For an initial ‘getting to know you ride,’ editor Paddy Tyson took Overland Magazine’s new long-term Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT up to Scotland and then hopped on the ferry to Northern Ireland. Having now ridden the big v-twin 3,757 miles how does the latest V-Strom fair?
It really is so nice to gel with a bike over a few days or weeks; to really see what pleases and what annoys, to try different riding modes and get to experience the machine in all weathers. Given that we live on a collection of islands buffeted by weather systems sent by the mighty Atlantic, we get to experience all sorts, and this new V-Strom does seem to be a bike that revels in all of it. Stable, grunty, comfortable, with great rider ergonomics and plenty of power. And the orange ones are definitely the fastest…
Of course this Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT is not a new bike, just an updated one, but that should reassure you if anything. No manufacturer would continue to invest in a machine that had fatal flaws, and customers would never support them anyway. Originally launched back in 2002 utilising a derivation of Suzuki’s 996cc V-twin that powered the mighty TL1000 superbike, the V-Strom was incredibly ugly. There’s no other way to describe it. And yet it sold steadily because of that beating heart and mile-munching comfort.
In 2013 the aesthetics had a major facelift and it was bored out to 1037cc, gaining that superlight clutch and some electrickery, like ABS. But even that was 7 years ago. Then last autumn the newest model was revealed at EICMA and men of a certain age drooled as the styling so beautifully captured the original Desert Express Dakar racers of the late 80s. No longer the ugly duckling, there was much promise and excitement as dealers in the UK started to receive their stock at the end of February 2020, just as Coronavirus arrived…
But now that things have improved and many of those dealers are back open for business, I think you should give this bike a try.
Engine and gearbox
It doesn’t have the power of some of the other big adventure models on offer, but then it doesn’t have the big price tag either. That 1037cc engine remains, but now has more available power, up to 110bhp. Peak torque has moved up the rev range, which is a shame, but there’s still plenty of grunt low down so don’t panic.
The camshaft profiles are new and the twin-plug, 4-valve head design has created glitch-free power delivery throughout the rev range. Most importantly for a touring machine, pootling along at low revs is an absolute delight, and I haven’t experienced a single moment of hesitation regardless of the manoeuvre I’ve been attempting. The importance of this reliable delivery can’t be over-emphasised, as anyone climbing through switchbacks or threading their way through traffic with full weight of luggage and pillion can attest.
There are 3 power delivery modes which control the fly-by-wire throttle response and their difference certainly is noticeable though. Mode C is gentle and the most practical in the rain, but it will infuriate you if you are wishing to press on through the twisties and forget the setting you are in, as the lag in answering what you’ve asked for is like waiting for a turbo to spin up in an 80’s hot hatch. But close the throttle, select mode A and power delivery and response is transformed.
The twin iridium plugs and the ignition timing map enable this Suzuki to have a clean enough burn to meet Euro 5 emission regulations and improve the fuel economy over older V-Strom models. So too the gearing, which creates an exceptionally relaxed 5,000rpm when doing 87mph, leaving the big v-twin purring just over half-way to its 9,500rpm redline. It’s mile-munching heaven. With peak torque just above that (6k) there is loads of roll-on grunt if you want to stay in top and be smooth and lazy.
When you are changing gear, with the super-light clutch-assist system, every engagement is smooth and positive both up and down in that renowned Suzuki fashion and I’m yet to miss one or fail to secure neutral at rest. Copyright infringement aside, it’s beyond me why others don’t replicate Suzuki gearboxes.
Fuel economy can vary widely as you might expect when you are asking an engine to make impressive power figures too. I managed from 36mpg on one memorably exhilarating tankful, to 61mpg on a very relaxed and forgettable one. The tank holds 20 litres which equates to 250 miles if you push your luck, but it’s a very slow filler, so take your time to really fill it if you’ve got a long stretch ahead.
Equipment and ergonomics
There are many other new gadgets onboard, like hill-start assist (but there’s a perfectly good rear brake), the tilt-sensitive ABS (which has 3 modes and off) and the traction control which is also staged. This settable traction control I’ve found extremely useful as a conduit between the lusty engine and underachieving Bridgestone tyres. In the wet it’s all too easy to lose traction under power but in setting #1 it’s fun to play, safe in the knowledge that the computers are giving me room to get out of shape and pretend my name is Valentino, without actually letting me throw the whole plot up the road.
This minimal setting also permits mild wheelies caused by road contours without brutally cutting the power and sending the front end crashing back to earth.
I can attest that the saddle is comfy for a 6 hour sitting and although it’s a slab to look at, rapidly becomes your friend. Adjustable from 850 – 870mm the saddle doesn’t seem as high as that, but there’s an option pack to reduce it by a further 30mm if needs be.
The relationship between the bars saddle and pegs is just perfect for me for all day comfort and for transitioning from sitting to standing. The footpegs are fine, but there is a £260 vibration-damped option which offers 3 height positions and up to 10mm fore and aft adjustment. The 20-litre tank is nice to grip between the legs and is sculpted such that it provides good protection from the headwind generated.
