When Suzuki launched the adventure version of the venerable 650 V-Strom, we were curious. At R96 000 the Suzuki DL650XT ABS costs half of what a BMW 1200 GS would knock you for, but does it work as an adventure bike?
Four of us were going to test ride it, so it made sense to add more bikes to the pack. We got our paws on the recently introduced Triumph Tiger 800 XCx and the Yamaha XT 1200 ZE Super Ténéré, which was improved and updated not too long ago.
Michael van der Linde and I (the plebs) were joined by Wilmarie “Speed Queen” van Rensburg and Janine “Little Miss” Mitchell (the celebs) and we left Joburg for the Rosendal area in the Eastern Free State. The women are well known for their skills on the racetrack, but Janine had never ridden more than a few hundred metres on dirt. Wilmarie owned a Triumph Tiger 800 Xc, but these days I mostly see her on naked Ducatis and BMWs.
We stayed at Willowdene Guest Farm (083 733 9092), which is ideal for adventure bikers. It’s well located for accessing dirt roads in Lesotho and the Eastern Free State and, to get to the farm, guests have to ride about 20 km of mildly challenging gravel. It’s a good little warm-up for beginners and more experienced riders.
The Suzuki V-Strom has been used as an adventure bike long before it was intended to be one. The XT version is very much the same thing, but its new styling gives it an adventurous character and it now comes with spoked wheels. It’s comfortable, very light on juice and will cruise at 150-160 km/h all day. Its belly is too exposed for truly bad roads and the ABS can’t be switched off, but I thoroughly enjoyed riding it, even though it would better suit riders shorter than me. Price: R96 000
The Triumph Tiger 800 XCx is even better than before. It now has off-road ABS (that works really well) and different electronic rider modes. The suspension is more robust thanks to components from damper experts WP and with a ride-by-wire throttle it’s now even easier to control on tricky terrain. It’s near impossible to fault this British bike. Price: R144 500
The Yamaha XT 1200 ZE Super Ténéré may not be not as fast as its counterparts from BMW and KTM, but with 82 kW and 117 Nm this shaft-driven bike is no sloth either. It’s as good touring on tar as it is chugging along slowly on rough roads and it served us well as the pillion horse. The letter “E” denotes the addition of heated grips, a centre stand, rear luggage rack and electronic adjustment of the suspension. It has traction control, the ABS can be switched off and the bike runs on spoked wheels with tubeless tyres. Price: R184 950
Video editing by Simon Sonnekus