty, the bike’s weighty nature makes itself felt in the dirt and we found its smaller sibling is far more capable once off the tarmac.  Simply put, don’t let the Bridgestone Trail Wings fool you into dirt bike aspirations.

Out on the road it’s a different story, open up the V-Strom 1000 and the 650 is left gasping and wheezing in the rear-views.  The 90-degree 996cc v-twin grunts out instant useable torque, 63ft-lbs arrive at 5,000rpm to thrust you along, or better yet punch a brutal hole through the air with the Strom’s angry utilitarian face and make the front end get all light.  You’ve not felt fear until something this ugly wheelies towards you.

Peak output is in the neighborhood of 85hp @ 7,000 rpm, and while in this day and age that’s not a number that attracts a lot of interest, the V-Strom 1000 never fell short in the passes or hooning along on the road.  Like all twins there is a broad sweet spot in the rev range, and between 4 and 8 thousand the V-Strom pulls thumping and strong.

If this monster has a character flaw though, and most do, it’s the fuel delivery.  It is not what you would call smooth, not even close.  The fuel injection mapping with its psychotic lean surging has attempted, in some dark way, to murder the charm of this twin engine.  Luckily it hasn’t entirely succeeded.

Still, the glitchy fueling is worth having your dealer re-map the injection for, indeed one Suzuki representative we spoke with said they had even considered a manufacturer recall over the issue.  While you’re in you may want to truly open up the bike.  An occasional OWD collaborator has done a “cans-plant” with some Remus Carbon/Aluminium GP pipes, and the sound and power increase is, to say the least, thunderous.  Suddenly this ogre has a voice to shake the heavens and the brawn to back it up.

On-road handling can be summed up in three very non-menacing words, “Fossie! Fossie! Fossie!”  For a bike that appears this tall and awkward at a standstill, the V-Strom 1000 is agile and flickable.  It is motorcycling’s equivalent of the monster from the 1974 “classic” Young Frankenstein dancing, except elegant and graceful.  That makes the V-Strom a combination of Peter Boyle’s looks meshed with Fred Astaire’s talent.

The magic here is a case of the whole outweighing the sum of the parts, as the components aren’t anything special but pull together to do a solid job.  Up front the 43mm forks are non-adjustable, but the touring set is accounted for with the rear monoshock, which features remote spring preload adjustment and less conveniently located adjustable rebound damping. The suspension however, is suited to more sedate ventures; in the sweepers you find a gentle high speed weave starting to creep in when pushing hard.  It’s nothing traumatic or even dramatic, and slipping only starts in at around 160kph of silliness, though again this may be a symptom of the tire choice.

The reality of riding though, is that when it comes to laying down the miles, the V-Strom is as comfortable as a set of old slippers, a pipe and a worn copy of Shelly’s classic. The riding position is, and I seldom say this of any bike being 6”2’, just what the chiropractor ordered.  It is comfy, neutral and well balanced.  The wide bars are within easy reach and provide exceptional leverage. Ample legroom is supplied by low foot pegs and the seat is broad and pliant.  Take that BMW, with your ergo-centric design-zeitgeist, at just over half the cost of an R1200GS, the choice between big comfy couches is easily made.

Other little touches that add to the V-Strom’s value abound.  Shielded behind trail-inspired hand guards are adjustable span brake and clutch levers.  Also, there’s a solid rear rack and grab rail for the pillion hanging off the back, a suitable mount point for an ample duffle-bag of gear, groceries and other adventure “supplies”.  Even the dials are easy to read and well lit, though suffering from a dated parts bin look.  There is one tragic flaw in the mix, and that is the windscreen.

We found this with the DL-650 and the experience was repeated on the 1000, this windscreen is to aerodynamics and still air what a teenage werewolf is to a beauty contest.  It does not, in any sense, approach being a winner.  In fact you’re likely better off without it, as our photographer Kevin decided after what can only be dubbed a trip of frustration… a vague thread of sanity and environmental accommodation kept him from chucking this abomination into the ocean mid-ferry ride.  If there is a word of advice here, it is go with an aftermarket selection, Cee-Baily perhaps – it is not as if you’ll spoil the V-Strom 1000’s looks.

We’ve made a lot of the DL-1000’s unloved, lumpen and reviled looks, but put that aside for a moment, the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 is a tremendous value offering.  For an MSRP of $11,999 CDN you get a bike that is practical, comfortable, handles well, has more than enough power for the road, and can take on the occasional bit of dirt – and if you really think about it even the looks are a bonus.  Let’s face it, a design like this can only have one purpose; to scare the bears away. One more reason the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 should prove a popular choice amongst the adventure riding cognoscenti.

MSRP:  11,999 $CDN
Web:    Suzuki Canada

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