The screen protects well too, and like just about everything on this 1050XT, is easy and straightforward to adjust. There’s a lovely machined-alloy lever that releases and clamps the screen in a range of positions through 50mm and can – if you’re tall enough – be used on the move. While doing a great job of keeping the cold off my chest, it does buffet my peaked helmet somewhat, but this is really helmet-specific and using a normal full-face is markedly quieter.
Behind the screen a USB and a conventional 12v power supply sit either side of the clocks and Suzuki have managed to blend 1980s style perfectly here too to capture the dawn of the digital age. The display offers a big digital speed readout top right and similarly-sized gear indicator nestled within the arc of the rev counter. All other info sits bottom right – Time, Economy, Range, Trip-meter etc – but in use my middle-aged eyes find them hard to decipher.
There’s an orange light that flashes and then remains on when air temperature falls to 2 degrees – fingers already knew – and it would be good if there was a similar petrol light. Instead the small fuel pump image flashes which is a nice touch but not very visible.
Just like seat, footpegs, screen and suspension, thankfully the LED headlight beam is easy adjusted for load and conditions, being tweaked with a 10mm socket from underneath: undo slightly, move the light manually to desired position and nip up the bolt.
Because the engine mode switching buttons are on the left switchgear occupying the position traditionally held by the dip and full-beam rocker, this function has been transferred to the leading edge of the cluster, and the index finger now flicks forward for high and pulls back to dip. With the 1050XT’s useful plastic handguards fitted though, there’s some interference with winter gloves.
Optional luggage on the XT is very good indeed: strong, definite locking mechanisms, good hinges and completely waterproof. The mounting system couldn’t be more straightforward, fool-proof and definite. Hook places act as carry handles, but you do need two hands per pannier. Robust enough to stand on, the panniers will work well in the field as engine/frame supports when taking out wheels, if you don’t want to rely on the centre-stand, but as standard they are fitted so high it can be a real chore to get off and on with the full complement in place.
The handling is relaxed and the bike feels great on the road; perfect for long-distance travel. The 43mm KYB upside downies at the front and the KYB monoshock rear suspension are both easily adjustable and there’s loads of ground clearance. Even pressing on you have to be beyond what the Bridgestone A41s are comfortable with before anything else touches the tarmac. I would like to dress the spoked wheels in Continental tyres though, and explore the limits of some Trail Attack 3s, because although the ride is comfortable this V-Strom 1050 is taut enough to not get out of shape or cause any scary moments when being used in a manner that was never intended. It’s a legacy of the lightweight twinspar alloy frame and swinging-arm and the refined geometry that no mid-corner bumps or other irregularities generate upset.
No 249kgs comfortable tourer will also be a spritely nimble off-roader, but within the limits of the tyres fitted and my access to gravel tracks, I felt surprisingly secure standing on the foot rests and the generous steering lock was welcome. It’s interesting to note that overall ground clearance on the 1050XT, should you be on the gnarly stuff, is 160mm, which is 5mm less that the standard 1050 V-Strom.
The brakes are very responsive and offer lovely feel. Radially-mounted monobloc calipers grip two 310mm discs at the front and there’s a 260mm disc on the back with a single-piston caliper. As I mentioned the ABS has multiple settings and new for this year the V-Strom is fitted with an IMU or Inertial Measurement Unit which measures what the bike is doing on a total of 6 axis and constantly tweaks the braking performance to suit. Many elements of the system are exceptionally subtle and although it also links the brakes I must confess that I didn’t notice.
With the new registrations in the spring, and the start of a vaccinated 2021, I urge you to try this Suzuki if big adventure bikes are your thing. It’s comfortable and compliant, yet still taut and agile. Service intervals are a useful 7,500 miles and the engine offers grunt everywhere while being frugal enough if you permit it to be. It’s not discernibly heavier than anything in its class and the only thing that really annoys is the position of the pillion foot-peg hanger when you’re trying to use the centre-stand. I don’t think that should break the deal though, and there are plenty of deals to be had even though the full retail price of the 1050XT is a very competitive £11,599. The standard V-Strom can be had for £9,999 until the end of the year.
Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT Specs below
|Miles covered on test:||3757 miles|
|Test overall fuel consumption:||53.8mpg|
|Configuration:||8-valve, twin cam, v-twin|
|Max power:||110bhp @8,500rpm|
|Max torque:||100Nm @6,000rpm|
|Fuel capacity:||20 litres|
|Front suspension:||KYB adj upside-down 43mm forks|
|Rear suspension:||KYB adj mono-shock|
|Front tyre:||110/80 x 19”|
|Rear tyre:||150/70 x 17”|
|Front brakes:||Twin 310mm discs (Tokico radial calipers)|
|Rear brakes:||260mm Disc (38mm single-piston caliper)|
Colours available Orange and white, yellow, black